John Taylor Gatto | The Sun Magazine
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John Taylor Gatto

John Taylor Gatto’s new book is The Underground History of American Education (Oxford Village Press). He lives in New York City.

— From November 2000
Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

Hector Isn’t The Problem

I had known Hector for several months as his teacher, but up to that time I had never really seen him, nor would I have seen him then but for the startling puzzle he presented: he was gate-crashing with a fully paid admission ticket in his pocket. Was he nuts?

November 2000
Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

Sitting In The Dark

Before I became a schoolteacher, I hardly thought about television at all, but a short time after I started teaching, I discovered that the kids in class who drove me crazy were always big TV-watchers. TV-addicted kids, I found, were irresponsible and childish, malicious to each other and chronically bored. They whined a lot, ratted constantly on other students, and seemed unusually dishonest.

April 2000
Anniversary

Come Rain Or Come Shine

Twenty-Five Years Of The Sun

This month marks The Sun’s twenty-fifth anniversary. As the deadline for the January issue approached — and passed — we were still debating how to commemorate the occasion in print. We didn’t want to waste space on self-congratulation, but we also didn’t think we should let the moment pass unnoticed. At the eleventh hour, we came up with an idea: we would invite longtime contributors and current and former staff members to send us their thoughts, recollections, and anecdotes about The Sun. Maybe we would get enough to fill a few pages.

What we got was enough to fill the entire magazine.

Though we haven’t devoted the whole issue to the anniversary, we have allowed the section to grow beyond our original plans. After seeing the pieces, we felt that our readers would enjoy them as much as we did — for the information about the magazine’s history, for the glimpses into the writers’ lives, and (not least) for the quality of the writing.

January 1999
Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

In Defense Of Original Sin

The Neglected Genius Of American Spirituality

Schooling was to be about the creation of loyalty to a principle of abstract central authority, and no serious rival — whether parents, tribe, tradition, self, or God — would be welcome in school. Corporate economics and the developing modern culture eliminated the other rivals, but it took the highest court in the land to bar God.

January 1998
Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

Reading Between The Lines

How Compulsory Schooling Has Failed Us

Modern schooling is a kind of religion. Its goal is most certainly not to teach reading, writing, arithmetic, and thinking, although sometimes learning happens because teachers — and even administrators — don’t realize the kind of enterprise in which they are engaged. But this does not happen too often.

February 1997
Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

“Do nothing. Time is too precious to waste,” said Buddha. If that sounds like nonsense, then read on as I tell you how I and my wife, Janet, came to do nothing with our farm, on purpose. It might help you understand what Buddha had in mind.

September 1995
Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

Bitter Lessons

What’s Wrong With American Teachers

Lecturing age-grouped children in cellblock rooms of featureless buildings is a nightmarish way to teach. (And please don’t bring to mind images of slum schools; I’m thinking of wealthy, suburban schools.) What it does to teachers — not to mention students — isn’t pleasant to see.

December 1993
Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

Confederacy Of Dunces

The Tyranny Of Compulsory Schooling

The new dumbness — the non-thought of received ideas — is much more dangerous than simple ignorance, because it’s really about thought control. In school, a washing away of the innate power of individual mind takes place, a “cleansing” so comprehensive that original thinking becomes difficult.

December 1992
Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

A Few Lessons They Won’t Forget

The Disgrace Of Modern Schooling

While teaching means different things in different places, seven lessons are universally taught from Harlem to Hollywood Hills. They constitute a national curriculum you pay for in more ways than you can imagine, so you might as well know what it is. I intend no irony here. These are the things I teach, these are the things you pay me to teach.

May 1991
Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

Why Schools Don’t Educate

Schools were designed by Horace Mann and Barnas Sears and W.R. Harper of the University of Chicago and Edward Thorndike of Columbia Teachers College and others to be instruments for the scientific management of a mass population. Schools are intended to produce, through the application of formulas, formulaic human beings whose behavior can be predicted and controlled.

June 1990
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