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Churchill: Remembering John Taylor Gatto

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ALBANY — John Taylor Gatto was so good at getting kids excited about learning that he was named New York City's teacher of the year three years in a row and the state's best teacher in 1991.

Then, he walked away, but not quietly.

Gatto's letter of resignation, published in the Wall Street Journal, was a scathing critique of public education from a man who knew the system well, found it immoral and had decided he could no longer participate.

"I've come slowly to understand what it is I really teach: A curriculum of confusion, class position, arbitrary justice, vulgarity, rudeness, disrespect for privacy, indifference to quality and utter dependency," Gatto wrote. "I teach how to fit into a world I don't want to live in."

Gatto, who died last October at 82, had never been a conventional teacher. He'd run for the state Senate two times, a Conservative Party nominee challenging the incumbent his district, David Paterson. He had butted heads, again and again, with higher-ups in the bureaucracy. Teaching in Harlem, he'd refused to follow the standard curriculum.

But with the publication of that essay and his 1992 book, "Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling," Gatto became a voice for parents frustrated with the system and hungry for alternatives, and........

© Times Union