John Taylor Gatto

John Taylor Gatto is an American retired school teacher of 30 years and author of several books on education. He is an activist critical of compulsory schooling and the hegemonic nature of discourse on education and the education professions.

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, the University of California, and Cornell.

He worked as a writer and held several odd jobs before borrowing his roommate's licence to investigate teaching. 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 home schooling, and specifically un schooling.

Inspired by Ken Burns's Civil War, Gatto is currently working to produce a 3-part documentary about compulsory schooling, titled The Fourth Purpose.

Spiritual successor to The Hidden Curriculum, Gatto takes a historical view of educational systems as primarily and purposefully socializing and normative, as opposed to the stated goal as a vehicle for individual personal development.

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