Dumbing Us Down, Gatto's Radical Treaties on Public Education Turns 25

by: Sara on 05/23/2017

A bestseller for 25 years, John Taylor Gatto's radical treatise on public education, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, continues to advocate for the unshackling of children and learning from formal schooling.

We’re proud to announce the release of the  25th Anniversary Edition of Gatto's Dumbing Us Down with a Foreword by Zachary Slayback, Ivy League drop out, entrepreneur focusing on issues of education, innovation and philosophy as well as the author of The End of School.

Twenty-five years later Gatto's "profound analysis of modern education" is as relevant as ever in this ever-more-rapidly changing world and an explosion in alternative routes to learning, it's poised to continue to shake the world of institutional education for many more years.

Today's blog post is from the Afterword by New Society Publishers Managing Editor, Ingrid Witvoet.

In 2002, when I joined New Society Publishers, I was given a handful of books that were a clear reflection of New Society’s mission and mandate, to further educate myself.

One of those books was a previous edition of Dumbing Us Down. Such a little book — I thought I might take a few minutes and flip through it. I took it home to the house I shared with my four-year-old son.


And all my plans changed. My son was set to start school later that year, but this little book packed a mighty punch — strong enough to convince me, a full-time employed single mum, to homeschool for three years. In my situation, that’s all I could manage. I was incredibly fortunate to work for

New Society, which has a strong family-first policy, and for a few years I was able to balance a full-time job and homeschooling.

Most importantly, I assembled the tools I needed to enable me to take control of my son’s education, and I was able to help him assemble an equally important tool kit to allow him to follow his curiosity and develop strong critical thinking and reasoning skills, all of which help him to better navigate a rapidly changing world.

In turn, Gatto’s work has shaped my own navigations, providing an as-needed booster shot to strengthen my own skills and follow my own curiosity. In fact, it was my incredible honor to serve as his editor for the subsequent Weapons of Mass Instruction. Working closely with John through that process showed me even more clearly what a towering but gentle and kind intellect he truly possesses, and that he’s made it his mission to use this tool for the betterment of all of us. 

As Christopher Plant, founding publisher of New Society Publishers, said in his own comments about this book in 2005:

It is a measure of the power of Gatto’s ideas, their urgency, and their continuing relevance that school authorities are still trying to shut them out 12 years after their initial publication, afraid even to debate them....

Now, 25 years after their publication, in these increasingly turbulent times, Gatto’s ideas are still under fire, thrown up against standardized testing, slashed school budgets, burntout teachers, or any of the multitude of assaults on the education system. It becomes ever more important for us to take back control of our children’s — and our own — learning. What a deep debt of gratitude we owe to Mr. Gatto. And what amazing things he’s accomplished with this small, mighty book.


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