Instructions: Just read the following sentence straight through without really thinking about it.
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Send your children to "School" : Be A good Citizen!
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
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
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
So he began to dig into terra incognita, the roots of America's educational
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
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 industry."
The next year, the Rockefeller Education Board—which funded the creation of
numerous public schools—issued a statement which read in part:
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
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 individual.
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
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 process."
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."
UPDATE: September 2003: Leave 475,000 children behind!
George W. Bush proposed a budget that reduces the $1
billion for after-school programs to $600 million --
cutting off about 475,000 children from the program.
Turn Off TV and Turn On Quantum Mind
Humanity's most valuable possessions are Clean Water, Clean air, and Trees