The Sick History of Public Education

The Sick History of Public Education

If you went up to any random group of people and mentioned that behind their seemingly normal elementary school was a tale of Prussian Kings, Rockefeller interests, and theories of social control, they would surely look at you as if you were crazy. Well shame on him for not knowing his history! The number of people who have gone through school and yet remain willfully ignorant of how and why they were ushered for years through the system is a glowing testament to the effects of school itself: School works to actively neuter curiosity, impair intellect, halt questioning of the status quo, and restrict deviance form approved norms. Despite what you are instructed to believe, schools harm kids, they do not help them. This is a bold claim, I know, and that is why I have littered the history and analysis below with primary source references and quotations from the men (and they were mostly men) behind our current system of public schooling – their own words are damning enough. For longer and fuller critiques on schooling and its history I would lead the reader to the works of John Gatto, Ivan Illich, Diane Ravitch, and others whom I have relied heavily upon in creating this post. This is certainly a longer-form piece, but I found the extension was necessary to even begin to approach a complete picture of the true behemoth system of schooling we have.

Schooling as Control

The first largescale education system put in place in the Western world was in the Prussian and Austrian states in the mid-to-late 18th century. A Christian sect known as the Pietists spread schoolhouses across the country for the common people, i.e. those outside of the landed gentry. Education up until this point was mostly done via a one-on-one tutorship model, vocations were learned by apprenticeship, and more scholastically inclined minds would enter into the monastery or monastery like colleges.

It was a turbulent social time for Central Europe. After the advent of the printing press, spreading of enlightenment ideals, and the industrial birth of a nascent proletariat class between the serfs and nobility, royalty across the lands that now comprise Germany were seeking new manners of securing their monarchical control. The Pietists spread this schooling as they were seeking favor from King Frederick in the hopes of protection from Lutheran prosecution. As historian James Van Horn Melton points out in his subtly named Absolutism and the Eighteenth-Century Origins of Compulsory Schooling in Prussia and Austria, popular education played an important role in redefining “the matrices of social and political authority,” was a force of “social discipline,” and was an example of a “highly internalized and invisible form of control.” The Pietists, who, as their name suggests, were focused on the internal belief structure of their adherents, were a natural ideological fit to pursue these goals. According to Melton the monarchy was seeking to refine and strengthen their “pillars of authority… Central to this refinement was a shift in the technology of social discipline, whereby the locus of coercion was to be transferred from outside to inside the individual.” Melton points out that many vestiges of this legacy live on today:

“Visit any public school classroom [today] and you will find visible evidence of the Pietist legacy. The teachers will have certificates attesting to their pedagogical competence. Pietist schools were the first to require formal training for elementary schoolmasters, and this gave rise to the first normal schools. The pupils you observe use only textbooks that have been approved by the state board of education. Pietist reformers, again, were pioneers in the standardization of elementary school textbooks. Pupils raise their hands when they have questions, another Pietist innovation. Most pupils are taught collectively rather than individually, a method uncommon in German elementary education until the Pietist pedagogue Johann Hecker helped popularize the practice in the 1740s.”

Johann Gottlieb Fichte he unflattering philosopher behind public education

The New German Spirit

A half-century later, in 1806, Prussia was prostrate and embarrassed following its defeat at the hands of Napoleon’s armies at  the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt. A year later an ambitious philosopher, and ardent follower of platonically minded Immanuel Kant, Johann Fichte delivered his monumental Addresses to the German Nation. In which he decried that the German peoples had suffered defeat due to their lack of discipline, corruption by enlightenment ideals, and rampant self-interest. In Fichte’s own words: “The remedy indicated was an absolutely new system of German national education, such as has never existed in any other nation.” The goals of this new education were explicit. “By means of the new education we want to mould the Germans into a corporate body, which shall be stimulated and animated in all its individual members by the same interest.” There would be no further worries about independent thinking or action under the reach of the new education system, indeed national control would be complete and once again absolute. In the explicit words of Fichte:

“Education should aim at destroying free will so that after pupils are thus schooled they will be incapable throughout the rest of their lives of thinking or acting otherwise than as their schoolmasters would have wished … When the technique has been perfected, every government that has been in charge of education for more than one generation will be able to control its subjects securely without the need of armies or policemen.”

Fichte’s speech was met with applause and enthusiasm. Two years after the speech Wilhelm Von Humboldt was appointed minister of Education for the entire Prussian nation and founded the University of Berlin, which would become the model pointed to for what we commonly think of as the modern research university. As a reward for his orchestration of the new educational state Fichte was made the head of the university, and by 1830, schooling in Prussia was made universal, free, and compulsory for all children in the kingdom.

Coming to America

The new manner of social control had found such success in Prussia that soon people and interests all around the world were looking to copy and instill it within their own countries. In Boston, Massachusetts the cause was taken up by Horace Mann, a lawyer who worked diligently and successfully to bring public education to his own state. In his lifetime, Mann travelled personally to inspect and study the state schools in Prussia and lobbied heavily for the adoption of the “Prussian model” back home. He was elected to the State Senate and helped found the Massachusetts Board of Education and then became its head in 1837. By 1852, Governor Everett instituted a mandatory education policy based on Mann’s recommendations. Mann was successful in spreading public education not only in his home commonwealth but also across many other urban centers in the US. New York City chartered its own Board of Education just five years after Mann’s was established in Massachusetts.

Mann may have not been as explicit as his German counterparts in his hopes for social control, he tended to base his arguments on the need for public education as strivings for order and moralism in the populace. However, his outlook was certainly idealistic in nature, even edging on utopic. In his personal writings he mentioned that he was working for and towards the “improvability of the race.” He further personally believed that democracy freed “the powers of doing evil as much as the powers of doing good,” and felt that he was working to fight off “mobocracy.” After he left the Board of Education, Mann ran and won a seat in Congress as a Representative of the Whig party which had been formed to fight back against Andrew Jackson’s populist movement and his dismantling of the central bank – the Second Bank of the United States.

Horace would come to be known as “the father of American public education.” And Ellwood Cubberley, in his history Public Education in the United States remarks:

Mann “will always be regarded as perhaps the greatest of the “founders” of our American system of free public schools. No one did more than he to establish in the minds of the American people the conception that education should be universal, non-sectarian, and free, and that its aim should be social efficiency” [my emphasis]

Attracting the Money interests:

While the practice of public education was originally instilled by the monarchical powers of Europe, as it spread across the globe the expediency of social control it provided was noted by numerous other interests clamoring for power, including the growing industrialists in the United States. It should be noted that prior to the Civil War, the large majority of Americans were not slaves, indentured servants, nor employees of other people. As Abraham Lincoln noted in his address to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society:

“a large majority” of the population “neither work for others, nor have others working for them. Even in all our slave States, except South Carolina, a majority of the whole people of all colors, are neither slaves nor masters. In these Free States, a large majority are neither hirers or hired. Men, with their families — wives, sons and daughters — work for themselves, on their farms, in their houses and in their shops, taking the whole product to themselves”

Employees, people who sold their own toils for someone else’s profit had been looked down upon since Plato’s republic when he classified wage-earners as just barely above the rank of slaves – the continued feeling of contempt for the group up to the late 19th century is exemplified in Representative Hammond’s remarks before congress that wage earners were the mudsills of the industrial north – the very lowest strata of society.

By the start of the 20th century, witnessing the deftness with which central Europe and England had been transformed into industrial societies with a large employed wage-earning class, the burgeoning heads of industry in the US looked to push adoption of European compulsory schooling laws across their own nation.

From The New York Times, July 10, 1909

Funding America’s New Education

John D Rockefeller donated over $100 million dollars (equivalent of over $3bn in today’s dollars) to establish the General Education Board in 1902, and also to fund universities and teacher’s colleges across the nation. Andrew Carnegie chartered the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 1905. Both organizations had the explicit purpose of helping to bolster institutional schooling across the US. Though the aims of these men may appear altruistic (It should be noted Rockefeller only had two years of actual school attendance and Carnegie had none), their actual motives were of a different intent. Frederick Taylor Gates, who Rockefeller put in charge of daily operations of the General Education Board, had the below excerpt from the Board’s internal memos reprinted in his book The Country School of To-morrow:

In our dreams…people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present educational conventions fade from our minds, and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive rural folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or men of science. We have not to raise up from among them authors, educators, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have ample supply. The task we set before ourselves is very simple…we will organize children…and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers were doing in an imperfect way.”

Ellwood P Cubberley, dean of the Stanford School of Education, was monumental in shaping educational practices across the US and was “perhaps the most significant theorist of educational administration of his day.” He worked directly and intimately with the Rockefeller General Education board on how to bring scientific management into public schooling. Cubberley wrote in his 1916 treatise, Public School Administration:

Our schools are, in a sense, factories in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned into products… The Specifications of manufacturing come from the demands of twentieth-century civilization, and it is the business of the school to build its pupils according to the specifications laid down.”

The Rockefeller board explicitly worked to bring standardized and compulsory education out of the industrialized urban centers of the North and into the cities of the south and vast rural areas across the country. Additionally, the Rockefellers along with the Carnegie trusts worked to implement and expand standardized testing as the means in which schools could procure funding from both the public and private sector.

Remarks of the time will reflect on the success of these titanic influences. Edward A Ross, an esteemed economist and president of the American Sociological Association noted in his book bluntly titled Social Control: “The schooling of the young is a long-headed device to promote order” The goal of such a system is “To collect little plastic lumps of human dough from private households and shape them on the social kneading-board.

Indeed, those who were handed the ropes to lead formal education soon fell in line, complicit in the scheme. William Torrey Harris, who was US Commissioner of Education from 1889-1906 noted in his lectures on The Philosophy of Education:

Ninety-nine out of a hundred people in every civilized nation are automata, careful to walk in the prescribed paths, careful to follow prescribed custom. This is the result of substantial education, which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual under his species.”

The goal was never to fashion free men and women through education but to create pliable automata that could be shaped and urged into doing whatever the powers that be wished.

Woodrow Wilson, just four years prior to becoming the 28th President of the United States, and at the time the Head of Princeton University , in an address to the New York City High School Teachers Association titled The Meaning of Education stated:

We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forego the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks. You cannot train them for both in the time that you have at your disposal… we are trying to make skillful servants of society along mechanical lines”

Less than a decade later, in 1918, all American children were required to attend at least elementary school. As Cubberley reflected in his Changing Conceptions in Education “Each year the child is coming to belong more to the State and less and less to the parent.”

Old Habits Die Hard

 The thread of school being used for ulterior motives runs right up to the present day. In 1967, a book published by the US Department of Education titled Designing Education for the Future proclaimed:

“Education is seen, in other words, as a means to achieve important economic and social goals, usually of a national character. The full development of the unique talents of individuals, as an educational goal, would be considered only incidentally

Another report from the Department of Education published that same year entitled The Behavioral Science Teacher Education Project sought to prepare teachers for educating in a world where:

“A small elite will carry society’s burdens. The resulting impersonal manipulation of most people’s lifestyles will be softened by provisions for pleasure seeking and guaranteed physical necessities. Participatory democracy in the American-ideal mold will mainly disappear… Only exceptional individuals will be able to maintain a sense of worth and dignity.

The report went on:

“Each individual will be saturated with ideas and information. Some will be self-selected; other kinds will be imposed overtly by those who assume responsibility for others’ actions (for example, employers); still other kinds will be imposed covertly by various agencies, organizations, and enterprises. Relatively few individuals will be able to maintain control over their opinions. Most will be pawns of competing opinion molders.

As acclaimed educational economist Henry Levin noted in his 1976 book The Limits of Educational Reform: “The educational system will always be applied toward serving the role of cultural transmission and preserving the status quo.” That status quo was a world shaped by corporate interests, the desires of big-business, and agents of bureaucracies who had much to gain by using the mass schooled population to their own ends.

John Goodlad who was “one of the intellectual leaders of the education reform movement that took off in the early 1980s,” stated, “The most controversial issues of the twenty-first century will pertain to the ends and means of modifying human behavior and who shall determine them. The first educational question will not be ‘what knowledge is of the most worth?’ but ‘what kinds of human beings do we wish to produce?’”

A 1998 New York Times article on corporate giving in education noted corporation’s “giving is rarely so purely philanthropic as in the past… Rather than simply hand over a check and say goodbye, today’s corporate sponsors want to see their money used in ways in line with their business objectives… increasingly, strings are attached”

A 2008 entry into the Harvard Business Review applauded Cisco, AOL, and other corporations for their charitable investments in education which had helped mold students into better-fitting future employees and consumers of their products. “The more a social improvement relates to a company’s business, the more it leads to economic benefits as well.”

A 2016 analysis on corporate philanthropy in public education proclaims that in the current state of public education, “there are no surface areas which are exempt from private sector participation.” And that corporations along with philanthropic ventures “headed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation” have pushed for “high-stakes standardized testing for students… and longitudinal data collection on the performance of every student” and “collectively contribute more than US$41 billion annually to K-12 Education.” It indeed seems that amongst the money interests, monkeying with schools seems to be a hard to kick habit.

For contrast, on September 29th of this year, the National School Boards Association wrote a letter to the president beseeching him to have his justice department label groups of parents as domestic terrorists and use the full force of the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and the Patriot Act to investigate and prosecute them. The reason for this being that these parents had the gall to demand a say in their own children’s education, protesting and screaming about curricula and mandates that were implemented unilaterally without their input. Whether or not you agree with these parents politically, it is still obvious that for certain interests, either corporate or bureaucratic, the school system will actively seek their input into how to shape children – but that opportunity is severely limited, if it even exists at all, for the child’s own parents.

What Schooling Isn’t For:

Perhaps the above history all sounds too far-fetched and devious to be true. It certainly sounded surreal and unbelievable to me when I first encountered it, that is why I have provided so many primary source documents and direct quotations – for otherwise it would appear to be a work of paranoid fantasy.

Even absent the above history lesson, some things simply do not add up in schooling. Under the lightest scrutiny it becomes clear that the structure of schooling is well divorced from any practical goals of individual development. For example as Lucca Dellanna points out all degrees, class time, and general time spent in school are the same length no matter what level of complexity the subject matter, type of discipline, or which track students are on. If an institution cared to ensure that ends were met for attaining knowledge and competency, wouldn’t it at least tailor the process to the peculiarities and unique specificities that each route of personal development must have? The uniformity and standardization are testament to the fact that schools have aims much different from what they profess.

If not about personal development, schools are often characterized in America as the onramp and selection process for financial well-being. As I have pointed out elsewhere, if schooling were really a means to economic prosperity, then why are the current youngest working age groups, which are noted as being the “most educated generations,” currently earning significantly less than older less educated cohorts? Why do we have so many prolific college and high school dropouts? Can we honestly say that our accelerating funding of education in this country has been the key to prosperity?

Any critical examination of the supposed aims of schooling reveals the truth that the schooling apparatus is not for the best interests of the children it forces to attend. Rather it serves as a jobs project for the teachers and administrators whose ranks have swelled over the years, and as an apparatus for the large institutional interests to help mold their ideal citizen: one that is obedient, subservient, and malleable.

Positive Externalities

At the start of this essay, I traced out how compulsory schooling was a direct reaction to the spread of literacy in Germany following the creation of the printing press. Its invention meant that the written record of the dynamics and ideas that shaped the halls of power and kings’ courts for millennia were now accessible to everyone, where before access had been the privilege of priests and nobility. If you read the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Machiavelli, Hobbes, and others you will note that these exhortations of political, philosophical, and spiritual insights are not meant for the masses but for the benefit of small, exclusive audiences.

The monarchs foresaw this ease of access to information as threatening their singular hold of power and so sought out means to resecure it. The counter tactic that the royalty and nobility of central Europe took was to allow the populace to read, even compelling them to literacy, but to not allow them to read too well. Given that they could no longer control access to knowledge, the new approach was focused on controlling people’s inner psyche and stunting the ability for people to interpret what they read.[1]

To control the ability to digest information one must alter the dynamic where a person no longer reads to absorb facts, which he or she later connects, processes, and ultimately uses to form his or her own conclusions. Instead, a person must be conditioned to only accept the pre-formed and externally supplied conclusions of others.

Perhaps the most apparent and common manner in which this tactic is carried out in the modern era is through standardized testing and curricula, which when contrasted with long-form essay or project-based work forces a child to replace reliance on their own problem solving and inventiveness with rote memorization of preconceived ideas and formulae. This is why the industrialists were the major advocates of standardized testing in the US – the Carnegie Foundation pledged to give pensions to college professors across the country but only if their universities would make standardized testing part of their acceptance criteria.

If you can train a populace in the habit of accepting without question the ideas that shape their world view, you can hope to believe they will not question their low wages, unsafe working conditions, and the cramped, squalor-like living quarters that came with the new wave of industrialization. If this seems too far out, one can look to the internal memos of the Rockefeller Foundation that show in the early half of the 20th century the central focus of its philanthropy into research was to develop “’a new science of man’ whose aim was the analysis and control of behavior.” It is left as homework for the reader to deduce why the Gates Foundation, the Walton foundation, and many other large economic interests continue to keep “high-stakes standardized testing” as a primary goal of their philanthropy in education.

I assure you these corporate and government interests who pump billions of dollars annually into education are receiving a great return on their investments into standardized testing. This is why it is so often the gatekeeping device for numerous avenues in our society that have no connection to ability to fill in bubbles on a scantron sheet – being a doctor, lawyer, stockbroker, realtor, college student, or nail technician all require the passing of a standardized test in one form or another. Standardized testing and the dynamics it forces in schools bring about many abhorrent traits and characteristics in a population I have traced out just a few below:

  • Obedience:

    • The children in public schools who sit down and agree to absorb information are marked as intelligent and tracked as headed for success – the other ones, who critically reject simply parroting and assenting to what is being told of them are labeled stupid and sent on a path for dejection and exclusion with the intent that it should follow them through life. What is being measured and tracked in school is not intelligence, or academic ability but simply the degree to which a child is obedient to authority.

  • Intellectual dependence:

    • Schools habituate people to being dependent upon the handouts of an outside authority’s comprehension, thinking, and prefabricated narratives. It is an intellectual welfare state where food stamps of thought are rationed out and no work is done to build up a student’s ability for mental self-sufficiency. The command to “know thyself” which underpins all major philosophical and religious traditions and demands intense self-comprehension has been wiped away from the manner in which we bring up our youth.

  • Addiction to routine:

    • The following of rigid schedules in school and the general strict pacing of advancement through life conditions children to move and shape their day (and lives) around pre-approved sequences handed to them from abstract sources of authority. They are to start and stop at the sound of a bell (the Rockefeller foundation was the main funder of Pavlov’s famous research on dogs). And are generally taught to be cautious if not to fear novelty and change especially when it is not from a trusted source.

  • Division and infighting:

    • Grade separation is a divide and conquer strategy that lumps children into literal classes that slowly calcifies to caste in larger society. Can you imagine a world where you were completely forbidden to spend time with people of intellectual diversity? Who would want even further wealth inequality in this country to the point that upper classes and lower classes would never comingle? Yet, we have deemed our schools to be the primary economic selection mechanism within society and demand children be divided and separated based on their rank within the system.

Outside of the Classroom

That last effect – creating a divided populace may be one of the most damning. I have mentioned again and again how the alleged culture wars between the right and the left are simply a distraction brought about so that people will not recognize the true sinister institutions maliciously preying on them. In order to dupe an entire population out of recognizing the forces at work in their own country you would need a citizenry so reflexively obedient and ludicrously pliable that it stretches the imagination to conceive what they would be willing to believe and do. A population would have to be so naïve that they would wantonly consume goods that they know have planned obsolescence, uncritically lighting their money aflame, because doing otherwise may lower an arbitrary index like Gross Domestic Product that they have been exhorted to hold sacrosanct. It would have to be a population that could be lied to over and over again, to go to war, to lose their houses while banks are bailed out, to lock them indoors for a virus that kills 3 in 1,000 people. One stretches the mind to imagine a population that would stand idly by as a public official like Anthony Fauci provides a gloating admission of lying to the American public for their own good (such as his flip-flop on mask wearing guidance) – only a nation of incredibly stunted souls could take such disrespect on the chin and then lionize the man. In short you would need a well-schooled nation.

This whole essay is an extension of and reaction to a piece I wrote stating that human genius is innate in everyone – I still stand by that statement but the sad reality is that if we as a country were to ever realize this it would mean our society would be turned on its head. The current way we have structured the American economy, culture, and mass psychology necessitates the manner in which we have schools that purposefully make us intellectually crippled. Our education system trains us to hate and fear each other – to believe that our own neighbors, friends, and family members are so chronically inept that people must rely on outside expert judgement – from the government, from academia, from corporations, from billionaire philanthropists – else their lives would be ruined. If we actually had faith that human beings were competent enough to decide on their own what to wear, eat, drink, say, think, feel, where and how to go, and who to love then the over-levered house of cards that we call our economy would come tumbling down. We cannot afford to not have school make us into mindless drones.

The System Is Unreformable:

The concept of school reform is constantly trotted out as the great panacea to our societal woes. Unfortunately, once a system is in place, it will always fiendishly and relentlessly work towards its own ends. In James C. Scott’s Seeing Like A State he traces out the concept of legibility – the idea is that systems, especially large ones, can only direct their goals and orient themselves around the rational, objective, measurable, and statistically scalable. This concept seems obvious and banal until you realize what a small portion of human existence this is applicable to. There is no way to quantify love, empathy, self-fulfillment, nor many of the other complexities of human affairs. Similarly in mass public schooling there are no real means of measuring and tracking the development of the human soul, no way to chart the growth of complex problem solving nor resiliency in the face of real-world obstacles, in fact the processes we enact to allegedly measure these aspects – standardized multiple-choice tests, obedience drilling, and adherence to forced routines – do more harm than good.

The sad fact of the matter is that legible objectives are all that a massive institution like public schooling can hope for, there is simply no other manner for a mass-scale system to collect feedback. Schools have become, as Langdon Winner would describe them, examples of autonomous social technology – where, once goals are set in a complex system, the system charges relentlessly forward towards them, demands more and more resources, and is unable to change despite the general displeasure or even protests of any or all individuals involved. No matter what politicians or educational bureaucrats come forward with novel and genuine plans for reform, they will be faced with the reality that so long as there is a behemoth system in place, they will be measured by legible standardized objectives.

Eichmann in the Classroom:

Likewise, on the micro scale it is dubious how much “good teachers” can do to impede on the function of schooling. In her book Thinking in Systems, Donella Meadows traces out how once the objectives are set for a system and the rules of interaction are in place – the actual parts matter little. The metaphor she offers include how on a football team, individual players come and go and are swapped out repeatedly, however because the scaffolding of rules and interactions are in place their actions are all largely the same and certainly towards the same end – winning the game. Similarly, our bodies will turnover billions of individual cells in our lifetimes, yet our anatomy continues on in the same functions. A teacher in the school system – while forced to play the game of testing and objectives-based learning – will have no other choice than to play along and become a little cog in the big machine – if they deviate too much they will be benched or fed to the system’s macrophages. Many teachers are forced, as Eichmann testified to in Jerusalem, of simply doing their jobs and obeying orders.

Both of my grandmothers and many of my aunts and other family members are and were teachers. They got into the profession out of a love of working with children and sincere belief that they were aiding and nurturing them. I genuinely believe that the vast majority of people, teachers included, are well-intentioned. Perhaps a select few like Gatto are even able to flout the rules and truly aid children in developing. However, the sick irony and tragic backward logic of the system actually means that well-intentioned teachers are likely doing more damage overall by giving a red-herring of hope: implying that the system could be different if only all teachers could be like this or that one. This modicum of hope is just enough air cover to excuse more rounds of hopeless reforms, more funding and resources to further enlarge the school system, and to push more children through the gears of the school machine.

Beyond Conspiracy

The same dynamics at work for the heroes of this tale also shape the actions of the villains. The concept of conspiracy to describe the school system is outdated and inapplicable. The times when princes or business magnates conspired to create an education system to tilt society in their favor have already passed. Now with the rules of the game already set and sufficiently rigged the brutal truth is that everyone is complicit and no one can be said to be steering the ship. Would you describe your eating of chicken or beef as a conspiracy against farm animals? This system is now set up to take in human beings turn them into automatons and eat them whole. If Bill Gates or the Walton family didn’t pump billions of dollars into the education system in order to craft mindless customers and employees, then they would only lose out because another of their competitors would. The rules of the game have been set, what specific characters play makes little difference. If this were a conspiracy, then that would be good news because it would mean we weren’t already too far down the rabbit hole to change course. There is no conspiracy, there is only system and while it’s in place, there will be no change in sight.

Lost Souls

In the news we typically see waves of angry parents who are up in arms about schooling because they are either for or against the antics of teachers’ unions, gifted programs, CRT, sexual education, charter schools, masks, gun violence and other concerns that make an ever growing list of issues within the education system. Since I have learned the history and aims of schooling, I have come to look at the all of these parents no matter which side they argue as pathetic fools. They are duped to believe that they can play into the education game, relinquishing their own flesh-and-blood to the coercive hands of strangers, and still have any say in the matter.

During my own time spent in school, I remember constantly feeling trapped, alienated, flooded with ennui – and having the eerie sense that something was torturing me but that I could never put a name to. I was told that this was the effect of hormones, biology, and neurochemistry. But it took me years to realize these were the effects of a soul bucking against constraints that it had been deceived and coerced into. The sores of my spirit grew so raw from rubbing up against the bars of the “socialization” process of schooling that I came to despise my adolescent years and resent everything – my teachers, my classmates, my work, my parents because they couldn’t help me, myself. The vestiges of this experience I still labor daily to wash off of me, I am still finding ways to un-school myself and the years of indoctrination I went through.

Every day, schools play a sick game of chicken with children where they contort and twist them hoping to break them-in just before it goes too far. Dylan Klebold, one half of the duo at Columbine that killed 11 students and 1 teacher before committing suicide, wrote in his personal journals before the event:

“let’s see what I have that’s good: A nice family, a good house, food, a couple of good friends, & possessions… and the routine is still monotonous, go to school, be scared & nervous, hoping that people can accept me… I swear like I’m an outcast, & everyone is conspiring against me”

School traps everyone, rich or poor, bright or dumb, and squeezes them until the light goes out of their eyes. My own wedding is in a few months, and my future wife and I have every intention of doing all we can to keep our children out of these hellish traps. The system only grows larger and tighter the more resources, money, and young souls we feed it – the best thing any of us can do is to refuse to sacrifice our own sons and daughters to it.

[1] You find a similar tactic taking place today following the internet’s democratizing of access to information, we now have movements looking to intermediate people’s ability to interpret information by pushing the authority of fact checkers, implementing censorship, and surveilling online communications.

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