Few books have ever affected me the way John Taylor Gatto’s A Different Kind of Teacher has. Gatto, a 30-year veteran school teacher in a NY city school, quit because, he said, “I am no longer willing to hurt children.”
The book is so powerful, so profound, and so radically challenges everything most people believe about public education (going far beyond the academic failures of the classroom), that I can hardly live life right now.
I know, crazy. I’m consumed with thoughts of translating the ideas of a real, living education into an actual real, living education for my children, battling my own ingrained ideas about what it should look like.
And I’m consumed with grief for the millions of children who are being hurt by school, whose parents don’t even see it or remotely suspect it.
It’s hard to write about, even, because there is so much, so many things wrong, it feels like an ocean. And because to speak against government education is to invite the rottenest tomatoes, even though, ironically, my sole purpose is a deep care for people.
We homeschool for many different reasons; this goes so far beyond the “how-to-school” debates. Gatto reaches me because I share his heart: a passion, not for praising homeschooling for homeschooling’s sake, but for exposing the many ugly faces of compulsory education for the children’s sake. What I mean is, contrary to the accusations, it’s not a “trying to convince you to homeschool because I do”; it’s a sincere belief that children, people, families and society suffers because of the deliberate structure of the system.
I have seriously considered purchasing a case of his book to give to people, because the message is so critical. And it’s so much more than a debate about academics. His message changes people. It changes families and communities. It would radically change our nation if only we would hear it.
For the record, while he highly recommends homeschooling, he is simply for massive change for all schooling (and I would suggest even the way we approach homeschooling). I mention that for those who may discount his wisdom based on the fact that many can’t or won’t homeschool. He is for children.
I urge you to go directly to Amazon (or your library) after you read this and purchase the book.
I must resist the urge to literally quote the entire book, but chew on a few excerpts:
“I don’t think we’ll get rid of schools any time soon, certainly not in my lifetime, but if we’re going to change what’s rapidly becoming a disaster of ignorance, we need to realize that the institution “schools” very well, but it does not “educate”; that’s inherent in the design of the thing. It’s not the fault of bad teachers or too little money spent. It’s just impossible for education and schooling to be the same thing.” JTG
“Among things you need to know about the kids I see is that they don’t like themselves very much. I’m not surprised. In schoolrooms people are useless. Schoolrooms are like an engine without a drive shaft. They burn up a lot of energy running but the power is useless. Useless people seldom like themselves very much. The children we capture sense the time they are losing is precious time, time that will never return. They dislike themselves for not knowing how to save their lives and turn time to real use.”
“A study of any list of great men and women will quickly disclose the host of personal methods they used to arrive at personal enlightenment–an education. No one I know ever gave much credit to the daily doses of abstraction prescribed by strangers and imposed on his life by compulsion. But plenty of autobiographies credit a mother, a father, a grandmother, a grandfather, an uncle, an aunt, or a chance accident happened upon while adventuring. maybe there’s a lesson there.”
“There isn’t a public school in this country set up to allow the discovery of real knowledge–not even the best ones…”
“The secret of American schooling is not that it doesn’t teach the way children learn. It’s that it isn’t supposed to teach about being a strong, self-directed man or woman…School was engineered to serve a modified command economy and an increasingly layered social order. It wasn’t made for the benefit of kids and families, as those people would define their own needs.”
“Schools train individuals to respond as a mass. Boys and girls are drilled in being bored, frightened, envious, emotionally needy, generally incomplete. A successful mass production economy requires such a clientele.”
I’m not certain yet that I can agree with everything Gatto has ever said or every detail of his solution, but I heartily agree with most of his brilliant, insightful and deeply discerning philosophies of the way people learn and become strong, self-motivated members of society.
More articles by Gatto:
Books by Gatto