Dumbing Us Down – 25th Anniversary Edition: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling Paperback (May 19, 2017)


Throw off the shackles of formal schooling and embark upon a rich journey of self-directed, life-long learning.

A bestseller for 25 years, John Taylor Gatto’s radical treatise on public education continues to advocate for the unshackling of children and learning from formal schooling

by John Taylor Gatto

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After over 100 years of mandatory schooling in the U.S., literacy rates have dropped, families are fragmented, learning “disabilities” are skyrocketing, and children and youth are increasingly disaffected. Thirty years of teaching in the public school system led John Taylor Gatto to the sad conclusion that compulsory governmental schooling is to blame, accomplishing little but to teach young people to follow orders like cogs in an industrial machine.

He became a fierce advocate of families and young people taking back education and learning, arguing that “genius is as common as dirt,” but that conventional schooling is driving out the natural curiosity and problem-solving skills we’re born with, replacing it with rule-following, fragmented time, and disillusionment.

Gatto’s radical treatise on public education, a New Society Publishers bestseller for 25 years, continues to bang the drum for an unshackling of children and learning from formal schooling. Now, in an ever-more-rapidly changing world with an explosion of alternative routes to learning, it’s poised to continue to shake the world of institutional education for many more years.

Featuring a new foreword from Zachary Slayback, an Ivy League dropout and co-founder of tech start-up career foundry Praxis, this 25th anniversary edition will inspire new generations of parents and students to take control of learning and kickstart an empowered society of self-directed lifetime-learners.


“Education’s most original thinker.”
― Daniel H. Pink, author of Free Agent Nation

“I’ve loved John Gatto’s work ever since I first encountered his astounding essays.”
― Christiane Northrup, M.D., author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom

“Gatto’s voice is strong and unique, a Socrates of the educational world.”
― Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul

“Any student would be lucky to have a teacher like Gatto.”
― Editorial in Commonweal

“…inspirational and chillingly on the money.”
― Bruce Bebb, The Hollywood Reporter, Hollywood CA

“My daughter, a smart, dedicated 14-year-old who just dropped out of high school and is successfully pursuing independent studies reports that your findings about the nature of institutional schooling are precisely right. Drove her nuts.”
― Ken Richards, Richmond IN

“Seldom have I read such a penetrating and passionate diagnosis of our current educational and cultural crisis. And I have read all the current weighty expostulations.”
― Robert Inchausti, California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo CA

“I can visualize the Department of Education putting out a contract on your life. Please continue to speak out in the direction you are going.”
― W. Evans, Woodbury/St.George UT

“It is as refreshing to read and hear your words as it is to study Zen…. Good show.”
― John Warfield, Huntingdon VA

About the Author

John Gatto was a schoolteacher for 30 years. He resigned in the Op-Ed pages of The New York Times upon receiving the New York State Teacher of the Year award. He has been a fierce advocate for self-directed “guerrilla” education for decades, and is also the author of Weapons of Mass Instruction and The Underground History of American Education. John Gatto lived in New York State.

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