Read this book.

The Underground History of American Education, by John Taylor gatto.

You don’t of course have to agree with it. Personally I felt like it was putting into words a lot of things I had felt for a long time. You don’t even have to buy it; the entire text is online (I personally prefer real books, and this has driven my highlighter very nearly dry) My overall impression was that Gatto thoroughly supported most of his points, often with quotes of people expressing their desire to do exactly what he is accusing them of. Even if your views differ, the grand sweep of history, psychology, religion, economics, and of course schooling will probably give you at least a few new perspectives on things.

Of course, maybe there won’t be so much new material for some people. I freely admit to squandering my college education, and not making very much of elementary, either. Of course that is precisely the point of the book – the purpose of the school system is to dull minds, not to sharpen them. It took five or six years away from schooling before I started to really thirst for knowledge.

The book covers so much ground that I can’t hope to do it justice here. One of the basic premises is that there are a number of different ways that the world can operate. Through the interaction of various different processes, the dominant world view has become safety and science. This gives us the wonders of industrial society, all our medicines, our computers, SUVs, TVs and movies. The price is tight, stifling, hierarchic control. One of the major tools used to promote this world view is the mandatory school system, which turns the great majority of people into predictable, interchangeable parts accustomed to being told what to do.

The opposite world view is total freedom and self-responsibility – which entails a healthy dose of risk. This is the world view that America was founded on. The transformation into it’s opposite view has been a slow and ponderous process; so slow that very few people noticed what was happening.


  1. rinku says:

    i read it. it’s okay, but it’s not as good as gatto’s earlier works — more complete, yes, but there’s less fire to it.

  2. admin says:

    Sadly I havn’t gotten to his other works yet. I did get A Different Kind of Teacher; they had a package deal on it, and I thought it would be a good idea to see what he is proposing as a replacment. Still on the ‘to be read’ stack though.