A Look Back at The Underground History of Education

Posted on 12/28/2020 in misc

Back in 2005 I read a chapter of this book each night (more or less), posting my thoughts on my blog every day. I’ve lost the blog comments in changing CMS’ several times, which is a real shame as I remember a very healthy and interesting conversation in the comments section. Re-reading those blog posts, I’m stuck by a couple of thoughts.

  1. I wrote some cringe-worthy stuff in those posts.
  2. I was still identifying as “liberal libertarian” at that time - but I made a few comments about things from the book that suggest there were cracks in my unfettered faith in the market and personal choice to cure all ills.

For no other reason than it might be fun, here are few things I wrote, with absolutely no context because that would be too much work.

However, I can't bring myself to really believe the depth of conspiracy that Gatto is exposing. I think the thought that they could do that is just too frightening to contemplate. Because if a small group of wealthy and powerful men, helped by the government, really can ruin our children like this, what else can they do? What else have they already done?

Notice how they present this as being good for everybody. After all, who could be against no more wars, or civil disputes? It sounds perfectly reasonable.

Is the current interest in school reform, and the growth in home education, in any way a manifestation of the realization, maybe even only at an unconscious level, that forced schooling can not properly prepare our youth for the world of tomorrow? Those factory jobs no longer exist in this country.

It's an interesting paradox. Now that we are finally being replaced by machines in many ways we are realizing that we have been training our young to be machines all along.

The Darwin connection is both simple, and complex. Prior to the Civil War, Americans by and far were individualists. Everybody was on their own, capable of whatever they could manage. Darwin, by advancing the idea that evolutionary nature had favored certain groups, gave cover to liberal elitists to advance forced schooling. They had scientific proof in Darwin that the bottom 90% of society were there because they were supposed to be there, and they had no chance of advancing. They needed to be taught to be happy with their station in life, and be grateful for the factory jobs the top 10% would graciously provide to them in a few years.

It is important to note that the Fords and Carnegies that were funding all this really did believe it was for the best. They saw forced schooling as a way to scrub out the ethnic diversity of the immigrants and make them more like the white Northern European folks that ran the country.

I found this chapter fascinating on several levels. I'm really just now starting to comprehend the corporate influences that led to forced schooling. It really wasn't a nefarious government plot. It was a nefarious, racist, elitist plot funded by corporate money and pushed through a sympathetic government that was too busy cashing the checks to actually care about what they were doing. Some things never change…

The root idea in all of this was to provide two primary classes. The liberal elites would continue to rule and the rest of us would "Americanized" in government school where we would learn that we were not worthy of anything beyond working for the man.

Looking back at my college days - I'm starting to understand what I really studied in Organizational Leadership and Supervision. It was nothing more than applied behavioralism. My degree program may have been in the School of Technology, but when you really strip back the covers, I was a psych major.

He essentially recommends de-professionalizing education by getting out of the schools and into the real world. No standards, no oversight, no mandatory anything. Unleash millions of bright inquisitive minds on their particular worlds, and let a million seeds bloom.

He also recommends:

  • Elimination of standardized tests as sorting tools
  • Elimination of school boards and forcing control to the lowest possible level - parents controlling their voluntarily associated local schools.
  • Get kids out of the schools and into the real world as much as possible. Presumably this requires more than an annual take your kid to work day.
  • Eliminate the constant surveillance and tracking of kids. I might say they can also do away with it for adults.
  • Break the teacher monopoly so that anybody with something of value to teach can do it.

I have to say, I still think those final suggestions are mostly good ones. I think anybody can teach something they are expert in to a small, motivated group. Teaching 30 kids in a classroom is a different thing that I do think requires specific skills that you don’t just have because you are smart. I’m way more liberal today than I was 15 years ago, and I’m very pro public schools in theory. But our execution of public education sucks. In recent years Republicans have been undermining the schools on purpose, but even back when we all supported the schools they failed for a lot of kids that were outside one standard deviation from the norm. In that, I agree with what Gatto was saying when he wrote the book in 2000.