In the article “Dumbing us down: Weapons of Mass Destruction” John Taylor Gatto explains how today’s education system needs to be changed to focusing more on children’s interests instead of an institutionalized curriculum. He wants to revolutionize the school system to something similar to his education in a small town called Monongahela, Pennsylvania. When he went to school he was taught through classical schooling, which trained him to develop independent thinking and the appreciation for great old books before his time. In his small town of 4500 numerous important people have been brought up there including: Joe Montana, the founder of the Disney channel and the inventor of the nerf football. He thinks perhaps the success of these people is related to how they were brought up in school getting a hands on experience by cooking there own school meals, handling the daily school maintenance. He questions how college admission such as Harvard put such a big emphasis on standardized test. Gatto thinks that the education system was founded through a strict military system in Germany to keep the lower and middle classes grounded so leaders could keep capitalism running.
During his time as a teacher he talks about how he wanted his students to get hands on experiences. For example one of his classmates was interested in comic book art so he sent her to watch a comic book artist for a week. The last part of the article talks about a way to stand up to the current education system by using Mellville’s moran genius in Bartleby, the scrivener. This is a way to peacefully refuse to go by the current system and simply reject it by getting large groups to not take the tests that schools hand out. Although John Gatto has some very intriguing information I, strongly disagree with his article.
He never gives a reasonable way to fix our curriculum, but can only hope enough people agree with him to refuse it. The American school curriculum is great because if you work hard and make good grades then many doors will open through numerous colleges and scholarships. I think standardized testing is crucial to our education system because without it there would be no way to gage where every student should go after high school. John Gatto wrote this article specifically because he has been on two different sides of American education. In his youth, he was taught with more hands on learning that molded his view of how children everywhere should be taught.
He is biased because of how great of success some people have had coming out of his small town of 4500 people. Then he was thrown into a unfamiliar way of teaching when he taught at a upper Manhattan school. In the Manhattan school a big amount of the focus was on getting kids ready national achievement tests. Although he may be right about how the curriculum was just turning into a achievement prep course, the reality of current schooling is how good you can do grade wise and on achievement tests like the ACT and SAT. In the article he tells of how it was his mission to teach beyond the boundaries of standardized testing and promote a more hands on type of learning so that his students would be motivated to seek out what they were passionate about. Hands on teaching is great, but what happens when they leave his class and are thrown out into standardized testing without and experience or practice. The article never really answers how his students did in the future but he was awarded the New York teacher of the year, and has written numerous books on our failing education system.
John Gatto puts real life examples of how his teaching has affected students, which makes his argument a lot more compelling. He tells of how he sent a girl to the state capitol to speak to her local legislature and now she is a trial attorney. In the last part of his article he digs deep in how are education system needs to be reformed, using examples of college dropouts such as bill gate and Steve Jobs who are now running today’s economy. The article states how the government is not going to fix this problem, but it is up to the people to be educated enough to solve it themselves. He gives outlets such as home school or keeping your children aware that having bad grades is not the end of the world. The last paragraph goes into detail about how there are many different ways to get around the school system, but he never gives any real way that it could ever be changed. In the Article John Gatto expresses how achievement test are a waste of time in school, but I think that they are extremely important in showing where every student in the country stands. If we did not have standardized test it would be unfair to students who are in a lot more challenging schools.
I did not think standardized testing was important either until my time at Baylor. My eyes were opened when kids with 4.0s in high school were struggling through there first semester. I never realized that some of these kids went to easier high schools then me, and were not prepared for the rigorous curriculum Baylor has to offer. For me standardized testing helped me get into a good college, because my high school was hard and I was not able to make good grades. If Baylor simply placed all its emphasis on GPA there is no way I would be at this school. Standardized testing is said to be a “pack of words” (Gatto John 593) by Gatto which is so false, because with out it there is no way for students in my situation to be given the opportunity to go to great schools like Baylor. I am thankful for my tough high school education because now at Baylor it is easy for me to stay organized and make good grades. Achievement tests also help kids who are in schools that are not as academically demanding.
Colleges now have achievement tests like the SAT so they can gage where a student’s intelligence level is on providing admission into their school. John Gatto talks about how he was educated in a classical style with more hands on teaching, and when he was younger college was much to get into. I have talked to my dad and his friends and they say the SAT was almost optional in their time, and you could almost pick any school back then to attend. Today if students want to be taught a classical learning style they would have to be home schooled, because of how expensive it is already to fund the public school system the United States. He is right that hands on learning is critical for children, but a good basic education is needed for kids to be successful out of college. I think that in present times the SAT is critical for students in any situation to rise above and get into a college that is right for them regardless where they grow up. In the article Gatto does not like the role capitalism plays in our school system, even though it is actually what makes it possible for the individual to succeed no matter what background they came from.
He thinks that capitalism in our schools is a way of keeping lower and middle classes in line when in reality it is there to help people willing to put in the work to get out of there respected social class. Capitalism is why people immigrate to America everyday; knowing that are country promotes the freedom to succeed economically and socially regardless of where you are from. Public schools may not all be on the same playing field academically, but that does not have to stop some one who is smart and motivated. Unlike some other countries, we give everybody a chance to succeed to the best of their abilities. It is impossible to give everyone the same education, but a strict curriculum and government regulations is the best attempt.
Capitalism goes hand in hand with another prime example about how college drop outs such as Bill Gates are now some of the richest men in the world. Only in America is this possible, in places like china if you do not have a high education you are given limited opportunity. Gatto does a lot of complaining in his article, but has no real solutions except keeping your child aware that doing well in school will not define your future. I think Gatto is so corrupted by his small town upbringing that he does not understand that his type of education cannot be afforded by every body.
Capitalism is what America and education are based of off, and with out it there would be no way for lower or middle class people to display their full potential. I completely disagree with John Gatto’s article, and think it could be hazardous for some people to read. If this article is read wrong children, even young adults will be under the impression that school is not that important; and be under the impression that it is, better to rebel against our school system then to flourish in it. Achievement tests are how capitalism is integrated into our schooling system, and with out it I fear where we would be as a country.
Wood, Nancy, and Miller James. Perspectives On Argument. 7th ed. New Jersey: Pearson Education, 2012. Print
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