Recently, John Taylor Gatto published an article titled “Against School” in the Harper’s Magazine, which argues that students should not go to school to receive education. It seems that Gatto’s article is influenced by the following factors. There’s one case about a woman who teaches her children at home and she was taken to court because she didn’t report her curriculum to the government. This case can explain Gatto’s opinion that the system restricts not only students but also teachers. Meanwhile, it proves that people can be well educated in other ways instead of going to school. George W. Bush proposed the action of “No Child Left Behind” to enhance students’ ability of reading, math and science is lopsided. This policy can only improve students’ academic ability rather than their other abilities. The author thinks that the education system confines teachers to their way of teaching. He mentions that he tried to defy custom but the “the empire struck back” (Gatto, 33).
The system doesn’t allow anyone to disobey it. It just wants to conform everyone no matter if you teach or study at school or at home. In the case of Mary Foley, she teaches her children at home and her method proved to be successful. Her daughter had received a full scholarship to the University of Massachusetts at Amberst. She uses her own way to teach her children. She is that kind of teacher who Gatto thinks should be formed. However, she was taken to court by the local school superintendent just because she refused to report what she is teaching at home. “The priorities of our curriculum are daydreaming, natural and social sciences, self-discipline, respect of self and others, and making mistakes” (Gatto, 164). Although the government allows people to receive education at home, it forces the educators to report their curriculum.
In other words, it still wants to regulate what children learn no matter where they learn. Mary Foley’s way to teach her children is niche targeting. She knows her kids so well that the ways she taught every one of them are unique. She taught them as both a teacher and a mother. Therefore, she didn’t need a curriculum to standardize her kids like schools. Fortunately, the judge ruled a favor of this homeschooling mother. Nevertheless, what the superintendent did is the same as the Prussian culture the author mentions in “Against School”. They tried to regulate everyone by requiring them to hand their curriculum in just like the education system which is designed to produce mediocre intellects so that they can be manageable. It “forced confinement of both students and teachers” (Gatto, 34). In Gatto’s article, he shows the audience how the education system compels teachers to obey its rule. Gatto holds the opinion that students can receive education via many ways.
They don’t have to go to school to be educated. He claims that schooling doesn’t mean getting education. Schools don’t teach students about how to become successful; they just teach students about knowledge on the textbook. Mary Foley is a strong support that people can get well educated without going to school. Her children “had all achieved honors in academics,” (Blumenfeld, 12). This demonstrates that her daughter who received a full scholarship isn’t an exception. Homeschooling can be more successful than going to school. Children can develop their originality via the “course” daydreaming; they can learn lessons from the “course” making mistakes. These courses are the ones that students can never take at school. Teachers can adjust their schedule and curriculum according to every kid with homeschooling while they can only teach according to the schedule with schooling. Homeschooling is more flexible. Just like Gatto says, it isn’t true that success is the synonym of schooled.
People have other ways to get education. Gatto’s article is written during the time when George W. Bush’s administration passed the “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) law, which regulates education. Gatto is very opposed to standardized testing and rigid curricula that do not allow children to learn in a freethinking environment. Through NCLB, Bush made several policies such as improving literacy by putting reading first, improving math and science instruction. He also offered some awards for teachers, school and states. His proposal uses a standard only about how students do on their academic performance to assess them. Ultimately, NCLB measures scores rather than facets of learning. According to Gatto, it isn’t fair to force a student to learn what he has no interest in. Some students are gifted in a certain field.
Compelling them to learn other things they don’t like can only weaken their development in what they are good at. The aim of this policy is like what Gatto cites from H. L. Mencken “the aim…is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality” (35). The policy is a good example of integrating function. Every student learns the same knowledge; their social roles are determined by schools; they cannot acquire the necessary quality to become successful in school; they cannot learn how to learn by themselves; they don’t have compassion; they don’t care about the adult world and they don’t have curiosities. The education system can make good people, make good citizens but it fails to make each person his or her personal best. (Gatto, 35)
There’s no wonder that students feel bored with school since they cannot learn what they really want and are schooled only to meet the social need. Gatto’s article clearly shows how NCLB and its requirements have crippled the ability of public schools to fully instruct students. Gatto’s article is mainly influenced by Mary Foley’s case and NCLB policy. Taking Foley to court just because she refused to report her curriculum reminds him of the restriction of the education system. At the same time, her children’s achievements in academy match Gatto’s view that people can be successful without going to school. NCLB is like a clue which leads to the incompletion of the development of students.
Gatto, John Taylor. “Against School.” Harper’s Magazine 307.1840 (2003): 33-38. Web. 4 Sept. 2011. Samuel L. Blumenfeld. “Devising Your Own Philosophy of Education”. Homeschooling: a parents guide to teaching children. Ed. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp. 1997. 9-12
Gatto, John Taylor. “A Different Kind of Teacher”. A Different Kind of Teacher. Ed. John Taylor Gatto. California: Berkeley Hills Books, 2001. 158-167 Gatto, John Taylor. “Why Schools Don’t Educate”. The Natural Child Project. Natural Child.1990.Web. 29 Oct. 2011 <http://www.naturalchild.org/guest/john_gatto.html>
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