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AnAmerAffidavit

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

7.Putting Pedagogy To The Question: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

Putting Pedagogy To The Question 

More than anything else, this book is a work of intuition. The official 
story of why we school doesn't add up today any more than it did 
yesterday. A few years before I quit, I began to try to piece together 
where this school project came from, why it took the shape it took, and 
why every attempt to change it has ended in abysmal failure. 

By now I've invested the better part of a decade looking for answers. 
If you want a conventional history of schooling, or education as it is 
carelessly called, you'd better stop reading now. Although years of 
research in the most arcane sources are reflected here, throughout it's 
mainly intuition that drives my synthesis. 



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This is in part a private narrative, the map of a schoolteacher's mind as it tracked strands 
in the web in which it had been wrapped; in part a public narrative, an account of the 
latest chapter in an ancient war: the conflict between systems which offer physical safety 
and certainty at the cost of suppressing free will, and those which offer liberty at the price 
of constant risk. If you keep both plots in mind, no matter how far afield my book seems 
to range, you won't wonder what a chapter on coal or one on private hereditary societies 
has to do with schoolchildren. 



What I'm most determined to do is start a conversation among those who've been silent 
up until now, and that includes schoolteachers. We need to put sterile discussions of 
grading and testing, discipline, curriculum, multiculturalism and tracking aside as 
distractions, as mere symptoms of something larger, darker, and more intransigent than 
any problem a problem-solver could tackle next week. Talking endlessly about such 
things encourages the bureaucratic tactic of talking around the vital, messy stuff. In 
partial compensation for your effort, I promise you'll discover what's in the mind of a 
man who spent his life in a room with children. 

Give an ear, then, to what follows. We shall cross-examine history together. We shall put 
pedagogy to the question. And if the judgment following this auto dafe is that only pain 
can make this monster relax its grip, let us pray together for the courage to inflict it. 

Reading my essay will help you sort things out. It will give you a different topological 
map upon which to fix your own position. No doubt I've made some factual mistakes, but 
essays since Montaigne have been about locating truth, not about assembling facts. Truth 
and fact aren't the same thing. My essay is meant to mark out crudely some ground for a 
scholarship of schooling, my intention is that you not continue to regard the official 
project of education through an older, traditional perspective, but to see it as a frightening 
chapter in the administrative organization of knowledge — a text we must vigorously 
repudiate as our ancestors once did. We live together, you and I, in a dark time when all 



official history is propaganda. If you want truth, you have to struggle for it. This is my 
struggle. Let me bear witness to what I have seen. 

Author's Note 

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