by John Taylor Gatto
American institutions were born in a revolt from the tyranny of a centralized government symbolized in the British monarchy and mercantilism.

--E. Digby Baltzell, The Philadelphia Gentleman...

(Note: footnotes are numbered in red and appear at the end of the essay.)
In the past 75-100 years two ideas came insidiously into American political life in the shadow arena of public policy-making. One, the notion that common people thinking for themselves constitute a crisis of governance; the other, that local control of education must be stamped out and transferred through a series of progressively remoter masking layers to a small centralized élite of decision makers.
What élite would have the hubris1 to want such control in a democracy? Or in a democratic republic! in which final choices are in the hands of an elected leadership, not a group of self-appointed ones?
Prior to 1850 such an élite - had it been felt necessary to convene one - would have been composed mostly of landed aristocracy and trading families; after 1890 it would have been a more professionalized leadership: university voices, foundation officials, mass media powers, members of key associations like NAM, CFR, FPA, CED, NAC, or BAC/BC/BR2 all representing various powerful interests. But as the twentieth century closes, the managing élite is seen to be visibly arising out of the same élite which runs the global corporations, speaking directly and in person, not from behind a screen of agencies.
Whether I'm right, half-right, or mostly wrong about the constituents of the élite policy layer is less important than that we all agree from any élite perspective, welcoming little voices at the policy table of the greater society - or to be in control of the minds of young people - simply cannot be tolerated. Democracy as a form of governance contradicts the scientific intentions of a centrally managed society. Under what kind of world-view would you have a "mass" decide important issues it can know nothing about?3
The only debate currently being entertained about governance among those who have reason to think they matter is whether society should function as a mechanism on the behavioral psychology model or as an organism made up of interacting hierarchically arranged systems, on the humanistic model. In either case democracy is considered either anachronistic or a dangerous fantasy - take your pick.
Tracking the origin of these ideas is tricky because at first glance they seem to arise out of the great scientific socialisms, out of Marx or Bismarck, perhaps Italian fascism, perhaps Franklin Roosevelt and the American experiment in welfare capitalism inherited from John Ruskin and Fabian socialism under the Webbs. But by holding your head under the cold water faucet for a while your head clears and without difficulty you see that the operating policies of gigantic international corporations can have no use at all for democracy either.
In an engineering sense, "the will of the people" just gets in the way of scientific decision-making. Not a good diagnosis for libertarians. Now this feeling was precisely the conclusion great titans of international capitalism reached at the turn of the century just passing. That's how we got welfare capitalism. Powerful industrialists and financiers like Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller and the like agreed to allow an exchange of relative comfort and security for a free hand wheeling and dealing without too much interference from public opinion. Many people think it was a good bargain but a fair hunk of liberty had to be surrendered, and from that time to now the children were confined to scientifically managed schools and were scientifically managed. It was enough to satisfy the élite leaders until about 1975. Since then they've wanted much more.
If we are to understand the well-orchestrated campaign underway to set national goals and standards, have national testing, national teaching licenses, curriculum, etc. we need to take a closer look at words like "democracy" and "liberty" and "the state, the family, the individual," because if nationalization of schooling comes about the definitions of all those things are going to change. We have near monopoly government schooling right now which has already twisted our historic notion of individual liberty; national pedagogy would make us a lot like Germany, which is, I think, its intended function, so it will be necessary in a while to talk about what that really means.
I'm aware that from a libertarian perspective the tyranny of mobs is seen as as great a danger as the tyranny of states, but from where I stand government is the worse threat because its incursions are written in laws, licensing, taxes, police powers and permanent bureaucracies - while mob passion is always a transient phenomenon. The brilliant dialectical balance struck in the U.S. was to allow the people's will free expression as a check on the power of government (as was dramatically illustrated in the street riots of the Vietnam period), and to allow the government power to check the tendency of public opinion to interfere with individual rights. In the push/pull of democracy vs. the state, space for persons, family, and small group sovereignty is kept open.
A vigorous democracy is our guarantee of liberty, but thinking for an instant of liberty as a philosophical value, you can see it isn't compatible with scientific management. Liberty is the right to follow your own star, to raise your children as you choose, whether the scientific managers of society like it or not. Liberty is that thing out of which independent personalities arise. No independent identity can survive too much close direction of its behavior by strangers; by loved ones and neighbors, sometimes, but by strangers the non-poisonous dose is strictly limited. Liberty can be seen as an evolutionary principle because with hundreds of millions of people free to plan their own lives the chances of serendipity are much, much greater than if only a few thousand, functioning as policy-makers, tell everyone else - and all the children - where to go and what to think.
It is the constant confrontation, the unwinnable war - between the collectivizing principle in government and the much different collectivizing principle in democracy which produces liberty for those who want it. In the stalemate of these forces, freedom escapes. Any serious government sabotage of democracy must be opposed with energy because it would threaten the dialectic which produces liberty.
Three sharp demonstration of the power of democratic expression, the first in 1832, the second between 1885-1895, and the third from 1965-1973, determined what kind of public schools we got and set off the current drive to nationalize them. But ironically, school was not a response to democratic demand; just the opposite, it was the response of frightened and angered élites to democratic muscle flexings. I'll take them one at a time:
1) The need to colonize the minds of common children first took root in Boston and Philadelphia in 1832 because the tremendous power Jackson democracy unleashed was frightening to Unitarian Boston, and when Jackson broke Biddle's National Bank, became frightening to Quaker Philadelphia, too. A great many comfortable, complacent men woke up the day after, realizing the potential of the institution. They did not like what they saw.
An idea that had been around for centuries (since Plato in fact), government compulsion schools, seemed to some as if it might nip democracy's career in the bud. If young minds could be massed, away from the sight of their parents and the working community, as Rousseau had advised in his book Emile, a cure for democracy was possible by inserting a kind of internal governor in children. This governor would direct them to listen closely to authorities other than mother or father or the local minister. Installed early enough this might check the potency of public opinion by the ancient Roman principle of divide and conquer. School would have others uses, of course, but keeping another Jackson out of office was a major motivation, or keeping him relatively powerless if a second Jackson did get in. Exactly one year after Jackson left office, the famous "Boston School Committee" which was fifteen years later to give our free country compulsion schooling, opened up shop under the direction of ambitious politician, Horace Mann 4, and fifteen years later Massachusetts was our first state with compulsion schooling.
This first phase of schooling, from 1852 until the 1890's, was pretty much a dud. The school year was only 12-20 weeks long, the dynamic structure of one-room schooling was superb at teaching literacy in word and number, argumentation, public performance, etc. at low costs, and there was more than enough flex in the system for liberty to survive.
2) But in the same way as the democratic expression under Jackson motivated schoolmakers to get compulsion laws passed, the populist immigrant uprising of the 1880's and 1890's demonstrated to the managers of society that people were not being sufficiently controlled by short-term one-room schooling, Chautauquas, and the other ministries of the day. Careful plans were now laid for a new form of longer confinement schooling, one which could be tied to the economy. It would no longer be so easy to get a job or a license if you hadn't learned your lessons. This particular turn of the screw was originally Andrew Carnegie's idea. Just because you could argue a legal case like Lincoln, or build a fine building like Frank Lloyd Wright was no longer going to be sufficient. In the new system you would have to prove yourself to the state, on the state's terms. And no appeal from its decision.
And a huge, multi-tiered bureaucracy of management was set into place over school teachers in order to make the classroom teacher-proof; books were centrally approved and ordered - what once had been an individual decision; the community could no longer pick its own teachers, now the state licensed them. By 1930 schools had become teacher-proof, parent-proof, and thanks to a long school day and year, student-proof. This massive response to the democratic resistance to industrialization gave us the schools we had until about 1975.
3) Today we are faced with an even more radical centralization of state power hidden behind various proposals for the national socialization of schoolchildren, an initiative propelled by memories of a third populist revolt, one I'll talk about shortly. If it succeeds, we can expect the already stifling orthodoxy of government schooling, especially on the mostly bogus "gifted and talented" level, to become total. You can expect a lot of talk about "teaching the whole child" and "parents as teachers" and "multiculturalism" and "choice", but it will be baloney any way you slice it: the last two radical centralizations had their press agents, too.
In a national system the important goals, decisions, texts, methods, and personnel are displaced from local hands to invisible hands far away. Even in phase two schooling this happened to an extreme degree and the psychological effects of being "managed" are already all around us. Displaced decision-making tends to cause general apathy.
One striking example of this apathy directly resulted from the "great transformation" to a planned pedagogy/planned society at the beginning of the century and is still with us. Prior to 1880 about 80-88% of Americans eligible to vote voted; after 1930 about 25% of the eligible voters voted - a contingent over twice as large was now eligible in the later period because woman now had the franchise. But it did no good, the citizenry stopped voting and has remained dormant ever since. If my words puzzle you, remember that the percentage of vote tabulated is a ratio of registered voters, and as of 1992 only a bit more than half of the total pool bothered to register.
This political apathy is not an accident but has been designed into the system for reasons we discussed earlier; in a management science model public participation in decision-making is not a desirable thing. If nationally socializing children increases their apathy - as I expect it to do - the future of democratic politics will not be a glorious one.
In 1893 Frederick Jackson Turner, the historian, offered a theory that a mere accident of geography had given us working democracy. That accident was the presence of a moving frontier. By 1890 the frontier was gone. Turner implied we might expect democracy to erode without its help. Whatever the truth of the alleged connection, democracy has steadily eroded ever since and the centralization of schooling constitutes one of the principal causes. By 1965 the situation was as John Dewey had predicted in 1900, the business of the country was decided by large associations working in concert for the most part however nominally they disagreed. Virtually the entire national economy was tied with strings to schooling as Andrew Carnegie advocated. And by 1965 this intricately balanced, reciprocating social machine was involved in an undeclared war in southeast Asia.
Effective Democratic access to war-making decisions was impossible. Here was the world of the future envisioned in 1890; thanks to centralized schooling and other forms of central regulation, scientific management prevailed. Or so it seemed until the streets began to fill with nobodies shouting, unfathomable, "Hell no, I won't go!" and "Hey, hey, LBJ, How many kids did you kill today?" One presidency collapsed and another was grievously wounded; military loyalty, the bulwark of the republic was suddenly in question, and a disturbing number of front-line officers were shot to death from the rear by their own troops. "The people", that grand meaningless abstraction élites used to describe anyone outside the loop of decision-making, had come to the policy table uninvited.
Here was an event as significant as the first outbreak of popular democracy under Jackson in 1830, as significant as the great national strikes of the 1880's - soon after the war furor subsided in 1973, calls for a better, tighter system of national schooling began to be heard more often, from many different quarters. A campaign was being carefully orchestrated from the usual quarters: key foundation centers, the Business Roundtable, other important associations, the most important universities, and a powerful nucleus group in the mass media, to make a final end to local control, to more completely tie work to school training, performance and behavior, and to nationalize the goals, procedures, assessments, and personnel of schooling once and for all.
How could a nation founded only three lifetimes ago on the principle of a weak state and a strong society now have utterly reversed the founding formula? How have we gotten a huge and powerful state and an unhappy, disintegrating society in its place? I can ask the question but only partially answer it here, yet the part of the puzzle I have is a vital one: we are dealing with a crisis of democracy which has been provoked by the unacceptable power democracy represents to other centers of power. Government and governmental institutions like schools are used to order and regulate society rather than allowing the free market mechanisms of un-monitored reflection and choice to determine the social order and its regulations. What is happening is profoundly un-free, profoundly manipulative and profoundly destructive to our traditions of liberty. ... we are dealing with a crisis of democracy which has been provoked by the unacceptable power democracy represents to other centers of power.
An entire intellectual class has been subtly seduced into believing the planet is imperiled by the individuality and free choices of common people and this class has been enlisted to propagandize for a final end to freedom. A representative piece of evidence is found on the last page of Karl Polyani's magnificent study of the political origins of our times [The Great Transformation]. As his book ends, Polyani addresses the need to destroy common liberty to save the planet. He says "we must be resigned to the reality of the end of our liberty as we are resigned to the reality of death". The end of liberty is a necessary evil, but by redefining freedom as "a collective thing" the loss of liberty will not hurt so much. This redefining of root concepts to manipulate attitudes is not, of course, uncommon in these end-of-days times - all of us are familiar with the relentless attempts to redefine the word "family", or the destruction of the children in Waco, Texas by our government in order to save them - but it is something to watch out for, particularly in the language employed by the national socializers of schooling.
If my guess is correct, Polyani's redefinition of "liberty" requires, first, a massive assault of "democracy" because public will mobilized is strong enough to overturn the will of the state. And as I said at the beginning, the impasse between state power and public power is what creates liberty - for those who want it.
School is the most effective tool ever devised to prevent individual will from forming and public will from coalescing. But it only works if its texts and procedures, goals and human relations, can be determined from afar. Centralized management in its turn requires that outside influences of students like families be weakened, that student loyalties be suborned by continual references to school/job linkages and an onrushing future, and that the bulk of the student population be dumbed down. This conjures up the most sinister images of conspiracy but it is crucial if you are to make use of these ideas to help yourself that you see the dumbing down as a simple management technique growing out of a philosophy of social order (and probably a theology of strict materialism). If you think of the people who do this as bad guys you are lost; indeed it's useless to see them as real human beings. Better to see them as mere machines programmed to perform a function; you can break the machine, sabotage it, or try to avoid it, but it is a suicidal waste of time to try to negotiate with it.
Dumbing kids down is essential not only for management reasons but increasingly it will become a political necessity because the centralized economy will provide less and less work of real substance. Thinking people unemployed, dispossessed, or given busy work are political dynamite. What has been done to the African-American population since about 1955 is going to have to be done to others if the present economic course - where all work is sucked up into immense government agencies, immense institutions, and gigantic global corporations - is to continue to its logical conclusion. One way to look at the international trade treaties, the de-industrialization of America, and the ongoing attempts to give the United Nations a permanent military presence is to see it as part of a strategy to place the power to change things beyond the reach of democratic citizenries; one way to look at the dumbing down of government compulsion schools is to place the power to change things, or even to assemble effectively, beyond the power of individuals and families.
Two crazy ideas have been abroad for most of the twentieth century. One, dumbing children down so they are unable to use our democratic machinery and traditions to defend themselves against a managed society and find their way to a freer one; and two, eliminating local control of schooling goals and procedures allows involved families to be muzzled and replaced by the hired voices of social managers. As the century ends a sophisticated modification of this plan is going on. The global business strategy called "Management By Objectives" has appeared in pedagogical form as "Outcomes Based Education" in concert with a variety of "free-choice" plans which will nominally return control to localities. The apparent concession in "voucher", "tax credit" and "charter school" plans can be easily contraverted by imposing a template of state-mandated goals, requirements for testing/assessment, control on who is eligible to teach, requirements to purchase supplies from approved lists, and other soft-core sanctions of this type. Under a system of centralized management such as I've just described, the efficiency of central management - however invisible and low-key the new system makes it - would be vastly improved. The feeling of freedom and dignity would remove a great deal of friction from the school machine, dissent would be made to appear brutish ingratitude (or worse from the dissenter's point of view, a psychological impairment to be "adjusted"), and the costs of schooling would be certain to drop (because internal management of classrooms would replace expensive external, friction producing management).
The advantage to a philosophy of scientific social management of dispersing the present system is great enough that although the present system works fairly well (barring the occasional Vietnam rioting) I would expect to see versions of the newer, "freer" way thriving by 2005. But that advantage only exists if at least the degree of centralized direction existing today can be maintained. For that reason I can guarantee you that "choice" in whatever form will only come equipped with "goals, standards, assessments" and probably some extension of the licensing function.
The hopeful fact for a liberty-lover is that such a dispersed national system will be much easier to sabotage by local action than the present one is; the downside lies in the probability that individualized schools will police themselves even more rigidly and thoroughly than is presently possible in the adversarial system we have.
Make no mistake about it, both "choice" and "national schooling" of some type are coming because it is in the interest of the state to allow them soon (just as it is in state interests to appear at present to resist the pressures to liberalize the current system, to be properly deliberative about changing it, etc.)
Is there any visible evidence that such anti-democratic motives are loose among the managers of society? Is this merely the fantasy of an old schoolteacher? Let me mention a few things casually. Once you begin to see the rules of the game the evidence is abundant:
In January of 1995 Time magazine ran a cover story ostensibly to protest the unwarranted reach talk show hosts have into the public mind. Under that surface argument a revealing sub-text played which I can paraphrase as this. "Too much democracy is in the worst interests of our national goals: the world is too complex to allow common people to shape the decisions of management".
Using our provisional theory that democratic outbursts always provoke antithetical attempts to foreclose democracy, I didn't have to look far to determine what put the bee in Time 's bonnet. It was the dramatic turnaround in the Fall, 1994 elections. Neither Time nor anyone who matters cared that one party's control replaced another's for at least two reasons:
1) Congress has lost most of its power in this century because it is too accessible to the democratic impulse. If you don't call giving up the constitutionally granted money power to the private banks of the Federal Reserve a loss of power, or giving up the war-making power in all but name, real losses of real power, then you won't understand my reference. But in national decision-making, our legislative branch has been crippled badly.
2). In important national matters like bombing Iraq or surrendering national sovereignty to trade treaties like GATT and NAFTA the U.S. is virtually a one-party state; political labels mean little.
So how can I argue simultaneously that the elections didn't matter and that they did, too? Easy. What mattered was the shock sent through the world of spin-doctors that decisive public opinion can still be generated by voices outside the power-loop. In this case, whether the reason was the Christian Coalition or a national disgust at being managed matters less than that this was not supposed to be possible after an age of manufacturing consent. How can a properly dumbed down public slip its leash and sink its fangs into the trainer? Hence the Time cover story about the inadvisability of too much democracy - to take a sounding in troubled waters.
Now from this trivial example let me rush you to the big time. Twenty years ago an international policy élite called the Trilateral Commission sponsored a book calledThe Crisis of Democracy, published, I believe, in 1975 by New York University Press; it was widely read and discussed by policy-makers in this country and overseas. The book's thesis is that the world is suffering from a serious disease called "hyperdemocracy", a sickness stemming from, you guessed it, too much political participation by common people.
International order, readers learned, was being threatened along with the progress of globalizing business. Common citizens, it seems, are resisting further surrender of their national identities and local allegiances. Well, how about that? Who the hell do they think they are?
The Trilateral prescription for this crisis of democracy consists of two sharp recommendations: 1) "a narrowing of the meaning of democracy;" and 2) "a forceful assertion of élite control". We've already talked a bit about redefining key words like "liberty" and "democracy", but it might be useful to consider for a minute what a "forceful assertion of élite control" would look like. Historically, if we stick to this country and the past hundred years or so of attempts (mostly successful) to nationally socialize children, we might think of Andrew Carnegie's private army of Pinkertons firing from armed barges at the steel strikers of Homestead, Pennsylvania as one, the assault on the miners' tent camps in Ludlow, Colorado by private gunmen paid by John D. Rockefeller II as another5, and perhaps the execution of strikers at Ford's River Rouge plant in the 1930's, also by hired gunmen, a third. But all of these will have meaning only for students of American history.
Fortunately, recent events are rich in illustrations of forceful assertion of élite control as well. We might think of the public extermination of Branch Davidians by fire in Waco, Texas, the execution of an unarmed woman, Mrs. Randy Weaver, and her unarmed 14-year old son by FBI snipers in Idaho several years ago, to teach her husband and his supporters a lesson, or the most forceful illustration of all: the spectacular immolation of 100,000 retreating Iraqi peasants by igniting a gasoline-drenched sky above their heads - an event seen all over the world on television - as a model of forceful display.
But melodramatics aside, I hope the concern shown by Time and its anti-democracy story in 1995 and the Trilateral book, Crisis Of Democracy in 1975 are enough to convince you that certain well-placed voices have been saying, and are saying, that lesser folk should keep their silly opinions to themselves. With only a slight effort we can track that identical attitude back to Vilfredo Pareto's The Mind and Society, which vas a "must read" among policy-makers during the second Franklin Roosevelt presidency. Pareto's scathing remarks on majority rule, equality, and the like are wonderful to read for their honesty. If Pareto is too esoteric an allusion, then we can find exactly the Trilateral position in Walter Lippman's influential book, Public Opinion, 1922, where Mr. Lippman suggests the public shouldn't have any opinions, or even back to Gaetano Mosca's brilliant study of 1896, The Ruling Class: Elements of Political Science which is thought to be the very book which convinced Teddy Roosevelt he needed a secret police force answerable to himself - in other words, the book which caused Roosevelt to establish the FBI, in defiance of Congress, by executive order.
Have I ranged too far from the national socialization of children, windmilling my arms through the air, spraying obscure books in your direction, ranting about Carnegies, Fords, Rockefellers, the dead Weavers, crisped Iraqis and flame-broiled Davidians? I give up if you think I have. The major question of our lifetimes is whether or not in the teeth of forceful displays of élite power, a form of pernicious schooling worthy of George Orwell and a religion of management science which says in effect, "This is the best of all possible worlds - except we need more of it!", you and I can preserve the possibility of democracy.
Because if we can't, we can kiss our liberty goodbye, too. Both the managers of public policy and their flunkies in the academic world, the mass media, the great foundations (I mean the eleven that really count), and just as great "associations" like CFR, FPA, CED, NAC, et al. have already written liberty off. Comfort and security are the two bribes they peddle to replace it, national schooling is the medicine your kid takes so being unfree won't hurt so much.
For any lingering skeptics in the crowd, let me present Mr. Checker Finn, a little fellow whose name appears everywhere these days, everywhere, that is, that big-time schooling is discussed. Don't worry if you never heard of him, in many ways he's just a nervous suit being fronted by certain business interests to float their vision of a well-schooled world as a trial balloon. But I find him interesting, not so much for his ideas, which are commonplace, but for his attitude - which I take to reflect the curious emptiness of his handlers. See for yourself: what follows will be from his masterpiece, a frightening book with the hysterical title, We Must Take Charge. This control freak's manual extends the notion of hyperdemocracy to its logical limit. Listen:
Why should Connecticut's educational objectives be different from Oregon's? Is there any sound rationale for big differences from one place to another? .... Everybody eats the same Big Macs, buys the same national newspapers, and lines up for the same movies and rock concerts. What has been missing up to now is the will to transform our de facto national curriculum into...a muscular curriculum ... aligned with specific goals and married to clear indicators of results.
The model of governance which seeks to nationally socialize children first took shape in the Whig insurgency of the 1830's, and matured during the progressive movement of the late 19th century. This model was of foreign origin, imported out of the north German state of Prussia. Prussian genius rested on the compelling principle that the state was a fatherland, not a motherland, and that it had absolute godlike rights over each citizen; the state could not do wrong. School was seen as a factory for the production of state-approved children, some dumb, some average, some bright, and some far-seeing and insightful. How many of each type were produced was nobody's business but the state's.
This idea could be infinitely regressed, but its recent parentage begins with John Locke and Rousseau, who worked from the model of a child's consciousness as a blank slate, and a Swiss philosopher Helvetius, who refined the basic conception. The idea got loose in Prussia exactly at the moment that country was trying to rally from a crushing defeat by Napoleon.
Thirteen years after that defeat at Jena, in 1819, Prussia sprang a national system of forced schooling on the world designed to harness its human resources, along with a university system which dismissed good teaching as significant&emdash;replacing the teacher with the honored scholar who produced research for the state. Students existed to serve the research and to develop a scientific outlook among those who were to lead the common people. A later development of the Prussian mind was the famous behavioral psychology which has performed so destructive a role in public schooling for the past 50 years. It was a refinement of animal training which operated from the premise that human life was machinery to be programmed, a decisive variant on Locke's blank slate.
Behavioral psychology held out a promise of delivering mechanisms of mass behavioral control in the new factory schools of the early twentieth century, and the softer psychologies of Germany/Austria - from Freud through the later Gestaltists, Frankfurt School, etc. - promised a way to keep children content while they were being behaviorally conditioned. These softer psychologies owed their inspiration to the work of Heinrich Pestalozzi and Frederick Froebel. Pestalozzi was for all practical purposes the inventor of the elementary school curriculum and Froebel was the inventor of kindergarten. Both saw themselves as disciples of Rousseau and put practical exercises to his theories of childrearing.
The chaos these German psychological traditions, soft and hard, brought on twentieth century America is monumental, but here I want to limit your attention to just one aspect of the matter: what psychological theory of either sort suggests about human liberty.
German psychology taught that human nature was only an epiphenomenon, a by-product of the flight of atomic particles. Since there was neither Soul nor Spirit, there could be no absolute justification of morality. The way seen around this dilemma is through training in habits and politically approved attitudes also achieved through training which blends the conditioning of behavioral psychology with the "motivation" of gentler forms of persuasion&emdash;a classic stick and carrot approach.
It's not easy to see until someone points it out to you that a scientifically managed society requires its citizens to have morally relativistic attitudes. In the first place such a perspective offers the maximum shot at scientific discovery&emdash;think of it as a "no holds barred" attitude, an unquenchable curiosity which will not accept limits. Notice, too, that I have just defined the mind of a pornographer as well as the mind of a scientist. If you think there is any real difference between lifting up a defenseless child's skirts to see what lies beneath and ripping apart an atomic nucleus to see what happens then you and I would find much to disagree with, I'm certain.
... If you think there is any real difference between lifting up a defenseless child's skirts to see what lies beneath and ripping apart an atomic nucleus to see what happens then you and I would find much to disagree with, I'm certain.
But maximizing the possibility of discovery is not the only reason a scientific state has for requiring its citizenry to abandon absolute morality; a much more important reason is that the scientific state reserves the right to do what it wants, when it wants, in any way it wants. With those givens it's not a long stretch to see that moral attitudes deeply held are simply a major obstacle to getting the people to go where you want them to go. That isn't always true, of course, but even the potential it might happen is a prime nuisance. When Lyndon Johnson staged the night attack on the destroyer C. Turner Joy in order to plunge us into a war in Vietnam he was employing disinformation to overcome moral scruples, as Kennedy did in his attack on Cuba, Bush in his attack on Grenada, or FDR in his concealment of intelligence reports on the approaching Pearl Harbor attack. It lies in the fundamental nature of scientifically managed or pragmatic governments to find public morality inconvenient. I hope I haven't shocked you.
Hence the moral relativeness of German psychologies put a gleam in the eye of U.S. policy-makers toward the end of the nineteenth century. But how to effectively spread such attitudes in the face of family morality, religious morality, cultural morality, and traditional morality? Where would the vehicle be found to de-moralize the common population? Can you guess? The nationalization of schooling will complete a process of conditioning the body politic of this country begun just about a hundred years ago by the great transformation of successful one-room schools and local governance into factory schools with a psychological curriculum scientifically managed by trained agents of the state.
Throughout the academic development of 19th century America, this Germanic imagination worked to achieve "a new type of man drawn on a now theory of life". It was recognized the major obstacles would be three Mother, Home, and Self. Prussian genius, working through its famous "common schools" and "kindergartens," found a brilliant method to weaken the loyalty to all three: instead of severe discipline which was in use in every other part of national life, for the common children there would be love and laughter, bright colors, funny faces, balloons, "cooperative learnings" and a strict curtailment of difficult reading and thinking. Home would be the place that imposed hard work and strict duties, school would be a place for fun, a world for children better than home, with teachers smarter and nicer than mother - a place where the first buds of originality and individuality could be sanded down into the standards of collective response imposed by strangers. And when the state stepped in to issue orders much later when the children were almost grown, how would any of them know how to resist!?
Horace Mann fell in love with the idea when he saw it firsthand. His awe at its profundity fairly jumps from the pages of his Seventh Report to the Boston School Committee in 1844. Give us Prussian schools! he cries. One year later the King of Prussia was officially invited by the U.S. and Canadian governments to settle the boundary between our countries in the northwest. Prussia's crushing victory over France in 1871, its prosperity built on a very thin resource base, and the distinction of its scientists, all contributed to underline how much profit lay in a plan of national child socialization. In 1875, the ambitious Asian state of Japan took Prussia's constitution for its own. Like Whig politician Horace Mann those Japanese militarists fell in love with Prussia's use of children as implements - and gave rise to the use of a strange verb hardly heard anywhere else but in discussions of school matters where "to implement" is a daily invocation.
In the early twentieth century the German mechanical outlook on human life entered American industry and the workplace in a big way. At the 1905 NEA convention, Frank Vanderlip, vice-president of the National City Bank of New York told the assembled school administrators and teachers, "Germany's success can be encompassed in a single word - schoolmaster." By 1910 Taylor's scheme of "scientific management" swept America like a prairie fire. Industry, government, school, even religious missionary efforts celebrated scientific management as a secular gospel. Suffice it to say the nuts and bolts of this idea were brought back to America from Germany by thousands and thousands of prominent young men who had traveled there in search of the world's only PhD degree at that time.
America's industrial tycoons demanded their workers be rigorously socialized in the new system right along with their nominal bosses, the mid-level executive class who was subjected to German discipline, too. It was not sufficient to merely perform well, minds and hearts had to be regulated, too. If you ever read George Orwell now you know why Winston Smith had to be made to love Big Brother; in a mind control system it isn't sufficient simply to do away with your enemies.
Before mid-century American courts were ruling that only what can be scientifically demonstrated is true. That is of course the bedrock philosophical underpinning of scientific positivism, and the first principle taught in behavioral psychology. Justice Bork recently ruled in the U.S. Appellate Court that "no system of moral or ethical values has any objective or intrinsic value of its own." If you disagree, you're not an American judge, at least not one going places.
The populist right, an entity regularly mis-called the religious right, has correctly traced the elastic morality of children to government schooling, but it has erroneously concluded that liberals, communists, new-agers, anti-Christians, and immoralists are behind this development. Certainly schools are full of plenty of these groups but none ever had the power to dominate this very expensive institution of the state. The moral relativity characteristic of public school products is, as I've said, a necessary precondition for professional social engineers to enjoy success in their projects. And scientific management was established in schools by the complete victory of the international mega-corporations in the first decades of the twentieth century.
This total victory over smaller manufacturers and over the economy of independent livelihoods (nearly 50% of all Americans were farmers in 1900!) was consolidated by increasing control over the minds of the young. Moral relativity is the core curriculum of government schooling. It pays the bills. This explains an otherwise baffling mystery! Why the great private foundations of Carnegie, Rockefeller, Ford, and others have relentlessly underwritten socialist projects for this entire century, or since their founding.
By 1953 a congressional commission was onto the game; its official title: "The Special Committee to Investigate Tax Exempt Foundations". I'll quote a bit of the Committee's conclusions from the book, Foundations Their Power and Influence written by the general counsel of the body, René Wormser:
There is much evidence that to a substantial degree foundations have been the directors of education in the United States .... In these Rockefeller,- Ford-, and Carnegie-established vineyards work many of the principal characters in the story of the suborning of American education. Foundations nurture academic advocates of upsetting the American system and supplanting it with a Socialistic state.
It's a wonderfully disturbing read, this book, and Mr. Wormser as a lawyer has assembled a grim pile of facts about the financing of many school projects aimed at collectivizing the society. Once you have this odd doorway opened for you the strangest sights can be glimpsed inside.
For instance, in 1915 Mr. Carnegie and Mr. Rockefeller spent more money on education and welfare than all efforts of the government combined. And on many other fronts Mr. Carnegie and his fellow moguls were showing themselves to be much more than successful industrialists. In 1914 Carnegie, for instance, took over the controlling group of the Federal Council of Churches by extending very heavy subsidies; what was difficult to explain is why this was done by a man whose contempt for churches was legendary. In 1918 Carnegie endowed a meeting in London of the American Historical Association, where an agreement was made to rewrite American history. Beatrice Webb (whose Fabian projects she declined to accept his underwriting for) called him "a reptile".
On July 4, 1919 the London Times carried a detailed account of the "efficient propaganda" carried on by agents of Mr. Carnegie in the U.S, men "trained in the arts of swaying public opinion". Among the details cited is this gem which I'll hope you keep in mind when you're "reading the next major school undertaking of the Carnegie foundations:
... propaganda to mobilize the press, the Church, the stage and cinema, the whole educational system, the universities, public and high schools, primary schools. Histories and textbooks will be revised. New books will be added, particularly in the primary school.
Who can explain such an ambitiously comprehensive propagandizing as an attempt to enhance what normal people would call "democracy"? And yet one of Carnegie's later written works, and a big one, was called Triumphant Democracy, spelling out the majestic achievements of the American system. What kind of democracy is it that inserts ideas in unsuspecting minds? That strikes me as a pornographer's idea of a good joke, a pornographer's democracy. The same issue of the same paper carries a signed article by Owen Wister, one of the Carnegie propagandists, who states, "A movement to correct the schoolbooks of the United States has been started and it will go on."
You'll have noticed that in the above outline of a propaganda network to be assembled by the Carnegie endowments, no hint is given toward what end this is being done.
I'll close this long reflection on the national socialization of children by extending two clues about a destination for all this effort, some utopia the schools will be used to bring about. Remember, these are only hunches:
The March, 1925 issue of Saturday Evening Post carries an article, by a prominent Carnegie endowment official stating, "American labor will have to be reduced to the status of European labor" in order to bring about a better world, to level the playing field. And ten years later, the New York American newspaper carried a report of what it called "a secret Carnegie Endowment Conference" at the Westchester Country Club in Harrison, New York at which twenty-nine invited organizations agreed to authorize a nationwide radio campaign to commit the U.S. to a policy of internationalism and to present vigorous counter-action against those who oppose the country's entrance into the League of Nations. The date was December 19, 1915.
Children have been nationally socialized in graduated stages already in this century; now it would appear someone is trying very-hard to internationally socialize them. I want to wrap this up by talking about some of the great societies of this century which would not have been possible without a national system of schooling.
Let's begin with the Japanese empire which overran Asia. Japan's Prussianized school system gave the empire's élite military leadership just that extra measure of discipline it needed to efficiently go to war. Keep in mind that in national schooling a teaching staff is required to function as agents of the state, transmitting legends and lore the State permits and no other. Student bodies are tested and labeled to be used as raw material for a planned economy; dissidents, however talented, are stigmatized through permanent records and public humiliation. Is it any wonder China subsequently trained its best public school students to spy on their own parents as if to underline to the family who really owned the children's loyalty?
Chairman Mao reversed customary authority relationships between old and young, using students to impose State-generated social changes directly on a community of Chinese adults during the well-known "Red Guard" period. And only a short time after Mao we find it tried in the U.S. when American courts authorize child access to condoms and abortion without knowledge or prior consent of parents. Here was a subtle way to out-Mao Mao, to bypass the stumbling block of family and place the baton of leadership into youthful hands.
In 1922 a schoolteacher came to power in Italy. Education was immediately put under strict state control. Its aim was absolute organizational discipline of behavior and thinking. Up until recently our own system of schooling was closer to Mussolini's fascist model than any of the more serious varieties of mind control. But after 1960 there were clear indications directors of American schooling were looking to follow the example of 20th century Germany, heir to Prussian schooling, and the Soviet Union, another legatee of Prussia once removed.
Both National Socialist Germany and Soviet Russia employed elaborate strategies of student indoctrination, ones which aimed at total ideological transformation. They stressed ladders of absolute authority, ladders of obedience, and utter subservience to a group standard. Alfred Rosenberg, the party philosopher, wrote that the task of our century was "to create a new type of man out of a new myth of life". Meanwhile on our side of the Atlantic John Dewey and his associates said the same thing in almost the same words. Uncanny. Jane Addams, a close friend of Dewey and directress of the famous Chicago social settlement Hull House put the case for national schooling this way:
The individual must be subordinated to the larger social group, The Individual has little importance. The nation is moving from an era of individualism to one of collective associations. The concept of social control through mass psychology is a necessity. The goal is the construction of a universal village that will obtain an organic control over all life. The play impulse in children, carefully regulated and channeled, will breed a group mind, and prove an important substitute for police action.
Strong stuff, huh? Old Jane Addams! "The play impulse in children carefully regulated and channeled will breed a group mind"? "Control through mass psychology", "control over all life", "construction of a universal village". And that was 1935; think how much progress her team has made in 60 years.
But meanwhile back in Germany the Hitler gang was practicing what Jane Addams preached. Thanks to national schooling academic requirements were deliberately weakened just as they had been in Bismarck's day; psychological material was infused throughout the curriculum to replace intellectual material. Great stress was placed on schooling as a preparation for work, not to learn to think. As pragmatism waxed, hard thinking waned. And in Germany the ultimate masterpiece of national education occurred: a highly-educated population which could gas Jews efficiently and at the same time show genuine delight in poetry and music. The great Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said the second world war was the inevitable result of a fine-quality, universal, national compulsion schooling.
The recent collapse of the Soviets has given us a close look at that Russian state schooling lavishly praised by John Dewey and the Fabian Socialists during the 1930's. Nothing in Russia worked except its weaponry. One-sixth of the land area is dangerously polluted with chemical and radioactive toxins, the average resident has 88 feet of living space, 17% of the male population is alcoholic, standing in bread lines occupies 40 full working days a year even though the former Soviet is the world's largest grain producer. But popular contentment was never a state goal of the Soviets; discontent could be handled by surveillance and control technology. Or so the socio-technicians thought until the whole thing came apart.
About a decade ago a Pennsylvania woman named Anita Hoge brought a legal complaint against the State of Pennsylvania for violation of federal law. She complained the state education department was forcing a psychological test on children, eliciting personal and sensitive information, then scoring this data against a secret state standard of political correctness. The State of Pennsylvania was sitting in judgment on attitudes, values, beliefs and opinions behind the curtain. Mrs. Hoge alleged that it was the intention of Pennsylvania to change the way children viewed right and wrong without informing children this was the purpose or obtaining consent from their parents.
Mrs. Hoge's complaint was upheld by a federal investigation. Pennsylvania promised to stop. But infractions continue in Pennsylvania as they do all over the country. No really effective counter-action against the powerful covert machinery in place to nationally socialize children is possible without general awareness of what really is going on, who is making it happen, and for what end.
In the November 1973 Harvard Education Review, Hillary Rodham, not yet Mrs. Clinton, wrote that she deplored the "obsolete belief" that families are private. Or that they have the right to control the upbringing of their children. In a 1992 issue of Atlantic Monthly, Christopher Lasch wrote that Mrs. Clinton regards family as a retrograde institution. It is the family who holds children back, the state which sets them free.
What can it mean in relation to democracy or the greater value, liberty, that some huge force seeks to centralize the school enterprise through schemes and strategies conducted outside public oversight? What does it suggest that an unelected élite can drive North America in radical new directions without public debate or approval? I think it means that Ross Perot was right. They've taken our country and our children away from us and we're going to have to take them back.
The whole record of human history on Planet Earth nowhere shows the highest wisdom vested in the machinery of states; nothing in the historical record warrants much hope that state power will not be abused in exactly the magnitude with which states hold away over the spirits of their citizenry. Small states cannot be trusted very far: witness Haiti's dismal record, or Guatemala's, or Albania's; medium-size states even less: witness Argentina and Romania; and large states not at all: witness China, Russia, Indonesia, Japan, Germany. The last time I looked the state I live in myself was a whopper.
It seems to me that the traditional Christian view of human nature has proven itself to be more objective than the humanist view, at least as it expresses itself through the actions of governments. Human nature is flawed, human organizations (except for the Albany Free School) corrupt. It would be better to give none of them absolute power - which is what national schooling schemes are the avenue toward. With this record of human organization, imagine how far your family would be able to trust a world-state, or a well-armed United Nations.
Just a few years after Crisis of Democracy was published Forbes Magazine, which bills itself as "the capitalist tool" pleasantly shocked me by publishing a truly radical attack on the kind of public schooling which I've argued just now was really the product of global capitalists, who blamed it on every other group under the sun while smiling quietly to themselves.
That Forbes allowed such a gauntlet to be thrown is a wonderfully hopeful clue that class warfare is another illusion. Perhaps we are not facing a monster at all but only a colossal mistake. Listen to what Forbes had to say:
The techniques of brainwashing developed in totalitarian countries are routinely used in psychological conditioning programs imposed on school children. These include emotional shock and desensitization, psychological isolation from sources of support, stripping away defenses, manipulative cross-examination of the individual's underlying moral values, and inducing acceptance of alternative values by psychological rather than rational means. These techniques are not confined to separate courses or programs ... they are not isolated idicsyncracies of particular teachers. They are products of numerous books and other educational material in programs packaged by organizations that sell such curricula to administrators and teach the techniques to teachers. Some packages even include instructions on how to deal with parents and others who object. Stripping away psychological defenses can be done through assignments to keep diaries to be discussed in group sessions, and through role-playing assignments, both techniques used in the original brain-washing programs in China under Mao.
Thus is the road to the national socialization of children being paved. It is a road running through every state's Department of Education these days, filled with buses carrying children to a collective destiny planned by experts without names. And it will continue to happen until each one of you begins to ask what your country wants to nationalize the education of children for. And says NO to it, and NO, and NO, and NO.
1. Hubris: chutzpah, arrogance, swelled heads, megalomania, take your pick.
2. For purposes of this argument the names behind these initials are irrelevant with one possible exception: the Business Council (BAC) became the Business Council (BC) in the sixties and in the eighties the Business Roundtable (BR),a progression from humility to grandiosity in just a hundred years.
3. Under the world-view that "a mass" does not exist, but is an illusion of the manufacturing mind.
4. Mann was a son-in-law to the famous Peabody family, in the congregation of legendary Unitarian William Ellery Channing. A little later Peabodies went partners with young J. P. Morgan, and after the Civil War became the main proselytizers for compulsion school in the South. Mann's sister-in-law, Elizabeth, was a principal mover in American education.
5. On April 20th, 1914 a private army representing the interests of John T. Rockefeller II charged through tent camps containing strikers against the Rockefeller owned Colorado coal and iron mines in armored cars raking the tents with machine-gun fire, and burning one camp to the ground with coal oil. Nineteen men, women and children were killed. No one was ever prosecuted for the killings.