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John Taylor Gatto's response to my letter
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MurkScribe Away
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Post: #1
John Taylor Gatto's response to my letter

I am still empty and hollow from the life I am living right now, indifferent parents, indifferent people, psychologists or self-help guide that is crushing my soul and heart. The only thing that gives me a little heart and a smile on my face is seeing my little brother curiosity and genuine enthusiasm for the world. So this was a letter to John Gatto and my fustrations with the world


Dear Mr. Gatto,

When I was 6th grade I remember the hot summer day of my church group and I was hiking towards the goal of reaching the place where I was told there were lakes where the water was cool to dip in and relieve yourself from the heat of the sun and the dirt of the earth.

I was fascinated and intrigued by all of what was surrounding me, with insects that I’d never seen before that were flying everywhere and made a distinct buzz noise and had this little colorful shell laying everywhere. And as I could hear the flowing sound of the river as I was hiking, I remember humming, whistling, and singing along with whatever hymn I knew the lyrics to.

I bring this memory up, because this is a powerful learning experience for me, because not only did I gain an understanding of biology, but I gained emotional and spiritual gaining with my friends and people who I largely neglected to talk to––we were all brought in together, someway, somehow.

Now I stand here today at the age of 15, with the same cycle consistently for the past years of my life, waking up at the crack of dawn to give up 9 hours of my daily life to be confused with all this meaningless paperwork that is supposedly more important than my passions and my desire to live in freedom. And when I am finally free from school, I am burdened by the fact that I must go through this process again and again and again until summer vacation hits for me, but all those free days are destroyed by the fact that you must go again.

Eventually my young toddler brother who is curious and messy in his way of understanding the world is gonna go through the whole entire process that I have gone thorough in elementary and my mother only at home with me during the late night. I only feel boredom, apathy, and lost of connection every week of my life. How do I end this shit?

Stephen



JOHN’S RESPONSE:

Dear Stephen,

It was a privilege to read your exceedingly complicated letter and look into your question which must rank among the universal dilemmas in all human history: how do I end this shit?

Fortunately for you, thousands of human beings have left records of their personally successful answers to the same question phrased in more decorous language, so you must be prepared, at age 15, to do some hard work because the key word in your query is not excrement (shit), but the pronoun “I”–you must accept in your heart and soul that nobody else can solve the problem but yourself, you have to do it–others can help by giving you ideas, by suggesting models to follow.

The good news is that you have already done most of the hard work by achieving enough self-awareness to know that LIBERTY AND AUTONOMY are the things you most highly prize in setting out to construct your future life, not money, fame, or social prestige. With that awareness in hand you can begin to build PURPOSE for your life, something school, at its best, cannot do. Go to the library today and pick up a few books—ask the librarian to help you.

The first is an American classic written in 1854, so be prepared to read longer sentences than you may be used to and a few strange words and references: WALDEN, or Life in the Woods, the story of a man sick at heart with the phoniness of civilized life who went on his own to live self-sufficiently in the woods in a 10 x15 cabin for 26 months to learn what nature had to teach because, looking ahead, he was terrified that he might die discovering that:

“I had never lived. I wished to live deliberately, to confront only the essential facts of life. I wished to live deep and suck all the marrow out of life, so as to put to rout all that was not life, to reduce existence to its lowest terms. I learned this by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. Rather than money, than fame, give me truth. I found it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even the best, I found wearisome, never was there a companion so companionable as solitude.”

“We need the tonic of wildness. We can never have enough of nature. We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, games, or entertainment, but by an infinite expectation of each new day’s dawn. The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. Money is not required to buy one thing necessary for the soul. I went to the woods to confront only the essential facts of life. It is a little stardust, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.”

Stephen, I see the author Henry David Thoreau all over your letter—bored, apathetic, and disconnected from the nature you love at age l5, burdened by the meaningless of schooling and the life you see it leading you into, a round of meaningless cycles without any real human significance–wasting your precious hours, truly a prison of the spirit; Thoreau tried an experiment to change that nightmare of spirit, it worked for him and has inspired millions around the world for the past 150 odd years.

Try his mind, see what details resonate with your own experience. Your own escape may be different from his–it probably will be. It will be difficult but there are, even in 20l5, ways out of this jail of computer games, politics, meaningless parties, ambition, alcohol and other drugs and 9-5 jobs– once you are clear about your goals and can name your PURPOSE, you can concentrate on achieving it.

Read also Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life, and Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac. Read Leopold first, by a man as in love with nature as you seem to be–there are jobs and even careers, where you protect, preserve, and study lifelong the natural environment—read also any of John Muir’s books. Perhaps the publishing world is ready to listen to a teenager’s (you) first awakening to flowers, insects, and the other living things that share planet earth with us. I, personally, would love to read your book so WRITE IT.

I know that what I found most charming about your question was that it invited me and other readers to visit the exact instant that your growing consciousness became aware of the suffocating, meaningless character of much of adult society, especially when compared to the limitless, absolutely NEW perceptions of a 15 year old. Read those books, map and catalogue the natural environments within independent reach of you, become INVOLVED, volunteer to help the nature-loving associations in your community; they are there, FIND THEM, share your concerns with grown-ups willing to talk with you; they are YOU. You’re so lucky to be able to plan your escape at 15, instead of later.

Get to work on it right away. Use the resources around you first, locate them– books, people, organizations. Pitch in, trade your labor for wide counsel and sympathy––quid pro quo, as Roman philosophers used to say.

Good luck to you!

-John Taylor Gatto, State Teacher of the Year (New York, 1991)




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TheCancer Offline
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Post: #2
RE: John Taylor Gatto's response to my letter

Did he actually add the "teacher of the year" addendum to his signature?

If you want to be a different fish, you've got to jump out of the school.


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05-10-2015 03:15 AM
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MurkScribe Away
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John Taylor Gatto's response to my letter

Yeah, yeah he did, but Overall it's disheartening and frustrating of how I'm coerced to go to school and my parents are hysterical when defending the system thinking how it's all good and that receiving a master degree, because of how "bad" the job market is, even when It'll largely destroy the humanity and the soul inside of me. It's misery for me to go to school everyday, since it's competley separated and random from my daily life, how all of a sudden I sacrifice for the greater needs of the state and the industries to numb myself to having my rights stripped away from me. But I would rather stay calm and rational under a system that drives people the point of drug abuse, depression, cutting, self-worthlessness. I will fucking escape to the woods, and once I come back to it I will fight until there's a bullet through my head.

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05-10-2015 03:21 AM
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RE: John Taylor Gatto's response to my letter

Great. Commune with nature and read the transcendentalists.

Just don't put too much heart in the belief that Gatto's not a phony.

1) You have to be totally full of shit to win that award.
2) Still bragging about it 24 years on? Does he hate the system or not?

If you want to be a different fish, you've got to jump out of the school.


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05-10-2015 03:38 AM
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MurkScribe Away
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John Taylor Gatto's response to my letter

Well That's ultimatley what I need for myself to fill the gaping whole in my heart, also yeah he admit's to that himself when he was writing about the 7 subtle lessons you learn in a authoritarian school system. Also I found out that A mango's husk contains a pod inside through gaping it open wit a knife.

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Post: #6
John Taylor Gatto's response to my letter

IMO the major issue is that academia doesn't correlate to job market.

It makes more sense when you look at things in academia from academia. Like for me, a PhD and/or Masters will be something of an important asset. Seeing as my specific interests lie heavily in "Defense and Security", which is a very specific area of study, pursuing further academic study into it makes a whole lot of sense(not so many jobs that have "entry level" security analysis unless you join some govt service and even then you'll lose out to those with higher degrees.

However I find it amusing when colleges and businesses try to fit a triangle into a circle by making college out as some sort of job-training institution. From what stats I've seen, not many students even get a job in their major unless it's something specific like law, health, or science/engineering.(and education sometimes since it comes with certification requirements and what not)

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(06-14-2013 08:02 AM)Potato Wrote:  watch the fuq out, we've got an "intellectual" over here.

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Post: #7
John Taylor Gatto's response to my letter

Quote:1) You have to be totally full of shit to win that award.
2) Still bragging about it 24 years on? Does he hate the system or not?
Well, it's one of those things that "the system" recognized him for, so I suppose he adds it because it would give whatever he says more credibility in the eyes of people who value that sort of thing.

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lisafromjackson Offline
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RE: John Taylor Gatto's response to my letter

He totally renounced that award. He includes it to show that at one time he belonged to the establishment. It gives his complete turnaround context.

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05-11-2015 02:26 AM
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RE: John Taylor Gatto's response to my letter

He mentions that award every chance he gets.

Legitimacy equals money.

He's full of shit.

If you want to be a different fish, you've got to jump out of the school.


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05-11-2015 05:02 AM
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RE: John Taylor Gatto's response to my letter

(05-11-2015 05:02 AM)TheCancer Wrote:  He mentions that award every chance he gets.

Legitimacy equals money.

He's full of shit.
You know, like you and me, he too has equated compulsory schooling as indentured servitude.

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Post: #11
John Taylor Gatto's response to my letter

It looks to me as though he mentions the award for the sake of irony - as a sardonic jab at the credibility of the establishment's accolades. That's how I interpreted it, anyway.

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05-11-2015 05:50 AM
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RE: John Taylor Gatto's response to my letter

Maybe I'm wrong

In a very cynical stretch here waiting for summer

I'm also heart broken and exhausted

If you want to be a different fish, you've got to jump out of the school.


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05-11-2015 06:12 AM
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RE: John Taylor Gatto's response to my letter

(05-11-2015 06:12 AM)TheCancer Wrote:  Maybe I'm wrong

In a very cynical stretch here waiting for summer

I'm also heart broken and exhausted
I understand your jump to conclusions though. I can see how you'd feel that way, but once Abolish Compulsory Schooling can establish itself as a major social and educatonal movement, I do believe John Taylor Gatto would endorse our cause.

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05-11-2015 06:30 AM
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RE: John Taylor Gatto's response to my letter

He's a revolutionary and deserves respect

But here's the score in a game to 100

Freedom 2
Oppression 99

If you want to be a different fish, you've got to jump out of the school.


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05-11-2015 06:57 AM
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John Taylor Gatto's response to my letter

The Cancer I share the same exact feeling for you, I just want for the summer to come and to not have my freedom and rights restricted.

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John Taylor Gatto's response to my letter

I always liked Henry David Thoreau. Very outspoken and in tune with the natural world and things that matter. I probably will read more of his works this coming summer to de-toxify myself of school.
05-14-2015 04:02 PM
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RE: John Taylor Gatto's response to my letter

Ive always been fascinated by human obsession with primitivism. We spent millenia as specie to get out of the wilderness, and now everybody wants to go back to that bug infested primitive forest...especially with this concept of a picnic. As if I enjoy eating when harrassed by countless disgusting filthy insects.

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(06-14-2013 08:02 AM)Potato Wrote:  watch the fuq out, we've got an "intellectual" over here.

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John Taylor Gatto's response to my letter

Nature is good, and it's nice to be able to go outside and hang out with the plants and the critters... but why throw away progress? It's also nice to come back inside and push some buttons and have warm food and coffee. What's wrong with having both?

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RE: John Taylor Gatto's response to my letter

Nature is fine but turning a picnic into some holy tradition is annoying.

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(06-14-2013 08:02 AM)Potato Wrote:  watch the fuq out, we've got an "intellectual" over here.

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