Writer, teacher, and strong advocate of taking education and learning back from the government, John Taylor Gatto provides us with a well articulated treatise that leaves readers questioning our current school system. Gatto gives us a great review of how compulsory government schooling is just teaching the kids of America to follow orders like robots, rather than actually learn what is being taught in the school system.
Gatto describes that children are learning subjects “like they learn the catechism or memorize the Thirty-nine Articles of Anglicanism”(pg.3), sharing his view that children are learning everything the wrong way. Gatto’s solution to navigating the “tricks and traps” (pg. 104) of the school system is to get the parents of the children in these schools to teach them the things schools can’t such as being a leader, thinking critically and being able to act independently. However, bad school systems often times lead kids to fail and it’s not the kids fault but rather the schools fault. In the movie Waiting for Superman, a film about the state of public education in America, these schools are called “dropout factories”. These schools are given this nickname for the obvious reason that most of the kids who attend it end up dropping out. Like in the film, Gatto describes these compulsory school systems to be failing the kids by teaching them through the “hidden curriculum”. This destructive hidden curriculum is given by Gatto as the seven different lessons that he teaches. These lessons are confusion, class position, indifference, emotional dependency, intellectual dependency, provisional self-esteem and one can’t hide. One of these lessons that really stands out is indifference. As shown in Waiting for Superman, classes can oftentimes be a huge waste of time where teachers can babble on for an hour and the students wouldn’t learn a thing, or classes can be run where the teacher feels no need to really teach anything because it simply doesn’t matter. This indifference of the importance of each individual lesson leads to students going from class not caring too much about anything. This basically means that when you switch between classes during the day, you stop caring/learning about what was in that class, and now you just learn about xyz in the next class.
Gatto also gives readers two excellent “official” ways to look at the state of education in the United States as well as how many people think we need to solve the education systems problems. Like in Waiting for Superman, Gatto correctly explains how many are blaming the failing schooling system on “bad teachers, poor textbooks, incompetent administrators, evil politicians”(pg. 85) etc, and all we need to do to fix this problem is just fire the bad teachers! Get rid of the evil politicians! However, reality is not so kind as to make it that simple. The evidence of this is clear if we all look at the large number of “industries that claim power to cure mass education of its frictions or of its demons in exchange for treasure” (pg. 85). This idea of being able to just fire a bad teacher to fix the problems of a school is shown in Waiting for Superman. One superintendent tried to do this in order to try and give his students a better education, but he was unsuccessful due to tenure. As Gatto explains, there is no “quick fix” to all of the major problems in our school system, and any change will take time and careful thought. ~ Student: Henry W.