UPDATE. Sorry the link to the piece was missing in the original post. Thanks to Aussieute for the heads up!
UPDATE 2: Check out the link provided by Dot in the comments, I am as busy as the proverbial one legged tightrope walker but I am going to find time over the next week to take in the five hours of the interview with Gatto. It is prefaced with a great quote from Calvin Coolidge.
John Taylor Gatto (1935-2018) taught brilliantly in the toughest New York public schools but eventually he couldn’t take it any more. In his resignation letter he wrote.
I’ve come slowly to understand what it is I really teach: A curriculum of confusion, class position, arbitrary justice, vulgarity, rudeness, disrespect for privacy, indifference to quality, and utter dependency. I teach how to fit into a world I don’t want to live in.
I just can’t do it anymore. I can’t train children to wait to be told what to do; I can’t train people to drop what they are doing when a bell sounds; I can’t persuade children to feel some justice in their class placement when there isn’t any, and I can’t persuade children to believe teachers have valuable secrets they can acquire by becoming our disciples. That isn’t true.
He realised it was no accident that things got that way and he dedicated the rest of his life to repairing the damage done and telling the story. He wrote about his time in the classroom and he went further with The Underground History of American Education that is described as the most accurate and damning history of the American education system that has ever been written.
Above all, Gatto understood that his students were not mere underlings, but individuals with unique skills and talents to share with the rest of the world. They didn’t want to be talked down to but longed to be treated with respect and dignity. He recognized that their worth was not determined by the neighborhoods where they lived, their parents’ annual salaries, or the scores they received on standardized tests. He concluded that “genius,” is “as common as dirt. We suppress genius because we haven’t yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.”
The once proud and efficient public-school system of the United States, especially its unique free high school for all—has turned into a wasteland where violence and vice share the time with ignorance and idleness, besides serving as battleground for vested interests, social, political, and economic. The new product of that debased system, the functional illiterate, is numbered in millions, while various forms of deceit have become accented as inevitable—”social promotion” or for those who fail the “minimum competency” test; and most lately, “bilingual education,” by which the rudiments are supposedly taught in over ninety languages other than English. The old plan and purpose of teaching the young what they truly need to know survives only in the private sector, itself hard-pressed and shrinking in size.