Of course schools are necessary because they help young people to read and to write and learn the important skills that they need in their lives. But there are other thoughts which have accompanied the idea and introduction of compulsory schooling - less noble an philanthropic. And John Gatto traces these ideas back to Prussia and later on the beginnings of public schooling in the U.S.A. and he quotes what some of the fathers of modern compulsory schooling intended when they put young people together in one room where they should learn the same things at the same time and follow the same rules and goals. What has today's consumer society got to do with our compulsory schooling? Who might be interested in less individuality and creativity but more conformism and obedience? Is it really better to leave all matters of education to trained professionals? An eye-opening book by the former New York "teacher of the year" who quit teaching after 30 years and has become one the most relentless critics of our modern main-stream concept of schools, standardization and rules and regulations concerning children and education. A must-read for anybody (especially in Germany) who feels uneasy about our schools today and thinks that the constant efforts of rescuing a patient who is fatally ill by giving him more and more reform-pills lead to nothing.
I had to give this book 5 stars because although i agree with the 2 star reviewer about the repetition - even that complaint is not completely valid as it takes so many knocks on the head for people to "get it" just how totally against the true education and inspiration of human children is the industrialized school system. Gatto worked on the inside of this system and mastered it at the same time growing to see its horror and inherent flaws - one does not need to have all the "right" answers to be completely on target with what they know is wrong with a system they have been part of for 30 years!
a highly enlightening and provocative book - lives up to it's title --- if you have ANY lingering doubts about trying to homeschool or at least find good free alternative schools - this book will firm your resolve to not hand your child over to the state and its completely anti-educational motives.
Jack Gatto is and was always a great, flamboyant writer. His critique of the ills of mass education is harsh but generally fair. He tends to bend the truth to support his arguments, exaggerates his evidence more than a bit, and repeats himself a lot. But the picture of corruption, stupidity, rigidity and cowardice on the part of school administrators is horrifingly accurate and horribly depressing. I myself was a teacher in an american city school; I and my colleagues experienced the same idiocy and meanness daily. Teaching subject matter which has no relation to the needs and intersts of the students is deadening and was frustrating to us all. Classifying students almost from day one with IQ tests and later with competitive testing to establish the good, the bad and the indifferent destroyed any initiative to look at the individual child and his needs and strengths. But Gatto's analysis tends towards populism, as he classifies school reform as nonsense and home schooling as the answer. By doing so, he is pandering among others to the views of the fundamental Christians in the US, who want to shield their children from any contacts or information which might conflict with their radical views, and reject all teachings which "conflict" with their literal interpretation of the Bible. He even incorporates anti-Darwin comments into his tirades. Exposing the problems of big-city schools is fine, if you offer solutions; it is not fine, if your only solution is to end public schooling!
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