Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

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Overview

With over 70,000 copies of the first edition in print, this radical treatise on public education has been a New Society Publishers? bestseller for 10 years! Thirty years in New York City?s public schools led John Gatto to the sad conclusion that compulsory schooling does little but teach young people to follow orders like cogs in an industrial machine. This second edition describes the wide-spread impact of the book and Gatto?s "guerrilla teaching."

John Gatto has been a teacher...

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Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

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Overview

With over 70,000 copies of the first edition in print, this radical treatise on public education has been a New Society Publishers’ bestseller for 10 years! Thirty years in New York City’s public schools led John Gatto to the sad conclusion that compulsory schooling does little but teach young people to follow orders like cogs in an industrial machine. This second edition describes the wide-spread impact of the book and Gatto’s "guerrilla teaching."

John Gatto has been a teacher for 30 years and is a recipient of the New York State Teacher of the Year award. His other titles include A Different Kind of Teacher (Berkeley Hills Books, 2001) and The Underground History of American Education (Oxford Village Press, 2000).

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this tenth-anniversary edition, Gatto updates his theories on how the U.S. educational system cranks out students the way Detroit cranks out Buicks. He contends that students are more programmed to conform to economic and social norms rather than really taught to think. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
WomanSource Catalog & Review: Tools for Connecting the Community for Women
School reform is all the rage these days; there is talk of a national cirriculum, of a return to the "basics," of computers in every classroom. But will these changes ensure a better education for our children? John Gatto, a New York City schoolteacher for 26 years, says "no." He points out that no matter how good the teachers or how progressive the texts, it is the structure of our school system that is the dominant factor in a child's education, teaching them to obey without question, give the answer that is expected, do only what is demanded and conform at all costs. Between school and television, kids have little opportunity to interact with their communities, explore ideas that interest them and persue learning experiences with different adults. Only by returning control over educational options to families and communities can we produce citizens who will be actively engaged in their world.
—FGP
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780865714489
  • Publisher: New Society Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/1/2002
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 126,850
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author


John Gatto was a teacher in New York City's public schools for over 30 years and is a recipient of the New York State Teacher of the Year award. A much-sought after speaker on education throughout the United States, his other books include A Different Kind of Teacher (Berkeley Hills Books, 2001) and The Underground History of American Education (Oxford Village Press, 2000).
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Table of Contents

Foreword xiii
Introduction to the Second Edition xvii
Publisher's Note--from the First Edition xxx
About the Author xxxiii
1. The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher 1
2. The Psychopathic School 20
3. The Green Monongahela 35
4. We Need Less School, Not More 46
5. The Congregational Principle 73
Afterword: Ten Years Later 95
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 24 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2004

    Profoundly changed how I educate my child

    I am already a practitioner and proponent of homeschooling, but until I read this book I did not realize I was simply repeating at home the very same educational approaches I disliked in the 'official' school system. This book forced me to evaluate what I was teaching and how. Highly recommended.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2010

    Thought Provoking

    As a 22 year veteran of the public school system I found this book to be infuriating, offensive, and the more I thought about it...right on the money. I think this should be required reading for every member of the public schooling system. I first read it as an assignment for an education course I was taking in pursuit of my masters degree and have been recommending it to every educator I know since.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2003

    Public school still functions?!?

    The previous reviewer sure has an axe to grind. It is obvious that schools are meant for regimentation, institutionalization, and all that goes into narrowly folding a human into this curriculum. Gatto may pick some obscure references but their obscurity in now devalues them as real. I would recommend riding Gatto as an eye-opening essay - you may not buy the historical angle but the common-sense-ness of his commentary is like razor cut thru the kind of block-that-kick mentality of the previous reviewer. One thing the previous reviewer and my self share is a love of the ad hominum argument. ;-)

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2003

    There are more inherent problems with Gatto than with our school system

    It would be nice to think that Gatto has stumbled onto some revolutionary theories in his book, that he has uncovered some greater truth that must be understood and accepted, but the reality is, he has not. I have just finished twelve years of public schooling and have all along realized there were some very big problems with the schooling system. These problems are mostly due to the fact that teachers expect children to conform to meet their wishes and any student who does not is wrong. If I were to meet a man on the street who approached me and said, 'Hi, Andrew. My name is Mike. Everything I believe is right, and if you disagree with me you are wrong and a failure,' I would not want much to do with him. Still, however, we continue to send our children into this environment. While Gatto does briefly touch on this problem, he is more concerned with himself than anything else. Gatto must frequently remind the reader that he has been a teacher in the New York school system for thirty years and that he has won numerous awards for teaching, as if that makes him some sort of expert on the subject of education. As far as I can see, Gatto is a self-righteous dillitante who verges on rambling fool quite often. Gatto seems to think that school is some sort of conspiracy and that he is a Freedom Fighter (tm) who will, from inside the system, tell the truth. To back up this 'truth,' Gatto uses obscure historical references and hardly relevant examples. He also feels the need to employ an inflated vocabularity and superfluous verbosity to manipulate the reader into assuming him credulous. My advice: stay away from this book unless you want to see what sort of 'professionals' are teaching your children. Public schooling still functions and, as I see it, always will.

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2000

    You may want to consider an alternative to public schools for your kids after this

    An excellent read. I read through it in one day, and then went back several times. It gives details about why the school system doesn't work, and while it doesn't offer much hope for fixing schools, it gives parents a lot of insight on what they can do to make sure their kids know how to do more than read, write and count. The basic theme is that schools are preparing kids to succeed as factory workers. The constant shuffling between classes, the state curriculum, the large classes, and the top-heavy management of schools all keep kids from developing the independence, depth of learning, and passion to truly excel. I was a public school teacher for three years, and the truth of this book definitely rings true. The first chapter on the lessons kids learn in school (1) Mediocrity and disconnected facts make an education 2) Stay in your own class 3) Emotional Dependence 4) Intellectual dependence and more) is worth the price of the book.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 30, 2009

    A provocative read

    This is a useful book because it shares the experience of John Taylor Gatto and his lifetime of teaching. Despite winning several teaching awards, Mr. Gatto remained critical of the very system he was part of. Even if you disagree with his conclusions, I do believe parents and school systems can learn a great deal from his observations.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2007

    Insight into why our schools are harmful.

    If you've had a sense of unease with schools in the US but have not been able to articulate where and what the problem is, this book will get you started in understanding the breadth of the problem.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2004

    Schools ARE Institutions

    Think back to the twelve or thirteen years you WASTED that you could have been learning things you were truly interested in, doing creative things, being in charge of your own learning. Instead you had to ask to go to the bathroom, memorize disjointed facts, divorce thinking from doing, and never ask 'why do we have to know this.' You were legally required to go here. Gatto's premise is that forcing people to do anything automatically makes the thing too distasteful to do them much good.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2003

    Foreward and Introduction Review

    I am writing this review as I read the book so that you will get an idea of the ideology behind this book. My first experience with ¿Dumbing Us Down¿ was the four pages of praise from various sources such as Home Education Magazine, Holistic Education Review and The Albany Free School. I had just watched Fox News do a segment on The Albany Free School through their BreakingPoint program entitled ¿The Education Crisis in America¿. One quote from this broadcast: ¿We don¿t place a value judgment between reading and a hike. In our world they are equal.¿ In the foreward of this book, I read the words ¿hard-headed bureaucracy¿ which seemed to grab my attention as I have experienced this brutal force. Further reading consisted of Thomas Moore¿s most enjoyable teaching experience ¿no textbook, no syllabus and no purpose¿ (Gatto, xiv). I agree that many textbooks are not appealing to students nor do they exhibit the qualities of high-order learning yet to hold education as something that ¿picks up on whatever appeared in the room on any particular day¿ does not seem in the best interest for the students (maybe during family time or in the community). However, it does stress the need for a connection to real-life experiences to make learning meaningful and there is also a value placed on community, but the comparisons of school as a jail, confinement, a cell, vampire network are unprofessional even if his experiences with education were such. We need to take the emotionalism out education reform, so in reading just the foreward I have learned that Gatto¿s book seeks to ¿start [schools] from the ground up¿educate the soul, not just the mind¿creatively, friendships, love, community. The foreward ends with concern for violence in schools and ¿the sorry level of discourse in America¿by the desperate ineffectiveness of schools¿ (xvi). An introduction is written by Gatto¿s editor who seems to follow along with the writer of the foreward by comparing schools to ¿One Flew Over the Cuckoo¿s Nest¿ by stating ¿bound by a web of rules, procedures, and protocols¿which stands an iron fist of violence and repression, all designed of course for ¿the patient¿s own good¿ (Gatto, xvvii). The point is that schools have become institutions that condition and conquer their ¿patients¿ towards compliance. The editor continues to state that ¿schools are not failing¿set up to ensure a docile, malleable workforce to meet¿corporate capitalism¿physically, intellectually, and emotionally dependent upon corporate institutions for their incomes, self-esteem, and stimulation, and that will learn to find social meaning in their lives solely in the production and consumption of goods'(xxii). This is just the first part of the book.

    1 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Time to examine Critical Pedagogy

    helpful for the thesis I'm writing

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 26, 2010

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    Posted July 22, 2009

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