Perhaps the greatest of school’s illusions is that the institution was launched by a group of kindly men and women who wanted to help the children of ordinary families — to level the playing field, so to speak. Let’s see what’s really behind these illusions:
THE MAKERS OF MODERN SCHOOLING
The real makers of modern schooling weren’t at all who we think.
Not Cotton Mather
or Horace Mann
or John Dewey.
The real makers of modern schooling were leaders of the new American industrialist class, men like:
Andrew Carnegie, the steel baron.
John D. Rockefeller, the duke of oil.
Henry Ford, master of the assembly line which compounded steel and oil into a vehicular dynasty.
and J.P. Morgan, the king of capitalist finance.
Rich white men like these, and the brilliant efficiency expert Frederick W. Taylor, who inspired the entire “social efficiency” movement of the early twentieth century, along with providing the new Soviet Union its operating philosophy and doing the same job for Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany; men who dreamed bigger dreams than any had dreamed since Napoleon or Charlemagne, these were the makers of modern schooling.
THE BUSINESS OF SCHOOLING & THE FOURTH PURPOSE
If modern schooling has a “Fourth Purpose,” there must be an earlier three. Traditional forms of instruction in America, even before the Revolution, had three specific purposes:
1. To make good people
2. To make good citizens
3. And to make each student find some particular talents to develop to the maximum.
The new mass schooling which came about slowly but continuously after 1890, had a different purpose, a “fourth” purpose.
The fourth purpose steadily squeezed the traditional three to the margins of schooling; in the fourth purpose, school in America became like school in Germany, a servant of corporate and political management.
We should reveal the mechanism of mind control training, habits, and attitudes.
Children were literally trained in bad habits and bad attitudes! Teachers and principals, “scientifically”certified in teachers college practices, were made unaware of the invisible curriculum they really taught.
The secret of commerce, that kids drive purchases, meant that schools had to become psychological laboratories where training in consumerism was the central pursuit.
THE BUSINESS OF SCHOOLING
Since bored people are the best consumers, school had to be a boring place, and since childish people are the easiest customers to convince, the manufacture of childishness, extended into adulthood, had to be the first priority of factory schools. Naturally, teachers and administrators weren’t let in on this plan; they didn’t need to be. If they didn’t conform to instructions passed down from increasingly centralized school offices, they didn’t last long.
In the new system, schools were gradually re-formed to meet the pressing need of big businesses to have standardized customers and employees, standardized because such people are predictable in certain crucial ways by mathematical formulae. Business (and government) can only be efficient if human beings are redesigned to meet simplified specifications. As the century wore on, school spaces themselves were opened bit by bit to commercialization.
These processes didn’t advance evenly. Some localities resisted more than others, some decades were more propitious for the plan than others. Especially during and just after national emergencies like WWI, the Depression, WWII, and the Sputnik crisis, the scheme rocketed forward; in quieter moments it was becalmed or even forced to give up some ground.
But even in moments of greatest resistance, the institutions controlling the fourth purpose — great corporations, great universities, government bureaus with vast powers to reward or punish, and corporate journalism — increasingly centralized in fewer and fewer hands throughout the twentieth century, kept a steady hand on the tiller. They had ample resources to wear down and outwait the competition.
The prize was of inestimable value — control of the minds of the young.
SCHOOL BECOMES A DANGEROUS PLACE
After 1900 the new mass schooling arenas slowly became impersonal places where children were viewed as HUMAN RESOURCES. Whenever you hear this term, you are certain to be in the presence of employees of the fourth purpose, however unwitting. Human resource children are to be molded and shaped for something called “The Workplace,” even though for most of American history American children were reared to expect to create their own workplaces.
In the new workplace, most Americans were slated to work for large corporations or large government agencies, if they worked at all.
This revolution in the composition of the American dream produced some unpleasant byproducts. Since systematic forms of employment demand that employees specialize their efforts in one or another function of systematic production, then clear thinking warns us that incomplete people make the best corporate and government employees.
Earlier Americans like Madison and Jefferson were well aware of this paradox, which our own time has forgotten. And if that is so, mutilation in the interests of later social efficiency has to be one of the biggest tasks assigned to forced schooling.
Not only was the new form of institution spiritually dangerous as a matter of course, but school became a physically dangerous place as well.
What better way to habituate kids to abandoning trust in their peers (and themselves) than to create an atmosphere of constant low-level stress and danger, relief from which is only available by appeal to authority? And many times not even then!
Horace Mann had sold forced schooling to industrialists of the mid-nineteenth century as the best “police” to create moral children, but ironically, as it turned out in the twentieth century, big business and big government were best served by making schoolrooms antechambers to Hell.
SCHOOL BECOMES AN ARENA OF MEANINGLESS PRESSURE
As the twentieth century progressed, and particularly after WWII, schools evolved into behavioral training centers, laboratories of experimentation in the interests of corporations and the government. The original model for this development had been Prussian Germany, but few remembered.
School became jail-time to escape if you could, arenas of meaningless pressure as with the omnipresent “standardized” exams, which study after study concluded were measuring nothing real.
For instance, take the case of Bill Bradley and George W. Bush, two of the four finalists in the 2000 presidential race. Bradley had a horrifying 480 on the verbal part of his own SATs, yet graduated from Princeton, won a Rhodes Scholarship, and became a senator; Bush graduated from Yale, became governor of Texas, and president of the United States — with a mediocre 550. If you can become governor, senator, and president with mediocre SAT scores, what exactly do the tests measure?
Perhaps they sort out good scientists from bad? If so, how is it that both the scientists principally involved in the Human Genome Project have strange scholarly backgrounds to say the least!
Francis S. Collins, the head of the public portion, was homeschooled, and never followed any type of formal curriculum.
Craig Venter was a very bad boy in high school, a surfing bum who nearly flunked out, and he didn’t go to college after graduation, but into the U.S. Army as an enlisted man before being shipped off to Vietnam!
SCHOOL AS A PLACE OF BEWILDERMENT AND BOREDOM
The new purpose of schooling — to serve business and government — could only be achieved efficiently by isolating children from the real world, with adults who themselves were isolated from the real world, and everyone in the confinement isolated from one another.
Only then could the necessary training in boredom and bewilderment begin. Such training is necessary to produce dependable consumers and dependent citizens who would always look for a teacher to tell them what to do in later life, even if that teacher was an ad man or television anchor.