Against School article by John Taylor Gatto,

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Against School: An Analysis of the Modern Schooling System

Against School is a fascinating article by John Taylor Gatto, which emphasizes on the issue of modern schooling. The author offers an argument as to why the public education system is damaging to the students. He uses several examples to support his argument which makes the article to be quite believable. Majority of these examples are from practical situations taking place in schools all over the nation and are easily relatable. The article is effective in arguing the irrationality of the modern schooling system and showing its impacts on understudies that are going through it.

The Main Point of the Article

Gatto's main point is on the failure of the schooling system as well as boredom in the system. The author's claims are that schools are not places where students flourish rather they are suppressed instead of learning and growing, they are turned into servants. Indeed looking at these assertions they do in fact relate to the overall argument that the modern schooling system is not ideal. True to his words, the writer has managed to support his claims that school is boring. Drawing from his personal experience of being a teacher for over thirty years, he was able to interact with students and educators alike and was able to know the reason for their lack of interest or boredom.

The Absurdity of the Education System

The absurdity of the education system might be as a result of boredom. This indifference emanates from the fact that teachers perceive the students as rude and only interested with grades whereas learners, on the other hand, think that educators are not competent enough and they are being taught things that they already know. This is a huge way to contribute highly to the ineffectiveness of the modern education system because the sole purpose of school is to equip students with life skills that can help them in later on in life. Definitely, when the children are bored there is no way they can learn anything, it makes it even worse when they believe that they already know what they are being taught. However, if they are educated rather than being schooled by competent and vibrant teachers perhaps they can be interested and attentive.

The second claim is that the education system has failed the students terribly. This is true since the learners no longer have life skills. It is all about grades and passing well, however, survival competences are lacking. Often a majority of the graduates especially in the workplaces have a difficult time adjusting to the new environment or applying what was taught in class. They seem not to have been equipped in the system with knowledge but were rather turned into servants. As Gatto puts it, some of the greatest men in history such as Abraham Lincoln never went through this education system and they make huge achievements. In fact, other people like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg did not finish his degree: he had to go back later for it. Jack Ma, Ali Baba founder, failed college admission several times but managed to start the most successful company in the world. These individuals were able to use their creativity. If the emphasis would have been an all-around person rather than simply structured class work, many people would be quite successful. So, indeed, as the author of the article puts it, the modern education system is absurd and it needs to be restructured.

Supporting Arguments in the Article

Gatto manages to present his arguments well and also supports them. First of all, his credibility as a teacher with vast experience of thirty years makes him more ideal to compose this article. The author of the article supports his discussions in various ways. The first one is by contradiction and opposition. He informs the audience of the difference between educating and schooling. Gatto writes "if we wanted to we could easily and inexpensively jettison the old, stupid structures and help kids take an education rather than merely receive schooling" (35). He asks if "we really need school?" not implying education. Note he puts emphasis on receiving schooling and taking knowledge, with taking learning being the recommended system.

Another way of comparing and contrasting in this work is when he presents the number of American heroes, those who never went through the learning system yet they made extraordinary accomplishments and wrote history such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln among others. Comparing it to the modern world where "we have been taught (that is, schooled) in this country to think of 'success' as synonymous with, or at least dependent upon, 'schooling', but historically that isn't true in either an intellectual or a financial sense" (36). Students who have been schooled today are not as successful or have excellent critical skills. This reasoning is very impressive as it shows reliable history to compare and differentiate.

The author also uses middle diction all through the article to target an assortment of audiences but generally geared towards guardians of different classes. For instance, he states the six core functions of modern schooling as he also explains them well rather than just stating the functions and assuming that the informed audience understands what he means as what would take place in a formal diction article. There is another instance as well as the aforementioned difference between schooling and taking education. The writer explains it well so that all the targeted audience can understand well.

Gatto breaks down his points so that everyone regardless of their education or knowledge level can comprehend it and take it in the right context. He additionally utilizes simple phrases such as "we must wake up to what our schools really are..." (36) where the writer might have stated in a formal diction paper that the society ought to get a hold of a point of reality in comprehending what the nature of the modern education system is all about. This is also a good approach that the author used to put forth his arguments and convince the audience. He manages to reach several audiences to understand his perspective of the current education system and try persuading them to begin making changes.

The Issue of Boredom

What is prominent in this essay is the issue of boredom. As Gatto puts it, students who are bored have a low morale and, therefore, ought to be motivated. Low morale implies the unwillingness to learn. The problem is that the requirements of school do not let the students choose what they want to study in future. Granted they might still be young to understand things, at some point their viewpoints have to be taken into consideration since they are the ones going through that very system.

Reading through this essay, it is much very easy to agree with him. The American education system is making students and teachers stay in their comfort zone and this kills their creativity and causes monotony which results in boredom. Students do need a better education system, not the one that just instructs the teachers what to teach. It is imperative that the students be equipped with the skills to succeed in life.

When teachers are not given the freedom to teach in their own ways, they become puppets of the system and lose the capability to make learning fun. Educators at times feel that perhaps going against the curriculum one day a feel and doing something else. For instance, rather than being in class all the time, students can be taught outdoor about agriculture, craftwork, cooking amongst other things. This certainly shall draw the attention of the children because they will look forward to learning a new skill every other time.

Another problem is the limited number of courses. With the current education system, extracurricular activities are often neglected. An athlete, for instance, might not have time to hone their skills in school since they have limited time. They end up focusing their energy on classwork whereas their skills are not sharpened and that is actually where their future is. So indeed Gatto's essay has a lot of significance and it has creatively and effectively driven point home.


In concluding, the author indeed managed to effectively bring out his argument on the absurdity of the modern schooling system and with his effective delivery, the audience has no option but to agree with him. His text indeed has a lot of significance particularly when one looks at the modern society, a lot of talents are left un-nurtured. It is paramount that teachers are given freedom in the curriculum such that if they can spot a talent somewhere, they allow those students extra time to hone those skills. The world is interconnected now more than ever and the education needs to change now so that America can be at par with the rest of the nations.

Works Cited

Gatto, John Taylor. "Against School." Harper’s Magazine 307.1840 (2003): 33-38.

August 21, 2023




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