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Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (1992)

by John Taylor Gatto

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1,2502110,988 (4.16)11
Throw off the shackles of formal schooling and embark upon a rich journey of self-directed, life-long learning After over 100 years of mandatory schooling in the U.S., literacy rates have dropped, families are fragmented, learning "disabilities" are skyrocketing, and children and youth are increasingly disaffected. Thirty years of teaching in the public school system led John Taylor Gatto to the sad conclusion that compulsory governmental schooling is to blame, accomplishing little but to teach young people to follow orders like cogs in an industrial machine. He became a fierce advocate of families and young people taking back education and learning, arguing that "genius is as common as dirt," but that conventional schooling is driving out the natural curiosity and problem-solving skills we're born with, replacing it with rule-following, fragmented time, and disillusionment. Gatto's radical treatise on public education, a New Society Publishers bestseller for 25 years, continues to bang the drum for an unshackling of children and learning from formal schooling. Now, in an ever-more-rapidly changing world with an explosion of alternative routes to learning, it's poised to continue to shake the world of institutional education for many more years. Featuring a new foreword from Zachary Slayback, an Ivy League dropout and cofounder of tech start-up career foundry Praxis, this 25th anniversary edition will inspire new generations of parents and students to take control of learning and kickstart an empowered society of self-directed lifetime-learners.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
I am so glad I discovered this book. I think everyone should read this. I will be doing further research to educate myself on all sides after reading this. I completely see the correlations Gatto is making. I agree that school is a government serving institution and I believe it's important for children to learn on their own and in nature. I had honestly never thought about the fact that some of the most important and intelligent people of all time never attended a school. ( )
  bookswithmom | Dec 18, 2019 |
The only weak spot in this otherwise excellent treatise is the loooong chapter discussing the distinctions between networks and communities. It's a solid critique, but belabored. It drags down the momentum in the middle of the book.
Outside of that section, I found this immensely readable and inspiring. A classic in radical education for a reason. Prepare to question your allegiance to traditional schooling-- not just where it shows up in the public system but also where it shows up in your own thinking and priorities. ( )
  AthenaAcademy | Oct 18, 2019 |
Written by a man that taught in the monopoly called public school system, won awards for it, and lists what he taught;
confusion, class position, indifference, emotional dependency, intellectual dependency, and provisional self-esteem.
The national curriculum is a joke. And what is different from this book compared to others, he doesn't just list the things that are wrong with the system or bash the system. Mr. Gatto gives suggestions of tearing the institution apart and rebuilding it. Something I've yet to read anyone else do.
There's interesting historical information about children in Massachusetts in 1850 being forced to go to public school at gun point. Not a good start and it hasn't improved much. ( )
1 vote VhartPowers | Dec 27, 2018 |
Though this book is several years old, it is still relevant today. Perhaps more so. Since the beginning of compulsory schooling, the literacy rates have gone down, while the bullying rate has gone up. Hmm. For a teacher in the trenches for 30 years, Gatto knows what he's talking about as he has seen it first hand.

It is quite sad to see how little education is taught in such a fashion and making kids still and quiet for so long, which is unnatural, of course. I'm surprised there aren't more incidents of pushback from students or parents.

This book makes me thankful, once again, that I chose to home school. It may not be for everyone, but it is definitely for me and my children.

( )
  MichelleConnell | Sep 26, 2018 |
John Taylor Gatto is an award winning teacher that isn’t afraid to buck the trend.

Dumbing Us Down – The Hidden Curriculum Of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto is a masterly an in-depth view into how public schooling really works.

Sampling many of his best personal essays, Dumbing Us Down features the true reasons why education in our modern day system is failing: because it’s meant to be that way.

Gatto reinforces his main premise with a thorough examination of public schooling in America. He carries this out rather incisively given his no holds barred approach to the matter, and this is very refreshing.

While many others have tippy toed their way around the issue, Gatto harpoons the heart of the matter with statements such as:

“…schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders.”[1][Bold Emphasis Added]

“Schools are intended to produce, through the application of formulas, formulaic human beings whose behavior can be predicted and controlled.”[2][Bold Emphasis Added]

“It is absurd and anti-life to be part of the system that compels you to sit in confinement with people of exactly the same age and social class. That system effectively cuts you off from the immense diversity of life and the synergy of variety; indeed it cuts you off from your own past and future, sealing you in a continuous present much the same way television does.”[3][Bold Emphasis Added]

Such scathing statements leave no question to Gatto’s courageous stance, and helps the reader understand the plight we face rather cogently.

Another component of this ongoing public schooling issue is how vital the community is, and more importantly, the family unit, in helping foster a healthier, more independent, more curious, and ultimately more self-sufficient individuals through proper education. While this might seem obvious in hindsight, it isn’t being employed that much at all in our modern environs.

Throughout the length of the book, Gatto fiercely touches upon the many different factors that have helped cause this growing dilemma. Some of these include the overwhelming amount of television being watched by society in general, and more specifically by children, while other components have to deal with the inherent designs of schooling such as the fragmentation of education, the removal of the family from an individual’s education, the poor life tenets individuals are taught, and much more.

One of the best parts of the book is what Gatto calls ‘The 7-Lesson School Teacher’, where the author shows what teachers are truly expected to inculcate into students. Once read, this particular lesson to the reader might seem facetious, but it’s really not. When one views what Gatto is stating with an open mind – while keeping cognizance of the fact that he worked decades for the system – then one completely gets to be aware of why failure in schooling isn’t the exception, but the rule.

In fact, more specifically, Gatto gets at the heart of why public schooling is destined to fail:

“Mass education cannot work to produce a fair society because its daily practice is practice in rigged competition, suppression and intimidation. The schools we’ve allowed to develop can’t work to teach nonmaterial values, the values which give meaning to everyone’s life, rich or poor, because the structure of schooling is held together by a Byzantine tapestry of reward and threat, of carrots and sticks. Official favor, grades, and other trinkets of subordination have no connection with education; they are the paraphernalia of servitude, not of freedom.”[69][Bold Emphasis Added]

Gatto has unbounded a phenomenal book in the field of public schooling and more importantly, what true education should encompass. Please keep in mind, schooling and education are not the same thing. Particularly, this differentiation and what each means is one of the main gems of this book.

To finalize, this book is a veritable fountain of information that is intense in precision and thought-provoking in its implications given that they filter into all aspects of our lives, and ultimately seep into the future. This is why it’s vitally important for individuals to become autodidacts, and help others become so through our interactions with our families and communities. Self-teaching is more important now than ever, especially with the deteriorating effects of public schooling.

Because of all the reasons mentioned above, and myriad more, this book is definitely a must read for everyone.

As the author saliently notes:

“Aristotle saw, a long time ago, that fully participating in a complex range of human affairs was the only way to become fully human…”[47][Bold Emphasis Added]

__________________________________________________​
Sources & References:

[1] John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down – The Hidden Curriculum Of Compulsory Schooling, pg. 21.
[2] Ibid., pg. 23.
[3] Ibid., pg. 24.
[4] Ibid., pg. 69.
[5] Ibid., pg. 47. ( )
  ZyPhReX | Jan 23, 2017 |
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Throw off the shackles of formal schooling and embark upon a rich journey of self-directed, life-long learning After over 100 years of mandatory schooling in the U.S., literacy rates have dropped, families are fragmented, learning "disabilities" are skyrocketing, and children and youth are increasingly disaffected. Thirty years of teaching in the public school system led John Taylor Gatto to the sad conclusion that compulsory governmental schooling is to blame, accomplishing little but to teach young people to follow orders like cogs in an industrial machine. He became a fierce advocate of families and young people taking back education and learning, arguing that "genius is as common as dirt," but that conventional schooling is driving out the natural curiosity and problem-solving skills we're born with, replacing it with rule-following, fragmented time, and disillusionment. Gatto's radical treatise on public education, a New Society Publishers bestseller for 25 years, continues to bang the drum for an unshackling of children and learning from formal schooling. Now, in an ever-more-rapidly changing world with an explosion of alternative routes to learning, it's poised to continue to shake the world of institutional education for many more years. Featuring a new foreword from Zachary Slayback, an Ivy League dropout and cofounder of tech start-up career foundry Praxis, this 25th anniversary edition will inspire new generations of parents and students to take control of learning and kickstart an empowered society of self-directed lifetime-learners.

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