Somebody’s Been Reading John Taylor Gatto!

Valedictorian Speaks Out Against Schooling in Graduation Speech

Here is an excerpt of what she said in her speech:

This is the dilemma I’ve faced within the American education system. We are so focused on a goal, whether it be passing a test, or graduating as first in the class. However, in this way, we do not really learn. We do whatever it takes to achieve our original objective.

Some of you may be thinking, “Well, if you pass a test, or become valedictorian, didn’t you learn something? Well, yes, you learned something, but not all that you could have. Perhaps, you only learned how to memorize names, places, and dates to later on forget in order to clear your mind for the next test. School is not all that it can be. Right now, it is a place for most people to determine that their goal is to get out as soon as possible.

I am now accomplishing that goal. I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer – not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition – a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I’m scared.

John Taylor Gatto, a retired school teacher and activist critical of compulsory schooling, asserts, “We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness – curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids into truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then. But we don’t do that.” Between these cinderblock walls, we are all expected to be the same. We are trained to ace every standardized test, and those who deviate and see light through a different lens are worthless to the scheme of public education, and therefore viewed with contempt.

H. L. Mencken wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not “to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. … Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim … is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States.”

To see the original article, go here.

Here is the video of her speech:

I believe what she says about our education system is true. I was a valedictorian, too. I appreciate the teachers who tried to pass on knowledge to me and did their best within a flawed system to prepare me for my future.

But I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to do something completely different with my own children. Through homeschooling, my children have been allowed to explore their interests, learn at their own pace, and have time to ruminate on what they’ve learned.

There isn’t any known way to bulk- educate; it’s all custom work.~John Taylor Gatto

They are prepared to do what God made them to do, not just to be worker bees in the hive. The best schools in America still pray. But they also listen to what He says and obey!


  1. Wow, Penney, this is amazing, if only more Publicly Schooled students would speak out like this. If only Americans as a whole would stand up and speak out for what they really want instead of being complacent and accepting the accepted, maybe we could have a better nation.

  2. Yes, she must be an amazing person. I didn’t have to make a speech at my graduation, and I certainly didn’t see things the way she does when I was her age (I do now!), but I can’t imagine having the nerve to give that speech at my high school graduation. She is a courageous, inspiring person. I bet she made everybody there think.

  3. Funny, I was voicing the same complaints way back when I was in high school 45 years ago. And yet we made our kids go through it. I guess that’s why we started homeschooling our grandchildren.

    Just thinking of what a difference homeschooling could have made in our son’s life …. but we didn’t even think of homeschooling back then.

    1. No, I’m sure you didn’t. I thought it seemed a little “out there” when I first heard of it on Focus on the Family about 19 years ago. But I’m so glad I heard about homeschooling and God led me to do it and made my life circumstances so that I could! I love homeschooling so much!

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