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The Underground History of American Education: A School Teacher's Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling Paperback – November, 2000
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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. However, the system itself (which Gatto often characterizes as a complex web) ensures that its real purpose is served, despite the efforts of individual reformers within it - that true democracy is rendered unworkable even as the trappings of democracy are allegedly bolstered. Seen in this light, these institutions that produce barely literate, dependent, conformist, incomplete individuals full of emotional and psychological problems, who lack real knowledge (and whose capacity for acquiring such is deliberately weakened or eliminated), and who are just `educated' enough to pay their taxes and buy the latest products, are not, in fact, failing schools - on the contrary, if we are to believe Gatto's analysis, they are performing their designated function PERFECTLY. That purpose is to mold people in such a way as to make them more easily controlled by corporations and the state (a clear-cut example of how, contrary to popular myth, the interests of big business and those of big government more often than not coincide.)
Though the organization of the book is somewhat haphazard, this book is compulsively readable to any critical thinker with an open mind to consider what's REALLY wrong with our school system (and, no, it's nothing so simple as a shortage of funds or a lack of `accountability' -- the real problems are deeper, philosophical, and systemic.) The book is absolutely riveting, and the country would be better off if more citizens read it and demanded real change to the system.
Gatto's book deserves five stars because it dares to speak the truth.