Gatto’s Seven Lessons

John Gatto’s Dumping Us Down illustrates the negative aspects compulsory state-controlled schooling. Gatto spent 30 years as a schoolteacher and certainly knew everything there is to know about school. He is certainly a credible source and his account should serve as motivation and reason for change and evolution. He talks about how the educational system teaches the students seven negative lessons calling himself the seven-lesson schoolteacher. After going through a fine explanation of every one of the seven lessons, Gatto asserts that the system produces confused, cruel, passive, violent, and materialistic kids.

In our modern world, large centralized institutions dominate our economies. Everything is standardized; individuality is fading away. This also applies to our schooling system. Students across the country learn the same curriculum using the same methods. No longer shrines of knowledge and invention, schools are becoming like factories that basically insert useless knowledge into kids. Every education philosopher and expert would be disappointed in the quality of education that has been present in public schools during the past decades. Students and teachers alike are no longer having original thoughts and ideas but merely follow the curriculum and rules set by the central power.

The educational process should be a personal journey of discovery and realization, and that journey should be different for every person. However, to be able to provide personalized care for every student, more funding is needed. In addition, teachers should be passionate about education and teaching because it takes a huge effort to look after every student individually rather than just teaching a predetermined lesson to the entire class. Education should not be treated as an industry; it is a crucial field to any nation’s hope for progress and prosperity but requires a lot of funding and care.

4 responses to “Gatto’s Seven Lessons

  1. Great – clear and detailed outline of Gatto’s philosophy. Helped me better understand his objective, actually. I could not help but think back to tennis when you stated in the second paragraph about how our schools are becoming like factories. This is so true– and correlates perfectly to american tennis acadamies. Such prominent American tennis acadmies like Bolleteri, Saddlebrooke, and Evert Academy are quite often referred as factories. This is because they accept massive amounts of young players and have limited professionals to handle every child on a personal basis. In turn, these Academies have produced very very few professional tennis players– off the top of my head I can think of two recent products (Ryan Harrison ranked 122 in the world and Jack sock ranked 46 in the world). The rest of the top 150 men tennis players are foreign (there are a few other Americans in the top 150 but they it is evident they trained in different countries). Ultimately, American tennis has failed and continues to do so… while foreign countries (GER, RUS, ENG) continue to prevail. There are many reasons why these countries are not considered factories and provide personal treatment of each player, and maybe in a later post I will explain.

  2. Moses,
    I really liked one point you brought up in your post where you said ” teachers should be passionate about education and teaching” and ” Education should not be treated as an industry.” I agree wholeheartedly with these statements and I can attest from personal experience that the typical, lecture based method of teaching stifles the learning process at a much faster rate. In elementary school, my teachers would usually teach lessons with very little noticeable passion and with a clear “let’s get this over with passion.” Granted the young age of students makes it harder to incorporate more discussion-based learning but nevertheless, I always felt like my classes were yelled at and merely taught to because it was the job of the teacher; not because he/she genuinely wanted to. However, once I made the transition from public school to private school, I detected a noticeable difference in terms of the passions teachers had to actually teach. My private school teachers were much more reserved but I also feel like they made more of an effort to make learning a much more fun and natural process.

  3. John Gatto’s experience is a summary of how modern society is heading in general. In my opinion, it is a vicious cycle of dullness and conventionality. Let me ask you this, why would you choose to drop out of college and pursue what you want to do RIGHT NOW, as of THIS MOMENT? The majority of students would find excuses along the line that they aren’t capable yet and how college will help them pursue their “dreams” in the form of a certificate of higher education. Sadly, it is the structure of our society. We judge people and their capability based on what they have prestigiously achieved. A lot of people are capable of doing what they want to do, especially in today society. Anyone can have access to anything that they want to learn. It is just the matter of doing it without formal recognition.

  4. Taylor I really liked your comment. It helped me connect Gatto’s Seven Lessons to a broader context. The Seven Lessons do not only apply to the classroom. Dinh, you illustrate our dependency on school. School has been heavily criticized over the centuries; however, students continue to attend and endorse school. Our society is shaped by our economic desires and school is the best way to attain economic stability in the future. Some students might not agree with the current philosophy that schools employs; however, their desire for economic stability drives them to continue school.

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