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).