Gatto, a former teacher, left the classroom the same year in which
he was named New York State Teacher of the Year. He announced his
decision in a compelling letter titled "I Quit, I Think".
Using anecdotes gathered from thirty years of teaching, Gatto presents his view of
modern compulsion schooling,
describing a "conflict between systems which offer physical safety and
certainty at the cost of suppressing free will". Gatto argues that
educational strategies promoted by government and industry leaders for
over a century included the creation of a system that keeps real power
in the hands of very few people.
From the book's Introduction:
"... Underground History isn’t a history proper, but a collection
of materials toward a history, embedded in a personal essay analyzing
why mass compulsion schooling is unreformable. The history I have
unearthed is important to our understanding; it’s a good start, I
believe, but much remains undone."
"... what I’m trying to describe [is] that what has happened to our
schools was inherent in the original design for a planned economy and a
planned society laid down so proudly at the end of the nineteenth
"In other words, the captains of industry and government explicitly
wanted an educational system that would maintain social order by
teaching us just enough to get by but not enough so that we could think
for ourselves, question the sociopolitical order, or communicate