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Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto
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“I've noticed a fascinating phenomenon in my thirty years of teaching: 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 aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers to care and do work very, 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 a different cell where he must memorize that humans and monkeys derive from a common ancestor.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“What's gotten in the way of education in the United States is a theory of social engineering that says there is ONE RIGHT WAY to proceed with growing up.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum 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 roadmap 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 Gattoo, Dumbing us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“Although teachers do care and do work very, 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 a different cell where he must memorize that humans and monkeys derive from a common ancestor.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“Independent study, community service, adventures and experience, large doses of privacy and solitude, a thousand different apprenticeships — the one-day variety or longer — these are all powerful, cheap, and effective ways to start a real reform of schooling. But no large-scale reform is ever going to work to repair our damaged children and our damaged society until we force open the idea of “school” to include family as the main engine of education. If we use schooling to break children away from parents — and make no mistake, that has been the central function of schools since John Cotton announced it as the purpose of the Bay Colony schools in 1650 and Horace Mann announced it as the purpose of Massachusetts schools in 1850 — we’re going to continue to have the horror show we have right now.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“This was once a land where every sane person knew how to build a shelter, grow food, and entertain one another. Now we have been rendered permanent children. It’s the architects of forced schooling who are responsible for that.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“The home-schooling movement has quietly grown to a size where one and half million young people are being educated entirely by their own parents; last month the education press reported the amazing news that, in their ability to think, children schooled at home seem to be five or even ten years ahead of their formally trained peers.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“School is a twelve-year jail sentence where bad habits are the only curriculum truly learned. I teach school and win awards doing it. I should know.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“The lesson of report cards, grades, and tests is that children should not trust themselves or their parents but should instead rely on the evaluation of certified officials. People need to be told what they are worth.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“Pick up a fifth-grade math or rhetoric textbook from 1850 and you’ll see that the texts were pitched then on what would today be considered college level. The continuing cry for “basic skills” practice is a smoke screen”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“Is it any wonder that Socrates was outraged at the accusation he took money to teach? Even then, philosophers saw clearly the inevitable direction the professionalization of teaching would take, that of pre-empting the teaching function, which, in a healthy community, belongs to everyone.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“Schools teach exactly what they are intended to teach and they do it well: how to be a good Egyptian and remain in your place in the pyramid.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“• As society rapidly changes, individuals will have to be able to function comfortably in a world that is always in flux. Knowledge will continue to increase at a dizzying rate. This means that a content-based curriculum, with a set body of information to be imparted to students, is entirely inappropriate as a means of preparing children for their adult roles.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“... meaning where meaning is genuinely to be found — in families, in friends, in the passage of seasons, in nature, in simple ceremonies and rituals, in curiosity, generosity, compassion, and service to others, in a decent independence and privacy, in all the free and inexpensive things out of which real families, real friends, and real communities are built”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“Our form of compulsory schooling is an invention of the State of Massachusetts around 1850. It was resisted — sometimes with guns — by an estimated eighty percent of the Massachusetts population, the last outpost in Barnstable on Cape Cod not surrendering its children until the 1880s, when the area was seized by militia and children marched to school under guard.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“people are less than whole unless they gather themselves voluntarily into groups of souls in harmony. Gathering themselves to pursue individual, family, and community dreams consistent with their private humanity is what makes them whole; only slaves are gathered by others.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“All global ambitions are based on a definition of productivity and the good life so alienated from common human reality that I am convinced it is wrong and that most people would agree with me if they could perceive an alternative. We might be able to see that if we regained a hold on a philosophy that locates meaning where meaning is genuinely to be found — in families, in friends, in the passage of seasons, in nature, in simple ceremonies and rituals, in curiosity, generosity, compassion, and service to others, in a decent independence and privacy, in all the free and inexpensive things out of which real families, real friends, and real communities are built — then we would be so self-sufficient we would not even need the material “sufficiency” which our global “experts” are so insistent we be concerned about.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“Mass schooling damages children. We don’t need any more of it. And under the guise that it is the same thing as education, it has been picking our pockets just as Socrates predicted it would thousands of years ago. One of the surest ways to recognize real education is by the fact that it doesn’t cost very much, doesn’t depend on expensive toys or gadgets. The experiences that produce it and the self-awareness that propels it are nearly free. It is hard to turn a dollar on education. But schooling is a wonderful hustle, getting sharper all the time.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“It is time that we squarely face the fact that institutional schoolteaching is destructive to children.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“Good students wait for a teacher to tell them what to do. This is the most important lesson of them all: we must wait for other people, better trained than ourselves, to make the meanings of our lives. The expert makes all the important choices; only I, the teacher, can determine what my kids must study, or rather, only the people who pay me can make those decisions, which I then enforce.”
John Taylor Gatto, 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.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“What, after all this time, is the purpose of mass schooling supposed to be? Reading, writing, and arithmetic can’t be the answer, because properly approached those things take less than a hundred hours to transmit — and we have abundant evidence that each is readily self-taught in the right setting and time. Why, then, are we locking kids up in an involuntary network with strangers for twelve years? Surely not so a few of them can get rich? Even if it worked that way, and I doubt that it does, why wouldn’t any sane community look on such an education as positively wrong? It divides and classifies people, demanding that they compulsively compete with each other, and publicly labels the losers by literally de-grading them, identifying them as “low-class” material. And the bottom line for the winners is that they can buy more stuff! I don’t believe that anyone who thinks about that feels comfortable with such a silly conclusion. I can’t help feeling that if we could only answer the question of what it is that we want from these kids we lock up, we would suddenly see where we took a wrong turn. I have enough faith in American imagination and resourcefulness to believe that at that point we’d come up with a better way — in fact, a whole supermarket of better ways.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“It's like a malicious person lifting a photograph from the developing chemicals too early, and then pronouncing the photographer incompetent.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“The lesson of bells is that no work is worth finishing, so why care too deeply about anything? Years of bells will condition all but the strongest to a world that no longer offer important work to do.

Bells destroy the past and future, rendering every interval the same as any other, as the abstraction of a map renders every living mountain and river the same, even though they are not. Bells inoculate each undertaking with significance.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“I’ve noticed a fascinating phenomenon in my thirty years of teaching: 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 aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers do care and do work very, 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 a different cell where he must memorize that humans and monkeys derive from a common ancestor.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“Indeed, the lesson of bells is that no work is worth finishing, so why care too deeply about anything? Years of bells will condition all but the strongest to a world that can no longer offer important work to do. Bells are the secret logic of school time; their logic is inexorable. Bells destroy the past and future, rendering every interval the same as any other, as the abstraction of a map renders every living mountain and river the same, even though they are not. Bells inoculate each undertaking with indifference.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“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.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“I’ve noticed a fascinating phenomenon in my thirty years of teaching: 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 aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers do care and do work very, very hard, the institution is psychopathic — it has no conscience.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“Trust in families and in neighborhoods and individuals to make sense of the important question, 'What is education for?' If some of them answer differently from what you might prefer, that's really not your business, and it shouldn't be your problem. Our type of schooling has deliberately concealed the fact that such a question must be framed and not taken for granted if anything beyond a mockery of democracy is to be nurtured. It is illegitimate to have an expert answer that question for you.”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
“Postscript, 2005 From the Publisher ON APRIL 7, 2004, the Mid-Hudson Highland Post carried an article about an appearance that John Gatto made at Highland High School. Headlined “Rendered Speechless,” the report was subtitled “Advocate for education reform brings controversy to Highland.” The article relates the events of March 25 evening of that year when the second half of John Gatto’s presentation was canceled by the School Superintendent, “following complaints from the Highland Teachers Association that the presentation was too controversial.” On the surface, the cancellation was in response to a video presentation that showed some violence. But retired student counselor Paul Jankiewicz begged to differ, pointing out that none of the dozens of students he talked to afterwards were inspired to violence. In his opinion, few people opposing Gatto had seen the video presentation. Rather, “They were taking the lead from the teacher’s union who were upset at the whole tone of the presentation.” He continued, “Mr. Gatto basically told them that they were not serving kids well and that students needed to be told the truth, be given real-life learning experiences, and be responsible for their own education. [Gatto] questioned the validity and relevance of standardized tests, the prison atmosphere of school, and the lack of relevant experience given students.” He added that Gatto also had an important message for parents: “That you have to take control of your children’s education.” Highland High School senior Chris Hart commended the school board for bringing Gatto to speak, and wished that more students had heard his message. Senior Katie Hanley liked the lecture for its “new perspective,” adding that ”it was important because it started a new exchange and got students to think for themselves.” High School junior Qing Guo found Gatto “inspiring.” Highland teacher Aliza Driller-Colangelo was also inspired by Gatto, and commended the “risk-takers,” saying that, following the talk, her class had an exciting exchange about ideas. Concluded Jankiewicz, the students “were eager to discuss the issues raised. Unfortunately, our school did not allow that dialogue to happen, except for a few teachers who had the courage to engage the students.” What was not reported in the newspaper is the fact that the school authorities called the police to intervene and ‘restore the peace’ which, ironically enough, was never in the slightest jeopardy as the student audience was well-behaved and attentive throughout. A scheduled evening meeting at the school between Gatto and the Parents Association was peremptorily forbidden by school district authorities in a final assault on the principles of free speech and free assembly… There could be no better way of demonstrating the lasting importance of John Taylor Gatto’s work, and of this small book, than this sorry tale. It is a measure of the power of Gatto’s ideas, their urgency, and their continuing relevance that school authorities are still trying to shut them out 12 years after their initial publication, afraid even to debate them. — May the crusade continue! Chris Plant Gabriola Island, B.C. February, 2005”
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

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