John Taylor Gatto: English Teacher and Renaissance Man

Gatto11024x576Many talented educators are also published authors. This is the case with John Taylor Gatto, a veteran English teacher with thirty years of experience in the classroom who is also an accomplished author of highly-regarded books about the field of education.

John was born December 15, 1935, in Monongahela, Pennsylvania, a river town thirty-five miles southeast of Pittsburgh. As a young boy, John attended publish schools in Swissvale, Monongahela, and Uniontown, and the private Catholic boarding school in Latrobe, all towns located in western Pennsylvania.

After graduation from high school, John enrolled at Cornell University, and also completed undergraduate work at the University of Pittsburgh, and Columbia. He also served in the U.S. Army medical corps at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Following his army service, John did graduate work at the City University of New York, Hunter College, Yeshiva, the University of California, and Cornell.

In addition to his career as an educator, John has a varied and unique employment history. After college, he worked as a scriptwriter in the film industry. He was also employed for a time as an advertising writer, a taxi driver, a jewelry designer, an ASCAP songwriter, and a hot dog vendor before becoming a schoolteacher. During his years as a schoolteacher, John also entered the caviar trade, conducted an antique business, and operated a rare book search service. In addition, he worked as a documentary record producer, producing films that presented the dramatized story of H.P. Lovecraft, and another that presented the speeches of Richard M. Nixon and Spiro Agnew. One of his productions won several awards for cover design and content.

Following his retirement, he authored several seminal books on modern education which offered a frank critique of current instructional practices. His best known books are “Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling” and “The Underground History of American Education: A Schoolteacher’s Intimate Investigation into the Problem of Modern Schooling.”

John was named Teacher of the Year in New York City in 1989, 1990, and 1991, and the Teacher of the Year for New York State in 1991.