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Nature of Public Education

Excerpts from the writings of John Taylor Gatto

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Here you will find a few quotes of John Taylor Gatto on what I have termed “the nature of public education.” This man was named “New York State Teacher of the Year” in 1992. Further down this page is a link to a site with much much more of his writing, as well as a few words from me to introduce you to Mr. Gatto’s exceptionally needed message! But let’s hear from him first… ~Barb Shelton

“I don’t think we’ll get rid of schools any time soon, certainly not in my lifetime, but if we’re going to change what’s rapidly becoming a disaster of ignorance, we need to realize that the school institution ‘schools’ very well, though it does not ‘educate’; that’s inherent in the design of the thing. It’s not the fault of bad teachers or too little money spent. It’s just impossible for education and schooling ever to be the same thing.” – John Taylor Gatto

“I’ve come to believe that genius is an exceedingly common human quality, probably natural to most of us… I began to wonder, reluctantly, whether it was possible that being in school itself was what was dumbing them down. Was it possible I had been hired not to enlarge children’s power, but to diminish it? That seemed crazy on the face of it, but slowly I began to realize that the bells and the confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to *prevent* children from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior.” – John Taylor Gatto

“It’s absurd and anti-life to be part of a system that compels you to sit in confinement with people of exactly the same age and social class. That system effectively cuts you off from the immense diversity of life and the synergy of variety; indeed it cuts you off from your own past and future, sealing you in a continuous present much the same way television does…” – John Taylor Gatto

“…’How will they learn to read?’ you ask, and my answer is ‘Remember the lessons of Massachusetts.’ When children are given whole lives instead of age-graded ones in cellblocks, they learn to read, write, and do arithmetic with ease, if those things make sense in the kind of life that unfolds around them.” – John Taylor Gatto

Here’s a link to Mr. Gatto’s Website:

Note from Barb…

Some Christians may find portions of Mr. Gatto’s message to be, well, perhaps… offensive? Some may wonder why I, a Christian, would include and promote the work of someone whose philosophy is not forthrightly Christian. This is not an easy question to answer quickly or succinctly, but I hope you who are most aghast at my views will listen the hardest… Let’s begin with “to the holy all things are holy.” Mr. Gatto has one of THE most accurate pictures of true education that I have seen anywhere. His perspective, Christian or not, is one that every Christian needs to hear. Mr. Gatto very accurately and forthrightly sounds a “wake up” call to all of America – hopefully the world – to anyone who will listen to the voice of experience. Truth is truth, no matter what or who the source. I hope you will take perhaps a more open perspective with you to Mr. Gatto’s website where he has literally given away much of his writing – a message that will blow the top off of your current views of education, blow the dust out of your approach to it, and blow the minds of those minds are in need of some blowing, especially minds that have previously held tight to some ideas that will do nothing to get them to the goals they hold dear. I have yet to find an author I am in complete agreement with, but, sad to say in some ways, I find myself in much more agreement with Mr. Gatto than I do with many Christians regarding “education.” I have gained much in my life by learning what I believe God wants me to learn from people, even (if not especially) ones I am not in complete agreement with. I urge you to visit this website, read the articles there, and allow God to speak to you between the lines. I am confident you will hear Him speaking loud and clear between and through what you read there!

Copyright by Barbara Edtl Shelton.
Used by permission from the author.

The Sheltons operate a home-based ministry to homeschoolers from their home in Longview, WA, primarily through the books that Barb has written. All of Barb’s speaking and writing is on topics of vital interest to burning-out as well as brand new and wanna-be homeschoolers. Barb’s resources reflect her “lite” approach to homeschooling that is based on the verse in Matt. 28:11 in which Jesus says “My yoke is easy, my burden light.” With vulnerability, humor, God’s Word, Barb’s heart is to inspire parents to pursue God’s unique plan for the education of their children, and she offers much practical help in doing so. You’ll be challenged, irritated, and moved to laugh, cry, think and re-think your views about education, and best of all, get set free (or freer) in Jesus! They may be contacted via their website:

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