I used to be an English teacher. Actually, I used to be a fairly decent teacher; my students usually enjoyed my class, and it seemed to me that they were learning a lot. I had good feedback on my observations from the administration and good test results from my students; I felt pretty successful. However, there was always a nagging thought at the back of my mind:
When are these students going to use this information in real life?
I completely understand the real-life applications of strong writing skills or reading comprehension skills, but what about the more technical aspects of grammar? If you are in a profession other than education or linguistics, has anyone ever, ever asked you to underline all the adjectives in a sentence? Has your supervisor stopped by your desk and requested that you recite the characteristics of American Romanticism? Somehow I doubt it.
Gatto, himself a former English teacher, questions not only the material covered in schools, but the methodology of schooling itself. He posits that children who have been in school for 12+ years have not been educated, but rather trained into passivity and consumerism. And I think he has a point.
This book is fascinating, thought-provoking, and a bit discouraging. I am so glad I was not reading this book while I was in a classroom, although it doubtless would have changed the methods I used. I do agree with Gatto that school as we know it is not working. The countless programs and dollars and methods and books thrown at schools every year - with little to no change in results - is evidence of that. There isn't a quick or easy answer to this problem, but it definitely is a problem that warrants addressing.
If you are an educator, a parent, or a student, I strongly recommend you pick up this book. It is well worth your time.