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An American Affidavit

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

5. He Was Square Inside And Brown: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

He Was Square Inside And Brown 

Barbara Whiteside showed me a poem written by a high school senior in Alton, Illinois, 
two weeks before he committed suicide: 

He drew... the things inside that needed saying. 
Beautiful pictures he kept under his pillow. 
When he started school he brought them... 
To have along like a friend. 

It was funny about school, he sat at a square brown 
desk Like all the other square brown desks... and his 
room Was a square brown room like all the other 
rooms, tight And close and stiff. 

He hated to hold the pencil and chalk, his arms stiff 
His feet flat on the floor, stiff, the teacher watching 
And watching. She told him to wear a tie like 
All the other boys, he said he didn't like them. 
She said it didn't matter what he liked. After that the 
class drew. 

He drew all yellow. It was the way he felt about 
Morning. The Teacher came and smiled, "What's 


Why don't you draw something like Ken's 


After that his mother bought him a tie, and he 

always Drew airplanes and rocketships like 

everyone else. 

He was square inside and brown and his hands were 

stiff. The things inside that needed saying didn't 

need it 

Anymore, they had stopped pushing... crushed, stiff 

Like everything else. 

After I spoke in Nashville, a mother named Debbie pressed a handwritten note on me 
which I read on the airplane to Binghamton, New York: 

We started to see Brandon flounder in the first grade, hives, 
depression, he cried every night after he asked his father, 
"Is tomorrow school, too?" In second grade the physical 
stress became apparent. The teacher pronounced his 
problem Attention Deficit Syndrome. My happy, bouncy 
child was now looked at as a medical problem, by us as 
well as the school. 

A doctor, a psychiatrist, and a school authority all 

determined he did have this affliction. Medication was 

stressed along with behavior modification. If it was 

suspected that Brandon had not been medicated he was sent 

home. My square peg needed a bit of whittling to fit their round hole, it seemed. 

I cried as I watched my parenting choices stripped away. My ignorance of options 
allowed Brandon to be medicated through second grade. The tears and hives continued 
another full year until I couldn't stand it. I began to homeschool Brandon. It was his 
salvation. No more pills, tears, or hives. He is thriving. He never cries now and does his 
work eagerly. 

The New Dumbness 

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