John Taylor Gatto

John Taylor Gatto was voted New York State teacher of the year in 1991. He worked for 26 years as a New York City school teacher. I first ran across him when a fax rolled out of my fax machine in 91 or early 92 from a friend who'd run across a reprint of his acceptance speech printed in a magazine called The Sun. I think that first article made it through alot of fax machines. Finally a teacher, and not just any teacher, but the New York State "teacher of the year" was saying what many of us edge-ucators had been saying for several years. His view from the inside out, has tremendous power. Listen to an excerpt from his first book Dumbing Us Down:The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling:

I've come to believe that genius is an exceedingly common human quality, probably natural to most of us. I didn't want to accept that notion--far from it--my own training in two elite universities taught me that intelligence and talent distributed themselves economically over a bell curve and that human destiny, because of those mathematical, seemingly irrefutable, scientific facts, was as rigorously determined as John Calvin contended. The trouble was that the unlikeliest kids kept demonstrating to me at random moments so many of the hallmarks of human excellence--insight, wisdom, justice, resourcefulness, courage, originality--that I became confused. They didn't do this often enough to make my teaching easy, but they did it often enough that I began to wonder, reluctantly, whether it was possible that being in school itself was what was dumbing them down. Was it possible I had been hired not to enlarge children's power, but to diminish it? That seemed crazy on the face of it, but slowly I began to realize that the bells and the confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of the national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to prevent children from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior.

Bit by bit I began to devise guerrilla exercises to allow the kids I taught--as many as I was able--the raw material people have always used to educate themselves: privacy, choice, freedom from surveillance, and as broad a range of situations and human associations as my limited power and resources could manage. In simpler terms, I tried to manuever them into positions where they would have a chance to be their own teachers and to make themselves the major text of their own education.

from Dumbing Us Down,
The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

pages xi, xii

New Society Publishers
Philadelphia, PA
Gabriola Island, BC
copyright 1992 by John Gatto

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