Against School: Letter to John Taylor Gatto

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Updated: Nov 30, 2023
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This essay will present a critical response to John Taylor Gatto’s essay “Against School.” It will discuss the arguments made by Gatto regarding the modern education system, its shortcomings, and propose counterarguments or affirmations to his critique of schooling. PapersOwl offers a variety of free essay examples on the topic of Credibility.

Category: Credibility
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Pages:  3
Words:  1008
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Dear John,

I am Nancy Limon, a freshman at Southwestern College. English 115 is one of the courses I am currently enrolled in. Your article “Against School” is one we have been reading and discussing in my English 115 class. I believe your credibility on this topic is highly reliable as a result of you being an American author and a teacher who taught in the classroom for nearly 30 years.

In your article “Against School” you begin telling your story by how boredom was something that was related to the education in America.

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You begin your essay by explaining the readers about your own experience when you used to be a teacher. You say that students and teachers were bored in the classroom and school. You tell the readers how the kids think that the teachers did not know about the subject, and that they made them not interested in the material. Teachers’ answers were not different from the students, they used to say that it was kids’ fault and that they only care about grades but not about learning. You make the claim that this is happening because of the product of the school system that America is having. My understanding of your article leads me to believe that your argument is trying to inform any American reader (student, parent, and teacher) of the reality of our modern schooling, that students would be interested in learning if they were given an “education” and not “schooling”. Students want to be motivated to be encouraged to have the qualities to succeed in life. They don’t want to feel like they are forced to learn material that society thinks they have to. After reading your essay I would have to say that I agree with your beliefs and point of views, I believe that the education system in America is making students and teachers only comfort society and the government and as a result, causes this common feeling of “boredom”.

Before stating any of your claims against schools, you effectively put ethos into play by establishing your credibility with the audience. “I taught for 30 years in some of the worst schools in Manhattan, and in some of the best, and during that time i became an expert in boredom” (page 1) You thoughtfully inform the readers of your experience in the educational field. Not only had you been a teacher for thirty years, but you also were “former New York State and New York City Teacher of the year” (page 6) and “the author, most recently, of The Underground History of the American Education” (page 6) . Without having specified this at the very start of your argument, you could have failed to captivate the audience the way you had intended. By giving the audience a reason to trust your word as a unquestioning source, you pave the way for the argument and ensure that the audience will take you seriously. Such an act is one of the most important components to beginning an argument, and even more so when arguing against such a controversial topic in todays society. You effectively use ethos to your advantage.

Through the effective use of ethos, you prepare the audience for reliable examples of logos through the educated opinions of others and historical evidence. “… a considerable number of well-known Americans never went through the twelve-year wringer our kids currently go through, and they turned out all right. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin,Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln?” (page 2) Your use of logos is spread throughout the essay and makes up some of your most convincing and supportive claims against schooling. By referring to well-known historians of the past, you make it clear to the audience that schooling is by no means is a necessary component of greatness. “Unschooled, perhaps, but not uneducated” (page 2) This point makes your argument more relatable to the audience because it calls upon historical figures that we are all familiar with in one way or another as a result, giving the audience more inclination to side with you because of the facts we already know about these innovators who received no formal education.

Through your persuasive essay one is easy able to perceive you clear compassion for the schooling system and for the children themselves. Although this isn’t expressed in “Against School” you spent another 20 years as a world renowned speaker giving over 1500 speeches in 9 countries. Your work helped expose the origins and purposes of the government monopoly compulsory school system. Your dedication to the schooling system, and the future of the children, show your implicit dedication and energy you put towards the values you cherished. A world view you fundamentally hold is the idea that “Your children should have a more meaningful life, and they can.” (page 5) You explain that “We suppress our genius only because we haven’t yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women.” (page 6) but “The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.” (page 6) You fundamentally hold the view that children should obtain a more meaningful life. As a result of all your work, do you believe that you’ve made a difference?

After reading your essay, I would have to say that I agree with your argument. I really think that students need the skills to succeed and to survive throughout life. They need experiences to keep succeeding in life, and the only way to gain this knowledge is to learn about life, to see and experience how to manage them in life.

I believe many students, including myself can agree with what you have to say. I believe that “Against School” is strong and could inspire more thought or research to those concerned about where society is headed, and might possibly even be powerful enough to influence a call to action. I thank you for taking time out of your day to read my letter, and i hope this enlightens you to continue your fight for the schooling system, and assures you that what you’re doing is making a difference.


Nancy Limon

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Against School: Letter to John Taylor Gatto. (2021, May 09). Retrieved from