Review: Weapons of Mass Instruction

Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto is without a doubt the most important book I have read in several years. His recap of Alexander Inglis’s six functions of modern schooling (from Inglis’s “Principles of Secondary Education”) in his prologue hooked me immediately.  Gatto opened America’s eyes to the problems of compulsory education in 1991 in “Dumbing Us Down”. With “Weapons of Mass Instruction”, he continues his crusade against the establishment he was a part of for 30 years. To think there was a deliberate plan to create the mind-numbing schools I managed to survive is maddening. As is everything else he talks about.

Part lecture, part testimonial, all scathing indictment, this book will be lauded by homeschoolers and most likely condemned by teachers and administrators, dismissing his vision as untenable.

Gatto trickles a bit of his extensive research for his other book, “The Underground History of American Education” in outlining the historical (German) basis for a system that is designed to create conforming non-thinkers. He highlights a number of examples of extremely successful dropouts and people who were not schooled in the traditional way. And he draws on his direct experience within the system, contrasting with all those successes he cites to blister the institution that manages rather than teaches. Harsh? Perhaps. But think of how much time was spent in your “schooling” marching to the rules. As he overstates in one section of his book, primary school is mostly “don’ts” and little encouragement to think outside that proverbial box. And it is getting worse. I have questioned for many years the value of standardized testing and Gatto brings up the same questions. The measuring sticks fail to truly measure anything except how well someone can do on those tests.

This is a must read for any homeschooler. And it should be required reading for every superintendent, teacher and compelled student. Let the revolution begin.

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