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Thoughts on Gatto, pt. 1 September 8, 2010

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, societal commentary, teaching.
Tags: , ,

Back in my younger years, when I was first introduced to the concept of homeschooling, I thought it was the worst thing I’d ever heard of. Granted, I’d had horrible experiences in public school, but I assumed my experiences were isolated and, hey!, they built character.

I was exposed to a lot of homeschooling as time went by because my ex’s family used this method to educate their kids. I met other families and other methods. I saw things I didn’t like and others that I liked a lot.

But I wasn’t completely convinced that you really should homeschool until I came across the Seven Lesson Schoolteacher by John Taylor Gatto.

Honestly, I don’t think any piece of writing has struck me the way that essay did.

Once I started homeschooling, I’ve been thinking a lot about the things Gatto discusses. On the other hand, I have to balance what he says with the fact that structure is built into our lives, necessary or not, and there needs to be a pragmatic balance between the structure that is expected (and which we all live with to some extent) and allowing my child to develop into a thinking adult.

The other reason this piece of writing has stuck with me so much is because I want to teach. How do I become a teacher who doesn’t turn their students into the mindless, unthinking automatons?

I think that the issues he brings up are worth discussing both from the perspective of a homeschooling parent and from a teacher, which is what I intend to do over the next couple days. Like any teacher (good or bad), I’m giving an assignment: go read Gatto’s essay. You don’t have to do it, you may or may not gain anything from it, and it probably won’t be necessary for the following related blog posts. I do think it’s worth looking at, however, because it should at least give you some things to think about.



1. Chris Gammell - September 8, 2010

My mind immediate jumps to this comic strip when you say “Builds Character”: http://lesinge.org/ch/90/ch901207.gif

God, I wish Watterson was still cartooning.


mareserinitatis - September 8, 2010

You and me, both. I love it. 🙂


2. Fluxor - September 8, 2010

It appears Gatto’s has a personal vision of Utopia which is very much 18th century and he has prescriptions on how to attain it. The piece is interesting, although I think tending on the hyberbolic and plays a bit loose with the facts on historical literacy rates and a bit iffy on some of this assertions. Some valid points are made, such as the the destructiveness of broken families and mindless television and certain aspects of any large public school system.


mareserinitatis - September 8, 2010

I should specify that I don’t agree with many things the man says. He does tend to look at history very much from the point of view of the privileged classes. So when I look at his other essays, most of which are not nearly as good as this one, I tend to agree with some of his conclusions but not the reasons he made them.


3. Luke Holzmann - September 9, 2010

Hadn’t read it before. I skimmed the last half, but he has some very thought-provoking and provocative statements [smile].


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