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Education Reporter

Book of the Month
The Underground History of American Education The Underground History of American Education, John Taylor Gatto, The Oxford Village Press, 2000, 390 pps., $30 Veteran schoolteacher John Taylor Gatto has written a riveting, lively, yet scholarly history of the evolution of compulsory schooling in America, peppered with fascinating insights gleaned from 30 years' experience in the classroom. He explains how schooling has been transformed from creating "independent producers" and thinkers into churning out dumbed-down members of "the workforce."

One of Gatto's more eye-opening contentions is that the gradual extension of childhood to well past adolescence during the 20th -century has been a great detriment to individual initiative and self-reliance, and consequently, to America's wellbeing. He contrasts this relatively recent development to the early days of our Republic, when young people were expected to "make something of themselves" - and typically did so - at tender ages.

Gatto writes that forced schooling was "forged out of what a highly-centralized corporate economy and system of finance bent on internationalizing itself was thought to need, and what a strong, centralized political state needed, too." By 1944, he notes, "a repudiation of Jefferson's idea that mankind had natural rights was resonating in every corner of academic life." By 1971, "the U.S. Office of Education was deeply committed to accessing the private lives and thoughts of children." He quotes Catherine Barrett, president of the National Education Association, who in 1973 said: "Dramatic changes in the way we raise our children are indicated, particularly in terms of schooling . . . we will be agents of change."

Throughout the work, Gatto skillfully reverts from the present to the past, providing historical background and context. His narrative is always absorbing as he traces how our "highly individualized nation" has become "a centrally managed village." He notes that the consequences of "mass schooling" have never been adequately explored or proven.

He devotes considerable space to exploring the chief means of achieving America's deliberately orchestrated decline in scholastic excellence - the replacement of the phonics method of teaching reading with the failed whole language method.

To order, call toll-free 888/211-7164.

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