Renowned critic of compulsory schooling, John Taylor Gatto passed away this week at the age of 82. A teacher for 30 years, he achieved notoriety after quitting teaching upon receiving the New York State teacher of the year award in 1991. He used the opportunity to speak out against the unnatural, restrictive and harmful impact of compulsory schooling on students. He then spent the next few decades speaking, writing and advocating for unschooling.
He wrote several books including Dumbing Us Down: the Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, and The Underground History of American Education: A Schoolteacher’s Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling.
Watch his talk about the artificial extension of childhood.
He was a great advocate for youth rights and NYRA mourns his passing.
John Taylor Gatto advocated for the end of COMPULSORY schooling. Although you advocate for many improvements to make school more free and democratic Mr. Gatto said they will never happen as long as it is compulsory. In a “prison” you have to have draconian rules to keep the prisoners under control as they do not want to be there. The same with school – especially high school. All high-schoolers should have the right to legally quit school and work or study anywhere they want. High schools should be more like free community colleges where teens are treated with respect and can study whatever they choose whenever they choose (i.e. evening, weekend or on-line class options if they are working all day). Or not study if they don’t want to. Teachers (and other students) would find it easier too as anyone who enrolls in a class would actually want to be there – like community college. Courses could also offer more of what teens really want to study – video production, video game design, app development, web site design, art, sport, music, cooking, graphic design, entrepreneurship, EMT certification, business skills, trade skills and other skills and certificate courses. Parents don’t worry. If your teens want to go to college they will and they will be much more mature and focused when they get there. If they do not you will save a lot of money and not waste their time!
NYRA please keep pushing for youth rights. Thank you.