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Underground History of American Education

A book about education in the United States written by John Taylor Gatto

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Tackles the U.S. state of education right on!

  • Mar 4, 2009
Have you recently had a conversation with an average twelve or fifteen year old who spends a good part of his day in a public school? Even better, have you heard the conversations of children that age talking to each other? What I have heard from school age children is proof that the public school system is doing what it was designed to do - even if it was not deliberately planned by someone.

I came across this masterpiece type of book that would be wrong not to share. It gave me clear insight into why my years in the American public school were spent educating the teachers instead of getting an education. They were great at giving assignments but most (not all) of them never taught their pupils to think on their own, and when someone dared to have their own ideas and opinions they were caught off guard. I don't mean to blame the teachers, I have had many that are great people but they were just as much victims of a failed education system.

This book is a must read for anyone who has any connection to the public school system (that would be everyone). It is not an expose of some conspiracy theory, neither is it an attempt for education reform. Suddenly things will make a lot of sense, things like why the literacy rate in this country was higher in 1840 than it is now. As John Gatto would say "what is wrong from a human perspective is right from a system perspective". We would not have the workforce this nation needs if children were raised individually (not as a herd) and inspired to think, to invent, to dream. They are now taught to think and be like everyone else, to be productive, and to conform to the image of this decrepit society. I am not surprised that homeschooling is growing at a fast rate in this country, and those who home school are usually adults with higher education who at one point decided to think for themselves. The uneducated don't question the status quo.
A few words from the author:

Here are a few quotes that might compel you to pick up this book: "The great destructive myth of the twentieth century was the aggressive contention that a child could not grow up correctly in the unique circumstances of his own family. Forced schooling was the principal agency broadcasting this attitude."(chapter 10 summary)

"Spare yourself the anxiety of thinking of this school thing as a conspiracy, even though the project is indeed riddled with petty conspirators. It was and is a fully rational transaction in which all of us play a part. We trade the liberty of our kids and our free will for a secure social order and a very prosperous economy. It's a bargain in which most of us agree to become as children ourselves, under the same tutelage which holds the young, in exchange for food, entertainment, and safety. The difficulty is that the contract fixes the goal of human life so low that students go mad trying to escape it." (chapter 16 summary)

You can actually read the book online (see wiki), but I recommend sparing your eyesight and getting it at the local library.
The Underground History of American Education

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October 12, 2009
Hi EcoMama! Thanks for your comment on my review of Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason. I also definitely appreciate this review. I haven't read any book-length work by John Taylor Gatto, just a few little bits and pieces, but I have friends who are devoted homeschoolers and who think very highly of his work. I have the sense that I would also benefit a lot from reading some of his books, and your review reinforces that sense. Thanks!
October 12, 2009
Thanks for the comment Scott! I do encourage you to read it, from what I know about your views so far, I think you would enjoy it.
March 04, 2009
There is something fundamentally wrong with public schools- thanks for this tip- I can't wait to read this book!
More The Underground History of Ame... reviews
Quick Tip by . May 24, 2010
An eye opener! You'll never view public education the same way again! It will answer many questions about why public school is what it is.
About the reviewer
Anastasia B ()
Ranked #3
I am a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a friend, a Christ follower, an Interior Designer, a blog author, a cook, an artist, an eco-conscious consumer, a nature lover, … more
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About this book


ISBN-10: 0945700040
ISBN-13: 978-0945700043
Author: John Taylor Gatto
Genre: Non-fiction
Publisher: Oxford Village Press; 2nd ed edition
Date Published: November 2000
Format: paperback
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