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) http://www.alicelillieandher.blogspot.com and click on "2007 (12)"