Friday, May 29, 2009

John Taylor Gatto

Soooo...while my husband and his parents were out for custard the other night (I was home with two sleeping kids) my husband apparently boldly made his parents aware of the following:  that I am planning on homeschooling the boys, that I have a rough plan in place to take us all the way through high school, that we are taking it one year at a time for now, but that the boys certainly won't be attending kindergarten.  Obviously they don't read this blog (yet!).  

My husband is a third-generation teacher so we sort of expected some fall out.  Apparently there was no fuss whatsoever!  (Although I hear the whole "socialization" fallacy did come up).  Perhaps both as former teachers themselves they were more than already aware that this is, and should be, a viable and attractive option for many families?

Now, despite the fact that this conversation took place on Monday, as of today neither of my in-laws have mentioned this topic to me whatsoever.  I wouldn't be surprised if they don't mention it for the rest of their visit, but in case they do I have been re-reading some of my favorite nuggets of "homeschooling inspiration."

I would be willing to bet that most readers of this blog already know more about John Taylor Gatto than I do.  However, I was re-reading my absolute favorite piece--Gatto's speech titled "Why School's Don't Educate"--and was motivated to link to it here in case any of you hasn't read it.

Jamie Littlefield, a former teacher, at the blog Self-Made Scholar constructed a great post that can fill you in on more information on Gatto including video, links to his books, and links to further reading here.  Therefore, I won't go into further detail because it would be redundant.  I do want to point out that Gatto was named New York City Teacher of the Year in 1989, 1990 and 1991 as well as New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991.  Why School's Don't Educate is the text of his 1990 acceptance speech for the Teacher of the Year award.  I would love to know more about how he managed to give a speech like this and still won two Teacher of the Year awards in 1991?  

He quit his teaching job on the OP ED page of the Wall Street Journal when he was still teacher of the year.  You can read that essay here along with a fascinating paragraph that gives a glimpse of what type of teacher John Taylor Gatto was before he quit.

If you are a teacher yourself, please do not think that I am anti-teacher.  Like I said, my husband is a third-generation teacher and I am a teacher myself.  I think most teachers do better than they ought to be able to do given the obstacles in their path.  My concern is that those obstacles seem to increase in size and number annually and I worry that these obstacles will prevent today's teachers from doing for my sons what my teachers did for me when I was a child.  My problem is with an increasingly expensive, time-consuming, and centralized system and its imposition on the block of time remaining for families, not with teachers themselves.  


  1. Oy. My in-laws are here this weekend, and this came up with my mother-in-law today, who teaches high school home ec. I had thought our families were pretty well behind us on the whole homeschooling thing, but she was asking when Beeper would be going to kindergarten. I said, "Well, he would be starting kindergarten in two years." She was going on about how he will know so much more than the other kids (I hate that) and I had to remind her that he most likely wouldn't be going to school. We may look at the new charter school in the area, but I am becoming more disenchanted with the state of the public school system by the day. Then the socialization thing came up, and I gave her some kind of lame answers and changed the subject. I have some pretty strong feelings about the "socialization" that happens in schools, but she is not one to be contradicted. I need to think of ways to explain it diplomatically next time the topic comes up.

    I keep thinking of the things I almost would have liked to say to her, though. Like asking her about the social skills of her students and whether that's what she wants her grandkids learning. Or when she mentioned how important it is for them to learn cooperation, telling her that school doesn't teach cooperation anymore, what they teach is competition. Look at her own attitude about her grandkids knowing more than the other kids.

    Like you, I don't have any problem with the teachers, but I do have problems with the system, and I think it's getting worse the more they try to "fix" it. I want my kids to enjoy learning and focus on how to learn rather than what they learn.

  2. Evenspor,

    Thank you for the comment, it's good to not feel alone :)

    Ack! I hate that "they'll know so much more than the other kids" argument. I understand it is a problem if you put a kid into school already knowing everything they are supposed to learn, but there has to be a better solution than holding them back so they fit in...right?

    As for cooperation, Kal-El and Me Too have already learned that from EACH OTHER...and, because I only have two children to watch not 25, I was able to lightly supervise and teach them which behaviors were appropriate and inappropriate. I'd rather teach them that myself, I really don't want to rely on another 3.5 year-old randomly selected to sit next to him in preschool to do that. Have you noticed that whenever someone else's kid does something rude and obnoxious the parent rolls their eyes and says "they learned that at school" ? No thanks :( I know your MIL would be referring to older ages, not preschool necessarily.

    I have to say, I like the way Montessori Elementary students CHOOSE when to work independently and when to work in groups. I think that when a several kids choose to form a group to further study something of common interest they are going to get something out of it. I know I didn't learn anything from the "forced cooperation" I endured in school...except how to do all the work myself and give credit to the group. My classmates learned how to pair up with the smart kid and intimidate her into doing everything so she might be "cool" for a day. Very educational.

    We are not wealthy enough to afford Montessori Elementary schools for the boys. I do think they can get similar "cooperative" opportunities through church, 4-H, sports, and especially band or orchestra.

    I keep meaning to compile a good list of links to articles dealing with the "socialization" fallacy. I'll share it with you when I do, if you beat me to it please share with me!