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Entries in John Taylor Gatto (4)


John Taylor Gatto Update

John Gatto, author of Dumbing Us Down, The Underground History of American Education, and many other titles, suffered a stroke about 18 months ago that left him paralyzed on the left side of his body. He has been struggling through rehab and is slowly but surely getting better. Barb Lundgren, founder of the Rethinking Everything conference, has created a fundraising website to help with John Taylor Gatto’s ongoing medical and living expenses. When you use the Paypal donate button there your donation will go directly to John’s medical fund account.

The John Taylor Gatto Medical Fund

John and Janet weathered Hurricane Sandy in their Manhattan apartment, and John is showing significant improvement though he still has a long way to go.

John’s vocal chords were paralyzed but he has been working a lot at speaking and he is becoming much easier to understand. His mind is still quite active and he is thinking about life and education constantly. When my wife and I visited him in August he spent more than an hour with me talking about Ben Franklin’s ideas about the hand–mind connection for learning, as well as his thoughts on the political situation for homeschoolers. He is, of course, depressed by his physical condition but has lately found new determination to keep with his exercise/rehab regimen and he is now able to sit at a desk and write for about three hours, which gives him (and us!) great hope.

Barb Lundgren is the point of contact for people who want to help with some of John’s nonfinancial needs, too. In particular, the Gattos are seeking someone in the New York area who has a van that can accept a wheelchair so John can get to his dentist and doctor appointments in Manhattan; eventually, John would like to take a trip to see his garlic farm in upstate New York.

John and Janet also need help to negotiate the medical care system in New York City and if anyone is willing to help them as a sort of “medical advocate” it would be greatly appreciated. Please keep John and Janet in your hearts and minds as the holiday season begins.


John Taylor Gatto Medical Fund Appeal


John Taylor Gatto, the author of Dumbing Us Down, The Underground History of American Education, and Weapons of Mass Instruction among other titles, and an inspiration to many people who seek alternative education, suffered a debilitating stroke last year and, after many months of institutional care, he is now living at home with his wife, Janet. John is doing well mentally and verbally (his vocal chords were harmed but he is making good progress getting them back), but not so well physically. He is paralyzed on the left side of his body and needs much physical therapy to gain some of his strength and mobility back. Janet, unfortunately, needs a walker to get around so even simple activities to help John are difficult for her to accomplish without help. John’s long hospital and nursing home care have left him without any more insurance or personal funds to pay for his ongoing therapy and  other medical needs.

Jerry Mintz, of AERO, alerted people to John’s financial situation a few weeks ago and Jerry raised $11,000 for John’s care. However, there were some tax and legal issues that complicated the AERO donation from being cashed and used by John, but now they are all cleared up.

If you can help with John Gatto’s medical expenses please make a donation by check to the Odysseus Group and put “John’s medical expense fund” in the note line:

The Odysseus Group

Suite 3W

295 East 8th Street

New York, NY 10009


If you prefer to make a donation to John’s care by credit card, you can go to the AERO website to do so, and  be sure to enter “For John Gatto’s Medical Care” in the “Order Notes” box on the payment information page.


John Gatto's Weapons of Mass Instruction Speech

John Gatto had a stroke several months ago that left him paralyzed on one side of his body. He doesn’t want any more flowers and cards, but he does want prayers and love sent his way. To encourage those healing feelings I asked John for permission to make public his speech, Weapons of Mass Instruction, that he delivered at my Learning In Our Own Way conference in 2005. He said “Yes!’ before I could finish my sentence.

For someone struggling with physical disability and all the woes that come with that, I was amazed at how clearly and strongly John spoke about what is happening in schools today. Though confined to bed, the strength of his thoughts overcame his rigid body and we spoke for nearly two hours. John is a fighter, as this speech will show you, and the fighting spirit he displayed to me in the nursing facility was inspiring, as I hope you find this talk to be, too.




Valedictorian Says Goodbye to Standardized Schooling

A month ago I spoke at the AERO conference in Albany, NY and I spent some of my time with my friend John Gatto. It is always stimulating to hear John's thoughts however, despite John's fame and following, I often get the feeling at events like this that we're preaching to the choir and that those who are in a position to make, or at least serioiusly support, the changes being presented at alternative education events never attend or simply dismiss such educators as nuisance outliers. For instance, I met a superintendent from Michigan who not only sponsored a talk by Gatto at his school, but tried to implement some of John's ideas in his district. The superintendent nearly lost his job in the ensuing brouhaha, as Gatto's comments and ideas upset more parents, teachers and administrators than excited them about making changes to their school.

So I was pretty amazed to read the following in a high school valedictory speech, given by Erica Goldson at the Coxsackie-Athens High School (NY) graduation ceremony. Ms. Goldson is clearly influenced by the work of Gatto and other education outliers, giving me hope that the message of self-determination and social consciousness that is embedded in those writings are actually being heard beyond the small alternative schooling community. As John Holt noted in the first issue of Growing Without Schooling magazine (August, 1977): "We who do not believe in compulsory schooling, who believe that children want to learn about the world, are good at it, and can be trusted to do it without much coercion or interference, are surely not more than 1% of the population and perhaps much less than that... This does not trouble me any more, as long as those minorities of which I am a member go on growing." Ms. Goldson provides evidence that our numbers are slowly growing beyond our homeschooling/alternative schooling enclaves. Here is an excerpt from her speech that I hope you'll enjoy.


 Some of you may be thinking, "Well, if you pass a test, or become valedictorian, didn't you learn something? Well, yes, you learned something, but not all that you could have. Perhaps, you only learned how to memorize names, places, and dates to later on forget in order to clear your mind for the next test. School is not all that it can be. Right now, it is a place for most people to determine that their goal is to get out as soon as possible.

I am now accomplishing that goal. I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer - not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition - a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning.

John Taylor Gatto, a retired school teacher and activist critical of compulsory schooling, asserts, "We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness - curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids into truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then. But we don't do that." Between these cinderblock walls, we are all expected to be the same. We are trained to ace every standardized test, and those who deviate and see light through a different lens are worthless to the scheme of public education, and therefore viewed with contempt.
H. L. Mencken wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that "the aim of public education is not to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. ... Nothing could be further from the truth. 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. That is its aim in the United States." (Gatto)