Gatto Against Schools Critique
Jamille Coy “Against School: How public education cripples our kids, and why “, is a piece written by John Taylor Gatto which was published in the Harpers Magazine September 2003 issue. Gatto was a New York City public school teacher for about thirty years , who after all this time teaching came to a conclusion that public schooling was nothing but, a system created by the high powers to create a large labour force and to keep the general public under some level of control.
He believed that schools stifled a child maturing process and the only way to curb this issue way to educate our own children.
Gatto opens his piece speaking about his personal experiences within the public school systems in Manhattan, where he says he became an expert in boredom. His expertise in this area of boredom he claims came from the kids he taught, who always complained about being bored in the class room and being taught by teachers who were also bored and uninterested in their subject.
He then said we are to blame for our boredom and the only person obligated to amuse you ways one’s self. He said he learnt this remedy of amusing one’s self to cure boredom from his grandfather. The use of these personal or firsthand experiences were very effective because it tells the reader that the writer isn’t just writing from pure opinion but from something more, which allows you to trust him. He follows by saying that he believes people who didn’t know they were responsible for their own amusement were childish and should be avoided and definitely not trusted.
He claims that he often defied custom and bent laws just to help kids to get out of the trap of boredom and childishness. He said teachers had a choice either help kids take an education or help them receive it and he was one who wanted to help kids receive it. Consequently he explains that he was fired after childish adults plotted against him and after nine months of tormented effort and his family having to suffer he was able to reacquire his teachers’ license.
In this part of Gatto’s piece he uses a lot of strong words (avoided, not trusted, defy, trap, plotted, tormented) which can be both positive and negative. In one instance it may get scare the reader into believing him and in another it can be seen as terribly biased and cause paranoia. He end off the introductory paragraph quoting Gorge W Bush saying what if when he said “leave no child behind” he accidentally spoke the truth, was our schools designed to make sure not one child ever grows up?
This quotation was the introduction to the main idea of his article and it was very effective because he used authority in using G W Bush and also ended it off with a rhetorical question to leave the reader thinking and preparing him/her for what is about to follow. In the opening to his main argument or body he asks three rhetorical questions which he follows by indirect answers “Do we really need school? Is it really necessary? If so for what? He then answers all these questions indirectly saying that 2 million happy homeschoolers showed that we didn’t need it.
Then he mention some popular Americans who weren’t schooled such as Abraham Lincoln ,Thomas Jefferson, Carnegie and Rockefeller, saying that these people achieved a circumstantial level of success and wealth without schooling. He makes sure and points out that he is just saying school isn’t needed but that he totally agrees that education is, maybe just not the formal system that we all know today. He explains that’s the system (schooling) has made us to believe that school is in direct proportions with success, which he says historically isn’t true both financially and intellectually.
The question and answer technique he use was very effective because it first makes the writer think and then by following with answering we unknowing accept and believe his argument. His use of popular Americans who weren’t schooled is somewhat effective in that once can without a doubt see that some people without school can achieve success but at the same that time can argue that it was a different time and the world has changed and education is much more crucial part of life than it was in the time of Rockefeller and Washington.
He used a list to explain that mass schooling was believed to make good people, good citizens and to make each his personal best but this was definitely not so. This list which is actually very effective because its helps the reader to remember and understand main points. He then quotes H. L. Mencken who said the aim of public education is not to fill the young of spices with knowledge and awaken them but it is to simply reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardize citizenry to put down dissent and originality .
From this quote Gatto wants us to take what Mencken said seriously but coming from a satirist, it lacks effectiveness. Gatto then goes on to speak about James Bryant Conant who was the president of Harvard for twenty years, world war two poison gas specialists the principal of Colubine High Colorado and the person who introduce standardized testing into the school system. He mention Conant to show a man who had very little background on education influenced it in a big way which was somewhat effective but at the same time could have been considered confusing and misplaced.
Another reason for mentioning Conant was to introduce Inglis who believes the reason for school was to stem mass, incurable division so that the underclass’s can never integrate as a dangerous whole. Gatto list what Inglis found to be the purpose of schooling which was: the adjustive or adaptive function, the integrating function, the diagnostic and directive function, the differing function, the selective function and the propaedeutic function. This list was as said before very effective because it goes in depth and explains to the reader giving the reader more insight on what the writer is trying to delineate.
He starts off his closing points of his argument with the words “There now you have it. Now you know. ” Which somewhat disparages the reader and give a cocky and conceitedness about the writer which can push the reader away from agreement with what he is saying. In this closing argument he says that mandatory schooling had no other objective but to; dumb people down, separate us by classes, encourage us to be lazy not to think at all and to create non-stop consumers.
He said that school has turned our children into addicts and it is no accident he quotes Plato and Rousseau to show this. They described our schools as factories in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned and built to specification laid down. He said it is obvious what these specifications are; lack of maturity, easy divorce laws, easy credit and easy questions. He used very effective rhetorical strategies by comparing children to raw products and schools to factories which gave us images and made his writing more understandable.
He concludes by saying that the good news is now that we understand the logic behind modern schooling, its tricks and traps are fairly easy to avoid. He said the answer is to teach own to be leaders and adventurers. He says before we can do this we have to understand that’s schools are laboratories of experimentation on young mind, drill centers for the habits and cooperate society demands. He said that mandatory education serves children only accidentally and the real purpose is to make them servants.
He said that the answer is just to let children manage themselves. This closing paragraph was very ambiguous, it was effect in the imagery give with his metaphors but at the same time the answer to the entire thing was bland. After all that he had to say it seems no real solution was given to the problem, which shows he is not very solution oriented and causes his entire article to lose effectiveness. Works Cited Gatto, John Taylor. “Against School. ” Harper’s Magazine Sep. 2001: 35-38. Print. MLA formatting by BibMe. org.