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John Taylor Gatto

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TrueTomHarley -
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This thread has become a catch-all. so it is as good a place as any to let @JW Insider know that his old acquaintance John Taylor Gatto recently died. I followed him on Twitter, and he occasionally registered relevant posts of mine with a like. Within a week, his site was rechristened @gattoproject. He had some dreams of overturning the prevailing education model. 

Maybe the last post he liked was when someone made a reference to him as twice named NYS Teacher of the Year, and I tweeted: "Isn't he the one who later turned on his rewarders by stating that 'yes, he had been a great teacher, but it was only by bucking their system at every turn?" He made his mark at a time that our family was homeschooling, and thereby became a known name to us.

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On 11/6/2018 at 8:22 PM, TrueTomHarley said:

This thread has become a catch-all. so it is as good a place as any to let @JW Insider know that his old acquaintance John Taylor Gatto recently died.

Thanks for this information. Unfortunately, yes, he died 2 weeks ago. Another acquaintance of ours (of my wife's mostly) called us to let us know. John Gatto was like the guy from the ad for Dos Equis beer: "The Most Interesting Man in the World."

Now and then some of the best minds end up in the same place at the same time. (I include my wife, who was once nominated for Teacher of the Year in NYC, and John Gatto, of course, who actually won the city and state and got nominated for the National award.) Even the woman who told us was another who worked together with John for a couple of years. She is African American and went on to open some excellent charter schools in California, and helped shake up the education system around San Francisco/Oakland. One of her sisters was Gwen Ifil, who recently died from cancer after a professional career mostly in political broadcasting, gaining national and presidential attention. Another sister of hers has gained national attention as a lawyer. Another man who was a good friend of mine at the same place where my wife, John and Gwen's sister worked, had an amazing mind, and then joined a "cult." (EST)

(Hey, they can't all be winners.)

The "obit" over at the JTG blog doesn't tell half the story. But here are some bits from there about John Gatto (emphasis mine):

  • After college, John worked as a scriptwriter in the film business, was an advertising writer, a taxi driver, a jewelry designer, an ASCAP songwriter, and a hotdog vendor before becoming a schoolteacher.
  • During his school teaching years he also entered the caviar trade, conducted an antique business, operated a rare book search service, and founded Lava Mt. Records, a documentary record producer, which won several awards for cover design and content, and which presented the horror of H.P. Lovecraft, dramatized, and the speeches of Richard M. Nixon and Spiro Agnew, exactly as given.
  • In 1991, despite being the two-time New York State Teacher of the Year, he quit school teaching . . .
  • Later that year he produced a show at Carnegie Hall called “The Exhausted School” where he explored innovative forms of respectful learning, which launched a career of public speaking.
  • In 1992, he was named Secretary of Education in the Libertarian Party Shadow Cabinet, and he has been included in Who’s Who in America from 1996 on. In 1997, he was given the Alexis de Tocqueville Award . . .
  • In 2011, he co-created . . .  an epic 5 hour video interview exploring the history of education, political power, and freedom that was released in 2012.

As Witnesses we no longer had time to stay in touch after he left the academy where my wife was a fellow teacher. We made use of an apartment he owned in Alicante, Spain a couple of times. And I once procured a small library of hard-to-find books for him based on a valuable donation to a NYC library that the library had no idea what to do with. Over the years, I've noticed his name involved in things I had no idea about at the time.

He left his politics out of the school, but brought excitement and energy to learning. The later academic and professional success of the students always reminded me of "wisdom is proved righteous by its works." (Matthew 11:19)


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