Against School, John Gatto Summary

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“Against School,” an article written by John Gatto, (2003), for the Harper’s Magazine gives insight about “How public education cripples our kids, and why.” Having taught in public schools for thirty years, Gatto argues that schools have become prisons and factories of childishness. To support his claim that education does not require controlled and forced schooling, he mentions George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and others who never graduated from a secondary school but went ahead to become American presidents. He describes the process of schooling as boring to both teachers and students. Compulsory mass schooling in United States started in early 19th century for three reasons, to make good people, good citizens and make each person his/her personal best. He quotes H.L. Mencken (April 1924) who says that schooling aims to “reduce students to a standard safe level.” He criticizes the Prussian system which America adopted from Germany as the worst since it is designed to produce mediocre intellects, to hamstring the inner life, to deny students appreciable leadership skills, and ensure docile and incomplete citizens -all in order to render the populace “manageable. He challenges people to identify the ills of modern schooling and chose to do the opposite- teach kids to think critically and independently, help our kids to develop inner dialogue in order to overcome boredom and urge them to take up serious material like history, literature, philosophy, music, art, theology and economics. His solution is simple and glorious; “let [children] manage themselves”
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