From the title, it is clear that the author’s argument is targeted at parents. He intends to explain why public education cripples ‘our kids’. In the last two paragraphs, he advises parents on how to avoid the trappings of the current education system. The aim of the article seems likely to invoke debate on the learning process, worthy to note that the author, John Taylor Gatto, is established in the teaching profession with over thirty years of experience and has won several awards. I found the article straight forward, with the author introducing his thoughts in the initial paragraphs; the middle passages explain the basis of these arguments. The conclusion makes an attempt at finding ways out.
The author begins by lamenting on the boredom he experienced together with his students during the thirty years he had been teaching. Of note is the fact that he had these experiences in both the best and the worst schools (in Manhattan), from which he derives the distaste for school learning; the difference in the quality of education offered in these schools notwithstanding. He gives a valid reason on the surface, that across the whole spectrum of his students, boredom was brought about by learning the same things over and again to the point that they made no sense.
They even termed the work as stupid. The students wanted to learn something real yet their teachers were not good enough at their work. From this point alone, we can derive the conclusion that students were willing to learn, it is the system that was failing. However, scouring deeper, it comes out clearly that what the students and teachers lacked was motivation; the drive to engage the learning process positively.
Gatto talks of students who exhibit rudeness and interest in grades only but mentions nothing about disciplined students who are willing to learn. He exhibits the gross reasoning that boredom is a common condition for teachers. This is an individual characteristic found in any other profession. Matter-of-factly, there are teachers who carry out their work with a lot of enthusiasm.
He makes a supportive distinction for education. His bone of contention is whether we need school if the time allocated for schooling is really necessary. He supports his claim with the success of homeschoolers. He fails to point out the scale to which homeschooling can be conducted and whether every parent can afford the resources and time to conduct proper homeschooling. Further, he does not point out whether homeschooling follows the same curriculum or otherwise. A reference to American greats such as George Washington and his ilk not going through a school system is purely fallacious.
These are modern times, and our disposition to theirs is different. Moreover, these were clearly very intelligent people in their own right. Intelligence is not a commonplace trait possessed by everyone (Paragraph six). Rothband (1999) contributes to this debate by posing the questions: What about great men and women who ascribe their success stories to learning in the current education system? Do those who oppose public education have an explanation for that? Would Ben Carson be the distinguished neurosurgeon he is if he had not gone to school?
He rightly refutes another fallacious claim that intellectual and financial success is synonymous or dependent on schooling in an attempt to corroborate his claim, but does not tell us whether lack of schooling guarantees these successes, or whether lack of schooling performs better to deliver them. Gatto supports the claim that our education system stems from the Prussian thought whose aim was to “render the populace manageable” through a standardized system. The evolution of the Education system renders this argument out of date. Through public schooling, students have been able to discover their capabilities and explore them to the heights they desire, according to Rothband (1999).
The author cites the work of Alexander Inglis who was convinced that the Education system was some sort of a conspiracy by people in government to further some clandestine interests that broadly maintained the status quo. This argument is political and cannot be confirmed and does not dispute the benefits a student may derive from public schooling.
He goes on to quote the work of Ellwood P. Cubberly who noted that “Our schools are… factories in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned … And it is the business of the school to build its pupils according to the specifications laid down”. Contrary to the author’s view, this is not exactly a bad idea, if the purpose of the schooling system is to instill knowledge and mold children into responsible, self-reliant adults.
The author has clearly overlooked the benefits of public education; and at the end, he advises his audience with ambiguity, without laying out to them the exact things they should do. He does not point out whether they should pull their children from schools or not. He does not sound like a disdainful individual with the unfortunate fate of landing into the wrong profession; rather, Gatto seems stuck in the conservative realm of early 20th Century scholars and intellectuals as he heavily cites their work and thought. At its best, the author’s argument is fallacious.
Rothbard, Murray Newton. Education, free & compulsory. Auburn: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1999.
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