Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Great Success

The first lecture of the Hudson River Lyceum was a tremendous success. My thanks go to John Taylor Gatto and to everyone who helped and attended this informative and important lecture. Mr. Gatto was in great form and gave his unique perspective on the state of education. I was particularly pleased at the attendance, for there were close to three hundred people there. People from as far as Oneonta, and Albany came to hear John speak. There were about a dozen college professors along with many local teachers in addition to the entire board of education from Onteora.

I believe the attendance was indicative not only of the message of reform that Gatto speaks to but also the fact that it must be addressed now. We no longer have the luxury of time to make needed reforms. New York State is currently in a budgetary crisis, masked only by the spending of federal stimulus money. Unlike many people, I believe the subject is not as difficult or complicated as it is being made out. It only gets complicated when the special interests exert their influence. All too often this influence is at the expense of the taxpayer and the children in the type of education they receive. This subject is only going to loom larger as our society comes to grips with the new fiscal realities. Here is a link to a brief video clip of the lecture.

Monday, May 4, 2009


The Hudson River Lyceum is honored to have John Taylor Gatto, one of the most influential visionaries of the future of education, deliver its inaugural lecture on Friday, May 29, 2009, at 7:00 p.m. at the Bearsville Theater, Woodstock, New York.  Question and answer period to follow lecture.  The lecture is free and open to the public. 

Mr. Gatto, a former New York City and New York State teacher of the year, is one of this country's leading voices on the subject of education reform.  Through hundreds of public talks, articles, interviews, and classroom projects, Gatto has shown decisively where our failing schools have gone wrong and what can be done to fix them. 

A much sought after speaker throughout North America,  his books include A Different Kind of Teacher, The Underground History of American Education, Dumbing Us Down, The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, and Weapons of Mass Instruction.

 What others have said about John Taylor Gatto:

“I happen to agree with damn near every semi-colon and comma that Mr. Gatto has written.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, John Taylor Gatto: perhaps American’s most brilliant educator.” - Tom Peters, management guru and author of In Search of Excellence.

"I've loved John Gatto's work ever since I first encountered his astounding essays in The Sun. This analysis of schooling is

presented with daring, panache, and a humorous passion that leaps off the page. I give this book [Underground History of American Education] a standing ovation!  Bravo! " - Christine Northrup, author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom

“Gatto’s voice is strong and unique... a Socrates of the educational world.”   -Thomas Moore, author, Care of the Soul 

“How does he probe so deeply the complex issues surrounding our schools when so many experts can hardly penetrate the surface at all?  Here a master lecturer works his magic to cast the issues surrounding our schools in a new light. An examination of the assumptions behind compulsory schooling is the goal of this book [Underground History of American Education]  . Haunting. A minor classic.”  - Eric Schultes, The Whitehead Institute, M.I.T. 

“Gatto is a singular antidote to stale convention.” - David Guterson, author, Snow Falling on Cedars

“A remarkable achievement. I can’t remember ever reading such a profound analysis of modern education.”  - Howard Zinn, on Gatto’s The Underground History of American Education

Gatto’s ideas are splendid. I just hope someone is listening.” - Christopher Lasch, author of Culture of Narcissism and The Revolt of the Elites

Every word Gatto writes comes from the depth of his caring about the lives of children.” - SKOLE: The Journal of Alternative Education

Anyone interested in the fate of our schools should make this book [Underground History of American Education] a priority.”  - Dan Greenberg, Co-founder, the Sudbury Valley School

“In this fine work [Underground History of American Education], John Taylor Gatto traces the historic sources of educational corruption and pleads for a new deal for children, one grounded in the family and an intelligible order of the good.” - John E. Coons, Professor, University of California Law School at Berkeley, author, Making School Choice Work

“In his lectures and his writing Gatto not only adeptly denounces public schools, but also makes radical suggestions for improving them. These suggestions are grounded not in hypothetical clouds, but rather on his own innovative sturdy, apprenticeships, and solitude.” - Grace Llewellyn, author of The Teenage Liberation Handbook

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hudson River Lyceum Lectures

Are you interested in innovative ideas? Do you seek creative and fresh thought that might cause you to consider the world around you a bit differently? Are you tired of being fed filtered news and information? Do you care about your country and its future? If you answered yes to any of these questions, than you are not alone. 

Fortunately for you a new lecture series has been organized which will serve as a forum to hear engaging speakers talk about topics of general interest in addition to important public policy issues. The lecture series, known as  Hudson River Lyceum (HRL), has been created for everyone who feels that education doesn’t end with formal schooling but rather is a life long endeavor. It is designed to encourage you, your friends, neighbors and fellow citizens to gather in a public setting to hear a real live speaker. This simple act of community seems to be disappearing from the scene as a plethora of various media vies for our attention. 

You may be excused if the word lyceum conjures up an image of a movie theater, (it does have an association with entertainment) but it is actually a very old word whose roots go back to ancient Greece. Originally it was a place of learning famous for it’s association with Aristotle and it’s importance in the development of western science and philosophy. In this country, lyceums have a rich history and are regarded as one of the earliest instruments for the diffusion of general education to arise. The lyceum was a purely small town institution which was designed to provide opportunities to people of all ages to study history, art, science and hear lectures on public issues. 

The first lyceum was established by Josiah Holbrook in 1826. Within a few short years the idea spread over most of New England and the northeast, extending to the midwest and some southern states.  New York became a leader in the lyceum movement, the first one being formed in Troy and establishing the first state lyceum in the country in 1831. Along with other voluntary organizations such as “mechanics institutes” lyceums helped in the founding of both public and private libraries. At it’s peak there were over three thousand lyceums in the United States.  

The lyceum became nineteenth century America’s version of a inexpensive night out. For a very modest price a family could get a subscription to a lyceum which entitled them to courses, lectures and entertainment. Part of it’s original mission was the application of the latest scientific advances to the problems ordinary people confronted. Practical courses were offered to farmers on subjects like soil depletion, and there were offerings for tradesman and merchants. A popular form of entertainment for a family was to diagram sentences, if you can believe it! Some of the most notable personalities of the time from poets and philosophers, writers, orators and lecturers, and entertainers traveled what was known as the “lyceum circuit.”  Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Daniel Webster, Mark Twain, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Jenny Lind and even Abraham Lincoln spoke at lyceums.

Closer to home there were lyceums in Kingston, known as the Rondout Lyceum and also at Saugerties. In 1855 the Saugerties Lyceum held a lecture given by Horace Greeley, one of the more in demand personalities on the “lyceum circuit.” At the time, Greeley was the most influential newspaper editor in the country. Often remembered today for his advice to his readers to “go west young man, go west,” Greeley was actually much more. A rather eccentric fellow, which was noted at length in the newspaper account of his lecture, Greeley none the less impressed his audience. A strong advocate for reform he championed the cause of women’s rights, temperance, and anti-slavery.

The lyceum movement was a quintessentially American phenomenon. A shining example of a free citizenry filling a need by forming voluntary associations. It is hoped that this new lecture series will initiate a dialog on public issues that will match the vibrancy of the original lyceums in their heyday. The inaugural lecture, which will be free and open to the public will take place in the very near future with a very special guest. Further details as to the time and venue to be announced shortly so stay tuned!