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John Taylor Gatto Answers: Can I Teach My Own Children If I Don’t Have Any Teacher Training?

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John Taylor Gatto Answers: Can I Teach

My Own Children If I Don’t Have

Any Teacher Training?



Teacher training is not about assisting a mind and character to develop according to the principles of its own internal genius.

Let me reverse that question. Can you teach your own children if you do have teacher training, did well in it, and believe its precepts of scientific pedagogy, its psychological principles of child development, its habits of time management, behavioral control, text selection, sequencing, assessment, and guidance? I don’t think so.

What IS Teacher Training?

Teacher training is not about assisting a mind and character to develop according to the principles of its own internal genius. It is not about education at all, but about successful schooling, which is a much different thing. Schooling is a comprehensive indoctrination process, designed – by Plato, Hobbes, Rousseau, and others – to isolate children from their natural sources of personal power, which accrue from family identity and experience, self-discovery, freedom to experiment in a safe and familiar setting, early guidance in metaphysical speculation and participation (what we call religion), access to highly personalized and particularized text and experience matchings (what is often called “interest initiated” learning, knowledgeable mentors drawn from the ranks of the talented, not merely from the cohort of “certified” state agents), and much more.

Isolation, followed by controlled abstractions of reality and controlled “simulation” games, a controlled diet of materials, a highly tense setting (even in the very best of schools) in which authorities are essential for protection – all this is the stuff of schooling. And you know that in your bones because you have been schooled yourself. This is the reason the science of schooling is called “pedagogy” and teachers (sometimes with a secret innocent pride) hear themselves referred to as “pedagogues.”

Teacher As Pedagogue

The word has an ancient and very specific lineage. The paidagogos was a form of slave in ancient Greece who drilled children according to instructions issued by a master. He had no latitude, doing as he was told. What Comenius and Rousseau and Pestalozzi and Froebel – those wildly inappropriate saints of holistic/progressive schooling – all taught in the nineteenth century, which gave us mass forced schooling for the first time in human history, was how to do pedagogy efficiently. You study each child very closely, embed them in an unending context of undifferentiated “affection,” stifle their intellect aborning by parceling out the stuff of experience (the only reliable foundation of character) relentlessly, all the while wooing the little charges from home, tradition, church, culture, and so on, bit by bit.

Once the child is fatally narcotized, and that job is largely done by third grade, the real schoolmasters – whoever they may be – have in theory an empty child to fill, a plastic substance to mold. Sounds creepy, right? Aren’t you glad to have missed formal teacher training? The trouble is you didn’t miss informal teacher training, or you wouldn’t have asked this understandable but very dumb question!

See also Teacher Turns to Homeschooling and Loves the Difference

Nature, God, common sense, history, or whatever other principle guides the best part of your intelligence should tell you that you are the only indispensable teacher your children need besides themselves. (Read Ben Franklin’s autobiography for inspiration.) You may believe that you can purchase someone else’s concern for your children through tax-payer-supported schooling or private-fee schooling, but then you may believe in the tooth fairy, too.


teachersTo find more answers about homeschooling from JOHN TAYLOR GATTO, author and NYS Teacher of the Year, as well as dozens of  homeschooling trailblazers, read The Homeschooling Book of Answers: The 101 Most Important Questions answered by Homeschooling’s Most Respected Voices, available at this link.
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