“We live together, you and I, in a dark time when all official history is propaganda. If you want truth, you have to struggle for it. This is my struggle. Let me bear witness to what I have seen.”
This is a direct quote from John Taylor Gatto’s The Underground History of American Education, which he wrote after he taught school for 30 years in Manhattan –years of honors and community involvement — quite a phenomenal career. And then during his reign as New York State Teacher of the Year, it all ended abruptly. He quit.
I’m only about a tenth of the way into his book, but already I’m disturbed and deeply alarmed by what his research reveals about the ideas and motives that shaped our government schools over the past 200 years. We send our kids off to school expecting them to become smarter, but he argues, our modern schools were purposely designed to keep us dumb.
Yes, that’s right. To keep us dumb.
When our nation was born, Gatto says,
“…there was no heredity order…We were a nation awash in literate, self-reliant men and women, the vast majority with an independent livelihood or ambitions toward getting one. Americans were inventors and technicians without precedent, entrepreneurs unlocked from traditional controls, dreamers, confidence men, flim-flam artists. There never was a social stew quite like it.”
But even 200 years ago, there was a great temptation to “bend the mass population into an instrument of the elite will.” A man, Andrew Bell, brought back to America a Hindu model designed to preserve the caste system by retarding intellectual development and leading students to “docile cooperation, like parts of a machine.”
Throughout the 19th century, Gatto explains, education became more and more popular in its various forms as the benefits of learning spread across America. America was the best-educated nation in human history because it was the most free.
This free individualistic environment produced entrepreneurs like Thomas Edison, who incidently started a successful business at 12-years old (19th century) and amazing individuals like Benjamin Franklin, who left school at 10 years old, only to become one of the most successful businessman, scientist and writer (18th century) of his time
But things changed at the turn of the 20th century when the idea to force schooling and to impose the ideal of subordination and an old belief in hierarchies came into play. Powerful, wealthy business men of the Industrial Age (Gatto names Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockfeller and Henry Ford) joined forces with the political & educational elite to force American parents to send their children to school for the purpose of creating more productive factories, bringing about economic stability and a gaining a national competitive advantage. Gatto states:
“At first, the primary target was the tradition of independent livelihoods in America. Unless Yankee entrepreneurialism could be extinguished, at least among the common population, the immense capital investments that mass production industry required for equipment weren’t conceivably justifiable. Students were to learn to think of themselves as employees competing for the favor of management. Not as Franklin or Edison had once regarded themselves, as self-determined, free agents.
Only by a massive psychological campaign could the menace of overproduction in America be contained. That’s what important men and academics called it. The ability of Americans to think as independent producers had to be curtailed.”
And as history shows…curtail it they did. It’s ironic that these big industries now are begging our government to bail them out while our children are wasting away with mindless activities and consumerism. It’s not surprising though…nor a coincidence that the erosion of our freedoms has taken its toll on the character of our people and shaken the foundation of our economy. The industries’ success was built on handshakes of the elite and the intellectual sacrifice of American children. They are still banking on us being stupid enough to think they are “too big to fail.”
You may not be able to change our government’s education system, but you can believe in the potential of the kids in your circles, and you can help shape their minds. When you look at your 10-year old, remember self-educated Ben Franklin, who went on to publish Poor Richard’s Almanac, speak with kings and raise money for the American Revolution. When you see your 12-year old selling bracelets, remember Thomas Edison started a newspaper at 12-years old and acquired 500 subscribers. Not bad for a kid! Then went on to be one of America’s greatest renown inventors.
Edison and Franklin’s parents would be jailed today if they allowed their sons the freedom it took to achieve all that they did. Think about that.
Do not underestimate the intelligence of our children. They are capable of learning about business. Remember, the school systems were not designed to create business leaders, they were designed to create employees only…to make the factories more productive. But we know our children deserve more.
Reference: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto
Tagged: history american education entrepreneurs America