A DIFFERENT KIND OF TEACHER by John Taylor Gatto
This is a collection of essays written and transcripts of speeches given by John T. Gatto throughout the 1990s, all of which incisively critique and condemn the modern government (public) school system in the U.S. from the vantage point of an award-winning retired teacher of many years in the system. Every single criticism he makes is true and accurate and acutely thought-provoking. In as far as this criticism goes, this is a valuable work. However, having now read two books by Gatto and having listened to a number of audio recordings of him as well, I can say with certitude that if a person is looking for practical, concrete knowledge as to how Gatto himself survived within the system so long, thinking and acting as he does, what he did on a daily basis with his students, day in day out, and if one is after advice as to how a teacher already and still working within the system–a teacher in mental accord with Gatto–can go about maintaining his/her sanity on a daily basis, then Gatto will not be able to help with any of that. For Gatto tends to write abstractly to the point where he ignores the practical side almost altogether; and while Gatto’s mostly implied solution (note: we must say “implied” because he nearly exclusively criticizes and almost never directly speaks of concrete solutions) is that the modern government (public) school system needs to be razed and obliterated and rebuilt from the ground up, one would think that he could at least throw a bone of practical advice out there until the exquisitely unlikely razing and obliterating event actually occurs.
So I have to dock this book a little bit for its lack of practicality.
And then I also have to dock this book a lot of bit because, unlike the last Gatto book I had read, here Gatto writes early and often, albeit peripherally, about the supposedly unfounded fears of 19th century American Protestants regarding mass Roman Catholic immigration. Gatto even cryptically (and of course dismissively) writes of the “anti-Catholic writings” of American inventor Samuel Morse. Gatto’s position of ignorance or duplicity in this area therefore is painfully obvious to someone such as myself who is very familiar with Samuel Morse’s work, as well as dozens and dozens of other early and similar works which warned of the same papist threat and for damn good and rational and legal and historical reasons, and these many old works have, just like Morse’s, likewise been memory-holed and suppressed, and many of these early “anti-Catholic writings” also foresaw and forewarned that that memory-holing of their own work was going to happen as a result of the very thing they were trying to stop. Gee, what a coincidence. So here comes Gatto with his glib remarks about a history he doesn’t know was white-washed, or else perhaps he doesn’t want his readers to know. Mr. Gatto: Read the works of George Seldes from the early 20th century; he’ll tell you why Morse and the very many others like him in the 1800s were suppressed and blotted out of the very history books you are relying upon while you go about critiquing the school’s history textbooks which have of course also blotted them out. If I had to guess, I’d say that at some point in his formative years, Gatto himself was educated in a Jesuit school of some kind. When it comes to Romanism there is an indelible mark left on him that he, independent-minded as he is, never got over.
Rating: Δ Δ 6/2013