John Taylor Gatto, R.I.P.

October 31, 2018

John Taylor Gatto died at age 82 on October 25.

He taught at the New York City public school system for 26 years. Three times he won the city’s Teacher of the Year award. Once he won the New York state Teacher of the Year award.

Shortly after he won these final two awards, he quit teaching as a career. He made his announcement in a Wall Street Journal article, “I Quit, I Think.” You can read it here:

In a fine obituary of Gatto on the website of the Foundation for Economic Education, Brittany Hunter wrote this:

After three decades in the classroom, Gatto realized that the public school system was squashing individualism more than it was educating students and preparing them for the real world. To make matters worse, his later research would reveal that this dumbing down was not just by accident, but by design.

Gatto dedicated the rest of his life to repairing the damage done by the public education system.

Feeling the education system was beyond repair, Gatto could no longer in good conscience be an active participant. Rather than sending his letter of resignation to his superiors in his school district, he sent a copy of “I Quit, I Think” to the Wall Street Journal, where it was published as an op-ed on July 25, 1991.

In his biting resignation, he wrote:

I’ve come slowly to understand what it is I really teach: A curriculum of confusion, class position, arbitrary justice, vulgarity, rudeness, disrespect for privacy, indifference to quality, and utter dependency. I teach how to fit into a world I don’t want to live in.

I just can’t do it anymore. I can’t train children to wait to be told what to do; I can’t train people to drop what they are doing when a bell sounds; I can’t persuade children to feel some justice in their class placement when there isn’t any, and I can’t persuade children to believe teachers have valuable secrets they can acquire by becoming our disciples. That isn’t true.

Gatto dedicated the rest of his life to repairing the damage done by the public education system. He wrote several books on his experience in the classroom including Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling and Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling. His book The Underground History of American Education is perhaps the most accurate and damning history of the American education system that has ever been written.