[Paleopsych] The Memory Hole > The Educational System Was Designed to Keep Us Uneducated and Docile
checker at panix.com
Wed Apr 6 22:41:53 UTC 2005
The Educational System Was Designed to Keep Us Uneducated and Docile
[This kind of reasoning is a bit too functionalist for me. But surely,
automatons are not what is needed in the work force in the future.]
It's no secret that the US educational system doesn't do a very good
job. Like clockwork, studies show that America's schoolkids lag behind
their peers in pretty much every industrialized nation. We hear
shocking statistics about the percentage of high-school seniors who
can't find the US on an unmarked map of the world or who don't know
who Abraham Lincoln was.
Fingers are pointed at various aspects of the schooling
system--overcrowded classrooms, lack of funding, teachers who can't
pass competency exams in their fields, etc. But these are just
secondary problems. Even if they were cleared up, schools would still
suck. Why? Because they were designed to.
How can I make such a bold statement? How do I know why America's
public school system was designed the way it was (age-segregated, six
to eight 50-minute classes in a row announced by Pavlovian bells,
emphasis on rote memorization, lorded over by unquestionable authority
figures, etc.)? Because the men who designed, funded, and implemented
America's formal educational system in the late 1800s and early 1900s
wrote about what they were doing.
Almost all of these books, articles, and reports are out of print and
hard to obtain. Luckily for us, John Taylor Gatto tracked them down.
Gatto was voted the New York City Teacher of the Year three times and
the New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991. But he became
disillusioned with schools--the way they enforce conformity, the way
they kill the natural creativity, inquisitiveness, and love of
learning that every little child has at the beginning. So he began to
dig into terra incognita, the roots of America's educational system.
In 1888, the Senate Committee on Education was getting jittery about
the localized, non-standardized, non-mandatory form of education that
was actually teaching children to read at advanced levels, to
comprehend history, and, egads, to think for themselves. The
committee's report stated, "We believe that education is one of the
principal causes of discontent of late years manifesting itself among
the laboring classes."
By the turn of the century, America's new educrats were pushing a new
form of schooling with a new mission (and it wasn't to teach). The
famous philosopher and educator John Dewey wrote in 1897:
Every teacher should realize he is a social servant set apart for
the maintenance of the proper social order and the securing of the
right social growth.
In his 1905 dissertation for Columbia Teachers College, Elwood
Cubberly--the future Dean of Education at Stanford--wrote that schools
should be factories "in which raw products, children, are to be shaped
and formed into finished products...manufactured like nails, and the
specifications for manufacturing will come from government and
The next year, the Rockefeller Education Board--which funded the
creation of numerous public schools--issued a statement which read in
In our dreams...people yield themselves with perfect docility to
our molding hands. The present educational conventions
[intellectual and character education] fade from our minds, and
unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful
and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people or any
of their children into philosophers or men of learning or men of
science. We have not to raise up from among them authors,
educators, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo
great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors,
preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have ample supply.
The task we set before ourselves is very simple...we will organize
children...and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their
fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way.
At the same time, William Torrey Harris, US Commissioner of Education
from 1889 to 1906, wrote:
Ninety-nine [students] out of a hundred are automata, careful to
walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom.
This is not an accident but the result of substantial education,
which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the
In that same book, The Philosophy of Education, Harris also revealed:
The great purpose of school can be realized better in dark,
airless, ugly places.... It is to master the physical self, to
transcend the beauty of nature. School should develop the power to
withdraw from the external world.
Several years later, President Woodrow Wilson would echo these
sentiments in a speech to businessmen:
We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another
class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forego the
privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform
specific difficult manual tasks.
Writes Gatto: "Another major architect of standardized testing, H.H.
Goddard, said in his book Human Efficiency (1920) that government
schooling was about 'the perfect organization of the hive.'"
While President of Harvard from 1933 to 1953, James Bryant Conant
wrote that the change to a forced, rigid, potential-destroying
educational system had been demanded by "certain industrialists and
the innovative who were altering the nature of the industrial
In other words, the captains of industry and government explicitly
wanted an educational system that would maintain social order by
teaching us just enough to get by but not enough so that we could
think for ourselves, question the sociopolitical order, or communicate
articulately. We were to become good worker-drones, with a razor-thin
slice of the population--mainly the children of the captains of
industry and government--to rise to the level where they could
continue running things.
This was the openly admitted blueprint for the public schooling
system, a blueprint which remains unchanged to this day. Although the
true reasons behind it aren't often publicly expressed, they're
apparently still known within education circles. Clinical psychologist
Bruce E. Levine wrote in 2001:
I once consulted with a teacher of an extremely bright
eight-year-old boy labeled with oppositional defiant disorder. I
suggested that perhaps the boy didn't have a disease, but was just
bored. His teacher, a pleasant woman, agreed with me. However, she
added, "They told us at the state conference that our job is to get
them ready for the work world...that the children have to get used
to not being stimulated all the time or they will lose their jobs
in the real world."
John Taylor Gatto's book, The Underground History of American
Education: An Intimate Investigation into the Problem of Modern
Schooling (New York: Oxford Village Press, 2001), is the source for
all of the above historical quotes. It is a profoundly important,
unnerving book, which I recommend most highly. You can order it from
Gatto's Website, which also contains the first half of the book
online for free.
The final quote above is from page 74 of Bruce E. Levine's excellent
book Commonsense Rebellion: Debunking Psychiatry, Confronting Society
(New York: Continuum Publishing Group, 2001).
posted 17 July 2003
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