Engardio, Gobitus, and the Flag Salute
The Grumbling Slave

John T Gatto and Growth without Educators

When did we lose teachers and gain educators? Isn't that new word pretentious? Doesn't it imply that we'd all have empty heads without them?

It's just just the opposite. It's hard to prevent children from learning. Witness their ability to pick up a language. Without any instruction at all, they absorb whatever language is spoken in the home. If two languages are spoken, they absorb two. If three languages are spoken, they absorb three. We read a lot to our children when they were infants and toddlers. Classics like Go Dogs Go! and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. They picked it right up and were both reading before kindergarten. Beyond pointing to the words we read, we never showed them how. 

If learning is so natural why do so many kids not do it? It's not because we have too few educators. It may be because we have too many.

John Taylor Gatto was named New York City Teacher of the year in 1989 and 1990 and 1991. In 1991, he was named New York State Teacher of the Year. But then he turned on his fellow educators! Yes, he agreed, he was a good teacher. But it was only because he bucked, at every turn, the stifling strait jacket of the school system. The district where he worked twice suspended his license for insubordination. He was too innovative, and the bureaucracy too inflexible to accommodate. In 1991, he quit. Writing to the Wall Street Journal, he declared that he could no longer "hurt kids to make a living."

But might he have waited for "school reform?" He observed: "Socrates foresaw if teaching became a formal profession, something like this would happen. Professional interest is served by making what is easy to do seem hard....School is too vital a jobs-project, contract giver and protector of the social order to allow itself to be "re-formed." [italics mine]

Visit Mr. Gatto's websiteand you'll see he's working on a Ken Burns style documentary about the education industry, The Fourth Purpose. "The time for pussy-foot measures with the forced schooling institution is long past," he says. "....What justice cries out for to break this logjam is shock treatment." It promises to be good.

In the right environment, flowers will grow all by themselves. It's a natural process. They don't need professional "sprouters" to measure and critique every move. Our homeschooled son never went to school, save for a brief stint in the 6th grade. He went through a phase in which he would read for hours on end. Huge tomes, mostly history. My wife, Mrs Sheepandgoats, had some allies in the school system and she went running to the local principal. "I don't know what to do," she pleaded. "He won't do any of his workbooks. He just sits and reads all day!" "He reads? said the principal incredulously. "Don't do anything!" Yet had he been in that principal's school he would not have been allowed to read. They would have made him do those workbooks. Thus a naturally enjoyable experience (learning) would be made hateful.

Our boy entered 6th grade mid-year. It was time to give it a try. Rochester City has an odd system of school assignment. You are usually but not necessarily assigned to your neighborhood school. But since our boy went suddenly, he had no say whatsoever and was assigned to a gritty school with a cross-city bus ride. Never being in school before, how would he fit in? we wondered. Would he be a nerd? Would he be beat up and picked on? Somewhat to our surprise, he had no difficulty whatsoever, turning the "socialization" myth on its head. At the end of the year, he had a choice to continue in school or to homeschool again. He chose to homeschool. "I had no time to read when I was in school," he said.

During that 6th grade year, his teacher declared pi was 3.14. My son, because of things covered before, knew that 3.14 was a rounded number, and the actual decimal value stretched on forever. He stated such, and the teacher was upset to be contradicted!

Every parent likes to think their kids are naturally bright. We do too. Yet we fear that their brightness may not have been allowed to flourish without homeschooling.

The next time the boy saw a classroom was age 16, at the local community college. They gave him placement tests since they weren't sure how to regard homeschoolers. Consequently, he was assigned remedial math (remedial from a college point of view. In other words, he was age-appropriate) Yet his reading comprehension, they informed us, was "off the charts" They were slow to believe that he had not already had college courses. Interestingly, he never regarded himself as abnormally bright. "I had no idea there were so many stupid people," he said afterwards.

Not everyone will be in position to do as we were able to. Nor was it the answer in every way. I don't mean to suggest that you can't attend public schools and thrive. You can. They hold some advantages over homeschooling. But they're not very flexible. You have to skirt around many shoals.



Tom Irregardless and Me                  No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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Romulus Crowe

"I had no idea there were so many stupid people," he said afterwards.

Out of the mouths of babes, as they say. That sounds like a good advertisement for home schooling (although I don't know if it's available as an option in the UK).

If he had been in school all these years, the idiots might have dragged him down to their level. They would certainly have tried, and few escape the Touch of the Moron.

When I was at school, the acceleration due to gravity was 9.8 m/s/s. Lately, I discovered that children are now being taught it's 10, to make the sums easier. And, presumably, to make their brains softer.

That's not all bad news though. It means I haven't put on weight. I'm the same mass, but gravity's pull has increased.

Perhaps it's due to the increasing numbers of idiots on the planet?


Bravo! My education in the school system was unimpressive. I was fortunate to have a district where I was enrolled in a gifted kids program. They taught me how to look at things differently, solve problems, and take what I've learned from one area (say, history) and apply the lessons to another area (say, economics).

My Sophmore year in high school I could have passed the GED test and went into college. I chose to stay in HS and regretted it ever since. When someone tells a 16 year old kid he knows enough to graduate, try getting him to listen to instructors drone on about things that don't interest him.

My daughter is on the same path. She reads constantly. She has a reading comprehension level of an educated adult. She's 11 and asking some deep questions, "why do people keep killing each other if non of us like to kill?" "Why has God allowed the world to go on like this for so long?"

The more I learn about our public education system, the more I advocate home schooling for those who are able. Kids want to learn. Not all need the structure school enforces. I believe that public education is a great system for turning out "factory employees" (people who don't question authority and know how to perform repetative tasks over and over again). Free-thinking individuals who can evaluate something and make decisions based on new information, (aka, leaders), it's not as skilled at turning out. In fact, I feel that it actively suppresses that type of individual.

One final thought that may not at first seem related:

I've noticed that when a child is not exposed to TV for any length of time (say 1 week), they begin to become more creative in their thinking (make games up, play with their old toys in new ways). They enjoy interacting with adults and other children more. Since TV is a form of mass media, where values are portrayed and we hear constant sales messages, and our education system is a system of mass education, is it possible that a similar effect could be noticed?

I don't advocate dismantling our education system as it does serve a purpose. I do, however, feel that we as parents need to take greater roles in our children's education. We need to help them develop a framework with which to view and perceive the world that they are learning about. Otherwise, they'll get that framework from TV and radio...not my first choice.


I found Mr. Gattos web site about a year ago and have referred to it numerous times since. But I had lost the link and forgotten his name. Thanks for renewing that for me.

I taught adult ed. for 3 years to HS dropouts (euphemistically referred to as 'non-completers' -- which is, itself, a non-word trying hard to become a neologism). They were a miserable mess. Their spelling and math skills were at the level of a delta semi-moron. Logic skills ... grammar ... you name it, they lacked it.

Just 480 hours later, they could blow your socks off in WordPerfect, Alpha4 and Quattro Pro. Alpha4 is a relational database that adheres to the Codd Rules. Look 'em up sometime. My guys (& gals!) could wrestle data down to at least the 3rd level of normalizaton ... and usually beyond. And they could design forms in it so that the printed output fit into all the tiny little boxes of a pre-printed form. They also resolved the quadratic for elapsed time (compare any two values for time in separate cells and display the interval in dhms notation in a third cell, sometime. They did it. I got them started, but they worked the problem.)

Yet they had all been old enough to legally leave school early in the 6th grade.

That particular quadratic requires 254 characters to express. Have fun.

They didn't know some of the features of WordPerfect; they knew ALL of them. Cold.

Oh ... and they knew DOS just about as well. In fact, they had a working knowledge of 7 versions of DOS from 3 manufacturers.

Not bad for a few dropouts ... but maybe these were exceptional?

If so, then in three years I saw roughly 400 such exceptional people.

They weren't 'exceptional', they are simply typical of the sort of people US schools discard because they aren't paid to ... well, read Gatto's web site. He says it better than I can here.

website tinyurl.com/acvxdj6

I can not figure out how do I subscribe for your blog

tom sheepandgoats

I'll look into it. Thanks for the interest. However, for now, it would do little good, as I've taken a break from writng & don't know when I'll be starting again.

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