At great risk of upsetting all of my dear family and friends who are public school teachers, I discuss a book I recently read. I just have to respect a guy who is willing to take a stand. Today that someone is John Taylor Gatto, author of Dumbing us Down and Weapons of Mass Instruction, New York City Teacher of the Year, 30 year veteran of public school instruction. He now has devoted his life to fighting for school reform. His latest book, Weapons of Mass Instruction, was a real eye opener for me.
I’ll give you two reasons to read this book
1. Most likely you have been to public school yourself or you have children or grandchildren in public school – and you ought to hear his ‘insider’ side of the story.
2. It is highly entertaining. More entertaining than anything you will watch on your flat screen tonight. It is funny, violent, inspiring, full of intrigue and conspiracy and there is plenty of drama. In fact, I am willing to bet that at some point it will make you cry. Gatto is hoping it will make you mad. Mad enough to want to act.
Everything you know about school is wrong. That is the title of the first chapter. This newest revelation in the schooling world is full of research, experience and stories to illustrate his strong opinion of what is happening and what should be done. He doesn’t apologize for his stand, he doesn’t sugar coat his ideas. If you pick up this book you will get some straight talkin’.
Here are just a few of his points:
1. Education is essential.
2. Schooling gets in the way of what is essential.
3. Only you can educate yourself.
4. Modern schooling was specifically designed for a purpose and it is fulfilling that purpose very well: creating consumers.
There is little point in arguing that we have an education problem in our country. We do. Some of the more recent school reforms have done nothing to help and have only tied the hands of dedicated teachers and further squelched the enthusiasm of students. We have a problem and we need to man up and do something about it. After reading Gatto’s books I feel absolutely certain we have the wrong people at the head of education in America. Let’s replace Arne Duncan with John Taylor Gatto. It won’t happen because I am positive Gatto won’t stand for Chicago politics messing with this nation’s children…even if their parents think it will bring hope and change . Or why don’t we oust Kevin Jennings, czar of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, founder of GLSEN (What is GLSEN??? Click here: http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/about/history/index.html?state=about&type=about) and director while this recommended reading list for your publicly schooled children between grade 7 and 12 was compiled (Warning, some of the content is very explicit: http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/booklink/7-12.html).
But wait, I slip back into my box-like thinking. One of Gatto’s points is that fixing things within the system isn’t going to work. It’s the system itself that is getting in the way of true educational reform. Why? When you are at the top, you just don’t want to change things. And the system and methods of American education are designed to promote the consumerism our society is convinced is necessary for survival. Throwing 4.5 billion into a race to the top is really just the same spin over again to get the public thinking something is being done. And it is. Your money is being spent on a system that will help millions of children discover they really hate learning.
Have you read Gatto’s books? What are some of your ideas for changing the face of American education?