- Hardcover: 192 pages
- Publisher: New Society Publishers; Paperback Edition edition (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 (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 125 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #284,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling Paperback Edition Edition
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While Gatto many be correct in his assessment I wish he had given more thoughts about ways to better educate children and youth. His examples are few, and though they may well describe some pockets of excellency, there is need to revamp the system, and since far too many people brought up in the system do not think critically they may not know how to make the changes advocated.
This books is a must read for educators. Even if you radically disagree with Gatto's findings, the book will cause you to think and evaluate why we educate. It has certainly cause me to ask more questions about school verses education.
Gatto often makes brilliant salvoes against the evils of school. However his style is too scattergun to be as convincing as it could be. One flaw is that he leaves too many dangling participles of assertions. His arguments often need to be longer, more developed. For example, he states that we adopted our school model largely from the Prussians, with their interest in impressing people into militaristic conformity and the interchangeability required for industrial efficiency. It would have been interesting if Gatto had traced this influence more thoroughly, showing in some detail how this facet of Germanic culture influenced Horace Mann and other founders of the American compulsory public school movement.
Then Gatto too often ruins a good argument with a concluding, non sequitur-sounding rant. Again to cite an example, he makes the interesting suggestion that schools ought to be subject to being sued for promoting obesity and all its attendant health problems (presumably similar to the way tobacco companies were subject to lawsuits for promoting cancer). Gatto points out that while, on the one hand, school officials are now railing against the obesity epidemic and making a show of taking measures to combat it - on the other hand, they are the very ones promoting it with their insistence on prolonged sedentary attendance in classrooms. "No getting up and walking around the room. No squirming. Sit still!"
It's a good point. But then Gatto undermines his argument by flinging in some confusing indictment of Oliver Wendell Holmes who supported an "independent judiciary." What?
Gatto's choice of homeschooled or minimally-schooled people to serve as exemplars is also sometimes rather unfortunate. He repeatedly expresses approval of the independent styles of business moguls such as Richard Branson and Craig Venter. This muddies the waters of his argument because in other passages, he deplores how big business covertly encourages schools to pacify the population into seeking more and more purchased amusements. Well, to be fair, Gatto does make a distinction between old-style libertarian entrepreneurs and modern corporate cogs. But this distinction might get lost in a casual reading.
Much of Gatto's hit-and-run style can be attributed to his sheer fury at the harm being wrought by schools. Gatto himself acknowledges his rage when he breaks off the main text of his book early, stating that he's so angry at the waste of life that schools cause - he can't write any more. That anger results in this book's being more a protracted rant than a well-organized, closely reasoned awakening to the harmful effects of enforced attendance in schools.
So I wouldn't give this book to someone you are first trying to win over to considering the advantages of homeschooling, or, as it's more properly called, "life learning." Instead, I would give the gift of any of John Holt's books, or of the more generally philosophical "Deschooling Society" by Ivan Illich. Then, after your party has been introduced to and at least partially convinced of the baleful influence of formal education (something which, I'm sorry to say, might not happen too often) - you could suggest reading this Gatto broadside.
Although it often reads like a loose series of pot shots against school officials and the institution of school - it can be valuable for its energizing effect. It can serve as a kick-in-the-pants action promoter to someone already inclined to see school as a deadly monopolizing force in the lives of young people.