John Taylor Gatto

John Taylor Gatto was born in Monongahela, Pennsylvania, a river town thirty-five miles southeast of Pittsburgh where his grandfather, Harry Taylor Zimmer, was the town printer in the days when printers still honored their descent from Peter Zenger. John attended public schools in Swissvale, Monongahela, and Uniontown, and the private Catholic boarding school in Latrobe, all towns in western Pennsylvania.

As a boy he held many jobs: sweeper in his grandad's printing office, snow shoveler, lawn mower, Kool-Ade and comic book salesman, and delivery boy for the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph and Uniontown Morning Herald, among others. He did undergraduate work at Cornell, the University of Pittsburgh, and Columbia, then served in the U.S. Army medical corps at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Following army service he did graduate work at the City University of New York, Hunter College, Yeshiva, the University of California, and Cornell.

After college, Mr. Gatto worked as a scriptwriter in the film business, was an advertising writer, a taxi driver, a jewelry designer, an ASCAP songwriter, and a hotdog vendor before becoming a schoolteacher. During his schoolteaching years he also entered the caviar trade, conducted an antique business, operated a rare book search service, and founded Lava Mt. Records, a documentary record producer, which won several awards for cover design and content, and which presented the horror of H.P. Lovecraft, dramatized, and the speeches of Richard M. Nixon and Spiro Agnew, exactly as given.

He climaxed his teaching career as New York State Teacher of the Year after being named New York City Teacher of the Year on three occasions. He quit teaching on the OP ED page of the Wall Street Journal in 1991 while still New York State Teacher of the Year, claiming that he was no longer willing to hurt children. Later that year he was the subject of a show at Carnegie Hall called "An Evening With John Taylor Gatto," which launched a career of public speaking in the area of school reform, which has taken Gatto over a million and a half miles in all fifty states and seven foreign countries. In 1992, he was named Secretary of Education in the Libertarian Party Shadow Cabinet, and he has been included in Who's Who in America from 1996 on. In 1997, he was given the Alexis de Tocqueville Award for his contributions to the cause of liberty, and was named to the Board of Advisors of the National TV-Turnoff Week.

His books include: Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (1992); The Exhausted School (1993); A Different Kind of Teacher (2000); and The Underground History Of American Education (2001)

You can find out more about John Taylor Gatto at his web site: http://www.johntaylorgatto.com

Articles by the Author

The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher

Call me Mr. Gatto, please. Twenty-six years ago, having nothing better to do, I tried my hand at schoolteaching. My license certifies me as an instructor of English language and literature, but that isn't what I do at all. What I teach is school, and I win awards doing it. Teaching means many different things, but six lessons are common to schoolteaching from Harlem to Hollywood. You pay for these lessons in more ways than you can imagine, so you might as well know what they are: The first lesson I teach is "Stay in the class where you belong." I don't know who decides that my kids belong there but that's not my business. The children are numbered so that if any get away they can be returned to the right class. Over the years the variety of ways children are numbered has increased dramatically, until it is hard to see the human being under the burden of the numbers he carries. Numbering children is a big and very profitable business, though what the business is designed to accomplish is elusive...

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The Public School Nightmare

I want you to consider the frightening possibility that we are spending far too much money on schooling, not too little. I want you to consider that we have too many people employed in interfering with the way children grow up--and that all this money and all these people, all the time we take out of children's lives and away from their homes and families and neighborhoods and private explorations--gets in the way of education.

That seems radical, I know. Surely in modern technological society it is the quantity of schooling and the amount of money you spend on it that buys value. And yet last year in St. Louis, I heard a vice-president of IBM tell an audience of people assembled to redesign the process of teacher certification that in his opinion this country became computer-literate by self-teaching, not through any action of schools. He said 45 million people were comfortable with computers who had learned through dozens of non-systematic strategies, none of them very formal; if schools had pre-empted the right to teach computer use we would be in a horrible mess right now instead of leading the world in this literacy. Now think about Sweden, a beautiful, healthy, prosperous and up-to-date country with a spectacular reputation for quality in everything it produces. It makes sense to think their schools must have something to do with that.

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