In chapter 11, Gatto examines the role of racism is the early days of forced schooling.
In the thirty years between 1890 and 1920, the original idea of America as a cosmopolitan association of peoples, each with its own integrity, gave way to urgent calls for national unity. Even before WWI added its own shrill hysterics to the national project of regimentation, new social agencies were in full cry on every front, aggressively taking the battle of Americanization to millions of bewildered immigrants and their children.
That's right, I said racism. The intellectuals of pre-WWI America were obsessed with the idea that the mass influx on Latinos and Southern Europeans might deplete the high quality breeding stock of white Anglo Saxons in the US. On one hand, I feel like I need a tin foil hat on to read this. On the other hand, it all rings true.
The eugenics movement begun by Galton in England was energetically spread to the United States by his followers. Besides destroying lesser breeds (as they were routinely called) by abortion, sterilization, adoption, celibacy, two-job family separations, low-wage rates to dull the zest for life, and, above all, schooling to dull the mind and debase the character, other methods were clinically discussed in journals, including a childlessness which could be induced through easy access to pornography. At the same time those deemed inferior were to be turned into eunuchs, Galtonians advocated the notion of breeding a super race.
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.
Three great private fortunes were to dominate early twentieth-century public schooling; Carnegie's, Rockefeller's, and Ford's; each with a stupendous megalomaniac in charge of the checkbook, each dedicating the power of great wealth not to conspicuous consumption but to radical experiments in the transformation of human nature. The hardest lesson to grasp is that they weren't doing this for profit or fame?but from a sense of conviction reserved only for true believers. On of the key strategies was the break of of the strong family unit. The proponents of forced schooling saw (correctly I might add) that forced schooling would fail if countered by a strong family unit. What better way to break up the family than put the kids in government care all day? This is also about the time that abortion came into vogue.The planned parenthood movement, in our day swollen to billion dollar corporate status, was one side of a coin whose obverse was the prospering abortion, birth control, and adoption industries. In those crucial years, a sudden host of licensing acts closed down employment in a wide range of lucrative work; rationing the right to practice trades much as kings and queens of England had done. Work was distributed to favored groups and individuals who were willing to satisfy screening commissions that they met qualifications often unrelated to the actual work.It's really a devious plan. Discourage breeding in the name of national unity, indoctrinate the kids, make jobs scare, and make it easy to end pregnancies or to place the kids into adoption where a nice Anglo Saxon family could give the kid a proper upbringing. Did it work?It prepares us to understand the future; that time in which we now live, our own age where "home cooking" means commercially homogenized food product microwaved, where an entire nation sits down each evening to commercial entertainment, hears the same processed news, wears the same clothing, takes direction from the same green road signs, thinks the same media-inculcated thoughts, and relegates its children and elders to the same scientific care of strangers in schools and "nursing homes."What do you think?