You won’t find “takes honors classes,” “gets good grades,” or “attends only Ivy League schools” on John Taylor Gatto’s list of qualities of an educated person. Gatto taught in New York City schools for 30 years and was named New York State’s Teacher of the Year, but his experiences convinced him that what students need is less time in classrooms and more time out in the world. Building character and community, Gatto argues, is more valuable than learning from tired textbooks and rigid lesson plans.
Really educated people ...
Establish an individual set of values but recognize those of the surrounding community and of the various cultures of the world.
Explore their own ancestry, culture, and place.
Are comfortable being alone, yet understand dynamics between people and form healthy relationships.
Accept mortality, knowing that every choice affects the generations to come.
Create new things and find new experiences.
Think for themselves; observe, analyze, and discover truth without relying on the opinions of others.
Favor love, curiosity, reverence, and empathy rather than material wealth.
Choose a vocation that contributes to the common good.
Enjoy a variety of new places and experiences but identify and cherish a place to call home.
Express their own voice with confidence.
Add value to every encounter and every group of which they are a part.
Always ask: “Who am I? Where are my limits? What are my possibilities?”
This list was adapted from John Taylor Gatto latest book, Weapons of Mass Instruction (New Society Publishers, 2009) for Learn as You Go, the Fall 2009 issue of YES! Magazine. Gatto was a New York State Teacher of the Year. An advocate for school reform, his books also include Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling.
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