Forced Schooling and Children’s Mental Health
(John Taylor Gatto; Harper’s Magazine, September 2003)
Public education and children’s mental health are intricately intertwined – many kids get their diagnoses and a start on pharmaceuticals at a teacher’s or school nurse’s request. For that reason this article, which discusses the true purpose and actual effects of forced school (as opposed to education) on children, represents an important ALT_mentality in children’s mental wellness and learning. Gatto, a teacher for nearly 30 years in New York City public schools, is a powerful speaker and an expert on the topic. Also recommended: The Underground History of American Education, a well-researched book in the same vein as this essay.
John Holt began his career as a schoolteacher and educational writer, but by the end of his life he was advocating for homeschooling. Why? Because he had observed (and, what’s more, had faith in) the human being’s inherent desire to learn, as “natural as breathing.” He saw that schools distorted and at times destroyed this desire. This monograph is an impassioned and very insightful summary of over 20 years observations of learning human beings in action.
Forgive me – but Gatto is so good, I had to post two of his writings here. This essay formed the basis for Gatto’s internationally best-selling book Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schools, and is simply a collection of his observations, based on almost 30 years of teaching in public school systems through New York City, of what factory-like schools are reallyteaching our kids. When I first read this, just a year or so after graduating from high school, it hit me like that proverbial ton of bricks – this described so well the frustrating of futility of trying to “learn” in such a dehumanized environment.