Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

John Taylor Gatto is an American retired school teacher of 29 years and 8 months experience in the classroom and author of several books on education. He is an activist critical of compulsory schooling, of the perceived divide between the teen years and adulthood, and of what he characterizes as the hegemonic nature of discourse on education and the education professions.


"Hegemon" is the political, economic, ideological or cultural power exerted by a dominant group over other groups. It requires the consent of the majority to keep the dominant group in power.


Gatto was born in the Pittsburgh-area steel town of Monongahela, Pennsylvania. In his youth he attended public schools throughout the Pittsburgh Metro Area including Swissvale, Monongahela, and Uniontown as well as a Catholic boarding school in Latrobe. He did undergraduate work at Cornell, the University of Pittsburgh, and Columbia, then served in the U.S. Army medical corps at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Following army service he did graduate work at the City University of New York, Hunter College, Yeshiva University, the University of California, and Cornell.


He worked as a writer and held several odd jobs before borrowing his roommate's license to investigate teaching. Gatto also ran for the New York State Senate, 29th District in 1985 and 1988 as a member of the Conservative Party of New York against incumbent David Paterson. He was named New York City Teacher of the year in 1989, 1990, and 1991, and New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991. In 1991, he wrote a letter announcing his retirement, titled I Quit, I Think, to the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal, saying that he no longer wished to "hurt kids to make a living." He then began a public speaking and writing career, and has received several awards from libertarian organizations, including the Alexis de Tocqueville Award for Excellence in Advancement of Educational Freedom in 1997.


He promotes homeschooling, and specifically unschooling. One professor of education has called his books "scathing" and "one-sided and hyperbolic, but not inaccurate" but later agreed with him.

Gatto is currently working on a 3-part documentary about compulsory schooling, titled The Fourth Purpose. He says he was inspired by Ken Burns's Civil War.


What does the school do with the children? Gatto takes this in "Dumbing Us Down", the following propositions:

  1. It makes the children confused. It presents an incoherent ensemble of information that the child needs to memorize to stay in school. Apart from the tests and trials that programming is similar to the television, it fills almost all the "free" time of children. One sees and hears something, only to forget it again.
  2. It teaches them to accept their class affiliation.
  3. It makes them indifferent.
  4. It makes them emotionally dependent.
  5. It teaches them a kind of self-confidence that requires constant confirmation by experts (provisional self-esteem).
  6. It makes it clear to them that they cannot hide, because they are always supervised.

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (1992).

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E. as they say in The Wire, "Now that's some outrageous s#@t!"

If one can gain the kind of eye that may be needed in order to see in a different way one might learn how to see what it is that might be the thing that is so oppressive---once it can be seen, for real, then and only then can something be done to move away from under the oppressive condition.

It's like you said, part of the plot to keep the job market from being bum rushed by my son and his crew! Only so many jobs exist and competition for these jobs from our children would create...havok! Holding pen is what you called it!
When the abstracts come together, the PICTURE comes together---(B).
Brother E. is keeping us on track with our education investigation with the post "Dumbing yall down" it may be wise to look at a previous post in order to bring some of this together in order to see at a better angle.......! Follow the post 'help is here' btw/this is coming together for those who are doing the work............(B).

If you understand the environment of a public school and witness it on a daily basis, maybe you can see the rationale for the hypothesis of  "The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling" clearer, particularly, in urban public schools.  I have had to marinate on this one (not long)!  But if you read my posts from last year, you'll get eyewitness accounts of what actually happens on most days.  Don't take Gatto on his word.  I wouldn't!  I have had to experience it myself. 

Craig we were talking about you this morning at community meeting. Another of our members has started teaching. She said they are not learning anything and she knows how to know. She is coming to the Wednesday night class this week and Inward Journey's presentation at Java, Juice and Jazz this Friday. Please come.
I'll see you Friday, Al!  I told Carol.  It's really so very sad about our schools, our children, our future.  As hard as some of us try, teachers, a few parents, some students, the system is failing.  Some kids could care less about anything.  It is sad!!  It is so sad.  I ran into Sam today at Walgreens.  I'll be there!  I'm still trying to do my best despite!!

My friend that is all you can do, your best and remember what you are doing is tantamount to driving a log in a river to change its course. That is what a program is to a story that is being enacted, a log in a river. If you want to change the story you have to change the vision. To change the vision one has to change their own vision. One will have to gain inne-rvision to acquire insight. After doing so one can focus their cleansed lenses on the problem differently. 


One of the tools of the matrix is to keep the fighters, and thinkers focused on the thick of thin things. It's like giving you the task of putting out a huge fire, but then only provide you with a teaspoon to carry the water in. You are so concerned about the fire that you never consider the spoon is ineffective. You have been so inculcated and indoctrinated into putting out fires that it never occurs to you that this is an impossible task. 


So what happens? More of the same, it's a vicious treadmill of inadequate mediocrity. Now here is the kicker and don't get enraged and go there Monday and start kicking everyone's asses. They now blame you for the condition that you had nothing with creating. They say you are not teaching the children when in fact you are loaded down with senseless, inane, cumbersome, feckless and burdensome tasks and chores that has nothing to do with enhancing the children's education. Am I close?  Is this making any sense? 


Brother Craig you are a thinker and "we" can out think this system. It's time.

E. people need encouragement in - courage, courage. Isn't it odd that the word courage goes back to heart, but I wonder why they put the word rage, next to heart. In my etymological search I did get to wrath and ellen or zeal. I wonder does this have anything to do with indignation? I cannot see any dignity, honor or worth in what has happened to the children.  Therefore I am outraged and enraged, but that seems to be a minority.
Education was designed to be an initiation, instead it has devolved into an indoctrination. Now I am not suggesting that free people didn't initiate people into the ways and needs of the clan or the tribe, but the one difference is they were first initiated into the concept of freedom. Compulsory education or let's just call it what it is , government indoctrination, was designed to support the status quo of government and the status quo and thus business of the USA was, is and will always be business.  Just thought that may be something to consider.

Al that very well supports statements that you've made before about the school systems being 'holding pens'. I understand the point that by simply maintaining a limited amount of highly educated individuals that are able to compete for jobs, the status quo will stay relatively stable. You asked the question, "who do you think these kids will compete with for jobs"? Well, there are other variances to this situation; when there are no jobs to compete for many will turn to crime and you have the prison-industrial complex already geared up for their arrival. I am amazed at the fact that few so called educators, here in Memphis, have spoken to this 'dumbing down' process and continue to support it with their efforts. I guess "get paid is...getting paid" weather you know what your job really is or not.


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