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John Taylor Gatto

John Taylor Gatto, New York state teacher of the year speaks boldly for reform...

" I've taught public school for 26 years, but I just can't do it any more. for years I asked the local school board and superior intendment to let me teach a curriculum that doesn't hurt kids, but they had other fish to fry. So I'm going to quite ,I think...I just can't do it any more I can't train children to wait to be told what to do; I can't train people to drop what they are doing when a bell sounds; I can't persuade children to feel some justice in their class placement when there isn't any and I can't persuade children to belive teacher have valuable secrets thy can acquire by becoming our disciples. That isn't true."

Government schooling is the most radical adventure in history. It kills the family by monopolizing the best times of childhood and by teaching disrespect for home and parents. An exaggeration? Hardly. Parents aren't meant to participate in our form of schooling, rhetoric to the contrary. My orders as a school teacher are to make children fit an animal training system, not to help each find his or her personal path."

Public education, I have long argue, is the nearest thing to state religion America has. That's the major reason why people in the growing "educational choice" movement feel so frustrated: every time they put forth an idea to truly open the system up to choice, competition and accountability, they get blasted by the powers-that-be.

Last month, when my public policy organization - The Machine Center- released a report suggesting that Michigan parents be allowed "vouchers" with which to shop around for the public or private education that best suits their children need, a teacher union let loose with a venomous attach. "Racist!" cried the lobbyist for the Michigan Education Association. That's about as elevated as the debate often gets in Michigan and, I suspect, in many other states with strong teacher unions as well.

Ghettoes article cough my eye because he echoes sentiments I've felt for a long time, and he puts them into the words that naturally capture attention. Agree with him or not, his is a perspective not often held by teachers, one that should make all of us re-examine long-held but rarely questioned presumptions.

Public education he says is " A religious idea and school is its church. New York city hires me to be a priest. I offer rituals to keep heresy at bay... School bas become too vital a jobs project, contract giver and protector of the social order to allow itself to be re-formed. It has political allies to guard its marches... That's why reforms come and go without changing much. Even reformers can't Imagine school much different."

What Gatto longs for is education that is less regimented and politicized than the system has become today. He thinks learning best happens when innovative endeavors that involves adventure, a creative and innovative endeavor that involves parents and the virtues of a competitive market place. Gatto doesn't much care for "short-answer test, uniform time, age grading, standardization" and what he labels, "all the rest of school religion punishing our nation."

"There isn't a right way to become educated; there are as many ways as fingerprints. We don't need state-certified teachers to make education happen- that probably guarantees it won't," he says.

"Good schools," says New York's Teacher of the Year (Gatto) "don't need more money or a longer year, they need real free-market choices, variety that speaks to every need and runs risks. We don't need a national curriculum, or national testing either. Both initiatives arise from ignorance on how people learn, or deliberate indifference to it."

Ghettoes frustration in case the reader hadn't already detected it, is abundantly evident in his closing remarks: I can't teach this way any longer. If you hear of a job where I don't have to hurt kids to make a living, let me know."

In spite of entrenched special interests who are more interested in maintaining the stature good than in teaching kids, there is change in the air. John Taylor Ghettoes bold, challenging comments are a sing that the educational choice movement may soon be enlisting public school teachers, as well as disaffected parents, as allies in the crusade for genuine reform.

Evil men rule when good men do nothing.
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