by John Taylor Gatto
As I have often said, and proved with documentation, forced institutional schooling was never a home-grown American phenomenon, but from the beginning was an importation from a socialist European military state by our industrial leadership, an import imposed by force on our population which, in many locations reacted violently to what was widely seen as a coup by financial interests, a coup intended to prepare our future citizen base to abandon its dream of independent livelihoods in favor of competing for “good” corporate “jobs,” employment subservient to managers.
It was a transformation noted with horror by Abraham Lincoln, who thought it signified a re-assertion of the British social class system on our shores, brought back by British bankers financing the westward expansion of the U.S., in the middle 19th century, men made uneasy by the voice given by America to ordinary families and working class individuals; men determined to end popular interference in management by infiltrating, and weakening the minds of future citizens. According to a brilliant American scholar, Anthony Sutton, writing in a book I highly recommend, entitled, “America’s Secret Establishment,” schooling was inserted into America by an elite German secret society, working through Yale University and Johns Hopkins to gradually infiltrate every institution, directing all policy toward the end of American sovereignty. Sutton supplies chapter and verse of this sophisticated conspiracy, tracking it through its inception at the University of Berlin and the Prussia of Von Bismarck and following it through the thousands of American young from wealthy families studying in Prussia for the coveted PhD degree, granted only there in the 19th century, not in the states.
To achieve this ambitious goal of national domination, the common American population, according to the plan was to be converted from an independent citizenry into a proletariat, a landless, lightly-rooted ignorant rabble, one freed from religious faith, an inactive, indifferent mass, one content to be taken care of by a paternalistic government, one stripped of religion and traditions of liberty, independence, self-sufficiency, family ties, and concern for politics, content to cede all such matters to bankers, lawyers, business interests and the American counterpart to Britain and Germany’s upper classes.
A mass man dedicated to the proposition that a person got ahead in life by pleasing higher authorities, and by surrendering any personal principles disfavored by one’s superiors. These are the core principles taught by mass institutional schooling, habits drummed in by 12 years of confinement. If they were serviceable, according to what history shows to be America’s unique genius—invention and innovation, this coup might not be so objectionable, but obviously they directly contradict what earned us our wealth and leadership position among nations—ingenuity, inventiveness and common ambition.
The children I taught had been deliberately infected with the delusion that an entity called “mass man” actually exists, that human individuality is largely a reflection of economic and social class, and that it can be scientifically engineered by bureaucracies interlinked with one another– the great socialistic fantasy, an ultimate statement of materialism. Socialist politics rejects individual enterprise as an enemy of collectivism; socialism holds that all human beings are the same at the core, without any proper claim to individualized treatment in preparation for maturity. In such a reality, only the political state can direct the training of young people. But because state prescriptions are too rigid to fit everyone, children rebel, listen less and less; their disobedience is a natural defense of their unique spirits. The delusion that people can be treated as a mass leads inevitably to types of organization and procedure which drive people literally insane because it bleeds significance from everyday choices, makes a mockery of free will; this mental distress is a legacy of bureaucratic schooling, a byproduct of efficiency engineer Frederick Taylor’s notion that societies can be “scientifically managed” as if they were factories or coal mines, not much different than machinery.
But crucial differences exist, whether one believes in divine destiny or not; machinery can only be improved by interventions from outside while education only happens when much of the directing force is generated from inside the student; people only improve in limited ways from outside interventions. Individual growth has to be struggled for, to be taken. Nobody can do it for you.
A few years back, the School of Government at Harvard issued advice to those planning a career in the global economy of the future; it said that school credentials would be devalued compared to real world skills acquired by experience; it identified 10 qualities to acquire to meet the changing standards, none of which are usually found stressed by public schooling:
1. Ability to define problems without a guide.
2. Ability to ask questions that challenge common assumptions.
3. Ability to work without guidance.
4. Ability to work absolutely alone.
5. Ability to persuade others that yours is the right course.
6. Ability to debate issues and techniques in public.
7. Ability to re-organize information into new patterns.
8. Ability to discard irrelevant information.
9. Ability to think dialectically.
10.Ability to think inductively, deductively, and heuristically.
How could schools even function if children were encouraged to challenge prevailing assumptions? If you want your kids to follow Harvard’s advice, you’ll have to arrange a work plan by yourself, expect no help from your school district.
How far we have fallen from educational schooling since colonial days can be measured by a book published in 1812 by Du Pont de Nemours, the man who owned the gunpowder monopoly during the war of 1812. In National Education In the United States, he wrote: “less than 4 in every thousand cannot read and do numbers with great facility.” He predicted that kitchen table debates about the meaning of disputed passages in the Bible would result in an explosive growth of lawyers in this country, a prediction the Wall Street Journal certified in 1990 when it reported that a quarter of all lawyers on earth were Americans!
A math book common in the northeast U.S. in the 1830’s was The Self-Taught Mathematician, the story of an 18 year old boy who taught himself geometry, Latin, and physics, having learned to read at the age of 8, after which, one by one, he acquired scholar textbooks, and by asking questions of adults, self-taught a college-level curriculum. The message was that if he could do it, so could you. And if Harvard is right about its 10 precepts, so had you better.
One final sign of educational deterioration is to examine the first 3 subjects George Washington studied, without a school to assist him. They were: 1) geometry 2) trigonometry, and 3) surveying. By age 11 he was official surveyor for Culpepper County, Virginia, earning the contemporary equivalent of $100,000 a year, a base from which he built the largest fortune in the colonies. Force-feeding young minds with stimulating intellectual challenges is part of the time-honored formula of classical education repudiated by institutional forced compulsion schooling that seeks a different end-result than traditional educational purposes that lead to an active citizenry– the last thing wanted in a socialist state.
This philosophical debate between warring visions of the best future society should be understood by anybody seeking education because the reality of both sides in the debate must be dealt with by anyone growing to adulthood in societies divided against themselves; a price must be paid by those who deviate from the leadership point of view, and that must be weighed in decision-making. Educated men and women understand every side of an argument and are careful to stay away from one-sided presentations which customarily distort half of every issue. Mastering all points on the political/social compass demands toleration of perspectives one may not like much, but which must be confronted.
If you can successfully predict what your source of data is going to say, that is cause enough to dismiss it as accurate or fair-minded– which is why CNN, FOX News, and partisan talk radio commentators are held in low regard by educated people. Some years ago, a famous satire in Harper’s Magazine by its editor, Lewis Lapham, reported at length on the Republican Party political convention without even attending it! That was a flagrant example of so relentlessly broadcasting a biased point of view that one’s message is discredited in advance of being heard.
For devotees of television serial dramas like “Law and Order” and “CSI Miami” or followers of genre fiction like westerns, horror movies or science fiction, the formulas followed are so rigid that artistic insights into the human condition are unlikely and even unwelcome, so any educational value is strictly limited. Once a commercial formula for storytelling is established, the tendency of financial investors in “popular culture” projects is to demand repetition of what worked in the past, making mass entertainment in movies, music, and drama virtually devoid of artistic insights and thus of educational value, reducing their value to time-killers.
For these reasons, and because time to learn is limited, prudent seekers of intellectual development often focus their investigations to time-tested “classics,” acknowledged by respected critics to contain artistic value. This is to illustrate the Harvard principle that the best minds screen irrelevant material from their attention, principle number eight on the list above; of course, in institutional schooling one attends to what is ordered by superiors, no selectivity is allowed to students. Merely disliking material is insufficient reason to avoid it, a case proving its irrelevancy must be mounted and accepted by authorities, Harvard principle number five in action. Finding ways to practice all 10 of these assertions will be a useful tool for all your students to use in demonstrating an educated command of mind.