The Underground History Of American Education - Chapter 6

Posted on 04/30/2005 in misc

In Chapter 6, Gatto continues his exploration of the people and ideals that led to forced schooling. In short, the ruling class saw that the industrialization of America and the movement of people into the higher density living environment of the cities provided an opportunity. It was an unlikely collaboration of New England Puritans, who believed that the idle time provided by non farm work would lead to debauchery (they were probably right!), and idealist social planners who thought they could manage us to a Utopian ideal.

Plato, Augustine, Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Hobbes, Rousseau, and a host of other insightful thinkers, sometimes referred to at the Boston Athenaeum as "The Order of the Quest," all taught that without compulsory universal schooling the idiosyncratic family would never surrender its central hold on society to allow utopia to become reality.

Gatto spends several pages discussing the role of children's literature in the plans of the Utopian planners. I found this section completely fascinating. It was something I had never thought through before.

Until 1875, about 75 percent of all children's titles dealt with some aspect of the future; usually salvation. Over the next forty years this idea vanished completely. As Comte and Saint-Simon had strongly advised, the child was to be relieved of concerning itself with the future. The future would be arranged for children and for householders by a new expert class, and the need to do God's will was now considered dangerous superstition by men in charge.

1845 - 1920 were the crucial years that laid the foundation for all that was to come. Massachusetts started implementing forced schooling in 1850, but it took 70 years for the practice to become the norm. Consider this.

When you consider how bizarre and implausible much of the conformist machinery put in place during this critical period really was; and especially how long and successfully all sorts of people resisted this kind of encroachment on fundamental liberty; it becomes clear that to understand things like universal medical policing, income tax, national banking systems, secret police, standing armies and navies which demand constant tribute, universal military training, standardized national examinations, the cult of intelligence tests, compulsory education, the organization of colleges around a scheme called "research" (which makes teaching an unpleasant inconvenience), the secularization of religion, the rise of specialist professional monopolies sanctioned by their state, and all the rest of the "progress" made in these seventy-five years, you have to find reasons to explain them. Why then? Who made it happen? What was the point?

He drops this following thought in at the very end of the chapter. This is a paragraph I've read about 6 times in the last 10 minutes. It's not that I don't understand the paragraph, I do. However, I'm finding the implication contained in this to be quite frightening as it's a very serious shock to my capitalistic world view.

Erich Fromm thought Bellamy had missed the strong similarities between corporate socialism and corporate capitalism; that both converge eventually in goals of industrialization, that both are societies run by a managerial class and professional politicians, both thoroughly materialistic in outlook; both organize human masses into a centralized system; into large, hierarchically arranged employment-pods, into mass political parties. In both, alienated corporate man; well-fed, well-clothed, well-entertained; is governed by bureaucrats. Governing has no goals beyond this. At the end of history men are not slaves, but robots. This is the vision of utopia seen complete.

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