In his essay “Against School” John Gatto argues that public education cripples America’s kids in many different aspects of their lives. Gatto claims that compulsory schooling is what is wrong with our nation’s educational system. He states that schools are really laboratories of experimentation on young minds and drill centers for the habits and attitudes that society demands. “I had more than enough reason to think of our schools—with their long-term, cell-block-style, forced confinement of both students and teachers-as virtual factories of childishness (Gatto, Against School).
” The only real purpose of schools, Gatto believes, is to turn the children into servants. Throughout their twelve years of schooling students are forced to conform to society’s expectations, and along the way the students and teachers lose the value of a true education. Do we really need school? Does school have to be in this exact design, “Six classes a day, five days a week, nine months a year, for twelve years (Gatto, Against School)? ” Does it mean attending a cold lifeless classroom, surrounded by fellow students that are bored with their studies and a teacher who seems to have little to no motivation left?
Gatto specifies a significant number of successful Americans that were not put through the schooling system but still turned out to be productive such as, George Washington. Gatto says, “ We have been taught (that is, schooled) in this country to think of “success” as synonymous with, or at least dependent upon, “schooling,” but historically that isn’t true in either an intellectual or financial sense. ” Gatto believes the main reason for the existence of schooling is to train uniform citizens and reduce originality, therefore, making every individual the same.
Also, he says the school system is made for certain profits to the economy because it encourages obedience to authority and promotes manipulation in children’s attitudes, including the determination of their social roles. The schooling system’s main focus is to integrate the social, economic and political economy into the children’s studies. Ultimately, Gatto concludes that school drills children to be employees and consumers. A child’s capacity for imagination and maturity is limited rather than encouraged by compulsory schooling, which should have never been the case.
There still may be a glimpse of hope at the end of this darkened tunnel. Gatto claims that if teachers and parents put enough effort in, they could help kids “take” an education rather than receive it. When children “take” an education they are active participants in their future, which becomes the key to their success. However, when students passively receive an education they may have the knowledge on hand but do not know how to put it to use. He supposes he can bring out the best qualities in children by giving them the chance to make decisions and take risks from time to time, rather than confining them to schooling.
By encouraging the best qualities of youthfulness, introducing kids to competent adults, allowing children to take personal risks and being more flexible about time, texts, and tests Gatto believes the whole outlook on our schooling system could be changed. Throughout his essay, “Against School” Gatto warns of the dangers of our public schooling systems yet, his cynicism is balanced with positive suggestions for those who want change. He illustrates how school is a prison where children are forced to grow up at a rapid pace and are denied the right to make their own decisions.
On the other hand, he suggests that if you know the logic behind school systems, their traps can easily be avoided and therein lies his answer: “School trains children to be employees and consumers; teach your own to be leaders and adventurers. School trains children to obey reflexively; teach your own to think critically and independently (Gatto, Against School). ” Gatto gives various examples about how teachers can take action to make the school system better but when they don’t reach beyond the norm the responsibility for ensuring a truly educated and mature child may depend upon the parents.