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Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
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Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  8,195 ratings  ·  1,083 reviews
A highly praised best-seller for over a decade, this is a radical treatise on public education that concludes that compulsory government schooling does little but teach young people to follow orders like cogs in a machine. This Special Collector's Edition celebrates 100,000 copies or the book in print, and the book's on-going importance and popularity. ...more
Paperback, 142 pages
Published March 1st 2005 by New Society Publishers (first published 1991)
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Umm Layth
Apr 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: parents, children, and anyone who cares about education
Recommended to Umm Layth by: Shaykh Hamza Yusuf
Before reading this book I really thought I was 100% sure about my reasons to homeschool. Boy, was I wrong. I guess I was only half way there because now that I have finished this book, I realize that I never really saw the harms of the public school system 100%.

Our children are being limited every day by being locked away. Our children are struggling with learning more than they did before the system was in place like today. The role models they take on during school really are harming them. B
This book gets a big "meh" from me. First of all, it's not so much a book as a group of essays. And I had to laugh when I opened the book and the print was freaking 18 point. (Like maybe we're not bright enough to follow along with typical 12 point print?)

I also have a problem with someone who spent his whole career in New York school systems making broad sweeping statements about public education in general. I have a hard time believing that a New York City educator understands ANYTHING about t
Sep 01, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: education
I checked this book out after a friend recommended John Taylor Gatto to me after an argument on a Facebook thread that started with a post about how we seem to be producing people who have contempt for science and reason.

Gatto spent a few decades as a NYC public school teacher, so in theory he should have interesting ideas about what's wrong with education and how to address the problems, but in practice, he doesn't.

In a nutshell his thesis is the public school system produces conformist non-thi
Debbie "DJ"
Nov 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Wow, this read really had me questioning our educational system. Informative and fast read!
Oct 17, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Teachers
While worth reading as an wake up call to all who think the only problem with our educational system is that it needs more money it should be taken with a grain of salt, or rather a slat block. Gatto is correct that schools act as mainly propaganda for the elite class and he may even be correct that compulsory education should not be the law of the land. (At least at the high school level) What he is not not good at is showing the whole picture.

He says that he wants a fair discussion about the
Emma Sea
Feb 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Ugh, this book may have brought on my mid-life crisis. Not because Gatto is wrong, but because he's right. The education system isn't just broken, it's taking completely the wrong approach. It's designed to kill the spirit of enquiry.

I've attended several hearings addressing formal student complaints where the student is alleging the college-level education they received was substandard because they were 1) asked to read a text book, and not given a teacher-written summary of all material that
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dumbing us down is a short book by John Taylor Gatto. There have only been two books this year that upon finishing I was so impressed and blown away by that I felt the desire to reopen immediately and read again. The first was mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and now this here little gem dumbing us down. I’ve read plenty of great books this year already however when it comes to identifying certain books as essential and must reads for everyone, that is more rare. Some qualifiers for this year are ...more
Apr 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Don't read this if you have or plan on having children that you won't be able to home-school, but a must read for everyone els. This is a damning indictment against the public school system written by none other than a teacher who lived it. Sure to cause riots once more people realize that twelve to thirteen years of their lives were utterly wasted. ...more
Jun 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
No other book has shaped my view about public school as much as this one. Gatto's analysis of the damage done to a student's curiosity is so incisive as to wake any educated parent to our failing school system.

I decided that normal people can home school their children after having read this book. Very influential and formative to how I want my children's education to be administered.
Paul Ataua
Oct 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A must read for those who have already realized or have their suspicions that there is little that is positive about the schooling we are forcing on our children. It is an education that developed for reasons other than educational ones, and a system that is more concerned with control and indoctrination rather than individual flourishing. Schools just breed indifference. This is not just about the New York school district, or the public school system. It is a collection of essay saying what is ...more
Feb 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: It is a must read for anyone who wishes their children to be educated, not just "schooled".
Recommended to Kristy by: Dallas Cox
This was an excellent book written by a NY teacher of the year who taught for 26 years in the "government controlled monopoly school system". It is an eye opener that what is needed is less money, not more. More choices, more freedoms, more time with children home, more time for children to be children, allowing them to learn HOW to think, not WHAT to think. Interesting to learn that the literacy rate in colonial America was close to total, and hasnt been that high since just before the Civil Wa ...more
Kevin Carson
Apr 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is not just a critique of state schooling, but of all schooling models that treat children as raw material to be processed. It is a manifesto for unschooling or self-directed learning, as well. It's ironic that many of the right-libertarians who are most critical of state schooling are also advocates of charter and private schools that promote the same human resources processing model -- and often in much more authoritarian ways. If you call yourself a "libertarian," but prefer the kind of ...more
Dennis D.
Feb 16, 2009 rated it did not like it
Author John Taylor Gatto is a two-time NYC Teacher of the Year whose treatise here takes exception to the quality of compulsory public education in America. He suggests that public education’s primary purpose these days seems to be the perpetuating the institution of public education. I can see his point here. As with most government programs, once they get rolling, you can add to them, you can tweak them, but you’re never going to blow them up, even if you’d like to start over from scratch.

May 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Wow I just wrote a thoughtful and brilliant review of this book and then pushed the wrong button and lost. I will try to recap my brilliance. I just sat down and read this book this afternoon while watching my kids play at the park and in the yard and it was amazing and powerful. I am truly moved in ways that are uncomfortable. Do not read this book unless you are prepared to feel extremely uncomfortable with the statues quo of the educational system in this country. Before reading this I had al ...more
Becca Harris
May 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I've heard of this book for years but put off reading it because we already homeschool so I don't need more reasons to convince me to do so. This is especially fascinating because it was written by a revered public educator. I felt this was a timely read as our public schools have really declined in the last year due to the pandemic.

My biggest reason to homeschool is to give my children a childhood - not restricted to sitting at a desk for hours a day. Gatti also feels passionate about allowing
Jul 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Excellent. As with all my favourite books, I have lent it out and it is still out there! This book is proof that home educators are not obsessive nutcases, as he provides inside information on schooling in New York which spanned over 30 years. When I first got this book it followed me everywhere until I had finished it, even into the bath. This author can share my bath anytime, as long as I don't drop the book in, of course! ...more
A for effort, A for anecdote. I found much relatable to my own experience and ideas. Although undoubtedly Libertarian in thesis I think there is something for everyone within the pages of this book if you give it a chance, regardless of your political affiliations. While written over two and a half decades ago it's not hard to draw parallels with the culture and dysfunction Gatto describes in his book with that of today.

The essays contained are the reflections of the author's time spent in and f
May 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant summation about the fatal flaws of Modern Education

This book gives excellent words and insight into the sense that so many of us have about the perpetual decline of our "national education." Watching the national Common Core debacle that has engulfed our country we can see how prophetic this has become.
Jami Balmet
Jan 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
A very simple introduction to the problem of public education. It's an older book but his views and issues with public education are even more true today. It's a quick read but serves as an excellent intro to the subject. ...more
Whitley Birks
May 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
Not bad, but not great, either. For such a short book, there's a hell of a lot of repetition in it. Nearly everything this author has to say gets said in the first chapter; the rest is just other speeches in which he expounds the virtues of small-town life or goes into anecdotes or repeats "school sucks" with different words.

This collection of speeches is basically an overlong op-ed. While I agree with the content, that's sort of the thing. I already agree. This book is preaching to the choir, a
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Experts,children, parents, disillusioned folks
Shelves: living-now, dark-real
There was a pink dog called Courage. Like it happens sometimes, he also fell in a day of mistakes. Then a black frock dressed proud lady came, to give him ' perfection classes'. He couldn't talk, walk, create pictures ,sleep , brush perfectly. Full of terrible dreams which made his eyes very red, he went to the washroom. A green fish saw him and said : courage, you are beautiful, as you are with all the imperfections.you can do anything. His fear departed. He was gleeful again. The teacher vanis ...more
Jun 20, 2015 rated it did not like it
Let me start out by saying that I am a public school teacher, so I may have some bias and will admit that I could feel defensive as Gatto derides public education, even though he was in public education for almost 30 years. I will say there were things I agreed with, such as the idea that schools are built like factories. I am a secondary teacher, and it is a shame to have students learning something and getting into it, only to have the bell ring and to usher them off to their next class. I thi ...more
Angie Libert
Sep 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I so appreciate Gatto's courage to write this book, even if at times I am put off my his brashness. But, if anybody is to know the real intention of America's schools it is this man, with over 30 years of public school teaching, and a fair shake of rule breaking to see what his students were really capable of. The "7 Lesson School Teacher" is the real gem of this book, although his other chapters have something to gain from too.


"School is a twelve-year jail sentence where bad habits are t
Sep 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-tbr, read-2016
John Taylor Gatto is one wise man. He has capture many sentiments that I would have never be able to materialize into words. The 7 lessons taught cracked me up because they are so spot on and obvious yet no one else has spoken up like Mr. Gatto.

Here's something that hit close to home and I've been saying this all along.

"The simplistic notion that "our schools are failing" easily translate into a limitless demand for more resources for the institution and it's supports; for books, for teachers,
John Martindale
Jan 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Gatto seemed to me at first, a bit to polemical and unbalanced, but I still thought he made some excellent observations. The content was definitely thought provoking and worthy of consideration. But now I listened to the audiobook again, he seemed increasingly reasonable and sound to me.

I wonder if my being home-schooled, played part in why I have a genuine interest in learning. As I've grown up, I've learned how odd, peculiar and strange I am in my curiosities. In my current job, I get to work
Havebooks Willread
Jun 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely outstanding! Must read! I have been hearing about this book in all of my 14 years of home education and can't believe I waited so long to read it.

John Gatto is an award-winning public school teacher who insightfully hones in on the invisible lessons the public educational system is teaching the children of this country: confusion, class position, indifference, emotional dependence, intellectual dependence, conditional self-esteem, and acceptance of surveillance.

Gatto's book, as summar
Apr 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: parents that want their children to learn. homeschoolers and teachers
After reading this book I was reassured that homeschooling my children was the best answer. The author is a teacher, and writes why he feels the school system is failing our children and our family. He is very big on interacting as a community rather than a network. He mentions things that had happened in the past, as far back as the time of Plato. The last chapter, did focus on religion, which made me a little uneasy. If it wasn't for that, then I would have given this book 5 stars. I would rec ...more
Nov 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This guy really hits the nail on the head. This book is definitely worth reading if you care at all about the education of your children.

Update (5/21/2015)
I just re-read this book. And I would change what I wrote from "definitely worth reading..." to "AN ABSOLUTE MUST READ if you have kids!"
Jun 05, 2021 rated it it was ok
I thought that I would enjoy this book more than I did, but I couldn't escape the fact that so many of Gotto's arguments arrive from dubious premises.

A prime example of this is his view of competition, which is (as all r-psychology Leftists say) "rugged" and makes people feel bad about themselves. Well, this is definitively not my experience. Competition drives the individual to succeed and to objectively better himself. Competition is necessary in any situation in which there are limited resou
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John Taylor Gatto is an American retired school teacher of 29 years and 8 months and author of several books on education. He is an activist critical of compulsory schooling and of what he characterizes as the hegemonic nature of discourse on education and the education professions.

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