Monday, May 23, 2011

The Sorry State of American Education

Prologue: The Purpose of Education

I firmly believe that the purpose of education is to teach a person how to think independently and to question. Its purpose is to teach a person to think outside the box, be a self-starter and come up with new ideas. To learn how to question authority is part and parcel of an education.

The educated person has learned how to learn. Material and experience learned is used to figure things out independently. An educated person has learned to be a self-reliant self-starter and self-teacher.

To learn how to read is very important, not just so one can parrot the ideas of other people, but so that the ideas of others can trigger the formation of ideas of one's own. The classics, including not only American literature, but also literature going back to the early Roman and Greek, are very good sources of ideas, as these works were written in surroundings entirely different from our own. Literacy has declined as schooling has increased. John Taylor Gatto described some statistics on the decline of literacy. The phonics method of teaching children how to read, which works, was dropped in our schools (1).

In the United States today, there is very little of what can be called "education." In fact, until a person is 18 years old, true use of the mind is strictly forbidden. There are so many restrictions on young people that I believe a comparison study of slaves in the ante-bellum South and today's "minors" would be worth doing.

And it is tragic. It has been shown that once people reach puberty they are capable of adult behavior (2). If they do not behave as adults it is because they have every reason not to (3).

According to studies cited in the Epstein book, the ability to reason and figure things out peaks in the early teens. John Taylor Gatto believes that by age 12 a person should be enough of an adult to be earning his or her own money out in the community (4).

So why are youth locked in that tiny little box? Why does the establishment refuse to acknowledge their abilities? I would answer that question with questions: How would the size and scope of government increase without minor-status laws? How would teachers' unions benefit from a change in the direction of freedom? They would not. Governments, unions, and other establishment entities are benefitting on the backs of youth.

And, most important of all, how would the populace be kept docile if people were allowed to learn how to think at the time they could best learn? Keeping people in line is government's most important job if it is to go on growing stronger and taking freedom and productivity away. A thinking populace cannot be kept in line.

So, as far as young people and their education is concerned, by the time they turn 18 and are allowed any freedom at all, the train has left the station. And I firmly believe this is exactly how the establishment has designed the system.

Minor-status laws have proliferated exponentially over the decades. While it is true that most of these no longer apply to 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds, they have become far more numerous and stringent for persons under the age of 18. This has been on a steep rise through the last half of the twentieth century and has doubled since 1970! (5).

Some status laws prevent young people from engaging in activities that are technically legal for them, such as the legal inability to sign a contract until they are 18. No contract? No cellphone, no car, no rentals, no land ownership, and no marriage, at least not on their own. And, on their own is the way they should do such things. Californians under 18 cannot deliver newspapers because carriers are required by newspapers to buy insurance, which "minors" cannot (6). The health club I belong to requires members to be 18 and I am sure this is a liability issue that it has no control over. Regulations that are choking all of us are even tougher on youth.

Therefore, "minors" are relegated to second-class- or even third-class-citizen status. Actually third-class is the more accurate as we study public schooling.

The kids do not count, as we will see. They have no money, no vote, and no rights in the eyes of the establishment. We will also see that parents and taxpayers do not have much status either, at least not compared to politicians, bureaucrats, union big-shots, and others who are well-connected.

It is these well-connected who hold the purse-strings and power, while the rest of us, especially the students, are shafted.

As I explained before in previous essays, the establishment has picked policies out of the air when it comes to youth laws. No minor-status laws at all have any basis in either the Bible (7) or the Constitution. There is zero mention of any age in the Constitution, except regarding holding elected office. There is no reason any young adult, Christian or otherwise, should observe any "minor" laws.

Edwin G. West's Education and the State (8) shows that state "education" applies to groups rather than individuals and leads to state monopoly. This tends to frustrate the universal desire for self-improvement. He starts the book right at the outset with the treatment of "minors."

Even the most ardent 19th century advocates of laissez faire, says West (9), believed that the purpose of government is to protect people.

They were wrong, in my opinion. The sole purpose of government is to protect the individual's rights. So they were working from the premise that government is to protect individuals themselves rather than individuals' rights. If their premise is right, then it is perfectly OK, for a simple example, for government to force you to wear a seat-belt to protect you, but it should not protect your right to decide whether or not to wear your seat-belt on your body in your  car.

However brilliant these defenders of laissez faire might have been, this was a fatal blunder. But what of children, who cannot protect themselves? This is what parents are for. God in His infinite wisdom has created mankind in such a way that the child has two parents, each responsible for protecting him from all kinds of dangers, including the other parent, and including over-reaching paternalistic government. (Obviously sometimes a child has only one parent, or none, or cruel parents, but I will not digress.)

Minor-status laws are one evil from which parents must protect their children, even into young adulthood. There are so many things young people technically cannot do, and it is the job of parents to help them find ways around these restrictions.

Of course, the defenselessness of little children, plus the idea that government's function is to protect, led to special "protection" of kids and that segues right into the idea that education is a function of government. This idea was swallowed whole by even free-market of thinkers such as Milton Friedman (10).

And now today, it is this very government school system that children need to be protected from, if they are to grow into truly educated people who can think for themselves, teach themselves, and question "authority."

(1) John Taylor Gatto, The Underground History of American Education, The Oxford Village Press, New York 2003, P. 52, 53.

(2) Robert Epstein, The Case Against Adolescence, Quill Driver Books/World Dancer Press Inc., Sanger (California), 2007, Chapters 6 & 7.

(3) Ibid. P. 164, 165.

(4) Gatto, Weapons of Mass Instruction, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, B.C., Canada, 2009, P. 136, 137.

(5) Epstein P. 32.

(6) Ibid. P. 32.

(7) Ibid. P. 288-290.

(8) Edwin G. West, Education and the State, Liberty Fund, Indianapolis, 1994, (Third Edition).

(9) Ibid. P. 3.

(10) Ibid. P. 4.

What To Do?

So, in the light of excessive and screwball "minor-status" laws, and the fact that the same entity (government) that makes these laws is also in charge of education, what must be done?

Thomas Moore says we need to start over from the ground up (1). We need to reconsider what education is, he says.

That's right. Education, I think, is the teaching of people how to learn and how to think outside the box. It is not the teaching of people how to conform, obey, and co-öperate. It is not even teaching people how to compete, out-produce the other guy, and turn the biggest profit. These latter attributes are good as they make for prosperity, but once a person is educated, he or she has the ability to acquire these skills independently.

We do not educate young people by controlling them like puppets on a string until they are 18.

It is just another case of social engineering! (2) Social engineering is exemplified by the War on Poverty and the insane War on Drugs. These have been and are abject failures. Government schooling is but a war on young minds, and has to be the most pernicious case of social engineering. Not only is government teaching's purpose to socially engineer, but it is teaching children and young adults that social engineering is a positive good. Government colleges and universities are actually grooming students to become social engineers! I saw that first hand when I took a couple of mainstream economics courses. Thank goodness that was after I had obtained bedrock knowledge of sound free-market (Austrian school) economics, so I could see right through much of the high-sounding theory.

Social engineering in education is overt at least according to the California 2nd District Court of Appeals ruling in 2008 that homeschooling by non-certified teachers was illegal. The ruling said, in part, "the primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism, loyalty to the state and nation as a means of protecting the public welfare." (Emphasis mine.)

How does this compare with the goal of teaching people to think independently and question authority? Not very well.

This hits the nail on the head as to why I am so angry about the state of education in this country. Tyrants through the ages have said something to the effect that if you gave them a child to train, the child would be theirs for the rest of the child's life.

Then, too, on the other side, the Bible says "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (4). God created every individual different. Each has different natural interests and abilities. I believe that God intended for that Bible passage to mean the child should be raised in such a way as to encourage the finding of these abilities and the follow-up on them. Collective "education" is not conducive to that. While group learning has its place, most learning must be individualized. Teacher and student should be one on one and much learning should be independent study.

John Taylor Gatto, who is an educator and whose writings are staple in libertarian households, concludes that "self-reliance is the antidote to institutional stupidity" (5).

Amen to that. This holds true across the board for being independent of staid government. Self-reliance will go a long way to help someone get around bureaucratic rules and to outsmart bureaucrats. And John Taylor Gatto says the present system could not last a generation if people were taught to think critically (6). It would be the end of the line for the establishment.

How does government dumb us down? John Taylor Gatto outlines seven ways. One of these is to "confuse" students by disconnecting subjects. There are all these various topics, taught by many various people, as raw data without any meaning (7). A second way is students are numbered and assigned to a class. It hardly pays to do really well and be assigned to a better class. Once you are in a class, for the most part that is where you stay (8). The third way is to instill in students not to truly care about anything. Even if a student is excitedly answering teacher questions correctly and feeling the satisfaction of it, when the bell rings it no longer matters. It is time to go on to the next subject. Who can really learn to care? (9).

I remember being told it was not normal to want something very badly. On summer Fridays, I wanted so badly to get to the lake. The time went so slowly. I was told I should learn patience. Thank goodness I did not. In 1964 I wanted Barry Goldwater to win the election so badly. I was told that the majority rules and the minority must give in. Give in? I don't think so. I want freedom badly. Perhaps a Goldwater administration would not have delivered as I hoped. But this episode whetted my appetite for more pro-freedom activity. One important lesson is that if you want something badly enough and are willing to work for it, sometimes long and hard, you can have it. That does not mean to lie, cheat, or steal. It does mean to work.

Anyway, public education is set up in such a way that students are not encouraged to want or to care.

The fourth and fifth ways listed by Gatto as to how students are dumbed down are emotional and intellectual dependency (10). While obviously students are human beings and have God-given, constitutionally guaranteed rights, the school system does not acknowledge that fact at all. The comings and goings of students in school are by permission which can be granted or withheld at the whim of the teacher. Good students wait to be told what to do, Mr. Gatto says, and either they think what they are told to think, or suffer the consequences. Evolution was the example he gave. This was a good example as evolution is one of the establishment's sacred cows. If students are told evolution of human beings is a fact, then the successful student will believe that. Later in life, good citizens wait for "experts" to tell them what to do.

I have said in previous essays that the idea that human beings just happened by random natural selection descending from monkeys without at least some guidance from some conscious entity, is a bit crazy. If you want proof that this did not happen that way, look in the mirror! Evolution is an establishment sacred cow and that all by itself casts doubt on it! It gives rise to eugenics, racism, and a multitude of evils Gatto discusses in Underground (11).

While public school students are intellectually dependent on the teacher, the teacher, in turn, is intellectually (and emotionally) dependent on the faceless bureaucrats who make the decisions about curriculum.

The sixth way to dumb down students is to convince them that their self-esteem depends on the opinion of "experts," and not on self-evaluation as it should be (12). Well, that is no surprise. If students are not taught to think critically or to be self-starters, but rather wait to be told what to do, then there is no way they will be able to acquire self-esteem by independent accomplishment.

The last way may be the most ominous of all. This is constant surveillance. Students have absolutely no alone time. Even in the restroom, one must hurry as the bell is about to ring or someone else needs the stall. Even at home their time is taken up with homework which takes time away from family and real education.

Now, why in the world would the establishment want to do this to people? Well, the question answers itself actually. The establishment wants to remain established, and that requires keeping the great unwashed in line, hard-working and obedient. I pointed out repeatedly in my Murray Rothbard reviews that the system is set up in such a way that wealth gravitates towards establishment interests. There needs to be wealth to gravitate, and the order-following workers on the assembly lines and in the offices are producing that wealth. Of course, this begs the question: If people are educated and cannot stand boring assembly line and office work, who is going to do it? Much is already automated and there is no reason more of it cannot be.

Mr. Gatto answers my question: Why did I do all my growing during the summer? He also answers the question: Why is the establishment trying to take children's summers away from them?

As I write this, it just happens that I pick up Gatto's Dumbing Us Down and begin Chapter 4, "We Need Less School, Not More," and it is November 16, 2010. I just saw the ABC Nightly News which ran a propaganda piece on education in China. They showed the beautiful Shanghai skyline that puts most of our skylines to shame, and I had to wonder just how much of a free market they have. All this building was done in a few short years. I did hear of a big hotel being built there in mere days, and freeways constructed in less time than it takes to get all the required permits here. Of course, safety and quality are in question. I honestly have no clues about China, but I do know that our own economy is at a virtual standstill because of stifling government bureaucracy.

One reason the news program gave for all their progress (or what appeared on the show to be progress) is the education. Students spend so much time in school that they have no time left. That is exactly what Mr. Gatto says is wrong. I agree with Gatto not only because of my own experience but because even if this is good for some students (we are all different), it has to make it very difficult for a student to be a real individual. After all, one needs time in which to be an individual. Conformity and obedience do not require time. Independence and critical decision-making for a single individual do. (Editor's note: "The man to whom nature and fate have granted the blessing of wisdom, will be most anxious and careful to keep open the fountains of happiness which he has in himself; and for this, independence and leisure are necessary." -- Arthur Schopenhauer)

I believe that the establishment propagandists at the TV network were trying to instill the idea that Pres. Obama is right: We need longer school days and longer school years. I think I recently saw on a Web page that they were thinking of two additional years too, grades thirteen and fourteen, on top of centralized national curricula and testing (13), but maybe I was having a nightmare.

Of course, the increase of government power and getting people into a lifelong habit of conformity and obedience is not the only reason for this. There is money to be made too (14). Teachers' union members and the manufacturers of school supplies such as textbooks and Scantron cards stand to gain at taxpayer expense.

Mr. Gatto is calling for a free market in education (15) and of course I agree. If people are going to learn to think and be independent, then government must not be involved.

Mr. Gatto said something very interesting as he wound down the book and that was that institutionalized, quick-fix, easy, one-size-fits-all modes of education and of manipulating the American populace like cattle was our Calvinist legacy (16). This reminded me of "religious right" policies that are really closely related to socialism and leave the individual and the free will out of the picture. Maybe you read my previous essay called How the Bush Administration is Destroying our Country and Damaging the Christian Church (17) in which I made it plain that this does not reflect true Christianity any more than it reflects the principles of the Founders.

The neo-conservatives and the left tend to forget the most important thing, and that is that people are people, not robots! People need to be taught and learn accordingly. The one-size-fits-all way of our nation's government schools is a failure.

But, then again, it is a total success! If the establishment really wants a docile populace that is oblivious to the gravitation of wealth to establishment interests at the people's expense, that is eager to give up precious God-given rights in exchange for security, and that actually believes that freedom means free lunch, then the public schools are a complete success. The establishment is getting everything it wants, and more.

(1) John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, B.C., Canada, 2005, Foreword by Thomas Moore.

(2)Louis E. Carabini, Inclined to Liberty, Ludwig von Mises Institute, Auburn, Ala., 2008, P. 95-97.

(3) Ibid. P. 95.

(4) Proverbs 22:6.

(5) David Albert in the Introduction to Dumbing Us Down, P. XVIII.

(6) Ibid. P. XXXV.

(7) Ibid. P. 2 & 3.

(8) Ibid. P. 4 & 5.

(9) Ibid. P. 5 & 6.

(10) Ibid. P. 6-9.

(11) Gatto, An Underground History of American Education, Oxford Village Press, New York, 2003, P. 179-181. Other references of major importance are found in the book.

(12) Dumbing Us Down, P. 9 & 10.

(13) Ibid. P. 73.

(14) Ibid. P. 63.

(15) Ibid. P. 72.

(16) Ibid. P. 88-89.

(17) and click on "2007 (12)"

What Are Some Alternatives?

It seems to me that every time a dissident criticizes the status quo, the establishment demands that the dissident either have ready-made alternatives all figured out or keep quiet.

Wrong! It is not necessary to have an alternative. It is far easier to see where the system has gone wrong than it is to figure out how to make things right. Additionally, one needs to see that the system is wrong in order to have a reason to find alternatives.

And, even then, too often, the "alternatives" they find will only make things worse. Listen to the pathetic cries for more government money. Very early on in the study of sound economics one discovers that this "alternative" is no better than the "alternative" of more drugs to relieve drug withdrawal symptoms. It seems to work a little bit for a little while, but, in the end, one is back where one started, only worse.

Throwing more money into government schools might keep the system plodding along until present fat-cat bureaucrats start collecting their super-sized pensions and leave it all in the hands of future fat-cats, who then beg for more money.

So, what is a parent to do? Every parent is anxious for a child to do well in school, graduate from college, and have a lucrative career (maybe as a school bureaucrat). Many parents now realize that public schools do not cut it, and some also understand that the real purpose of education is to teach the student (actually help the student to learn) how to think, how to self-teach and how to question not just authority, but everything. What is available to these parents, who work long hours just to get by after the tax-man makes off with so much?

There are alternatives out there!

Homeschooling is good, and many states actually allow it! I realize that I am ignoring the money aspect and other problems attendant with relocation, but a family can relocate to where homeschooling is given wide latitude, or even where government is likely to overlook a family. Resources and networking can be found on the internet (1).

There is no reason families cannot cooperate. How would it have been if my little friends and I were homeschooled on my street? My mother had been a teacher before she had me, and was very good in literature, reading, writing, and grammar. She could have taught all of us. We could have had an hour (yes! A whole hour!) playbreak and then trooped three houses up to where the woman was a math whiz. She taught calculus at the community college. That would take care of the "three Rs." Later, when my father came home from work, it would have been my favorite subject: science!

Another woman on the street had been a home economics major and understood cooking and nutrition. There were at least two small businesspeople, a doctor, and a dentist on our street. There would have been days when each child would have gone, alone, as John Taylor Gatto sent his students, to observe and help out at these endeavors. This would have honed our skills, taught us what the work-a-day world was like, and helped us articulate questions, understand answers, take the initiative, and think

Guided hikes through the adjacent forest could have taught about the indigenous fauna and flora. And there were factories and museums to walk through and even apprentice at.

There were also at least two houses being built on our street while I was growing up. When I was seven or eight, one of them was next to ours. I stood and watched as the men worked. One day a worker said, "How would you like to pound nails?" I was beside myself! "Sure! I'd love to!"

So, he gave me an old piece of wood, some used nails and a hammer. This went on fine until he found out I was a girl. Because I wore no top, and because to my mother the sun rose and set over short hair, he apparently thought I was a boy.

Oh well. All good things come to an end, I guess. Of course, later the hair changed because to me, the sun rises and sets not just over long hair, but also the digging in of heels. (My heels dug further than hers did.) And, oh yes, the top business changed too, on which we agreed.

But, that was a learning experience! Not just about being on the receiving end of bigotry, but also how to hold a hammer and pound without hurting my thumb. Important lessons!

Most of my real growing was done during summer break.

This is how it was on our street. It was a middle-class neighborhood, where most mothers were full-time housewives and mothers (which is hard work and I went the career-woman route because I never wanted to work that hard), and children could run and play as they wished and come up with their own ideas. Additional advantages were hilly country where we could jump on a sled and go a mile downhill (and walk back up, teaching a hard lesson in time preferences), and a forest beginning at the town limits only about a block away. A nearby stone quarry used as a gun range taught us that guns are not dangerous.

I know that today there are dozens of laws on the books that we would have broken had they been on the books then and had the neighbors decided to take the bull by the horns and actually educate their kids!

But what of alternatives today? Today's kids are unique individuals just as we were. It is downright criminal to cram them into huge one-size-fits-all, rule-ridden schools. So, what can a parent do?

As I say, a good place to begin is the Internet.

One alternative is homeschooling (or "un-schooling"). Gregory and Martine Millman documented their personal experience (2). Education must be personal, they say. There must be a relationship between persons, and between the student and learning. In a large class, there was no personal relationship between student and teacher. Rather, courses are taught in anticipation of a standardized test (if they are lucky, as Steven Greenhut pointed out) rather than to develop the student (3). The student learns to follow rules, memorize, and pass tests, but not to think

Another take-home point the Millmans make is flexibility (4). There has to be time and location flexibility. When the family moved, they found (they probably already knew) that they – and, therefore, you – simply cannot stick to a ready-made schedule. Stuff happens! And, when trips are taken, the whole operation needs to go too, allowing for educational opportunities en route.

Another alternative is the small private school. These vary. They need to, since students vary. If homeschooling is not a viable option, then parents can select a private school that is best for their individual child. Conversely, the school can be selective about the kind of student it accepts.

Some schools are totally permissive. Take Summerhill, for example (5). Students there ranged in age from five to sixteen. They came from all over. Lesson attendance was not required. So the question is, did they learn how to think independently? This was not the emphasis, but self-confidence and originality were encouraged (6) and these are important too. While there were no exams, there was teaching to prepare students for college entrance exams. Best of all, conformity was seen for the stupidity it is.

I guess I would say that independent thought was encouraged at Summerhill, even if it was not the main goal. The main goal in life, according to Neill, is to find happiness (7). I think he misses the point, but I guess that is better than the goal of being a "good citizen."

Would I send a child to Summerhill? Maybe on a trial basis I would, and then observe for improvement in the propensity for independent thought, the desire to learn, and the ability to learn independently.

Another example of a small, private school is the Academy of Basic Education in Milwaukee, Wisc. (8) It is now known as Brookfield Academy ( ). The Academy is more structured than Summerhill, but there is still a lot of freedom. Learning how to learn is the first order of business there, and I agree with its importance. The emphasis is on the individual and I believe this is key. In fact it is so key that when I chose colleges to apply to for myself, emphasis on the individual rather than the group was so obviously important that even at seventeen I knew that. Some college catalogues said "Students will conform..." and I read no further. Such catalogues hit the trash can with a resounding "clang."

The Academy helps the student be all that he can be and, unlike the Army, that was real. At the Academy, however, classes are grouped (very small groups) by ability rather than by age, probably for efficiency, but one-on-one looms big. Students are responsible to learn on their own with the teacher as coach.

Composition is stressed, and students recite their compositions to the class. This "structures the mind" and combats shyness. "Structuring the mind" implies to me a process of thought, and learning to think is what education is all about.

Would I send a child to the Brookfield Academy? Yes, I think so.

Yet another example is the Sudbury Valley School (9). The natural curiosity of the individual is the starting point. Students range in age from four to nineteen (10), but responsibility for oneself and one's education is expected from the start (11). Openness and transparency are key. Of course, individualism is bound to follow as individuals are responsible to pull their own weight.

Of course there are failures. But failure is a superb teacher. Also, the one who has never failed is the one who has never tried. People must be allowed to try. I certainly agree with that. The biggest problem with our economic system nowadays is that this obsession with safety and all the rules and regulations to "protect" us only keep us from trying.

One passage stated that Sudbury Valley fosters "good citizenship." Before writing the school off, one must read on to find out what is meant by that. It was made clear that it goes back to the ideas of the Founders rather than defining good citizenship as conformity and obedience to officials who are considered better than we peons are. Rights are inherent and accrue to the individual, and this includes "minors" (12).

The booklet goes on to contrast this with the rights students enjoy in public schools, which are none at all (13). If they at Sudbury thought this was bad in 1986, they should have fast-forwarded 25 years! I am not sure the perverse term "zero tolerance" was even coined yet in 1986!

But, as we have already learned, the whole idea behind government schools is to train people to believe that there no absolute rights (or any absolute truths for that matter), and that any rights they may have are actually privileges extended to them by society (read government officials, who are believed to be better.) Freedom of thought, while not overtly forbidden, is actually forbidden through lack of acknowledgement that it is even possible.

And, contrasted with Sudbury where, like Summerhill, everybody gets a vote, government schools are a top-down hierarchy with students (and often parents too) at the bottom (14).

Would I send a child to Sudbury Valley School? Yes, I think so, but not at the age of four. Students must assume self-responsibility and self-direction as soon as they arrive at the school. I would probably teach that to a young child at home before enrolling him or her at Sudbury, and by then he would be past the age of four. But, once ready, I would send him (15).

Another innovative but old school was the Lancaster system, which began in London, England, in the early nineteenth century (16). Joseph Lancaster was a Quaker who felt the sting of discrimination. This motivated him to educate poor youth so they could pull themselves out of poverty. He had so many students that he had to devise a way to educate all of them on a shoestring. Thus the Lancaster System was born.

Lancaster wrote a manual called "The Lancasterian System of Education" (17) in which the method was outlined. In a nutshell, he had the brightest students teaching classes of less knowledgeable students. Students did most of the work, and were paid. Tuition was low.

The school lasted only a few years before the establishment destroyed it. The status quo establishment could not tolerate the idea of poor people making good.

The Lancasterian idea also spread to America, but the establishment here also destroyed it in a unique American way, through the Trojan Horse of subsidy, which of course turns into management and then takeover.

Had I lived in poverty in 1800 London, would I have sent my child to Lancaster? (Reason Magazine states that he taught girls too.) Strict discipline and unquestioning obedience were expected, but I guess when you have hundreds of children being taught by older children and few adults present, strict discipline is needed. Conventional wisdom has it that this was par for the course in those days anyway. They did learn the basics, they did go on to succeed, and the school did threaten the establishment enough to get the fat-cats off their oversized duffs. In the absence of anything better, yes. I would have sent my child to Lancaster in a heartbeat.

This made me think back to Gatto's Weapons of Mass Instruction. He quotes William James (18). James says that it is habit that maintains the status quo. It is habit that keeps people in their ruts, so it is habit that keeps the poor in menial jobs and keeps them from rising. So, it is also habit that causes the establishment to keep the lower classes "in their place."

Habit is a wonderful tool. I use it to schedule meals, housework, and other mundane tasks so that I can think about more important things. But habit can also be an enemy when it rules the person rather than the other way around.

There are many alternatives to public schooling and almost all of them are better, if only people would take control of their habits.

(1) Some sources are: , and

(2) Gregory Millman and Martine Millman, Home Schooling, A Family's Journey, The Penguin Group, New York, 2008.

(3) Ibid. P. 93-95.

(4) Ibid. P. P. 57, 58.

(5) A.S.Neill, Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing, Hart Publishing Co., New York, 1960

(6) Ibid. P. 6.

(7) Ibid. P. 24.

(8) The Freeman, magazine of the Foundation for Economic Education, October, 1966.

(9) " 'And Now for Something Completely Different ...' An Introduction to Sudbury Valley School" The Sudbury Valley School Press, Framingham (Mass.), pamphlet, 1986. Also see Gatto, John Taylor The Underground History of American Education, The Oxford Village Press, New York, 2003, P. 57, 58.

(10) "And Now for Something Completely Different" P. 1.

(11) Ibid. P. 4.

(12) Ibid. P. 9.

(13) Ibid. P. 10.

(14) Ibid. P. 11.

(15) There are many Sudbury-type schools around the world. For a list, see

(16) Reason Magazine, March 1987 P. 40-43. See also Gatto, Underground History, P. 20, 21.

(17) Partly shown at

(18) Gatto, Weapons, P. 173.

Review: 'An Underground History of American Education'

An Underground History of American Education
by John Taylor Gatto

This book is just about the best on American "education" (1).

Mr. Gatto begins with the chapter "The Way it Used to Be." The most important thing to me, after reviewing Dr. Rothbard's Conceived in Liberty series is that Mr. Gatto vindicated Dr. Rothbard.

There was very little formal schooling in the Colonies. Children were taught at home for the most part, often for very short periods per day. Much education was obtained by pitching in and helping. Without all the modern conveniences we now have, there was precious little free time. People were allowed to, being free, in fact, had to think for themselves and come up with their own solutions to problems. Children could, in fact, had to grow up on time rather than be forced into a state of artificial childhood until eighteen or any other arbitrarily picked age.
Chapter Two, "An Angry Look at Modern Schooling," begins with a picture page of "Four Architects of Modern Forced Schooling." Who would they be? The old establishment darlings: Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller Sr., and Henry Ford.

These are all familiar names. The establishment genuflects and the libertarians glare. So this is no surprise. These industrialists wanted to train a workforce that would be docile and compliant, and would be willing to perform the same tasks over and over. School, and extended childhood, would be the training ground. The lunatic Keynesian idea of "overproduction" was pressed into service as a way to curtail independent (small business) production (2).
It is very difficult to believe that all of this was on purpose. While it is true that the division of labor and mass production are keys to universal (or at least widespread) prosperity, the whole thing was being perverted to dumb down the majority and gravitate wealth to the establishment.
Needless to say, "education" was re-defined. It was to to have zero to do with individual independence. Rather, it was to be "a means to achieve important economic and social goals of a national character." It would be centralized at the federal level. The individual would not count, and if the individual held any opinions at all they would be controlled. There was anticipation of the widespread compulsory drugging of children with Ritalin and other psychiatric drugs, supposedly for the benefit of "society" (3). I repeat, the individual is left with nothing
This was on purpose! Mr. Gatto, however, does not seem to think harm was intended. The powers that be thought this was the natural order of things. Some individuals (government officials) are better and know what is best for the rest of us. Why people believe this is a mystery to me, but they do. Their premise apparently is that society (or the group) is more important than the individual, and that individuals, particularly children, are the state's property.

Of course, there are natural elites. Some individuals are particularly talented. Einstein, Edison, and Bach come to mind, along with many others. The Parable of the Talents is true. Their talents make the world a better place to live in.

But this is a far cry from allowing the establishment to groom its own to rule over us all. The establishment did, and does, not see it that way. They would have us believe that these ruling elites are God-ordained (4).
That this plan was on purpose was entirely overt. In 1900, Indiana University actually had a course for hand-picked students, in which they were specifically trained to become part of the ruling class. One of these was Ellwood P. Cubberly, who became a leader in the world of schooling (5). Cubberly is mentioned by Gatto from time to time, and it is always horrifying.
By mid-twentieth century (and I can remember a few rude awakenings), the idea of natural, God-given individual rights, even the idea of a free will, had gone along the wayside. During subsequent "booms" (inflationary booms as we know), while purchasing power went up for some, it declined for most as prices tend to rise before wages do, showing the drift of wealth toward establishment interests (6).
People raised on government schooling and Dick-and-Jane look-say reading, the inferior replacement for the better phonics reading, never had a clue.
As far as math goes, it is almost the same story (7). The "new mathematics" began in my locale after I was in grade school, so I really don't know how the "new" math differs from the "old" math. I only know that there is only one correct answer to a math problem. If you multiply X times Y, or if you divide A by B, there is only one correct answer. And, I do not believe that a student should use a calculator or consult another student when learning how to solve math problems. People need to be able to do this on their own, even when we all have helpful tools, even if only to sharpen mental skills.
But today, the elimination of that and good reading only diminishes the ability to think. On top of that, I often see classrooms on TV where students are sitting in groups, placing their desks together to make a table for four or more. The fact that some have to turn around to see the blackboard is bad enough, but they work in groups rather than on their own as individuals. Poison. That is all I can say. Poison.
The whole curriculum began to be dumbed down in the early part of the twentieth century. Needless to say, economics was dropped. Honest-to-goodness history was no longer to be taught. Possibly history was my worst subject because of the wars, names, and dates. Trust me, Murray Rothbard did not write our texts. "Social Studies" was introduced. I remember taking this is the 7th grade and calling it "Social Slops." Maybe I was on to something! The United Nations was praised as a savior, and government, of course, took the lead part. Slops? I'd like to empty that slop pail! The thing is, real history is important mainly because if people do not understand the consequences of past mistakes, these mistakes will be repeated.
Wouldn't it be so much better if the majority understood why without an armed citizenry and without an army of soldiers who were able to think for themselves we would have had no America? Maybe if they understood that, they would understand why our wars and meddling abroad are a, maybe the, root cause of problems there and problems here!
As Underground progressed, in Part Two, Gatto outlined the history of American education from the late nineteenth century on. All of the big names were familiar establishment names as we see the death of actual education.
He also pointed out the blows dealt by the establishment to the family. This began shortly after the American Revolution (9). It must have been difficult not to be fooled as the rights and welfare of children as individuals was used as rationale.

We saw earlier from E.G. West that early defenders of freedom made the mistake of assigning to government the task of protecting children because of their inability to protect themselves. This was the camel's nose under the tent. Of course, the rights of small children need to be protected, and sometimes tiny children need to be protected from themselves. This is what parents are for, and if parents cannot or will not take care of their children, that is what extended families, friends, churches, and others are for.

But government's function is to protect the rights of all individuals. What the freedom defenders did was a mistake because government's protection of children grew into a grotesque plethora of "minor status" laws being applied not only to children but to young adults, as we have seen. Compulsory school attendance is probably one of the earliest "minor" laws.

While true education was being destroyed, so was the family. Parental rights were completely taken away and given to the state, per Gatto (10), but then some of these rights were given back as privileges "for the convenience of the state."

The family, in my opinion, was designed by God for the purpose of raising children. I do not know of a better way to "train up a child in the way he should go," meaning to raise a thinking, independent, self-starting individual who can pull his or her weight. Is there a better way? I can think of only two other ways to raise a child:

1. To keep the child in a group setting, like an orphanage. There, the child becomes part of a group. There will be rules, very strict rules and lots of them. There will be conformity and obedience, and probably not much originality. It would be like a public school, only 24/7/365. Structure is good, but only in measured amounts. Also "free" food, clothing, and shelter will teach dependence on someone else for these things.

2. To allow the child to run wild like a street urchin. The child will have no way to know the difference between right and wrong. He will not understand why it is wrong to simply take whatever is not nailed down. In this case, too, conformity and obedience is bound to happen, especially if a street gang or a pimp takes the child in, taking advantage of the child's need to belong.

What else is there? The family, and the establishment has been trying to destroy it for over a century. The nuclear (and extended) family is not good because it is traditional. It has become traditional because it is good. It works for the individual child and the individual adult better than any other institution. True education takes place in a family setting, so the family seemed to be an impediment to the establishment.

Of course, I have a couple of serious issues with the traditional family. Both of these issues are man-made rather than God-made in my opinion. Many Christians disagree with me. One of these issues is the headship of the husband/father. I believe that God created men as a class the same as women as a class. As individuals, people are unique and there are no two even nearly alike, so each married couple needs to decide who will be responsible for what in the home, based on the individual aptitudes of each party. Traditional gender roles might have been appropriate decades ago when certain jobs required great physical strength that most most women do not have, but today they make no sense, especially when there are no pre-born or newborn infants involved. The other issue is child discipline. Children have rights. One of these rights is the right not to be hit. Spanking is hitting. So is slapping and swatting. A rose by any other name ... It does not work anyway.

Well, enough of that rant. The establishment wants the family destroyed, and wants to fill the vacuum with more and more government schooling. The state is assuming Parens Patriae powers, meaning the power of old-time kings, the power of primary father (11).

And, true to form, government schools are excessively strict (according to some; it really varies). Until fairly recently, schools in most states were allowed to mete out corporal punishment to students. According to a recent newscast (March, 2011), twenty states still allow it, and a very long, thick, heavy paddle resembling a canoe paddle was shown. These floggings could be excessive; in fact, severe injuries, even deaths have been recorded. I used to hear that if you received corporal punishment at school, there would be a re-run at home. There is no way in the universe I would send a child to a government school, but if for some reason I did, and some tax-eating bureaucrat laid a hand (or implement) on that child, there would be another beating all right, but it would not involve the child.

Enough of that rant too. Education was becoming more centralized (12). John Dewey, one of the worst establishment big-shots (his name was a household word in mid-century) heralded the end of the "old individualism" and the beginning of the "new individualism" that was actually thinly disguised collectivism (13).

Textbooks and children's books are published mostly in New York City and Boston (14). We know that New York State and Massachusetts are two of the most socialistic establishment strongholds in the country. The content of the books would now reflect the establishment's conformist and collectivist views. There was a focus on the child's need for freedom, but this was a mirage. The separation of the child's individuality from the family gave the establishment the chance it needed to mold the child (15).

The thing is, small children, and big ones too, even young adults need the feeling of belonging, need guidance and mentoring, and they will get it one way or the other. If they don't get it at home from a family as God intended, they will get it from other sources, such as a street gang or the establishment. Of course the establishment had itself in mind. The child was to be tricked into a feeling of freedom and self-direction towards what he or she wanted, but was actually being guided along to what the planners wanted.

Maybe this is what was meant by Dewey's "new individualism." Children, young adults, and parents would have to be "dumbed down" not to see it.

Gatto has a lot more to say about Dewey later on. It will shock you as it did me if you do not already know all about John Dewey.

Gatto continues by giving a short history of Prussia and the Prussian method, after which our school system is modeled. Very briefly, in the beginning, Prussian authorities wanted to train the vast majority of people to be content with their (impoverished) station in life, while children of the well-connected rich would be the only ones to receive a real education. These would be groomed for important positions. Later, universal "education" would be training to obey orders and to not question authority. The vast majority were to be groomed for the boring assembly line work. Again, those who did extremely well could wind up in officialdom.

Most people did learn to read and write (after a fashion), and those who wanted to give the less fortunate a chance thought universal schooling was a good thing. Of course, it would be if it were the universal opportunity to become educated, opening doors for one to go as far as one's talent and ambition will take him. However, universal government schooling does not do that, as we know. The "well-schooled" populace is gullible. Look at the mainstream "news"! And, look at our elected officials. Do you think G.W. Bush or Barack Obama would have gotten anywhere near the White House had the public not been gullible?

It was that way in old Prussia, too. Our superb education here was uprooted for that!

Government schooling was set up in such a way that those who have a hierarchical, authoritarian mentality wind up in positions that encourage them to believe they are better. The rest of us are taught to conform, obey, and look up to experts. The ones who decide if you may have a gun, if your doctor's medical marijuana recommendation is honored, if your tax return is audited, if you get custody of your child, if you are pulled over by the police, if you get any of a plethora of required permits or licenses, or if you have broken any of thousands of rules are those who are in high-paid government positions, and the rest of us, we whose money pays them, are at their mercy.

That is the "American System" (mercantilism) Henry Clay wanted, the same system our Founders threw off when the American Revolution was won. But it is back, thanks largely to Prussian-style schooling, because the American people cannot think for themselves. It was designed with the needs of big, well-connected businessmen in mind. Their need was for automatons on their assembly lines (16).

Not only that, very generous welfare and entitlements keep an increasing number of people dependent on the system. Unless "ObamaCare" is repealed, all of us will become dependent on the federal government. If this is not an incentive to toe the line, I don't know what is. We all get sick. Right now, April, 2011, there is widespread panic about a government "shutdown" if a new budget is not passed. Many believe they will lose benefits during this "shutdown" and they have no idea what they are going to do. They are dependent

The needs of government officials are met. They need an obedient citizenry that is anxious for everyone to pay their "fair share" in taxes so as to keep "essential government services," including the schools, going.

As I drafted this in February, 2011, this "obedient citizenry" is extremely anxious to make sure that government employees, including teachers, can keep their very generous benefits and strong unions despite the fact that states are broke. Government employee benefits, and salaries in some cases, are so lucrative that even with the reductions they are being asked to accept they will still do better than private sector workers. But some of the things government employees and their puppy-dog supporters are saying about the advocates of fiscal responsibility cannot be repeated here. (That is, I refuse to use that kind of language.) I guess these obedient good citizens believe that government employees, who are providing "essential services" are better than us private-sector peons and deserve to be pampered. Of course nothing is said about essential private sector workers in struggling small businesses, many of whom have very few benefits, and worry that their employers may go under at any time (often at the hands of government).

The difference between education and schooling has become evident.

Also, the establishment, at the time Gatto is discussing, seemed to see the bogus Keynesian economics coming. The myth of "overproduction" was openly discussed. The "overproduction" by innovative, thinking people was causing the "overproduction" of goods and services. The small entrepreneur had to go, or at least be placed under centralized control by licensing legislation (17). People would not have been about to put up with that without mass schooling for obedience.

Right about now, I am having an "aha!" moment. School vouchers have created a lot of controversy. (I am thinking back to Lancaster too.) This is a system whereby people who want to send their children to a private school, but cannot afford to, can apply to the government for a voucher to help pay for tuition. At first I loved the idea. It would help keep families out of poverty and also give students a chance to learn how to think for themselves. However, it was during the first Harry Browne, Libertarian for President, campaign in 1996 I realized this was wrong (18). Nobody wants to see doors open for the less fortunate more than I do. Most poor children in urban areas do not have any John Taylor Gattos to teach them. Most of their parents have all they can do to earn enough for food, clothing, and shelter. So, many poor youngsters are out of luck. Another Joseph Lancaster is not about to come along to help them and, even if he did, government stifles just about every enterprise like the Lancaster school.

So, these vouchers, why am I now suspicious? While the voucher system may be a notch or two better than no vouchers, it is far from ideal. Browne points out that a new government bureaucracy would need to be set up to administer the vouchers and to decide which parents would receive them and which private schools would be allowed to accept them for reimbursement. Also, the bureaucrats would have more to say about home-school use of the vouchers.

Vouchers are a Trojan horse into the world of private education, and could well destroy it. So, why was this an "aha!" moment?

John Taylor Gatto points out (19) that establishment giant J.P. Morgan suggested that one way to defuse dissent was to infiltrate and subsidize it! Vouchers are a subsidy, and with subsidies come rules. Whenever there is a ruling class, there will be the beginnings of insurrection against it. Infiltration is Fabian socialism.

I have seen it with my own eyes. At many Libertarian Party gatherings, I have "sniffed out" establishmentarians. Usually it is very subtle, but the more radical the libertarian, the more likely the libertarian is to know such interlopers are lurking around.

And I am a radical! Make no mistake about that!

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution was a great help to the establishment in general and the Fabians in particular (20). This theory, actually still in the hypothesis category, expounded the over-reaching importance of genetics in determining what a person is cut out to do, and even how, or if, a person thinks. The hypothesis gives rise to racism, sexism, and all manner of collectivism. It aided the establishment in justifying the keeping of the vast majority in "their place." This is in contrast to the old way the Founders envisioned. They believed that at least some individuals should be allowed to go as far as their individual talents and ambitions would take them, and real education was available to that end. To the Fabians, Darwin was gospel (21). I guess they believed that the elite were some kind of pedigreed dog and the rest of us were mongrels, with no concept of individual rights or even individual responsibilities, except the responsibility to obey and pay homage to the state.

It's funny ... peculiar, that is. If it is genetically determined that the individual is a certain way, why do we need laws to mandate that? For example, if women are genetically pre-determined to be submissive homebodies, and men to be the fearless leaders out in the work-a-day world, why were these laws on the books dictating gender roles in marriage and "protecting" women from certain lines of work? If we need those laws, do we not also need laws mandating eating, sleeping, and breathing? Why do we need laws telling people to do what comes "naturally" ?No establishmentarian ever answered that question. If there has to be some sort of law to keep someone in "their place," then maybe that is not actually the person's true place.

Gatto mentions in passing something that is really important today, and that is the succession of crises that cause the people to rally behind paternalistic government. As a tiny child, I used to run to my parents whenever I got a scare. Adults should not scare easily, if at all. However, the crises that have occurred, the September 11 attacks being the worst, have caused the American people to throw their freedoms away like so much trash. Some of these crises have been "false flags." These crises have caused a "ratcheting up" of government. When the crisis is over, government backs off again, but not completely. Robert Higgs has written extensively about this (22). Between crises, in the mainstream news, it seems like they are always talking about the possibility of terrorist attacks or environmental catastrophes. If it's not one darn thing it's another. Of course, the situation in Japan right now (April, 2011) is serious, and real answers are obviously needed, but "solutions" to these events always seem to come from government!

Next, in Gatto's Underground, we have the "Gary Plan" of about a century ago (23). The school superintendent in Gary, Indiana, was brainstorming some ideas for progressive schooling. It was his idea to shuffle students from one classroom and subject to another at the sound of a bell. That is usual today, of course, and I didn't half mind; after all I could get up and walk every hour or so which was welcome. But, Mr. Gatto points out, this forces the student, and the teacher, to suddenly drop everything they are doing, like it or not, and go on to something else.

The "Gary Plan" also reminded me of the "Obama Plan," to lengthen the school day and the school year. This way, school is all-pervading in children's lives (24), leaving less time for home, family, and "hanging," the latter being part of growing up.

Not only did the establishment need to do this to keep students from learning how to think, they also needed to fix the teachers. Teachers had always been role models, stressing the development of intellect, so their hands needed to be tied. Bigger schools replaced small and one-room schools, and bureaucrats moved in to run the show (25). When I was in elementary school, the principal was also a teacher. There were six or seven women there and all of them were teachers. The only on-site adult who did not teach was the janitor. Well, maybe even he taught; at least the class obeyed him the time or two it was indicated. I cannot say it was a very good school. It was not strict at all as schools go, but then there was a parent at home who taught proper school behavior. Everyone was pretty happy. However, we were not being taught how to think, so I cannot say it was a very good school. It was better than most. That is all.

But, at least in those days there were small schools that were not over-run with bureaucrats (and, nowadays police!) and teachers had a lot of latitude.

Now, added to bureaucratic control are standardized tests (26). In order to see that students score well in these tests, a teacher must teach the material that is likely to be on them.

And, of course, local oversight of schools was replaced by centralized state and federal oversight. Local school boards disappeared and parents were left out of decision-making. Students fell through the cracks.

Then there was a move toward homogeneity (27). Immigrants were regarded as a threat to the establishment, as was a high birth rate among the "lower class." We know, of course that, today, birth control and murder of the unborn are sacred cows. This was all part of the elitist agenda, as was occupational licensure, which was extremely harmful to the lower and middle classes.

The real purpose of occupational licensure and business licensing is to make it more difficult for non-establishment workers and entrepreneurs to better their lives, thus opening more doors to the already well-connected. Small, independent businesses failed partly because of these barriers, giving more business, and thus more profit, to the establishment. And, as anyone who has not been off-planet for the last half-century knows, licenses cost plenty and they are a real cash cow for government. Additionally everyone knows, or should know, that licenses are part and parcel of the system. In fact license requirements are taken for granted by the uneducated as though they were part of some natural law. Actually, in many states the right to start a business is regarded as a "privilege" rather than the natural right it actually is.

So much for the "land of opportunity" beckoning to impoverished immigrants. Of course, nowadays with our lax welfare system, illegal immigration is indeed a problem which needs to be addressed by better border security. But this problem and the welfare problem (and the unemployment problem that is causing so much anguish today) both stem from barriers to work and from overtaxation. This is really so plain, but in-the-box thinking on the part of the majority who have been schooled by the government cannot see it.

Another assault on the not-so-wealthy was eugenics (28). This is normally associated with Hitler's Germany, but it was used here too. Some, who were labeled "feeble minded," were destined for sterilization and/or institutionalization, whether they liked it or not. Some of these were without doubt people with very low I.Q.s, but some were merely non-conformists. There were certainly some who were actually gifted! All, though, had rights, which were ignored. This was another nail in the coffin of individualism and freedom.

Eugenics gives rise to not only Darwin's "theory" of evolution, but also racism. The idea is that intelligence is inherited through the genes. Of course it is to some extent, but this helped to create the myth that Anglo-Saxon Americans were a superior race. Well, I am one myself and I can say that this is a crock. In the early twentieth century, white anglos were told to multiply so as to preserve the race. Now, how smart would that be? That so many of them were snookered into this malarky is evidence that they are not really so swift.

Meanwhile, as already mentioned, minority growth was being curtailed.

It was in the interest of homogeneity, furthering the mass of people over the individual. White Anglo dominance failed as evidenced by the great variety of ethnicities in the country today. I really don't care, as long as they are here legally and as long as individuals are free.

Gatto's Chapter 11 in Underground (29) lists all the grotesque ways the establishment used to get everybody in lockstep in the early twentieth century before World War I (and following chapters continue this). In fact, getting into war was on that list, along with the outlawing of private education in some states. I won't go into that, but some of these methods are being used now.

The Rockefellers and Carnegies, establishment big-shots, spent more money on schools than the government did! (30). The idea, obviously, was to exert influence over the schools. It was billed as "scientifically humane, thoroughly utopian" (31). Of course it was actually thoroughly neanderthal

There was a lot of propaganda, and this included the idea of hereditary societies, such as Daughters (and Sons) of the American Revolution. While these might have been descendants of the Sons of Liberty (32), I do not see any common ground. The same goes for the Society of Mayflower Descendants (33). While I do take pride in this ancestry, really, ultimately, what use is it?

Certain characteristics do come to a person through the genes, but I do not think one's general way of thinking does, at least not very much. It has more to do with one's surroundings and what one decides to do with what one has.

But, this turn-of-the-century propaganda was leaning far toward elitism; those who had these magic ancestries were better and were qualified to be the decision-makers (read, go into government work) and (by the way) to receive huge sums. The rest must conform and obey, as they were being schooled to do.

It reminds me of old hereditary dynasties. (It also reminds me of the Bush clan, and the Rockefellers and Kennedys ...) What a throwback! And, to think this was called "Americanization"!(34)

There was a great deal of effort to trace Anglo-Saxon ancestry back to common ancestry with the Aryan race, implying a past "super race" (35). I think maybe there is a common ancestry (I couldn't care less), judging from physical resemblance. But, why would this be a big deal? Unless one is bending over backwards to demonstrate superiority of one race (usually one's own; did you ever notice that?) and the inferiority of the rest, I do not see why this would be so all-fired important.

This whole chapter, at the end of the day, casts further doubt on Darwin's theory. The theory (actually a hypothesis) has been used for a number of collectivist and authoritarian causes. The research to uncover any common ancestry between the Anglos and Aryans was done prior to Darwin. I have to wonder if the sacred cow of "evolution" as applied to humans was not cooked up to vindicate both this "Americanization" stuff and Aryan supremacy in later Germany.

Big business and big government were of one mind, and they still are, as we know. Decisions were (and I believe still are) made behind closed doors, and the subsequent appearance of disagreement was an act, just as is the appearance of disagreement between the two branches of the Establishment Party, the Democrats and the Republicans. Of course, government schooling decisions followed the closed-door decisions (37).

As the book goes on, many times the point is made that in ever so many ways the establishment tried to extinguish thought.

And, then, there was a real blockbuster! The name John Dewey has come up a few times, and I can remember his name being a buzzword in establishment education circles.

John Dewey lived in China for two years in the 1920s. That was before Mao, of course, but there were the beginnings of the Maoist movement, and its leaders were influenced by Dewey. The influence was pronounced enough that Mr. Gatto calls John Dewey "a godfather of Maoist China" (38).

I guess that says it all about establishmentarian John Dewey.

It does not stop there. In the early part of the twentieth century, Dewey and other establishment people and foundations began a new field called "psychiatry," and made sure it was socialized. A White House Conference on Education warned that a psychological time bomb was ticking in the schools (39).

I did touch upon the psychiatric system in previous essays, and how people can be dragooned into allowing their children to be forced to take psychiatric drugs, and how children and adults can be imprisoned in psychiatric "hospitals" and drugged, even electroshocked, against their wills. An organization called "Mindfreedom" (40) is hard at work bring this grave injustice to the attention of people and helping people who are trapped by the system. Mindfreedom accepts no government or drug company funds. They operate on contributions from people like you and me.

Then, in mid-century, another White House Conference, this one on Children and Youth, warned that mental disabilities were being overlooked, and government-funded agencies needed to be set up for people of all ages. Individual self-responsibility was kaput. Students were to be "bent" for the benefit of society (41).

The turning point was the 1965 passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It allocated substantial federal funding for psychological and psychiatric programs in schools. Included was teaching for what was later known as the New World Order (42).

So, your tax money is being used to propagandize the impressionable young, whether you like it or agree with the propaganda. I personally do not agree and do not like it one bit.

Later, Gatto points out something that is really apparent. Along with the move toward a longer school day and a longer school year, the school system keeps a record on every student. This goes much further than academic records. It includes attitudes and behavior (43). I am sure there are subjective comments in those records, and I am equally sure that the student is barred from amending, possibly even seeing, his record.

I wonder what would happen if I wrote to demand my record. Would I even get a reply? Would received records, if any, be complete? Is it even worth a postage stamp?

Alexander Inglis and his candid book, Principles of Secondary Education, was re-visited (44). According to Gatto, this 1918 book said "that the new schools were being expressly created to serve a command economy and a command society ... " (emphasis mine) (45). Some of the sorry aspects of these new schools included conformity (of course) for the purpose of predictability of an individual's behavior, and what would actually be a "glass ceiling," whereby students would be "guided" into areas that the establishment wanted them to be in, and would be allowed to go no further. A very few would be hand picked to become future leaders.

The Inglis book is out of print and I could not obtain it for this essay.

Inglis was a well-known figure in his day. In fact he was a Harvard professor, where the later (maybe their tenures overlapped) Harvard President James Bryant Conant wrote The Child, The Parent and the State in 1949 and The American High School Today in 1959. He was also a major player in the establishment, and his latter book played a role in upsizing schools and school districts, and convincing skeptics who were beginning to realize that the new schools did not truly educate (46).

The whole idea, of course, was to prevent the best and brightest from becoming self-reliant entrepreneurs and turning them into loyal corporate employees (47), and the way to do that is to extend compulsory schooling through grade twelve, and extend childhood until age eighteen or even twenty-one.

Sadly, it is working. And, what a sorry mess our unfree country is.
(1) John Taylor Gatto, The Underground History of American Education, Oxford Village Press, New York, 2003.
(2) Ibid. P. 38.
(3) Ibid. P. 40, 41.
(4) Ibid. P. 47.
(5) Ibid. P. 46, 47.
(6) Ibid. P. 48.
(7) Ibid. P. 98.
(8) Ibid. P. 108.

(9) Ibid. P. 120, 121.

(10) Ibid. P. 120.

(11) Ibid. P. 121.

(12) Ibid. P. 124.

(13) Ibid. P. 125.

(14) Ibid. P. 126.

(15) Ibid. P. 126.

(16) Ibid. P. 153.

(17) Ibid. P. 166, 167.

(18) Harry Browne, Why Government Doesn't Work, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1995, P. 116.

(19) Gatto, Underground, P. 176.

(20) Ibid. P. 178, 179.

(21) Ibid. P. 180.

(22) Robert Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan, Oxford University Press, USA, 1989. 

(23) Gatto, P. 187, 188.

(24) Ibid. P. 189.

(25) Ibid. P. 193.

(26) Ibid. P. 193.

(27) Ibid. P. 221, 222.

(28) Ibid. P. 222, 223.

(29) Ibid. P. 221-236.

(30) Ibid. P. 237.

(31) Ibid. P. 238.

(32) Ibid. P. 244.

(33) Ibid. P. 242.

(34) Ibid. P. 243.

(35) Ibid. P. 245, 246.

(36) Ibid. P. 237-257, "Daughters of the Barons of Runnemede."

(37) Ibid. P. 251.

(38) Ibid. P. 275-277.

(39) Ibid. P. 281, 282.


(41) Gatto, P. 283.

(42) Ibid. P. 284.

(43) Ibid. P. 307, 308.

(44) Ibid. P. 320, 321.

(45) Ibid. P. 321.

(46) Ibid. P. 321.

(47) Ibid. P. 322.

Just What Is Education, Anyway?

Albert J. Nock (1870-1945) is a household name among libertarians. He was an educational theorist and social critic. First he was a minor league baseball player, then an Episcopal priest, and then a journalist. He denounced all forms of totalitarianism. His most famous work was Our Enemy, the State. He also wrote his autobiography, Memoirs of a Superfluous Man.

In The Theory of Education in the United States (1), he starts by asking the question, what is education? I have my own idea of what education does. It teaches the individual how to think for himself or herself, question just about everything, and go about finding out things independently connecting the dots.

That is what it does. But, what is it? I would say that education is that which teaches an individual how to think, and that would vary from one person to another.

Nock does not answer the question right away. In fact, I am not sure he gives a direct answer at all precisely because of individual differences. Rather, he turns to the recent (recent, that is, when he wrote the book in 1932) history of education in the U.S. He claims that a major decline began around the turn of the century, when government started to try this or that to engineer schools. One thing that was done was to build great big schools (big by 1932 standards) where there would be an assembly-line approach in stark contrast to the one-room schools of the nineteenth century. Apparently some real education took place in those one-room micro-schools. 

Today we are taught about how strict they were and how teachers, or "masters," would flog students. Well, maybe there was some truth in that. I seriously doubt the abuse was anywhere near as bad as we are led to believe, just as I doubt today's schools are as lax as some would have us believe. In fact, schools today are apparently extremely strict. There are school police, real police with guns, and students have been expelled who even draw a picture of a gun or wear a small crucifix around their necks. There have even been a couple of cases where five- and six-year-olds have been taken from school in handcuffs by police. It has happened, but you probably don't know about it unless you read about it on libertarian Internet pages. There have also been censorship cases in which the valedictory speeches have been cut off because the speaker saw fit to share faith in Jesus Christ (2).

By the way, if you are speaking at your public school graduation, it might be good to leave the part about your faith until the very end. Then when they pull the plug on you, your speech will be over anyway.

Nock wrote a few pages about the decline of education after the turn of the century. I got out my copy of A People's History of the United States (3) by left-wing historian Howard Zinn.

I used Zinn in a history class back in the 1990s. The professor was really left-wing, but at least attempted to be fair. Whenever we had an assignment out of Zinn, we were to write a short piece on that subject from another point of view. I already had a pretty good Rothbard collection and turned to that as a contrast to Zinn. However, I was surprised at how many things on which Rothbard agreed with Zinn!

As far as education goes, and I believe Dr. Rothbard would agree, Howard Zinn realized that the big industrialists were already teaming up with the government almost from the start. John Taylor Gatto wrote extensively on this in Underground. Remember the essay I wrote about Abraham Lincoln, and Henry Clay's "American System," and how they wanted to return to the old mercantilist system that the Founders fought and died to defeat. Zinn and the leftists call that system "capitalism." Of course, as we have seen in my previous essays, ad nauseum in fact, that with the mercantilist system where big business and big government (and big unions too) team up to the detriment to the rest of us, the result is far from capitalism; it is more like fascism and that is different from socialism on paper only.

The big industrialists were anxious to get employees (and customers too) who were willing to obey and look up to "experts" for guidance. This meant that people needed to be trained for conformity and obedience from an early age. This spurred on mass schooling (4). The Zinn book is very good and really difficult to put down. However, it is essential to have a very good handle on libertarian theory in order to avoid the leftist booby traps. It is so easy to get sucked in!

So the decline of education Albert J. Nock is describing actually began long before 1900 but that is probably when the decline became really steep. Again, John Taylor Gatto wrote extensively in Underground

Nock says (5) the educational system has been treated as a machine. The main problem with that is, it is actually people, and people are not cogs in any machine, no matter how hard the establishment tries. Parents were to move forward in these attempts to improve schools because of the universal desire for one's children to have a better life. This was based on emotion rather than reason, of course. And Mr. Nock refers to Thomas Jefferson's ideas of education. A literate citizenry will assure honest government (6). I am not so sure that "honest government" isn't a contradiction in terms, but I do agree that people who can read are far more likely to be able to think. Of course the quality of the reading material does matter (7). The reading of Harlequin romances is not conducive to profound thought. In my opinion, the reading of Murray Rothbard is, but it does matter.

Mr. Nock mentions, in passing, Thomas Jefferson's opinions on education. Jefferson made an error, I think, in advocating government-run education, but his error was not as grave as I previously thought. What Jefferson wanted was an equal chance for everyone to become educated (8). Nock does not say whether this was to apply to girls as well as to boys. Every child in the state was to be taught the three R's, after which the best and brightest would go on with their education from there. In other words, every child would have a chance, but it was acknowledged that by no means were all people educable. That should surprise no one. But all could try. So many, possibly the vast majority of people have a strong propensity to make it easy on themselves rather than get off their behinds and actively change their situation. Nock apparently believed that too (9).

I am still waiting for Nock's definition of education, but he does differentiate education from training (10). Thirty-odd years before the book was written, i.e. around 1900, training and education began to be thought of as the same thing, and that is when the trouble started in earnest. Higher math, logic, the arts, Latin and Greek literature, and other former staples of education went to the back burner. These studies were staple, I think, because they gave students the raw materials to come up with their own ideas. But, how-to training (as important as this might be) does not do that.

They were finding that most people were not up to these classical studies, so with universal schooling becoming a sacred cow, they had to be back-burnered in favor of training (11).

Right around that time there were some extremely important scientific advancements. The internal combustion engine, electricity, indoor plumbing and telephones were but a few and these made life a lot easier and more prosperous for the vast majority. There is no rational way to condemn this sort of thing. It spurred on universal interest in science. Elementary science is something most people can grasp, so watered-down science began to be taught in the schools. What took over schooling was actually vocational training.

Of course the number of students in the universities rose as the curriculum became vocational. Everything was big. Big was good. Herbert Hoover, in one of his campaign speeches, bragged that the United States had ten times the number of students as any other country (12). Dr. Murray Rothbard describes Hoover's sorry legacy in America's Great Depression, which I reviewed here a couple of winters ago. The American people were easily sucked into Hoover's and Roosevelt's regimes just as they are now being sucked into the Bush/Obama regime.

Not only were more people going to the university, but the university was different. In the old-style, traditional university, students had to be self-starters, learning independently. The faculty would help them, but not lead them by the nose as is done today (13). Today, the professors are training students rather than helping students educate themselves. Nock lists some of the courses that would lead to a degree at Columbia at the time he wrote (you are not going to believe this): Book Reviewing, Gymnastics, Newspaper Writing and Layout, and Home Laundering (14).

Home Laundering? (I could teach that!) Do these teach people to think critically?

In fact, Mr. Nock visited a college class taught by a friend called "English Composition" and opined that the work being done in that class was really around eighth-grade level (15).

Nock wrote his book in 1932! No wonder the "greatest generation" had no idea how to think! What is it like today? Today's generation is really no better. There was a ray of hope during the Vietnam era when thinking people took to the streets in protest and the Libertarian Party was born in response to freedom-enemy President Nixon's alarming policies. But, alas, that generation too failed, possibly due in some cases to drug-caused brain damage or in other cases to simple burnout.

The watering down of education is, I believe, a primary cause of failure to question, and government control of education is the primary cause of the watering down.

When Mr. Nock asked a college president why they had to keep students whose education was still at the grade-school level, the president told him that if they did not, there would be nobody left and the institution would have to close (16). Would that be so bad? Dr. Rothbard would say no. The resources could be put to better use by consumers elsewhere.

You can't turn bad theory into good practice, says Nock, especially when it applies to a growing bureaucratic machine where unique individuals tend to fall through the cracks (17).

Actually, Nock says, the university system as it is (meaning was, but I think still is), is doing a fine job at what it does. That job is to train students. They come out fine bricklayers and chefs (18). Most people are not educable – let's face it – but they can be trained. So, maybe the schools should be for that purpose.

But then colleges and universities would have to be called something else (19). "College" and "university" imply education, not training. Such institutions could be called "institutions" with honor. And "liberal arts" (bachelor's) degrees should not be given out for a major in wrestling (20).

So, the vast number of ineducable people do the heavy lifting of the world. What would we do without them? What if nobody were willing to clean the office buildings and empty the Dumpsters? What if there were nobody to do the assembly-line and secretarial work? This is why God made so many of them; there is always a lot of work to do that requires no independent thought, but rather requires the following of cook-book directions.

But what of the many millions who are educable? Mr. Nock points out that, the way the system is, they go to waste (21). Well, not all of them. Look at Mr. Nock's own work, not to mention Murray Rothbard's. But for the most part, people who think for themselves do not endear themselves to the system. That is an understatement. In the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Red China, and certainly other places, thinking people have been rounded up and placed in camps.

There are those who believe the U.S. government has the same in store for the independent thinkers here. I personally do not claim to know, but I do believe that if these thinkers are as sharp as we believe they are, they all have a plan in place to put into effect at the first sign of such a move on the part of any government.

But, do the educable have any function at all given the current system?

Nock seems to think so, but then he puts his finger close to the real issue of what education is. He puts his finger on what an educable person is: One who is capable of right, mature, and clear thought (22). Of course this means independent thought. I have a hunch we are closing in on what Nock believed education is

The results of wrong thinking incur a "fine" from nature, and sometimes it takes a while for that to happen, so cause and effect are likely to be missed by all who are not educated. Look at how the terrible fiscal and monetary policies, not to mention the paternalistic nanny-state, have destroyed our country. The income tax and the Federal Reserve came into being nearly a century ago, the outlawing of marijuana came in the 1930s, and gun control started to really proliferate with "Saturday Night Specials" around 1968. Now, in 2011, we are seeing catastrophic results. A few people are actually dying and a majority are suffering economically. Only the most astute and independent thinkers would have seen this coming so many decades ago. But, hindsight being 20-20, we now see that it was inevitable.

Our problems today are the "fine" nature has imposed on our wrong thinking a century ago, in fact one could say all the way back to Henry Clay.

The Bible says the sins of the fathers will be visited on the sons. This is what is being referred to, I believe.

If a society does not make a place for the educable, those who can think, then this is bound to happen. Right thinking is essential for individuals to flourish, and individuals must flourish if society is to flourish. After all, society does not really even exist but for the individuals in it.

Nock winds up by saying that the truth will prevail in the long run. It has to. Falsehoods bring great nations to their knees, as we are finding out.

It was pointed out in the West book that the reason there is no improvement in education (training) is that people will not think outside the box. It has always been this way and change is just too difficult. Questioning the status quo is frowned upon, maybe from sheer laziness or maybe because most people (the ineducable) are obsessed with being "safe."

So how did the public schools get started? In England, according to West (23), it was believed in the nineteenth century that education would reduce crime. However, counterintuitively, this does not seem to be the case (24). It seems to me that to teach someone how to think independently would raise the person's propensity to work, and lower it to steal.

Of course, what passes for "education" at the hands of government is not that at all, as I have pointed out many times, so maybe this is why the correlation between "education" and law-abidingness may not exist. Not only that, the proliferation of laws and regulations, especially those affecting young adults under 18, make it even more difficult to avoid running afoul of the law.

One more interesting note: In the 1940s and 1950s, crime statistics among young men showed that when men aged out of compulsory "education" and went to work, their crime rate dropped. This implies the opposite of what most people believe: Maybe forcing young people to stay in school increases their propensity to commit crime! (25). I always thought voluntary work (paid or volunteer) was the best way for one to straighten oneself out.

But, the thing is, since when did government want people to think? It never has. Actually, the British government was overtly worried in 1803 about people being literate enough to correspond or to understand Thomas Paine (26). In fact, taxes on paper and other obstacles were placed, but most people learned to read on their own anyway! Literacy is in the people's rational self-interest, so we do not need government to pretend that government programs are necessary for literacy. People read despite government, and are therefore better able to think and question authority.

There is no reason to think anything has changed since 1803 as far as authoritarians' desire to rule is concerned. Nobody can tell me that whistleblower Julian Assange, the hero who exposed a great deal of government corruption and hanky-panky, is being persecuted for any other reason than because he is upsetting the authoritarian applecart. You'll notice that thinking people, not just libertarians, but leftists and even some neo-conservatives, are rallying behind the hero, while the establishment is livid enough to be calling for an end to him and Bradley Manning, who is accused of helping him, (27) by any means, even the death penalty! We need to rally behind both of these hero journalists.

Thinking people and the government are natural enemies. So, why would government ever educate? The best you can say for government schools is that they train people to do the heavy work of the economy.

But government schools also claim to give everyone equality of opportunity. One does not pay tuition, at least not directly, in grade and high schools, so theoretically all have a chance. But, we all know that public schools around town, around the country, and around the world offer different qualities of training. Realistically, there is no equality of opportunity. A baby born in Ethiopia will not have the same opportunity as a baby born in Beverly Hills. It does not need to be due to any prejudice, such as race or gender prejudice. It might not even be the economic system or the per capita income. It is simply that they were born in places where the opportunities are different possibly because of different climates. It is nobody's fault. It just is.

Then, of course, people use their opportunities differently. Some will be more productive because they want to make more and others value leisure enough to cut back on work and accept lower pay. Is it fair that they have different purchasing powers? Of course it is! (28). The one has more purchasing power while the other has more leisure.

But what the "equality of opportunity" crowd is really after is equality of outcome. We all wind up with the same wealth. This is not only crazy but impossible, unenforceable, and even the far left has abandoned these notions, as evidenced by the Soviet "Glasnost," as impossible. I am inclined to think that envy is at the root of the quest for such "equality." Many people do not like to see anyone better off than they are. Rather than praise someone for their ability to honestly acquire money, people want to take "surplus" money and goods away. Michael Moore made a world-class donkey out of himself in Wisconsin around March 8, 2011, when he said governments are "not broke," because the rich are hoarding money. Presumably government should just take it, as he seems to think it "really belongs" to the government.

In any case, how are we ever to achieve equality of opportunity or outcome when people are unique and ever-changing?

As far as the schools go, West points out (29) that if higher-income parents are not allowed to spend extra money on a better education, then they would be inclined to outdo competing parents by pleasing school authorities. There is nothing equal about opportunity if the authority is your competitor's crony. Equality of opportunity is really better served by a free, competitive market (30).

West's chapter on equality of educational opportunity ends by pointing out that it was well known that "the number of poor men that rose to distinction" was greater in an era that government involvement in education was small to non-existent (31).

The reason education was so successful under these circumstances was certainly the wide variety offered by the marketplace. There is not just one kind of child. If schools are all pretty much alike as government schools are, then many children are going to have a problem because the school and methods of teaching are contrary to how God hard-wired each child. In a competitive free market, schools will vary. Also home-schooling is permitted. This way, parents have more to choose from.

Similarly, as West points out (32), there is a problem in government schools as to what, if any, values are to be taught. His example is the question of religious values. Should the Bible be read? What religion should be taught, if any? We have had the same problems in our public schools. Should we allow prayer? Christmas carols and nativity scenes? Sex education? Military recruiters on high school campuses?

I have my own opinions about such issues, but ultimately, in order to solve these problems, we need to get government out of education. Some private schools might have sex education, allow recruiters, or teach from the Bible, and others might not. Parents would make the choices. These issues would become moot if people could choose. Tax money now spent on public schools could stay in parents' pockets.

Some pro-government people would allow local school boards to determine what is taught according to "community standards." If I were a parent, that would never wash, as I think most "communities" cherish low, communitarian standards, such as strict subservience on the part of individuals to local ordinances no matter how stupid they are. Examples of rules imposed by some cities and communities would be anti-property zoning laws including lawn decoration laws, house color laws, wall and fence height laws, also mandatory business licensure, blue laws, curfews, zero-tolerance school rules, clothing codes, leash laws, and other such tripe which goes on and on. Also, the "religious right" has elected school board members who are interested in teaching Creationism as fact (which I believe is as much hypothesis as the Darwin "theory"). They may also want to liberalize rules that censor prayer and Christian speech, but, I wonder, how well would they defend Muslim speech? Even rule on the local level is still rule, and schooling is one-size-fits-all.

So, why wouldn't the brightest students just quit? If school is such a waste of time, why not go to work instead?

Of course, "child" labor laws stifle any real ambition in youth and they foster dependence. Such laws might go a long way toward preventing parents from enslaving their offspring, but when they affect young adults up to age 18 they are ridiculous.  So, if one cannot work at all or if one's parents can steal one's wages, one is behooved to continue in school.

Also, high school graduates can command better salaries than non-graduates, and college graduates can command still more. Do these degrees mean a person will be a better worker? Maybe, as anyone who is stick-to-it-ive enough to earn a college diploma is also disciplined enough to hold a job. In fact, my first job seemed to be a vacation compared to both high school and college. At least I did not have to do homework from suppertime until bedtime nightly.

But, did the courses in my major prepare me for the job? Only one of them really did. The rest was on-the-job training, and every new employee was a college graduate with that major and needed the same on-the-job training.

Nobody who had not earned a college degree was even considered. Why? I really don't know. Licensure laws and union rules go a long way towards raising the bar to keep people out of a profession, thus raising salaries for those already there (33), but there is still something "mystical" about a college degree. It matters not whether one can think outside the box or not.

I went to a good private liberal arts college where students were encouraged (nay! required!)  to think for themselves. The first thing I had to do upon setting foot on campus was to write a short subjective essay. The last thing I had to do before receiving my degree was to write a "philosophy of life" thesis. (When I pull these out I see the work of a budding libertarian! I didn't even know the word "libertarian" yet!) In between, I had to take courses out of every department, with class participation, and complete a major.

But, how many colleges and universities give you credits for what the establishment would call "mouthing off?" Not many. Home laundering and wrestling, perhaps. But my state university graduate co-workers, once on-the-job trained, could do everything I could do, except "mouthing off," which was my own private domain. I worked in a hospital laboratory. My boss, who was very tolerant as long as the work was done very well and on time, said, "This is the only lab with a philosophy department." I cannot really consider non-thinkers as "educated" no matter how many degrees they have. But they had training, as per Albert J. Nock, and the almighty diploma.

So, for whatever reason, a college degree pays for itself. But, how do we know that is the best investment? Investment in stocks or gold might or might not pay more (34).

Nowadays, one must also consider that many students graduate with thousands of dollars of debt, and jobs are hard to come by at this time in early 2011. Many graduates owe thousands and are unable to find any work at all. But, the statistics out now, January 7, 2011, that I saw on CNN, show the unemployment rate for college graduates is only about 5 percent while for high school graduates it is about 10 percent.

Another factor at work is the instability of the dollar (35). We learned from Dr. Rothbard that we cannot count on a stable dollar. People do count on it, but that is hopelessly naive. It is the best and brightest that realize that this can have an adverse effect on the desirability of a degree.

The West book is a bit tough on a certain dyslexic with a very short attention span, so I will set that aside at least for now and turn to John Taylor Gatto, who probably knows more about what is wrong with schooling than anyone else. In the prologue to Weapons of Mass Instruction (36), it becomes apparent that Mr. Gatto is on the same page with Albert J. Nock. Mr. Gatto was awakened to the establishment's purposes for mandatory schooling when he read a book by long-time Harvard President James Bryant Conant called The Child, the Parent and the State in which he mentioned the "revolution" in education in the early twentieth century that Albert J. Nock mentioned. This was, of course, the Neanderthal "progressive" era. Conant refers to a 1918 book by Alexander Inglis called Principles of Secondary Education where the real purposes of compulsory schooling (preferably in huge public schools) are spelled out (37).

Very briefly, they are habitual obedience, role orientation (as opposed to goal orientation), favoritism (Goody Two-shoes types get preferential treatment while nerds like me get crumbs. I remember!). So much for teaching students to think!  The idea then, as now, was to make cheerfully obedient citizens who would ante up any taxes demanded and would parrot blathering nonsense such as "It's for our safety," or the war is being fought "to keep us free."

As time went on, the corporate establishment, as exemplified by Carnegie and Rockefeller (and I believe the name John Dewey will come up), along with government ,got more involved with education. Also, such "science" as behaviorism and Darwinism became involved, to study how individuals think and behave, not as a way to help individuals learn critical thinking, but as a way to control their thoughts (38). There were many publications in the mid-twentieth century pushing these ideas, and the results were the likes of "school to work," "outcome-based education," and other high-sounding ideas that were a disaster to true education.

One U.S. Office of Education publication (where in the Constitution is this Office authorized?) "redefined 'education' after the Prussian fashion as 'a means to achieve important economic and social goals of a national character.' " That says it all. This has nothing at all to do with true education. It has everything to do with social engineering.

And it's working, much to the detriment of our once-free country.A docile populace is lapping up government propaganda, including the idea that whistle-blower hero Julian Assange should be hanged, while actually people should be seriously questioning how government is getting away with doing such harm to us all.

Even more scary, all of this hearkened forward to the use of such drugs as Ritalin on millions of youths, and the drumming out of non-establishment political candidates (40).

This is all quite deliberate. In 1885, the Senate Committee on Education issued a statement that education was causing discontent, and the ability to think on the part of workers was interfering with plans to manage (41).

And the ability to think in the general population is obviously a threat to the entrenched establishment. As long as officials are chosen in general elections, and bureaucrats are appointed by these officials, the common people have the last word. Therefore it is essential to make sure voters choose the "right" officials. Voters must be made to see only the two establishment political parties as viable options, and must be made to ignore not just the many other parties, such as the Libertarian and Constitution Parties, but also certain non-establishment candidates within the establishment parties, the most important being the exceedingly popular Republican Ron Paul, whom I vigorously support. I am a charter and lifetime member of the Libertarian Party, but I will do whatever is necessary to support him, up to and including to re-register Republican temporarily and then fumigate before returning Libertarian.

John Taylor Gatto spells out exactly how it happened that the electorate is so naive. And, in his second chapter, he gives numerous examples of "unschooled" people who have made their mark. Examples ranged from Thomas Edison to Warren Buffet to Mark Twain (whose work the establishment is trying to change to make "politically correct"). Other examples are poor students or non-students who have misused their ability to think to destroy our country. They include George W. Bush and Franklin D. Roosevelt. On the good side, Gatto points out St. Paul, whose letters to early congregations underscore individualism, decentralization, and the use of the mind. With early Christians, the main thing was a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and not rules, rituals, and hierarchy (42).

The schools ought to take a page out of St. Paul's book, meaning the inspired Bible, inspired by God who designed and created human beings and therefore knows how human beings work. But government schools behave more like government bureaucracies, which they are, and this is why they don't educate.

Schooling by government at the local level is bad enough even with parental input. But, when George H.W. Bush was elected President in 1988, his campaign promise was to be "the education President." He also promised to reduce federal government spending, regulation, and taxes. While he certainly failed to deliver on these latter promises, he did keep the former one with a vengeance (43). I remember hearing that the Soviet premier had said that every child in a given grade in the USSR would be on the same textbook page on the same day. How crazy, I thought, when you have a huge country with many languages and cultures. It is getting that way here now, with national standards, while even the best teachers are being forced to teach for national testing.

John Taylor Gatto could not stand it. He devised a way to challenge students to get out into the real world and discover ... and think! He sent them off, preferably alone which fostered self-reliance, to all kinds of places to accept challenges head-on. This is what is normally done by graduate students! The hardest part was grappling with bureaucrats. Not only did it work, but it worked fabulously. He and the students earned all sorts of awards. The establishment had no clue how! It was because the jackboot of the system was off students' necks, and students were learning to be participants rather than spectators, and seekers of their own goals (44).

And some of these students, I am sure, became a pain in the neck for the establishment because they acquired the ability to see through establishment propaganda (45). I hope I measure up to this myself.

Truly educated people who think, and principled people who put principles first are monkey-wrenches in the system. In Communist Russia they were called "wreckers." Here, I hear the word "uncooperative" a lot. The System, based on "science" (yeah, right) cannot withstand such people, and the powerful want their almighty System to run like a well-oiled machine. This is what public schooling trains people for. If you zig when everybody else zags you are trouble (46).

Most people, after 12 or more years in mind-numbing school where conformity and obedience are by far the easiest way to survive, simply give up on fighting the System. No wonder there is so much addictive behavior (47).

Mr. Gatto continues on with a talk he gave in 1991 in testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Relations. They were speculating on how school would look in ten years. Senator Ted Kennedy was the chair. What Mr. Gatto said must have ruffled some establishment feathers. School had not changed for more than 100 years and probably would not in the next ten. The status quo is built into the system because, like all government entities, there is too much at stake for job-holders in schools, who are actually union bureaucrats, politicians, campaign donors, and others who benefit from the status quo.

As someone who has numerous issues with unions (closed shops, meaning required membership for those in certain lines of work for one thing, and the attendant exclusion of many from fields of their choice for another), my first thought is that teachers' unions are instrumental in resisting change in government schools. Steven Greenhut (48) acknowledges that public employee unions are getting the royal treatment. I agree; I have said any number of times that government people are treated as if they are better than the rest of us. They certainly are coddled (49). Not to mention they are a huge voting bloc, so public officials are inclined to pander to them.

While lucrative government salaries and benefits surpass private ones on similar jobs, government people can also get away with murder, sometimes literally, as they are often not prosecuted for lawbreaking. The propaganda would have you believe that some government employees, particularly police and firefighters (teachers too, perhaps) are "selflessly putting their lives on the line to protect and serve us all." Undoubtedly some are. However, this is always trotted out to justify the high salaries and benefits, and to justify elected officials' backing of these employees.

No wonder government employees are change-resistant. No wonder government is big and getting bigger.

In Greenhut's chapter, "The Education Racket," he says he lives in a terrific school district where there are many Asian immigrants. These ethnicities are very anxious for their children to get the very best education. Test scores are very high. Maybe this is why Asians seem to be smarter than other races, or maybe they really are smarter and therefore more interested in education.

But when Greenhut questions unionization or the public school monopoly, even these people think he is nuts (50). These ideas are out-of-the-box thinking and they are too politically incorrect to even consider. The parents and teachers had themselves been public school students and had lost their critical thinking abilities.

The thing is, people will not consider real change in public schooling for the same reason they will not consider real change in other areas of government. The decision-makers are in lucrative positions, thanks to union, tenure, salaries, benefits, and pensions. This does not even mention political action! We cannot expect any change. Mr. Gatto is right about that (51). And, these public "servants" have turned into masters. We all know that. I needn't  hash through that again. Just look at Wisconsin in March of 2011.

The fact that young lives, particularly in inner city schools, are ruined does not seem to matter (52). This is typical. Government does not care about individuals, particularly if these individuals have no money and have no vote. Public school students do not pay union dues either, so why should unions give them the time of day? (53). The important thing to the powers-that-be is to keep kids in their schools, not only to keep kids from learning how to think, but to keep the cash flow positive. Money flows into districts based on average daily attendance, ADA (54).

So, if anyone says that students count, what they are referring to is the head count. In my state right now (late January, 2011) a new Republican, fiscally sort-of conservative, governor has just been sworn in. One of the first things he is doing is to cut the budgets of state higher education. Students, faculty, and administrators are livid, of course. Heads will roll and employees will be thrown out of work. Students will have to drop out for lack of funds. But, at the same time they are talking about a new domed arena on the campus. Why? They already have a very nice arena over there. And in town we have a big football stadium and a very nice minor league baseball stadium that possibly could be upgraded to major league if needed. I oppose bringing in major league as we are in a deepening recession and more tax-funded projects would not help, and private concerns need to be pinching pennies now, too.

Having said that, why can the state afford a new arena when it cannot afford to keep tuition rates down and can no longer afford to provide what it has been providing to students?

Nobody questions this on the mainstream news, and most people know so little about economics that they believe the state should not slash education budgets, for the federal government can always step in and pick up the tab. If they don't say that, they will probably say the new arena will come out of a "different budget," will "provide jobs," and will "attract tourism."

In any case, no matter how it plays out, bureaucrats and the well-connected will make out like bandits on the backs of students and taxpayers, and the arena will become a white elephant, sitting empty most of the time. I have seen this so many times.

Gatto winds down the book (55) by comparing "schooling" with "education." He is on my page ... actually I am on his since he had this all figured out before I did. Education fosters independent thought and independence on the part of the individual. Schooling renders one, well ... brain-dead. Let's face it. People believe that the accumulation of "things" is the be-all end-all, and how you do that is to conform, obey, work hard at a non-thinking job, and stay out of trouble.

There is nothing wrong with living well. But there is a lot wrong with conformity and obedience; what is the point of living well if you are sleepwalking through life?

While I was in a health-related career, there was nothing that made me feel better than to have a doctor tell me that my work had helped him or her save a patient's life. This has to be the best feeling one can have.

But a very close second is the euphoric feeling I get when I say "No!" to someone in "authority." Not only is it because of the sheer act of will, but their facial expression is always priceless! It shows how obedient people are, since "authorities" are not used to being said "no" to, so their eyes widen and their jaws drop.

Only educated people can experience this and I would not trade it for any amount of gold.

So, to go back to the original question: What are we going to do about this? To separate school from state is what is needed but it won't be that simple. Mr. Gatto ends Weapons of Mass Instruction with what he calls "The Bartleby Project." In a nutshell, when students are told to take a standardized test, they can refuse, come what may (56).

(1) Albert J. Nock, The Theory of Education in the United States, Ludwig von Mises Institute, Auburn, 2007 (First Edition 1932).

(2) John W. Whitehead, "Raising Up an Orwellian Generation." October 11, 2010.

(3) Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States, HarperPerennial, New York, 1990.

(4) Ibid. P. 256-258. If one reads this in context, at least beginning on P. 256, one can see the marked leftward slant.

(5) Nock P. 21-24.

(6) Ibid. P. 27.

(7) Ibid. P. 42, 43.

(8) Ibid. P. 32, 33.

(9) Ibid. P. 58.

(10) Ibid. P. 59.

(11) Ibid. P. 62.

(12) Ibid. P. 70.

(13) Ibid. P. 72-75.

(14) Ibid. P. 77.

(15) Ibid. P. 89.

(16) Ibid. P. 90.

(17) Ibid. P. 92, 93.

(18) Ibid. P. 113.

(19) Ibid. P. 116.

(20) Ibid. P. 119.

(21) Ibid. P. 122.

(22) Ibid. P. 124.

(23) West, P. 35.

(24) Ibid. P. 37-39.

(25) Ibid. P. 40, 41.

(26) Ibid. P. 48.

(27) Karen Kwiatkowski, "Brad Manning Has Rights!" December 20, 2010. Manning has not been convicted but is suffering unconstitutional treatment at Guantanamo Bay for scaring the establishment. (Actually he is being held in an onshore facility, but he might as well be at Guantanamo.)

(28) West, P. 61.

(29) Ibid. P. 71, 72.

(30) Ibid. P. 76.

(31) Ibid. P. 82. West quotes Dicey, Law and Public Opinion in England.

(32) Ibid. P. 84 on, Chapter 6.

(33) Ibid. P. 115-116.

(34) Ibid. P. 118.

(35) Ibid. P. 120.

(36) John Taylor Gatto, Weapons of Mass Instruction, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island (B.C., Canada), 2009.

(37) I could not find the book in the public or university libraries. Maybe someone does not want it read.

(38) Gatto, P. 3, 4.

(39) Ibid. P. 5.

(40) Ibid. P. 6.

(41) Ibid. P. 15.

(42) Ibid. P. 54, 55.

(43) James J. Drummey, The Establishment's Man, Western Islands Publishing, Appleton, Wisc., 1992, P. 59, 60.

(44) Gatto, P. 96, 97.

(45) Ibid. P. 107.

(46) Ibid. P. 126, 127.

(47) Ibid. P. 127.

(48) Steven Greenhut, Plunder! How Public Employee Unions are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling our Lives, and Bankrupting the Nation, Forum Press, Santa Ana, Calif., 2009.

(49) Ibid. P. 1-3.

(50) Ibid. P. 164.

(51) Ibid. P. 166.

(52) Ibid. P. 170.

(53) Ibid. P. 173.

(54) Ibid. P. 180.

(55) Gatto, P. 177, 178.

(56) Ibid. P. 202-206. The project is self-sustaining. Please see

Please continue on to the Epilogue and Further readings, which might show up on your computer as "Older Posts." Thank you.