A Closer Look at Public Education: Are We Trained to Serve the Economy?

In this series on education, I have and will quote quite often from John Taylor Gatto because I believe he is not only highly qualified to speak, having been intensely involved with the public school system for more than thirty years, but I also believe he has a pure agenda, motivated only by a simple love of truth and people. He is as studied and competent a man I’ve ever read and we would do well to at least consider his observations and conclusions.

Open discussion is encouraged and welcomed, providing it remains respectful and dignified.

The following is a small excerpt from a speech Gatto gave with perhaps some of the most interesting perspectives on compulsory education I have ever read:

“There can be no doubt that the fantastic wealth of American big business is a direct result of school training. Schools training a social lump to be needy, frightened, envious, bored, talentless and incomplete. The successful mass-production economy demands such an audience. It isn’t anybody’s fault. Just as the Amish small business, small farm economy requires intelligence, competence, thoughtfulness and compassion, ours needs a well managed mass — level, anxious, spiritless families, godless and conforming; people who believe that the difference between Coke and Pepsi is matter worth arguing about. The American economy depends on schooling us that status is purchased and others run our lives. We learn there that sources of joy and accomplishment are external, that the contentment comes with the possessions, seldom from within. School cuts our ability to concentrate to a few minutes duration, creating a life-long craving for relief from boredom through outside stimulation. In conjunction with television and computer games, which employ the identical teaching methodology, these lessons are permanently inscribed. We become fearful, stupid, voiceless and addicted to novelty.

The secret of American schooling is that it doesn’t teach the way children learn — nor is it supposed to. Schools were conceived to serve the economy and the social order rather than kids and families — that is why it is compulsory. As a consequence, the school can not help anybody grow up, because its prime directive is to retard maturity. It does that by teaching that everything is difficult, that other people run our lives, that our neighbors are untrustworthy even dangerous. School is the first impression children get of society. Because first impressions are often the decisive ones, school imprints kids with fear, suspicion of one another, and certain addictions for life. It ambushes natural intuition, faith, and love of adventure, wiping these out in favor of a gospel of rational procedure and rational management.

From John Taylor Gatto’s Speech

14 Responses to “A Closer Look at Public Education: Are We Trained to Serve the Economy?”

  1. What a great quote from Gatto!

    “As a consequence, the school can not help anybody grow up, because its prime directive is to retard maturity.”

    A hearty AMEN!

    This is one way to shake off the holiday sugar coma! 🙂

  2. Keri says:

    I have homeschooled all six of my children.Okay now, with that said,I would like to say why.I really just plain and simple wanted my children to have an education with a Christian World View.That is not how I started out.I began homeschooling my oldest daughter because she couldn’t read going into second grade.I had a friend who taught her daughter to read and went to her and found out about home-schooling.I had NO IDEA I would be doing it forever..lol.Somedays it seems like forever.
    I went to public school my entire life.I was not raised in a Christian Home although I did have two divorced parents who loved me dearly.When I became a Christian as a teen, my world changed.I honestly did not live the life I should have lived probably because I didn’t stay in church or in the Word but I always knew the Lord was with me.Fast forward many years to marraige, children, and life.I can look back now and see things about public education that bothered me when my oldest daughter was in school and I was young and didn’t have the understanding I do now but I still saw it.
    To be honest with you here..now at the age of 51..I have seen kids that have been homeschooled their entire lives and from very conservative Christian Homes go completely the way of the world.I have seen kids that have been in public education their entire lives stand firm and they are some of the strongest Christian young people you can imagine.I am continuing to homeschool my two kids of school age because it has worked well for us.My four older grown kids are strong Christians(that does not mean they have not had struggles)don’t we all as Christians.I really think the Most Important thing we can do for our kids regardless of homeschool or public or private school is to Teach them about the Lord and for them to see us Loving Him with all of our hearts and to LOVE PEOPLE.I just wanted to share that today.I know that there are Mom’s who would love to stay home and homeschool but some are just not able right now.It Has to be REAL IN OUR HEARTS for it to be passed on to our kids because believe me by the time they are 18..they can tell you your faults and hypocracy and that is where forgiveness and love and grace come in.Looking forward to hearing other thoughts…

  3. Kay says:

    “I really think the Most Important thing we can do for our kids regardless of homeschool or public or private school is to Teach them about the Lord and for them to see us Loving Him with all of our hearts and to LOVE PEOPLE.

    Yes, indeed.

  4. Karen says:

    I just wonder how America could be turned around if ALL Christian parents homeschooled their children with the main goal of teaching them the Bible and to love the Lord and their neighbor.

  5. Word Warrior says:


    Your comment encapsulates one of my biggest concerns among Christians mandated to transmit their faith onto their children through a “washing”, all-day kind of teaching. If the bulk of their education is teaching them a false world-view (and school is always teaching a worldview) that should already give us serious pause as we reconcile this teaching with our responsibility. But add to that the tiny handful of time left over after not only the school day but the loads of homework (there is an agenda in that too, by the way–they don’t want parents to have time to transmit any of their own worldview), friend/peer dependency and usually other extra-curricular activities, and I’m not sure how our children can be “nurtured” in the Lord and taught in a Deuteronomy 6 kind of way.

    • 6 arrows says:

      The time factor concerns me, too. In the years that I gave private music lessons, virtually all of my students (I can think of only one exception) had other extra-curricular activities besides their lessons with me. And the vast majority were not homeschooled; they were gone to school, then had a huge variety of other activities after school: music (frequently more than one instrument), school clubs, Scouts, dance, sports (fall, winter and spring), you name it. Most kids had several activities for most of the year, including during summer “vacation”. Not to mention jobs for many of the highschoolers, too.

      I’m not knocking extra-curricular activities. The judicious use of them can do much to nurture and enhance a God-given talent. Yet when do parents have time to walk beside their children and impart their values when the kids are being led by other adults (and the peer group) for so much of their formative years?

      I just wonder.

  6. Becca says:

    The thing that frustrates me, as a homeschooling mom, is that since my son wants to go to college – he needs to go because of his career choice – I feel trapped into providing a “traditional” high school career for him so that he will have completed the correct requirements to be able to be admitted to college. Does this mean he will turn out to be a lemming?

    • Kay says:

      I think it means he will turn out to be well-educated and prepared for a career.

      Too many homeschoolers skip the “hard” subjects because they are too much work or too expensive to teach. Alternatively, they tell their kids to go read a book or watch a DVD on the subject. Or they decide they are “unnecessary” because their local high school doesn’t require them (local high schools also don’t require Bible study, either)

      Good job giving your son the education he needs!

    • Kelly L says:

      Becca, please find a local homeschooling group and talk to the many people who have kids in college after they were HSed the entire time. I know many here in Las Vegas. These people can be great mentors to get your son to the point he can get into any college of his choice. Also, I was told by one of the ladies with kids in college that many Ivy League colleges favor HSed kids because most have been trained, by the time they are midway through high school, to be self directed and self motivated.
      Here we have another option, too, I don’t know if it available to you: When in high school (HSers too) the kids can go to a community college and complete courses there and end up graduating with a high school diploma as well as an associates degree. AND the school district pays for it as long as it stays above a B average.
      I was unaware of these options until I joined a HS group. Hopefully this helps?

    • Hi Becca! I am a young homeschooling mom, but I am also a graduate of USC (the University of Southern California.) While there, I worked in the Admissions Department, and I can safely say that homeschool applicants were definitely considered as serious contenders with traditionally schooled students. In fact, when it came to the interview and essays, many of them excelled over their traditionally schooled peers, and many of the graduate level TAs were homeschooled through high school, including my husband’s absolute favorite computer engineering TA! Just so you know 🙂

      SATs will be important for a major university, and providing your son with the opportunity to take college courses or APs could be extremely helpful for him, as well. But he absolutely does NOT need a regular report card. Homeschooled students are regularly accepted to Ivy league universities, as well–in fact, are often highly recruited and sought after because of their initiative.

      God bless,

  7. Kelly L says:

    I am loving this series. ot only is it preaching to this choir, but it is also expanding my knowledge! Thanks!
    I have to say that, for the most part, this statement is true. I cannot count the number of coaches and parents who have commented how different our kid is. She stands out, but for Holy Spirit within her and how she acts as a leader, not because she is socially awkward (one of the many preconceived notions of HSing)
    Her pitching coach has several HSers and always laughs(groans on the inside) that they have to be told the “why” aspect before they do it successfully because that is how they have been taught in school, never just blind memorization.
    As someone who has lots of contact with both public and HS kids (I am usually he team mom), I can tell you there is a big difference: one is very concerned with group mentality, the other isn’t. Different behavior seem to stem from there.

  8. 6 arrows says:

    Good quote…very cogent analysis by Gatto on a system he obviously knows well. This part especially stood out to me: “School is the first impression children get of society.”

    And that first impression is being introduced earlier and earlier, as compulsory education is beginning at increasingly younger ages now. The culture of the family is weakened when we send our kids off prematurely into a society that contradicts and demeans the values we desire to impress on our children.

    This is an important series you’re doing, Kelly. Thank you for your thoughts!

  9. […] system, and get you to think beyond “is my school a good school”. (See part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4) But secondly, to challenge Christian parents to evaluate their biblical […]

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