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192 of 197 people found the following review helpful
on 10 January 2004
It sounds overly dramatic, I know, but I truly feel that John Taylor Gatto has liberated my soul by writing DUMBING US DOWN. But that is exactly what he has done. John Taylor Gatto confirms everything I had always believed about schools: that they are simply cruel prisons where spirits are destroyed and minds are conquered. Easy for me to say, though, seeing as how I myself never did too well in school. John Taylor Gatto, on the other hand, has been named Teacher of the Year several years running by both New York City and State. Here is someone accepted by the teaching establishment, honored by the teaching establishment. He speaks for me and thousands of others who've been tortured in these horrible institutions.
John Taylor Gatto reveals many fascinating, and frightening, things. For example, literacy went down in the US after the advent of compulsory schooling. Yes, more people could read and write before schooling was mandatory. Gatto says this is because reading, writing, and arithmetic only take about 100 hours to transmit, but schools purposefully distort the learning process and intentionally slow down the students' learning so as to justify robbing them of 12 years of their lives while they teach what Gatto refers to as the seven lessons schools really teach:
1. Confusion
2. Class position
3. Indifference
4. Emotional dependency
5. Intellectual dependency
6. Provisional self-esteem
7. One can't hide
It was Adam Robinson's WHAT SMART STUDENTS KNOW that first introduced me to the fact that school distorts the learning process and that if you want to be a good student you basically have to unlearn everything school teaches you about learning. It is Gatto's DUMBING US DOWN that explains *why* school distorts the learning process. The bitter truth, according to Gatto, is that mandatory schooling was invented by industry barons so as to ensure that the poor would not have a revolution, as well as to prepare their children for a transition into the industrial age. Another purpose was to shield the population from the "contamination" of the new Latin immigrants from Europe, as well as from the movement of African Americans through the country in the wake of the civil war. But Gatto doesn't stop there. He also holds compulsory schooling accountable for the breakdown of the family (he says we no longer have communities, but live in "networks"), the materialism of our society (because the only way to get any attention in a network is to buy it), and the drug use and suicide rate among our children and teens (because, Gatto says, it is absurd and anti-life to take children away from their families, trap children in a room eight hours a day, and allow them to interact only with those of the same age and social class).
The most startling point Gatto makes in this book, for me at least, is that industry barons purposefully encouraged schools to implant in students the idea that success in school is mandatory for financial success. Gatto argues that it is absurd to instill in children the idea that learning is only important if you are being graded, grades which one would want to be high so as to convert into high incomes. According to the author, rich children commit suicide at a higher rate than the poor or middle class (he suggests this is because the rich are often schooled more than the rest of us). Why try to drive home to children the idea that wealth is the key to happiness when it is common knowledge that it is not?
I myself struggled with suicidal thoughts as a child and a teen. It is directly related to the nightmare and torture of schooling. I thank John Taylor Gatto for exposing this compulsory prison for what it is, and I encourage any reader of DUMBING US DOWN to also search out Gatto's most recent book THE UNDERGROUND HISTORY OF AMERICAN EDUCATION.
Andrew Parodi
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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on 20 July 2008
John Taylor Gatto's analysis of government schooling as being a form of controlling and suppressing the masses is spot on.

I decided to home educate my kids because I didn't want school to get in the way of their education. Schools don't actually serve individuals very well at all....all they do is provide a steady supply of compliant, conformist, disempowered clone worker consumerists. They do not nurture individuality, critical thinking, love and compassion, but instead cause divisions by creating a kind of caste system where every child quickly learns their place in the pyramid, only to rise to the top by trampling on others and surrendering to rules designed to persecute anyone who deviates from conformity and obedience to the system.

If you think kids should be allowed to grow up and learn in a way that is free from any political agenda, and that the purpose of education is surely not just to raise little conformist consumers to keep the economic machine marching on, then this book is for you. Schools really aren't doing the job they are supposed to do, so maybe it's time we took things into our own hands and those of the children themselves. Kids are often way too smart for school and being held back by idiotic policies and beaurocracy and so on. Search your feelings - you know it's true!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 2010
I am not going to sum up the book in a couple of paragraphs; you better read it yourself. I have read many books much better written than this, but not every book is capable of making you reconsider so many things that you have always taken for granted, and that is what makes this book special. Even though you do not agree with all its arguments, you will find it hard to refute many of them, and in doing so, you are likely to end up with enough questions to start doubting yourself and the entire education system. The book is barely a hundred pages, and the crucial ones are only a fraction of the book, but those few pages are enough to set your doubts and reflections in motion. I, for one, have already considered home schooling my daughter just after reading this book. If you are curious, read it and then decide by yourself. If you do not read it, you may never know what you missed.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 17 April 2010
The other reviewers covers the important bits so I won't repeat them. I found it interesting that Gatto mentions the "new-world-order" agenda to take kids and nuture in them a need to see the state as thier parents, and how this type of mass schooling drives a wedge in the fabric of society. A small book but needs to be read slowly to get what gatto is saying - his experience and insight shines through and needs to be heeded.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 6 July 2011
Reading this book has made it clear for me why I had a natural aversion to school and all institutions that serve only to 'keep you in your place', I want to thank the author for writing this book, it is short but straight to the point. I like also what others have written about the book and comments especially Andrew Parodi and the comments to his review, so much that I can relate to. I am more than ever encouraged to start home schooling my children as soon as possible!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 19 August 2010
I bought this book because I read an speech (also included in the book) by Gatto, I found the speech great and smartly describing the situation of the education nowadays, even that the book was written 20 years ago!!!.

What I have found in the book is more of the same, each chapter is a repetition of the others, maybe it introduces a new concept, but only one, and not very brilliant, you can read only the first chapter and leave the rest of the book in the self.

I do not mean that the ideas are wrong or bad, I simply mean that this book is a collection of speeches and articles that say more or less the same.

Anyway, it is worth the price.

Another point is that I have found that the situation in Europe, or at least in Spain is not by far the same as in the EE.UU, so many concepts are applicable or do not happen here. It's worth reading to not fall in the same mistakes.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 15 March 2010
If considering or currently in a career involving education, read this book. Don't get disheartened with the teaching job though, learn from this book the ways a teacher can make the bets of the current education system and REALLY help educate kids for their own benefit!!!!

This book helped me answer why I seem to remember so much more from my own reading and learning and only about 20% of the stuff I studied in school, if that.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 3 September 2009
This book is a must for all teachers and all children who are being let down by the current compulsory education system. It opened my eyes and backed up a lot of the bad feelings I already had about education. A real eye opener. Well worth a read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 11 December 2012
In Western countries, nearly everybody can read and write. John Taylor Gatto says, 'But what of it'?

To be able to read and write is an advantage, and a considerable one, to deny that would be lunacy. However, it is not a sign of mental quality. It is a tool and a weapon; a means to an end; a very useful thing to propagandize a population. Get them to read so that they can read our slogans!!

Gatto argues that ultimate value of literacy depends upon the end to which it is used. And to what end, is it generally used today? Just look at the level of discourse that passes for debate!

It is used for convenience or for entertainment, by those who read; for some advertisement, or some objectionable propaganda, -- for money-making or power-grabbing -- by those who write; sometimes, of course, by both, for acquiring or spreading disinterested knowledge of the few things worth knowing; for finding expression of or giving expression to the few deep feelings that can lift a man to the awareness of who he really is, rather than what the other guys say he is; but not more often so than in the days in which one man out of ten thousand could understand the symbolism of the written word. Generally, to-day, the man or woman whom compulsory education has made "literate" uses writing to communicate personal matters to absent friends and relatives, to fill forms -- one of the international occupations of modern civilised humanity -- or to commit to memory little useful, but otherwise trifling things such as someone's address or telephone number, or the date of some appointment with the hair-dresser or the dentist, or the list of clean clothes due from the laundry. He or she reads "to pass time" because, outside the hours of dreary work, mere thinking is no longer intense and interesting enough to serve that purpose.

Gatto says that for thousands of years, people always lived, even before compulsory education came into fashion. And the stories heard and remembered were no less inspiring than stories now read. The real advantage of general literacy, if any, is to be sought elsewhere. It lies not in the better quality either of the exceptional men and women or of the literate millions, but rather in the fact that the latter are rapidly becoming intellectually more lazy and therefore more credulous than ever -- and not less so; -- more easily deceived, more liable to be led like sheep without even the shadow of a protest, provided the nonsense one wishes them to swallow be presented to them, in printed form and made to appear "scientific." The higher the general level of literacy, the easier it is, for a government in control of the daily press, of the wireless and of the publishing business, -- these almost irresistible modern means of action upon the mind -- to keep the masses and the "intelligenzia" under its thumb, without them even suspecting it.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 17 June 1998
As a public school teacher I applaud Mr. Gatto in speaking out about the tyranny of the public school system. It is difficult, as a teacher, to speak with collaegues, since most would be unable to teach in a competitive market where quality of teaching would count. A change needs to occur before every child is reared speaking a blank rhetoric and bowing to the state. When is Mr. Gatto going to open a school so that I may apply?? Of course, I too am bound by the government systim in that I must teach in a public institution of little merit so that i may be deemed worthy of receiving the state issued certification. Anyways, this is a great book and I wish more parents and teachers would speak up!
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