John Taylor Gatto is a former New York public schoolteacher who taught for thirty years and won multiple awards for his teaching. However, constant harassment by unhelpful administrations plus his own frustrations with what he came to realize were the inherent systemic deficiencies of our `public' schools led him to resign; he now is a school-choice activist who writes and speaks against our compulsory, government-run school system.
THE UNDERGROUND HISTORY OF AMERICAN EDUCATION is a freewheeling investigation into the real - as opposed to the `official' - history of schooling, focused on the U.S. but with examinations of other historical examples for the purposes of comparing and contrasting, as well as for tracing where ideas and concepts related to education originated. You will discover things you were never told in the official version, things that will, at times, surprise, disgust, and scare you. You will also be introduced to the little-known historiography of the the darker side of the construction of compulsory government schooling.
In the final analysis, Gatto believes that compulsory, government-run schooling is inherently destructive to true education, the cultivation of self-reliance, and indeed to individualism - which used to be a defining element of the American character. The true purpose of our public school system in reality has more to do with control than it does with learning. This does not mean that rank-and-file teachers, principals, and even superintendents believe they are making students dumber, more conformist, less self-reliant, less capable of genuine analytical, independent thought, and more easily controlled; most people involved in the system no doubt believe that they are trying their best to really teach their students.Read more ›
This book is on my all-time top 10 list. While it is well worth the price, it is also available in its entirety online, at [...] for free. I read it there first, and then purchased it to read again, annotate, and loan to friends. Gatto's books are all excellent, but this one is his opus. I also highly recommend Education: Free and Compulsory by Murray Rothbard. This is also available online, free, at [...] It was written decades ago, in the 60's I believe, and is amazing in its support of homeschooling, an option essentially unknown at that time. It is much shorter, at about 150 pages, than Underground History and so makes a good starting point. Mises is a generally excellent source for all manner of libertarian writings. They operate an online bookstore, but every item they control the copyright to is also available free online. As a result of these books (and many others also), we have liberated 3 of our children from the tyranny, thought control, and general low standards of our local magnet school. Our 4th is a senior this year. I'm sorry it is too late for him, but we certainly won't be sending him to a public university. My entire experience with now 13 years of public schools can be summed up in four words - I had no idea. I would also suggest that if you have children in public school now, esp high school, have them bring home all their text books and look over them closely. You may be surprised to see the PC content of the texts, not just the obvious history, government, and economics books but also English (we have an English grammar book, but we don't use it at all - indeed the pages are in pristine condition is spite of being issued to 3 previous students. Also, we don't actually write term papers, even in two years of AP English, although we do make videos.Read more ›
After reading Gatto's "Underground History of American Education" I must take my place amongst the fence-sitters. Before giving my reasons, I should give a bit of background. I am a former public school teacher who left disillusioned for reasons similar to Gatto. I do not support the public school system and have much ideological affinity with Gatto (so I am not biased against his point of view). Currently, I am a PhD student studying the philosophy and history of education (so I believe I'm relatively competent to judge this history as history).
I really wanted to love this book, and ideologically, I did. I agree much with Gatto's depiction of public ed's history as one that seeks to homogenize and discipline people rather than to encourage independent thought and learning. I agree with Gatto's assessment that the education "system" existing before public ed was generally better than is portrayed in most education history books (for a good book about this read Market Education: The Unknown History (Studies in Social Philosophy and Policy)), and that the entrepreneurial spirit is much more likely to come from self-education than standardized, mass, compuslory education.
The two stars I subtracted are for the insufficient documentation this book provides. As the saying goes, extraordinary claims do require extraordinary evidence, and anyone looking for the latter (regardless of whether they agree with Gatto's former) will be disappointed! Simply put, there are no citations in this book. Even direct quotes are not accompanied by citations, connoting an absolute breach of fair play.Read more ›