The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto

One book that has been very influential for Kay and me these past few years is:

The Underground History of American Education: A Schoolteacher’s Intimate Investigation Into The Problem Of Modern Schooling by John Taylor Gatto.

The book is available for free online reading at the link above.  Gatto argues (and shows) that our educational system in America was built under the influence of industrial leaders who wanted the American student to come out of school being a good worker and consumer.  That is, they wanted graduates who could go to work in their factories, and who would then go to the store to buy the very products those factories are producing.

Naturally, industrialist patrons of the system would not be interested in the schools cranking out philosophers, statesmen, entrepreneurs, inventors, consumer advocates, reformers, skeptics, moralists, or crusaders!  People like these would present various types of danger to the industrial establishment, not the least of which are competition and the enlightenment of the worker/consumer class.

I believe that this strategy is now beginning to backfire.  That is, when you train people to curb their own natural curiosity, assertiveness, and the numbers of things about which they care, you end up with a person who is not only only no threat to your institution, but who is of little help to it.  We are seeing the fruits of this effort now in our local business establishments.  It is apparently very difficult today to find someone qualified even to doing an excellent job at a drive-through window!  (I’ll refrain from launching into into this topic in this post!)

When you get a handle on the fact that your own education was deliberately limited and/or manipulated to make you fit for corporate use, it’s a real game changer.  The implications and consequences run deep!  I’m reminded of some of the lyrics from the song, Millworker.

But it’s my life has been wasted
And I have been the fool
To let this manufacturer
Use my body for a tool
I’ll ride home every evening
Staring at my hands
Swearing to my sorrow that a young girl
Ought to stand a better chance

So may I work your mills just as long as I am able
And never meet the man whose name is on the label

Then it’s me and my machine
For the rest of the morning
(and) the rest of the afternoon
And the rest of my life


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