From 1776 through much of the 19th century, American education was, “Decentralized, entrepreneurial, and driven by the demands of individual parents and local communities, not school districts or states.” (1)
This began to change in the mid-19th century when American academics became enamored with Prussian schools. Prussia, a modern day Sparta organized for constant warfare, purposefully designed its school system to create obedient soldiers, workers, and civil servants. Thomas Alexander wrote in 1919: “The Prussian is to a large measure enslaved through the medium of his school…his learning instead of making him his own master forges the chain by which he is held in servitude…the whole scheme of Prussian elementary education is shaped with the express purpose of making ninety five out of every hundred citizens subservient to the ruling house and to the state.”
Re-read that quote and understand this time that Prussian elementary schools are what the American education system is still based on.
“In 1843, Horace Mann traveled to Germany to investigate how the educational process worked. Upon his return to the United States, he lobbied heavily to have the ‘Prussian model’ adopted.” (2)
Mann’s proposal became popular in the Whig Party, and in 1852 Governor Edward Everett of Massachusetts instituted a mandatory education bill based on the Prussian system. New York State quickly followed suit, and the system spread around the country.
Reflecting on this new system of American public education, famed philosopher and logician Charles S. Peirce wrote in the 1870’s:
“Let the will of the state act, then, instead of that of the individual. Let an institution be created which shall have for its object to keep correct doctrines before the attention of the people, to reiterate them perpetually, and to teach them to the young; having at the same time power to prevent contrary doctrines from being taught, advocated, or expressed. Let all possible causes of a change of mind be removed from men’s apprehensions. Let them be kept ignorant, lest they should learn of some reason to think otherwise than they do…Then, let all men who reject the established belief be terrified into silence.” (3)
Now let’s fast forward a bit. By the early 20th century, mandatory schooling was firmly rooted in the United States. Molding the youth had literally become a science.
Meet Ellwood P. Cubberley:
Ellwood was dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Education and a key player in the field of educational administration during the first half of the 20th century. Also chief of elementary school textbooks at publishing company Houghton Mifflin, Cubberly heavily influenced what school children learn in this country. In 1934 Cubberly bragged in Public Education in the United States that compulsory schooling is designed to extend childhood by two to six years.
Indeed, Cubberley viewed school as a giant social engineering project; he wrote:
“Our schools are…factories in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned.”
A close personal contact of Cubberly’s was a Harvard professor named Dr. Alexander Inglis. Inglis wrote a famous book in 1918 called Principles of Secondary Education. In this book, he outlines the true goals of public school.
If you think Inglis’ book is outdated, or merely the ramblings of one eccentric professor, think again. Inglis was in charge of all secondary school textbooks at Houghton Mifflin. Furthermore, his book was cited as the definitive analysis of public schools by James Bryant Conant. Conant was president of Harvard University for over twenty years, a key member of the Manhattan Project, and United States High Commissioner for Germany from 1953–57, so his opinion carries weight.
I get that this all sounds a bit far fetched. Like, why would the government implement an evil school system, maybe the schools just need to be fixed?
“The simplistic notion that “our schools are failing” easily translates into a limitless demand for more resources for the institution and its supports: for books, for teachers, for computers, for real estate (and hence for book publishers, graduate schools of education, computer manufacturers, and real estate developers) — and for more time: for more pre-school, more homework, longer school years, the end of recess, and semi- (and soon fully) compulsory summer schools. The truth is that no matter how much is expended in the educational marketplace, 50% of the schools will remain ‘below average’, with those branded as poor performers changing from year to year and those above the mid-point fearing, above all, that they will fall into the abyss. And thus a zero sum game is achieved as the people feel the only response to a fall into sub-mediocrity is to buy one’s way out.“ -John Taylor Gatto (4)
This system was explicitly set up to ensure a docile, malleable workforce to meet the growing, changing demands of corporate fascism. It ensures a workforce that will not rebel. One that will be physically, intellectually, and emotionally dependent upon corporate institutions for their incomes, self-esteem, and stimulation, and that will learn to find social meaning in their lives solely in the production and consumption of material goods.
Our economy is based on work and consumption, both of which need to be taught. Human beings are not naturally inclined to spend 40+ hours a week sitting in 8x8 boxes. Indeed, the very stability of our economy is threatened by any form of education that might change the nature of the human product schools now turn out: the economy schoolchildren currently expect to live under and serve would not survive a generation of young people trained, for example, to think critically.
Learning can’t take place in pieces of time cut out for the convenience of an institution or in lessons set apart from the world in which students live. We don’t learn when life is divided up into sections that have little connection with each other.
There is no way to establish an Empire, invade other countries, and rationalize senseless murder if you have a nation of 310 million individuals who think for themselves.
We all grew up in these institutions and we know they work. They haven’t changed much over the years because they don’t need to – they perform precisely as they are intended.
We need to take back education from these people and stop murdering our children’s ambitions and potential through institutionalized mental slavery.
These are the keys to generating a stateless society.
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