The Prussian connection to American forced schooling has been hinted at previously. In this chapter, Gatto lays it out in detail. The connection can not be denied. It all starts at Jena in 1806, when Napoleon defeated a superior Prussian Army. Prussia, basically being a mercenary state, decided that centralized government education of the kids was the key to raising disciplined future soldiers. In America, that famous German engineering, applied to people, would be the path to a greater tomorrow. 100 years later, Hitler would would follow that process to it's awful conclusion.
The Prussian mind, which carried the day, held a clear idea of what centralized schooling should deliver: 1) Obedient soldiers to the army; 2) Obedient workers for mines, factories, and farms; 3) Well-subordinated civil servants, trained in their function; 4) Well-subordinated clerks for industry; 5) Citizens who thought alike on most issues; 6) National uniformity in thought, word, and deed.
To get here though, the family unit had to be busted.
People who wanted their kids schooled had them schooled even then; people who didn't, didn't. That was more or less true for most of us right into the twentieth century: as late as 1920, only 32 percent of American kids went past elementary school. If that sounds impossible, consider the practice in Switzerland today where only 23 percent of the student population goes to high school, though Switzerland has the world's highest per capita income in the world.
I poked around Google trying to confirm that Switzerland statistic. I didn't find an exact number, but most kids in Switzerland go through more of an apprenticeship program where they learn a trade while attending school 1 or 2 days a week. 23% appears to be the percentage that goes to full time school in pursuit of higher order careers such as engineering and the priesthood.
Interestingly, Gatto also implies that a Southern victory in The War of Northern Aggression would have derailed the forced schooling effort before it ever got going. It's not a central or important point in the chapter, he just sort of throws it out there. I'm doing the same :)
Also interesting is Gatto's charge that Horace Mann's Report to the Boston School Committee, (the blueprint for American forced education) outlining all the wonderful things happening in Prussian schools, is basically full of fabrications. Apparently he was in Prussia while school was out. He never saw a live classroom in action.