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Patrick Timpone

David Rodriguez

The Life Work of John Taylor Gatto: A Great Thinker on Self Education and Author of Dumbing Us Down, The Underground History of American Education andWeapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling

“Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important: how to live and how to die.” (John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down)

Who is John Taylor Gatto?

John Taylor Gatto is a widely-respected former teacher and the author of many non-fiction books on the problems of compulsory schooling.

After being recognized as the New York City Teacher of the Year in 1990, John Taylor Gatto stood before the crowd and outlined the problems he saw with the current educational system:

“I’ve noticed a fascinating phenomenon in my 25 years of teaching — that 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. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aids and administrators but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers do care and do work very hard the institution is psychopathic, it has no conscience. It rings a bell and the young man in the middle of writing a poem must close his notebook and move to different cell where he must memorize that man and monkeys derive from a common ancestor.”

The next year, Gatto was named New York State Teacher of the Year and gave one of the most memorable acceptance speeches in the history of education. He explained that, by nature of the profession, educators teach 7 lessons: confusion, class position, indifference, emotional dependency, intellectual dependency, provisional self-esteem, and a lack of privacy.

Several months later, Gatto resigned from teaching and dedicated his time to sharing his experiences as an educator.

John Taylor Gatto’s Educational Philosophy

As a prolific writer, Gatto has shared many thoughts on the problems of schooling and how they can be remedied. Some of the most important points he makes are:
•Compulsory education harms students
•People learn from authentic experiences and choices
•The family and the community are essential to a child’s development

During his years as a teacher, Gatto sought to incorporate all of these positions by helping kids have experiences outside of the classroom (yes, even on school days) and connecting them with people in the community.

In Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, he explains:

“Bit by bit I began to devise guerrilla exercises to allow as many of the kids I taught as possible the raw material people always use to educate themselves: privacy, choice, freeom 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 maneuver them into positions where they would have the chance to be their own teachers and make themselves the major text of their own education.”

Gatto’s students held extensive internships in offices around the neighborhood, spent time volunteering, and often had some rather amazing adventures.

How John Taylor Gatto Has Made a Difference

As a high-profile educator, Gatto has been able to spread the word about self-education across the nation. Although it’s been over a decade since he resigned, many still turn to his speeches, articles, and books for an inside look at what’s happening inside today’s classrooms.

Although Gatto’s writings tend to focus on the education of children and young adults, his words can help anyone who is trying to make sense of their own schooling experiences and kindle a love of true education.

(The above bio was written by Jamie on March 31, 2009 in Great Thinkers on Self-Ed)

David Rodriguez is a passionate advocate for empowerment and respect in education. After selling a business at age 26, he moved to South Korea to teach English at a private school. Having a background in biotechnology and healthcare, he founded Education Options to empower parents and students in education. In 2014 he started an Expo in San Jose, CA, where parents meet with innovators in education and can easily research schools that empower students, like Montessori schools, Democratic schools, homeschooling co-operatives, and unschooling. More recently, he is republishing John Taylor Gatto’s 2015 edition of, “The Underground History of American Education”, which has a Foreword by Dr. Ron Paul, and is scheduled for release this Summer. You can find his projects at and


Excerpts from the writings of John Taylor Gatto

david rodriquez on the work of john taylor gatto and education, june 16, 2015

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