Unlike most books by John taylor Gatto, which are comprised of his own essays and opinions, this book is a collection of ideas from a number of theoreticians of education (as opposed to schooling). The transcript of a colloquium held held at Carnegie Hall in 1993, this book brings together opinions of how modern school has gone wrong, what the lasting effects are, and most importantly, what the substantive alternatives may be.
Representatives of alternative proactive education, like the Sudbury Valley School and the Alternative Community School of Ithaca, present overviews of how their education structures work, and what they offer that regular compulsory public schooling can't. Probably the most important fact each of these alternatives brings to the table is a recognition that not all children are the same, they don't learn in the same way, and trying to ram every kid in America into the same mold will only cause more harm than good.
Gatto himself, for all his insight and advocacy, tends at times to a naive sentimentality for a past educational system that may or may not have ever existed. That's why having this multiplicity of voices between the covers of this book is so valuable: because it recognizes more than just one viewpoint, and gives parents, communities, and school reform advocates a number of options to choose from.
Probably one of the most valuable additions to the school reform debate in several decades, this pocket-sized volume is easy to read and grasp, and gives you plenty to think about over the long haul. If you have even the slightest inclination to wade into this difficult fray, this book should be your primer and should always be within arm's reach. Like a Swiss Army knife, this book has a million uses in the debate, and every one of them is valuable.