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Lee Mandon

Dr. Rieman

English 1101x

November 18, 2009

National Pride

A large portion of John Taylor Gatto’s essay Against School discusses the reasoning

and history behind our public school system in America. In some ways I agree with him; the

public school system is in definite need of revamping, while educators are in desperate need of a

new system to teach our kids. According to Gatto, the school system in America was meant to

copy the Prussian school system. Regardless of whether or not this is true, I think the biggest

question should be why we have not done anything to reform the school system? There should be

no reason for graduates to feel as if they have wasted the last fifteen years of their life with

pointless busy work. The creativity that was once praised has been pushed aside for a curriculum

that is based on “establishing fixed habits of reaction to authority.” Rather than praising

individualism and innovation, Gatto believes our school system emphasizes the exact opposite,

conformity and inanity. Joseph Addison said it best when he said “What sculpture is to a block of

marble, education is to the soul.” Our Nation’s needs and functionality have changed since the

days when the original system was put into place. A more liberal education that focuses more on

individual’s strengths and interests is needed for our public school systems.

With our public schools comes a structured curriculum, which I believe to be the main

cause for concern in regards to our schools. The purpose of schooling in America is “1) to make

good people. 2) To make good citizens. 3) To make each person his or her personal best,” which

Gatto argues to be false (35). He believes that the current school system is intended to create an
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obedient society that does not question its superiors. Without the ability to think independently,

we will lose the entrepreneurship that helped mold our country.

When teachers are not allowed freedom to teach in their own way, they become drones

and lose the ability to make learning fun. Granted, learning is not always about having fun, but it

is an important part of a classroom. My mom is a teacher at a private school, and one of her

biggest reasons behind choosing to teach in a private school instead of a public school is that her

private school allows her to create her own curriculum. That’s not to say she doesn’t teach the

same information as a public school teacher, she is just allowed to teach in her own way and on

her own time table. If she feels the class will be better off taking an extra day on something, she

can do that without having to adhere to a mandated syllabus.

Another problem that public schools are faced with is the limited number and selection of

courses offered. If an athlete excelled at a baseball, the coaches wouldn’t make him practice

basketball; he would concentrate on the sport he was good at. It is not fair to provide an athlete

with the means to hone his skills in a single sport while not allowing students to refine their

education in a single field of study. There is no reason to waste our resources on teaching a kid

how to do calculus, when he has no interest in math. It would be great if the same understanding

in the importance of focusing on strong suits in sports was applied to academics. This is an

important part of education and our school systems need to evolve in order to keep up with the

need for a more open minded and creative society.

Rather than creating a “manageable populous” (37) we should focus on giving our kids

the tools to succeed in an ever changing world. The world is more interconnected now than ever

before, and because our education has not evolved with it, we are being left behind. There is a

correlation between our nation’s incumbent mediocrities in academics compared to other Nations

of our stature. I think the majority of this stems from the lack of change that has occurred in our
schooling. The biggest alteration that is needed is a shift of focus to a curriculum that allows

teachers the freedom to teach, and students the freedom to learn.

Works Cited

Gatto, John. “Against School: How public education cripples our kids, and why.”

Harper’s Magazine Sep. 2001: 35-38. Print.