To this writer, and a good many of his friends on the Right, the best way to reform the public schools is to get the government out of the education business. Most of us believe that a government education system is incompatible with the principles and needs of a free society, in which educational freedom should prevail. John Taylor Gatto, after spending nearly 30 years teaching in public schools, has been one of the strongest critics of the whole concept of compulsory “schooling,” which he denounced in his devastating book, The Underground History of Public Education.
In his hard-hitting book, Dumbing Us Down, Gatto asserted that our present public schools confuse children because of the educators’ incoherent “progressive” curriculum. The student becomes indifferent and emotionally dependent, bereft of true literacy, and unable to develop an independent intellect. He is made fit for a life of no consequence. Indeed, Gatto found a very good description of the true intent of the public schools in a quote from an address that Woodrow Wilson gave in 1909 to the New York City High School Teachers Association:
We want one class of persons to have a liberal education and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform difficult manual tasks.
That point of view was even better expressed in 1981 by Harvard professor Anthony Oettinger, who told an audience of communications executives:
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