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Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling Hardcover – October 1, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0865716315 ISBN-10: 0865716315
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Editorial Reviews


John Taylor Gatto's Weapons of Mass Instruction, now available in paperback, focuses on mechanisms of traditional education which cripple imagination, discourage critical thinking, and create a false view of learning as a byproduct of rote-memorization drills. Gatto's earlier book, Dumbing Us Down, introduced the now-famous expression of the title into the common vernacular. Weapons of Mass Instruction adds another chilling metaphor to the brief against conventional schooling.

Gatto demonstrates that the harm school inflicts is rational and deliberate. The real function of pedagogy, he argues, is to render the common population manageable. To that end, young people must be conditioned to rely upon experts, to remain divided from natural alliances and to accept disconnections from their own lived experiences. They must at all costs be discouraged from developing self-reliance and independence.

Escaping this trap requires a strategy Gatto calls "open source learning" which imposes no artificial divisions between learning and life. Through this alternative approach our children can avoid being indoctrinated-only then can they achieve self-knowledge, good judgment, and courage. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

John Taylor Gatto was a teacher in New York for 26 years before quitting in 1991. He is a tireless advocate for school reform, has won numerous awards and his earlier book, Dumbing Us Down, has sold over 100,000 copies.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: New Society Publishers (October 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865716315
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865716315
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #220,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Gatto was a teacher in New York City's public schools for over 30 years and is a recipient of the New York State Teacher of the Year award. A much-sought after speaker on education throughout the United States, his other books include A Different Kind of Teacher (Berkeley Hills Books, 2001) and The Underground History of American Education (Oxford Village Press, 2000).

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Donald N. Anderson on June 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Taylor Gatto has written another thought provoking book about the critical problem of allowing children to become educated. This one approaches the defects of current schooling from a number of directions that should leave no doubt about his reasons for objecting to compulsory schooling.

I was a public school teacher for only a couple of years in the early 60's teaching science and math in a small rural high school. I did not experience the vicious corruption of purpose in the way that John Taylor Gatto did in New York. Never the less, I formed the firm opinion that schools supported by government were a serious mistake in a free society and were dangerous to that society's long-term health. It is small wonder that many of our citizens value freedom so lightly that they appear willing to give it up for an illusion of security. After all, most have been bored and conditioned by 13 years of government schooling to accept authority even without reasons.

We need a full range of competing schools that offer the variety we find in fields such as food growing and delivery. We might also find that such schools carefully look for ways to deliver desired information more rapidly at lower cost. School costs have gone up at the same time quality has gone down. This is the picture of a failing institution, only government life support enables it to continue to miss-educate.

Gatto has done us all a huge service by providing a history of educational thought in America and identified its roots and personalities. You would be correct if you thought my education school classes failed to mention this part of history. After reading his earlier books, I went back and read more thoroughly the musings of John Dewey and others.
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132 of 144 people found the following review helpful By Andrea Mcclerren on December 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book and Gatto's earlier work, "Dumbing Us Down", were life-changing reads for me and my wife.

We have been set free to live our own lives. We are going to let our children grow up with that freedom and take their own education. Largely due to this book I have decided to aggressively further my own education in order to live a truly fulfilling life and make a positive contribution to my country.

I discovered, as I hope you do, that MIT has made their entire undergrad/grad program online FREE-FOR-ALL. Just Google "MIT OPEN".
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84 of 93 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this book, John Taylor Gatto rips the sheep's clothing off of the ravenous wolf that is government run schooling. The structure of schooling in America is shown to be an old Prussian model that is used to churn out consumers and dumb-down the general population. Read what the pioneers of modern schooling said in their own words...it's chilling.

One example - William Torrey Harris, US Commissioner of Education from 1889-1906:

"Ninety-nine [students] out of a hundred are automata, careful to walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom. This is not an accident but the result of substantial education which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual..." (from p. 13)
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Diane Dekker on May 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gatto knows what he is talking about and is absolutely right about how the State schools are destroying our children: The intent of the State is ultimately to change our children's values, not to educate them. The State is training future citizens to serve its own purposes. Businesses do not have personnel departments any more--they have "human resources." Our children are nothing more to them than future resources for the State.

This book is much more likely to be read than Gatto's The Underground History of American Education: A School Teacher's Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling because of its shorter length and easy readability. However, there are some problems that come with short-cuts. For one thing, this book is not nearly as well documented as his other books. If you want documentation, you have to read Underground History.

Secondly, Gatto is on a mission in this book and he needlessly attacks those who could be his most avid supporters. As one example, he unfairly attacks Calvinism and Puritanism as part of the cause of our present school dilemma. Modern history has been very successful in demonizing Calvin and the Puritans, but I never trust a history book. Reading the writing of the Puritans themselves has shown me that they were some of the most humble and joyful people who ever lived, and of all groups in history, the ones who fought most successfully for liberty from tyranny in government. While John Calvin and Martin Luther promoted public education, both were very aware of what it could turn into if taken over by the wrong people.
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114 of 130 people found the following review helpful By Emily Winters on December 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I received this book yesterday afternoon. Christmas Eve day was spent reading this book, highlighting it, writing notes and reading aloud chunks of it to my home educated children.

And because it is Christmas Eve I will keep this review short. (Even though despite the holiday, I'd rather be calling all my friends and urging them to order this book; I am restraining myself however.)

This book is truly Gatto's Magnum opus; I like it better than any of his other books.

His sage observations on the school system, corporate world and consumer-driven culture are brilliant. He even addresses how this country has gone from manufacturing steel to manufacturing "Bubbles" (as in Real Estate bubbles...sound familiar?)

It is my earnest hope and prayer that students everywhere will accept the challenge of the Bartleby Project, which is offered on the last page of the book. Then maybe, just maybe, the dreadful course this country is hell-bent on can begin to change.
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