How a Famous Teacher Introduces Real Life Lessons To His Students

A Very Short but Must-Read Interview

How a Famous Teacher Introduces Real Life Lessons To His Students

His newly released book, The Adventures of Snider, the CIA Spider is a new genre for John Taylor Gatto and one that is taking his fans by surprise. What made Gatto go from writing books about modern education like Dumbing Us Down to writing a children's epic comic in rhyme? We were able to get a few short but fascinating answers about this unique and highly entertaining work.

On why Gatto wrote Snider:

As well as teaching school, I had a separate career writing song lyrics with a pop composer, and we were trying to write a musical comedy for Broadway at the time, so I was teaching syllable stress poetry to my classes ( the old-fashioned kind with meter and rhyme). These two influences coincided with getting a transfer student from India in my class who found it hard to be accepted into American life, so partially it was to introduce American children to India and its cultural commitment to family and making an Indian kid more comfortable.

On a particular challenge while writing Snider:

Each page was a separate challenge, how to move the tale forward, while at the same time making space for the kids to add lines and learn narrative structure and ‘prosody’ as it is known, so they could employ it in their own creations.

On how Gatto teaches children to dream big (Snider is a big dreamer):

Truthfully, I tried to teach them that ‘childhood’ was an imaginary construct, and that they were capable of doing anything an adult could do.

On the family theme in Snider:

Honoring ‘family’ indeed was my ulterior motive behind the project. Romantic notions of careers like spying were omnipresent from Hollywood as Snider was being composed, and I wanted to show how ultimately a ridiculous career, even a pernicious one, the C.I.A. life was.