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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon October 3, 2002
This book is the transcript of an event put together by John Taylor Gatto, featuring various educators as speakers, discussing successful alternatives to government (public) schools. The event was called "The Exhausted School" and took place in Carnegie Hall on 11/13/91. In addition to the transcript of the talk there is an introduction by Patrick Ferenga, organizational notes before the event, program notes (biographies of the speakers) and a special introduction and afterward by John Taylor Gatto.
The various educators present a brief speech on what their educational method is and why it is successful. Some former students of Gatto also spoke briefly about how little public schools contributed to their successful lives, and how almost all of what they consider important learning happened outside of school on a self-initiated basis. John Taylor Gatto is the only person whose words are speaking out about what is wrong with the present American government schools and why change is needed. For more detailed opinions of Gatto, read "A Different Kind of Teacher" or "Dumbing Us Down".
The purpose of this talk was to get the word out to educators and parents that there are alternatives to the public schools that are successful. I believe the goal was to get parents and teachers motivated to inspire reform of the public schools or at least to know there are working models that reform can be based on. If reform doesn't come fast enough (or ever) then know there are options out there for educational alternatives for our children. Parents who want options can either use the existing alternative schools or perhaps take on the endeavor to open a new school or to homeschool.
The educators briefly discuss what their schools are like and a scant overview of the educational philosophy behind their schools. This is great information for someone who is not yet familiar with these educational options-a good first start in hearing about these schools. If you are interested in more detailed information there is more on the Internet or in other books about those schools. Homeschooling is one option that is discussed by Patrick Farenga. The schools represented are: Sudbury Valley School (a democratic school), Hawthorne Valley Farm School (a Waldorf school), Alternative Community School of Ithaca (public school of choice), and the Albany Free School.
Gatto wraps up the book with an afterward that is a concise history of how American public schools grew to be what they are today. For a long expansion of this short afterward read "The Underground History of American Education".
This is a fast and short read that will be of interest to those interested in learning about educational alternatives to public school or those interested in reading about public school reform. As usual, Gatto does not mince words and gets right to the point. I look forward to more books and articles written by Gatto!
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Unlike most books by John taylor Gatto, which are comprised of his own essays and opinions, this book is a collection of ideas from a number of theoreticians of education (as opposed to schooling). The transcript of a colloquium held held at Carnegie Hall in 1993, this book brings together opinions of how modern school has gone wrong, what the lasting effects are, and most importantly, what the substantive alternatives may be.

Representatives of alternative proactive education, like the Sudbury Valley School and the Alternative Community School of Ithaca, present overviews of how their education structures work, and what they offer that regular compulsory public schooling can't. Probably the most important fact each of these alternatives brings to the table is a recognition that not all children are the same, they don't learn in the same way, and trying to ram every kid in America into the same mold will only cause more harm than good.

Gatto himself, for all his insight and advocacy, tends at times to a naive sentimentality for a past educational system that may or may not have ever existed. That's why having this multiplicity of voices between the covers of this book is so valuable: because it recognizes more than just one viewpoint, and gives parents, communities, and school reform advocates a number of options to choose from.

Probably one of the most valuable additions to the school reform debate in several decades, this pocket-sized volume is easy to read and grasp, and gives you plenty to think about over the long haul. If you have even the slightest inclination to wade into this difficult fray, this book should be your primer and should always be within arm's reach. Like a Swiss Army knife, this book has a million uses in the debate, and every one of them is valuable.
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on June 3, 2003
Gatto and his friends could be called radicals, but they're radicals with credentials--- and enormous credibility. They have the training, the experience, and the courage to look at the public school classroom experience and say "This is cultivated mediocrity at best, forcible dumbing-down at worst; and as such, it is unacceptable for our children, or for any children."
John Taylor Gatto is a great educator with decades of experience inside the New York public school system. But the best experiences--- for him, and for the kids he teaches--- have been outside the system; and the contrast is illuminating.
It is true that their advocacy of homeschooling and private schooling (as opposed to government schooling) has a vehemence which will make some people gulp or sweat. So be it. If you have one child, or two or three or more children whom you love more than your own life, and you want to shield them from the worst in education, and offer them the best, then you owe it to yourself and to them to read this book.
Do it now! It's exhilarating!
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on October 21, 2010
If you've never read anything by John Taylor Gatto I wouldn't start with this one. Even though it's short I think it would be confusing. The book is a compilation of the talks (even a lead up to the talks) given at a Carnegie Hall event telling people about alternative schooling. If you're looking for alternatives to the public school, it is worth reading. If you like John Gatto, it's worth reading. If neither of those are the case, I'd skip it. However, the last chapter was a fascinating look at how Plato's Republic has negatively influenced our country. So if that pique's your interest it may still be worth it. (Although the chapter seemed written in a hurry and is confusing at first.)
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on October 17, 2013
I wish more people would read Gattos work because it has been truly inspirational and is what was pivotal in me making the decision to homeschool my kids, they've been so much happier and I thank him for inspiring me to step outside of the box and ask those questions that no one wants to answer about our broken school system and the truth behind it all!!
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