Tribute to the ‘Most Courageous Teacher’ – John Taylor Gatto

Thank you for speaking your truth. Thank you for encouraging others to do the same. Now it’s my turn:



Until I improve this page, here’s the video transcript…

[1:25] In these videos I’m seeing people stand up and talk about how they never really understood the school system that they were presented with. This brings so much strength to me, because I felt the same, but I dedicated myself to it, because school and education were, to me, the same thing. I had to dedicate myself to school in order to get an education and I wanted an education because there was allot of instability going on in the world when I was a teenager and I wanted to be in a place where I wouldn’t be subject to random world instability and also in a place where I could help protect others form things that are going on. My understanding was that education was the way to do this, I was right… but what I did was throw myself into school in order to become educated. What happened is that, because I had education as my goal, the kinds of ideas and projects that I had, that were mine, there was no time for them in the syllabus.

[2:35] My teachers we’re wonderful, I’ll never say anything against teachers, but they are working inside a system that is very fast paced and it requires people to work for themselves, not to help others, which is my natural way of being. My default way of being is to help other people but, if I do that in school then, hey!, I’m not ‘getting ahead’ or getting the recognition ‘I deserve’ and so, over time, I just became the person I needed to be in order to do well in school… in our formal education system. And I did! I was the top student winning the prizes, representing the school in sports, graduated with a 1st class science degree, paid internship lined up, sponsored MSc lined up…  But what happened is that a few weeks before my final university exams and dissertation deadline, I took myself to a therapist, for the first time ever, and I said I needed help. I need help because for a long time in my teenage years I couldn’t cry.

[3:50] I’d stopped being emotional because I was just trying to do what was asked of me and suddenly, in the last years of this education, I kept breaking down. I was very cold with my friends and I just wasn’t the person that I knew I was deep down. But I didn’t know how else to react to this world that I was stuck in. What happened then opened my eyes.

[4:20] Instead of a conversation, I had yet another stranger telling me what I should do, to solve my pain. Only this time the advice wasn’t to learn my times tables, to improve my writing, keep getting the good grades, to pick these subjects, to go to a good university and get this career… this time the advice was medication. They wanted to prescribe me anxiety pills so that I could keep being successful within this education system and within this system that we have as a whole.  That’s when I stepped back from everything. I stayed long enough to do the exams and hand in my dissertation, but then cancelled everything else, went home and for the last 5 years I’ve been figuring out… pretty much, everything from scratch.

[5:15] What were my dreams when I was a child? What was I interested in before I let myself be distracted by short term goal after goal? It’s taken allot of work to really come back to myself and realise that the thing I care about is… education. Because I care about it, I always have. I’ve always helped and tutored my friends. I care about learning, I care about excitement. I care about people who have a dream and finding ways to make it happen. That’s what I care about! But, there wasn’t any space for that within our schooling system, within the formal education system that I experienced. The people who don’t come out like I did, the ones who don’t end up becoming anxiety sufferers… There are other people who feel under-confident by the end of it and don’t believe in themselves. I’ve seen that too. It’s because they don’t fit with the normal idea of what successful is. The people in my life who are like this… they’re some of the smartest people I know! And it breaks my heart that within a system they can finish feeling so under-confident. Other people don’t understand this at all (because, I’ve started writing now and I’m getting allot of support and also getting a whole bunch of people not understanding how we can lose ourselves so much in a system) and when I talk with them, what I realize is that they always knew, or they’ve had someone in their life who’s always held them to something that they cared about and given them validation for that. So, for them, school was always a complimentary thing to what they cared about anyway.

[7:25] They could ignore allot of the advice. If they we’re dipping in a whole bunch of subjects that they didn’t care about, that was OK, because they knew what they cared about. I fear that many people lose that clarity, like I did, and it takes a while to tap back into it.  I’m only just starting to share this story. I’m realizing that I’m not so un-typical as I thought. In fact, not long ago, I was in a google hangout with a bunch of people from around the world. These are people who are creating their own value-led businesses. It was me and about eight other people from Australia, the UK, I was calling in from Germany where I live now, and from the US and, in that conversation,  I shared this story.

[8:15] Everyone else had a similar story of breaking down inside our system and being advised to take some kind of drugs. It was really… it’s really scary, but also good for me to know that I’m not alone and amazing to see their stories since because they all left that environment, the corporate world, and are now thriving, in ways I can’t describe, by running their own value led businesses. They’ve never needed what the system said they needed. They’ve just gone and created their own thing and it’s amazing! I just think there’s so much excitement to come and I think the more people who speak out about this the better. I just hope that people who see these snowball videos for John’s work… I hope that even if you’ve not heard of John that they encourage you to look up his blog and his videos and have a look at what he’s talking about. If it inspires you, share a video! You don’t have to have followed his work for years,  or have met him in person…

[9:40] Let’s just get a conversation going about what we think about the education system we have and whether it is giving enough space for what people care about; valuing that, and acknowledging that and allowing that to thrive because, from a personal perspective, from an A grade student getting all the top marks in essays and exams… my mind has never been more awake than it is now. My mind is on fire now and I know I’m learning at a pace I never even knew was possible before, when I was trying so hard to be a good student. One of the many messages I want to share is that, if you find a cause that you believe in, and if you genuinely and humbly explore that, then you meet other people who help you and share things with you. You’ll be thinking and enjoying life on a level beyond what most students can imagine, when they’re trying to be a good student. There’s a whole different paradigm that exists. [End]