Vicissitudes And Constants|
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|Saturday, June 12th, 2010|
|Writer's Block: Daydream believer
If you could choose to control your dreams, would you? If so, what would you dream about?
When you realize that you are dreaming, hold your hands up in front of your eyes.
You will find that you can make the dream shift.
I read this in some Castaneda book and tried it.
I don't answer the second question, and you won't either, if you are wise.
|Thursday, January 28th, 2010|
|Writer's Block: Obama drama
How do you think President Obama is doing so far? If you're an American citizen, would you vote the same way (whether for or against)? If you're not, what's your take on Obama's performance? Did his State of the Union address sway your opinion in any way?
I never thought he was good.
I still don't think he is good.
I did not vote for him,
I would never vote for him.
|Sunday, December 20th, 2009|
May God bless and reward the soul of Hossein Ali Montazeri.
|Tuesday, December 15th, 2009|
|Why The Bible Was Written
I've been thinking lately that there is a strong possibility that the Old Testament, or large chunks of it, was an official project of the Persian government to rewrite history in a manner appropriate to the World which would, of course, be ruled by the Great King forever, they not having any idea that there would be Macedonians involved.
So they got this guy Ezra the Scribe who was a ranking civil servant to edit the old Jewish books to make history start in the very recent past, and to make a parallel between God and the Great King. And Nehemiah, he was a eunuch and Koresh's personal butler (not Koresh, who was it, Artexerxes? I forget).
All of the old traditions, or the vast majority, were recorded in the various commentaries anyway, so it is not like any real damage was done to history. Reserved knowledge isn't exactly secret.
|Saturday, October 10th, 2009|
|Sunday, September 27th, 2009|
|The Scalp Industry
Although the origins of the practice of scalping may be lost in the nebulous hinterlands of the past, the industry of scalp hunting has a specific and documented history. Although some of the particulars may be shrouded in rumors, the scalp bounty laws instituted a peculiar economic venture between the Mexican government and, primarily, American citizens. Between 1835 and the 1880s, the Mexican authorities paid private armies to hunt Native Americans, paying per kill and using scalps as receipts. The practice began when the Mexican government could no longer provide adequate protection to its citizens from the marauding Apaches and Comanches. The natives rode down from the U.S. killing peons, kidnapping women, and stealing livestock and then would escape back over the border. Because the Mexican military was unable to effectively ward off the threat over such a large expanse and because the Mexican farmers either could not afford or were forbidden to possess arms, the government had to look to alternative methods of suppressing native violence.
|Thursday, September 3rd, 2009|
|Yet More John Taylor Gatto
From the 18th and final chapter of "The Underground History Of American Education"
entitled "Breaking Out Of The Trap"
A prophetic article entitled "The Laboring Classes" appeared in The Boston Quarterly Review in 1840 at the very moment Horace Mann’s crowd was beating the drum loudest for compulsion schooling. Its author, Orestes Brownson, charged that Horace Mann was trying to establish a state church in America like the one England had and to impose a merchant/industrialist worldview as its gospel. "A system of education [so constituted] may as well be a religion established by law," said Brownson. Mann’s business backers were trying, he thought, to set up a new division of labor giving licensed professional specialists a monopoly to teach, weakening people’s capacity to educate themselves, making them childlike.
Teaching in a democracy belongs to the whole community, not to any centralized monopoly(2), said Brownson, and children were far better educated by "the general pursuits, habits, and moral tone of the community" than by a privileged class. The mission of this country, according to Brownson, was "to raise up the laboring classes, and make every man really free and independent." Whatever schooling should be admitted to society under the auspices of government should be dedicated to the principle of independent livelihoods and close self-reliant families. Brownson’s freedom and independence are still the goals that represent a consensus of working-class opinion in America, although they have receded out of reach for all but a small fraction, like the shrimp lady. How close was the nation in 1840 to realizing such a dream of equality before forced schooling converted our working classes into "human resources" or a "workforce" for the convenience of the industrial order? The answer is very close, as significant clues testify.
A century and a half after "The Laboring Classes" was published, Cornell labor scholar Chris Clark investigated and corroborated the reality of Brownson’s world. In his book Roots of Rural Capitalism, Clark found that the general labor market in the Connecticut Valley was highly undependable in the 1840s by employer standards because it was shaped by family concerns. Outside work could only be fitted into what available free time farming allowed (for farming took priority), and work was adapted to the homespun character of rural manufacture in a system we find alive even today among the Amish. Wage labor was not dependent on a boss’ whim. It had a mind of its own and was always only a supplement to a broad strategy of household economy.
A successful tradition of self-reliance requires an optimistic theory of human nature to bolster it. Revolutionary America had a belief in common people never seen anywhere in the past. Before such an independent economy could be broken apart and scavenged for its labor units, people had to be brought to believe in a different, more pessimistic appraisal of human possibility. Abe Lincoln once called this contempt for ordinary people "mudsill theory," an attitude that the education of working men and women was useless and dangerous. It was the same argument, not incidentally, that the British state and church made and enforced for centuries, German principalities and their official church, too.
Lincoln said in a speech to the Wisconsin Agricultural Society in September 1859 that the goal of government planning should be independent livelihoods. He thought everyone capable of reaching that goal, as it is reached in Amish households today. Lincoln characterized mudsill theory as a distortion of human nature, cynical and self-serving in its central contention that:
Nobody labors, unless someone else, owning capital, by the use of that capital, induces him to it. Having assumed this, they proceed to consider whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent; or buy them, and drive them to it without their consent. Having proceeded so far, they naturally conclude that all laborers are necessarily either hired laborers, or slaves. They further assume that whoever is once a hired laborer is fatally fixed in the condition for life, and thence again that his condition is as bad as or worse than that of a slave. This is the mudsill theory. (emphasis added)
This notion was contradicted, said Lincoln, by an inconvenient fact: a large majority in the free states were "neither hirers nor hired," and wage labor served only as a temporary condition leading to small proprietorship. This was Abraham Lincoln’s perception of the matter. Even more important, it was his affirmation. He testified to the rightness of this policy as a national mission, and the evidence that he thought himself onto something important was that he repeated this mudsill analysis in his first State of the Union speech to Congress in December 1861.
Here in the twenty-first century it hardly seems possible, this conceit of Lincoln’s. Yet there is the baffling example of the Amish experiment, its families holding nearly universal proprietorship in farms or small enterprises, a fact which looms larger and larger in my own thinking about schools, school curricula, and the national mission of pedagogy as I grow old. That Amish prosperity wasn’t handed to them but achieved in the face of daunting odds, against active enmity from the states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio, and elsewhere, and hordes of government agencies seeking to de-Amish them. That the Amish have survived and prevailed against high odds puts a base of realistic possibility under Lincoln and Brownson’s small-market perspective as the proper goal for schooling. An anti-mudsill curriculum once again, one worthy of another civil war if need be.
It takes no great intellect to see that such a curriculum taught in today’s economic environment would directly attack the dominant economy. Not intentionally, but lack of malice would be poor compensation for those whose businesses would inevitably wither and die as the idea spread. How many microbreweries would it take to ruin Budweiser? How many solar cells and methane-gas home generators to bring Exxon to its knees? This is one reason, I think, that many alternative school ideas which work, and are cheap and easy to administer, fizzle rather than that catch fire in the public imagination. The incentive to support projects wholeheartedly when they would incidentally eliminate your livelihood, or indeed eliminate the familiar society and relationships you hold dear, just isn’t there. Nor is it easy to see how it could ever be.
Why would anyone who makes a living selling goods or services be enthusiastic about schools that teach "less is more"? Or teach that television, even PBS, alters the mind for the worse? When I see the dense concentration of big business names associated with school reform I get a little crazy, not because they are bad people—most are no worse than you are or I—but because humanity’s best interests and corporate interests cannot really ever be a good fit except by accident.
The souls of free and independent men and women are mutilated by the necessary soullessness of corporate organization and decision-making. Think of cigarettes as a classic case in point. The truth is that even if all corporate production were pure and faultless, it is still an excess of organization—where the few make decisions for the many—that is choking us to death. Strength, joy, wisdom are only available to those who produce their own lives; never to those who merely consume the production of others. Nothing good can come from inviting global corporations to design our schools, any more than leaving a hungry dog to guard ham sandwiches is a good way to protect lunch.
All training except the most basic either secures or disestablishes things as they are. The familiar government school curriculum represents enshrined mudsill theory telling us people would do nothing if they weren’t tricked, bribed, or intimidated, proving scientifically that workers are for the most part biologically incompetent, strung out along a bell curve. Mudsill theory has become institutionalized with buzzers, routines, standardized assessments, and terminal rankings interleaved with an interminable presentation of carrots and sticks, the positive and negative reinforcement schedules of behavioral psychology, screening children for a corporate order.
Mudsillism is deeply ingrained in the whole work/school/media constellation. Getting rid of it will be a devilish task with no painless transition formula. This is going to hurt when it happens. And it will happen. The current order is too far off the track of human nature, too dis-spirited, to survive. Any economy in which the most common tasks are the shuffling of paper, the punching of buttons, and the running of mouths isn’t an order into which we should be pushing kids as if such jobs there were the avenue to a good life.
At the heart of any school reforms that aren’t simply tuning the mudsill mechanism lie two beliefs: 1) That talent, intelligence, grace, and high accomplishment are within the reach of every kid, and 2) That we are better off working for ourselves than for a boss(3). But how on earth can you believe these things in the face of a century of institution-shaping/economy-shaping monopoly schooling which claims something different? Or in the face of a constant stream of media menace that jobs are vanishing, that the workplace demands more regulation and discipline, that "foreign competition" will bury us if we don’t comply with expert prescriptions in the years ahead? One powerful antidote to such propaganda comes from looking at evidence which contradicts official propaganda—like women who earn as much as doctors by selling shrimp from old white trucks parked beside the road, or thirteen-year-old boys who don’t have time to waste in school because they expect to be independent businessmen before most kids are out of college. Meet Stanley:
I once had a thirteen-year-old Greek boy named Stanley who only came to school one day a month and got away with it because I was his homeroom teacher and doctored the records. I did it because Stanley explained to me where he spent the time instead. It seems Stanley had five aunts and uncles, all in business for themselves before they were twenty-one. A florist, an unfinished furniture builder, a delicatessen owner, a small restauranteur, and a delivery service operator. Stanley was passed from store to store doing free labor in exchange for an opportunity to learn the business. "This way I decide which business I like well enough to set up for myself," he told me. "You tell me what books to read and I’ll read them, but I don’t have time to waste in school unless I want to end up like the rest of these people, working for somebody else." After I heard that I couldn’t in good conscience keep him locked up. Could you? If you say yes, tell me why.
Look at those 150,000 Old Order Amish in twenty-two states and several foreign countries: nearly crime-free, prosperous, employed almost totally at independent livelihoods; proprietors with only a 5 percent rate of failure compared to 85 percent for businesses in non-Amish hands. I hope that makes you think a little. Amish success isn’t even possible according to mudsill theory. They couldn’t have happened and yet they did. While they are still around they give the lie to everything you think you know about the inevitability of anything. Focus on the Amish the next time you hear some jerk say your children better shape up and toe the corporate line if they hope to be among the lucky survivors in the coming world economy. Why do they need to be hired hands at all, you should ask yourself. Indeed, why do you?
(2) By "community" Brownson meant a confederation of individual families who knew one another; he would have been outraged by a federation of welfare agencies masquerading as a human settlement, as described in Hillary Clinton’s It Takes A Village, in which the village in question is suspiciously devoid of butcher, baker, and candlestick maker joining their voices in deciding child-care policies.
(3) The Boston Globe for September 8, 1999, carried this dismal information: if all the households in theUnited States are divided into five equal fractions, and the household incomes in each fifth averaged together, the economic classes of the country look like this compared to one another: the bottom fifth earns $8,800 a year, the second fifth $20,000 a year, the third fifth $31,400 a year, and the fourth fifth $45,100 a year. The balance of the fruits of our managed society have been reserved for the upper 20 percent of its households, and even there the lion’s share drops on the plate of a relatively small fraction of the fat cats. If this is the structure our centrally controlled corporate economy has imposed after a century in close partnership with science, government, religion, and schools, it argues loudly that trusting any large employer not to be indifferent, or even hostile, to American social tradition and dreams is misplaced trust. Of course, it’s always a good idea to treat such data with caution because marshaling numbers to prove anything is remarkably easy to do (indeed, teaching a reverence for numbers may be the most significant blindness of modern times). And yet my own intuition tells me that profound social insecurity is the direct legacy of our economic management and its quantitative values.
|More John Taylor Gatto
From Chapter 17 Of "The Underground History Of American Education"
Four Kinds Of Classroom
Jean Anyon, a professor at Rutgers, recently examined four major types of covert career preparation going on simultaneously in the school world, all traveling together under the label "public education." All use state-certified schoolteachers, all share roughly common budgets, all lead to intensely political outcomes.
In the first type of classroom, students are prepared for future wage labor that is mechanical and routine. Of course neither students nor parents are told this, and almost certainly teachers are not consciously aware of it themselves. The training regimen is this: all work is done in sequential fashion starting with simple tasks, working very slowly and progressing gradually to more difficult ones (but never to very difficult work). There is little decision-making or choice on the part of students, much rote behavior is practiced. Teachers hardly ever explain why any particular work is assigned or how one piece of work connects to other assignments. When explanations are undertaken they are shallow and platitudinous. "You’ll need this later in life." Teachers spend most of their day at school controlling the time and space of children, and giving commands.
In the second type of classroom, students are prepared for low-level bureaucratic work, work with little creative element to it, work which does not reward critical appraisals of management. Directions are followed just as in the first type of classroom, but those directions often call for some deductive thinking, offer some selection, and leave a bit of room for student decision-making.
The third type of classroom finds students being trained for work that requires them to be producers of artistic, intellectual, scientific, and other kinds of productive enterprise. Often children work creatively and independently here. Through this experience, children learn how to interpret and evaluate reality, how to become their own best critics and supporters. They are trained to be alone with themselves without a need for constant authority intervention and approval. The teacher controls this class through endless negotiation. Anyon concludes: "In their schooling these children are acquiring symbolic capital, they are given opportunity to develop skills of linguistic, artistic, and scientific expression and creative elaboration of ideas in concrete form."
The fourth type of public school classroom trains students for ownership, leadership, and control. Every hot social issue is discussed, students are urged to look at a point from all sides. A leader, after all, has to understand every possible shade of human nature in order to effectively mobilize, organize, or defeat any possible opponent. In this kind of schoolroom bells are not used to begin and end periods. This classroom offers something none of the others do: "knowledge of and practice in manipulating socially legitimated tools of systems analysis."
It strikes me as curious how far Anyon’s "elite" public school classroom number four still falls far short of the goals of elite private boarding schools, almost as if the very best government schools are willing to offer is only a weak approximation of the leadership style of St. Paul’s or Groton. What fascinates me most is the cold-blooded quality of this shortfall because Groton’s expectations cost almost nothing to meet on a different playing field—say a homeschool setting or even in John Gatto’s classroom—while the therapeutic community of psychologized public schooling is extremely expensive to maintain. Virtually everyone could be educated the Groton way for less money than the average public school costs.
|From 'The Underground History Of American Education'
From Chapter 16, by John Taylor Gatto
The Cult Of Forced Schooling
The most candid account of the changeover from old-style American free market schooling to the laboratory variety we have under the close eye of society’s managers is a book long out of print. But the author was famous enough in his day that a yearly lecture at Harvard is named after him, so with a bit of effort on your part, and perhaps a kind word to your local librarian, in due time you should be able to find a hair-raising account of the school transformation written by one of the insiders. The book in question bears the soporific title Principles of Secondary Education. Published in 1918 near the end of the great school revolution, Principles offers a unique account of the project written through the eyes of an important revolutionary. Any lingering doubts you may have about the purposes of government schooling should be put to rest by Alexander Inglis. The principal purpose of the vast enterprise was to place control of the new social and economic machinery out of reach of the mob.(2)
The great social engineers were confronted by the formidable challenge of working their magic in a democracy, least efficient and most unpredictable of political forms. School was designed to neutralize as much as possible any risk of being blind-sided by the democratic will. Nelson W. Aldrich Jr., writing of his grandfather Senator Aldrich, one of the principal architects of the Federal Reserve System which had come into being while Inglis’ cohort built the schools—and whose intent was much the same, to remove economic machinery from public interference—caught the attitude of the builders perfectly in his book Old Money. Grandfather, he writes, believed that history, evolution, and a saving grace found their best advocates in him and in men like him, in his family and in families like his, down to the close of time. But the price of his privilege, the senator knew, "was vigilance—vigilance, above all, against the resentment of those who never could emerge." Once in Paris, Senator Aldrich saw two men "of the middle or lower class," as he described them, drinking absinthe in a café. That evening back at his hotel he wrote these words: "As I looked upon their dull wild stupor I wondered what dreams were evolved from the depths of the bitter glass. Multiply that scene and you have the possibility of the wildest revolution or the most terrible outrages."
Alexander Inglis, author of Principles of Secondary Education, was of Aldrich’s class. He wrote that the new schools were being expressly created to serve a command economy and command society, one in which the controlling coalition would be drawn from important institutional stakeholders in the future. According to Inglis, the first function of schooling is adjustive, establishing fixed habits of reaction to authority. This prepares the young to accept whatever management dictates when they are grown. Second is the diagnostic function. School determines each student’s "proper" social role, logging it mathematically on cumulative records to justify the next function, sorting . Individuals are to be trained only so far as their likely destination in the social machine, not one step beyond. Conformity is the fourth function. Kids are to be made alike, not from any passion for egalitarianism, but so future behavior will be predictable, in service to market and political research. Next is the hygienic function. This has nothing to do with individual health, only the health of the "race." This is polite code for saying that school should accelerate Darwinian natural selection by tagging the unfit so clearly they drop from the reproduction sweepstakes. And last is the propaedutic function, a fancy word meaning that a small fraction of kids will slowly be trained to take over management of the system, guardians of a population deliberately dumbed down and rendered childlike in order that government and economic life can be managed with a minimum of hassle. And there you have the formula: adjustment, diagnosis, sorting, conformity, racial hygiene, and continuity. This is the man for whom an honor lecture in education at Harvard is named. According to James Bryant Conant, another progressive aristocrat from whom I first learned of Inglis in a perfectly frightening book called The Child, The Parent, and the State (1949), the school transformation had been ordered by "certain industrialists and the innovative who were altering the nature of the industrial process."
Conant is a school name that resonates through the central third of the twentieth century. He was president of Harvard from 1933 to 1953. His book The American High School Today (1959), was one of the important springs that pushed secondary schools to gigantic size in the 1960s and forced consolidation of many small school districts into larger ones. He began his career as a poison gas specialist in WWI, a task assigned only to young men whose family lineage could be trusted. Other notable way stations on his path being that of an inner circle executive in the top secret atomic bomb project during WWII, and a stint as U.S. High Commissioner for Germany during the military occupation after 1945. From Lewisite gas to nuclear explosions (or high schools), Conant delivered.
In his book Conant brusquely acknowledges that conversion of old-style American education into Prussian-style schooling was done as a coup de main, but his greater motive in 1959 was to speak directly to men and women of his own class who were beginning to believe the new school procedure might be unsuited to human needs, that experience dictated a return to older institutional pluralistic ways. No, Conant fairly shouts, the clock cannot be turned back! "Clearly, the total process is irreversible." Severe consequences would certainly follow the break-up of this carefully contrived behavioral-training machine: "A successful counterrevolution...would require reorientation of a complex social pattern. Only a person bereft of reason would undertake [it]."
Reading Conant is like overhearing a private conversation not meant for you yet fraught with the greatest personal significance. To Conant, school was a triumph of Anglo/Germanic pragmatism, a pinnacle of the social technocrat’s problem-solving art. One task it performed with brilliance was to sharply curtail the American entrepreneurial spirit, a mission undertaken on perfectly sensible grounds, at least from a management perspective. As long as capital investments were at the mercy of millions of self-reliant, resourceful young entrepreneurs running about with a gleam in their eye, who would commit the huge flows of capital needed to continually tool and retool the commercial/industrial/financial machine? As long as the entire population could become producers, young people were loose cannon crashing around a storm-tossed deck, threatening to destroy the corporate ship. Confined, however, to employee status, they became suitable ballast upon which a dependable domestic market could be erected.
How to mute competition in the generation of tomorrow? That was the cutting-edge question. In his take-no-prisoners style acquired mixing poison gas and building atomic bombs, Conant tells us candidly the answer "was in the process of formulation" as early as the 1890s. By 1905 the nation obeyed this clarion call coast to coast: "Keep all youth in school full time through grade twelve." All youth, including those most unwilling to be there and those certain to take vengeance on their jailers.
President Conant was quick to acknowledge that "practical-minded" kids paid a heavy price from enforced confinement. But there it was—nothing could be done. It was a worthy trade-off. I suspect he was being disingenuous. Any mind sophisticated enough to calculate a way to short-circuit entrepreneurial energy, and ideology-driven enough to be willing to do that in service to a corporate takeover of the economy, must also be shrewd enough to foresee the destructive side effects of having an angry and tough-minded band of student-captives remain in school with the docile. The net effect was to nearly eradicate the intellectual possibilities of school instruction.
Did Conant understand the catastrophe he helped induce? I think he did. He would dispute my judgment, of course, that it was a catastrophe. One of his close friends was another highly placed schoolman, Ellwood P. Cubberley, the Stanford Education dean. Cubberley had himself written about the blow to serious classwork caused by early experiments in forcing universal school attendance. So it wasn’t as if the destruction of academic integrity came as any surprise to insiders. Cubberley’s house history of American education refers directly to this episode, although in somewhat elliptical prose. First published in 1919, it was republished in 1934, the same year Conant took office at Harvard. The two men talked and wrote to one another. Both knew the score. Yet for all his candor, it isn’t hard to understand Conant’s reticence about discussing this procedure. It’s one thing to announce that children have to do involuntary duty for the state, quite another to describe the why and how of the matter in explicit detail.
Another prominent Harvard professor, Robert Ulich, wrote in his own book, Philosophy of Education (1961): "[We are producing] more and more people who will be dissatisfied because the artificially prolonged time of formal schooling will arouse in them hopes which society cannot fulfill.... These men and women will form the avant-garde of the disgruntled. It is no exaggeration to say [people like these] were responsible for World War II." Although Ulich is parroting Toynbee here, whose Study of History was a standard reference of speculative history for decades, the idea that serious intellectual schooling of a universal nature would be a sword pointed at the established order, has been an idea common in the West since at least the Tudors, and one openly discussed from 1890 onwards.
Thus I was less surprised than I might have been to open Walter Kotschnig’s Unemployment in the Learned Professions (1937), which I purchased for fifty cents off a blanket on the street in front of Columbia University from a college graduate down on his luck, to find myself listening to an argument attributing the rise of Nazism directly to the expansion of German university enrollment after WWI. For Germany, this had been a short-term solution to postwar unemployment, like the G.I. Bill, but according to Kotschnig, the policy created a mob of well-educated people with a chip on their shoulder because there was no work—a situation which led swiftly downhill for the Weimar republic.
A whole new way to look at schooling from this management perspective emerges, a perspective which is the furthest thing from cynical. Of course there are implications for our contemporary situation. Much of our own 50 to 60 percent post-secondary college enrollment should be seen as a temporary solution to the otherwise awesome reality that two-thirds of all work in the United States is now part-time or short-term employment. In a highly centralized corporate workplace that’s becoming ever more so with no end in sight, all jobs are sucked like debris in a tornado into four hierarchical funnels of vast proportions: corporate, governmental, institutional, and professional. Once work is preempted in this monopoly fashion, fear of too many smart people is legitimate, hard to exaggerate. If you let people learn too much, they might kill you. Or so history and Senator Aldrich would have us believe.
Once privy to ideas like those entertained by Inglis, Conant, Ulich, and Kotschnig, most contemporary public school debate becomes nonsense. If we do not address philosophies and policies which sentence the largest portion of our people to lives devoid of meaning, then we might be better off not discussing school at all. A Trilateral Commission Report of 1974, Crisis of Democracy, offered with some urgency this advice: "A program is necessary to lower the job expectations of those who receive a college education." (emphasis added) During the quarter-century separating this managerial proposition from the Millennium, such a program was launched—for reasons we now turn to the historian Arnold Toynbee to illuminate.
(2) A Harvard professor with a Teachers College Ph.D., Inglis descended from a long line of famous Anglicans. One of his ancestors, assistant Rector of Trinity Church when the Revolution began, in 1777 fled the onrushing Republic; another wrote a refutation of Tom Paine’s Common Sense, that one was made the first Bishop of Nova Scotia in 1787; and a third, Sir John Inglis, commanded the British forces at Lucknow during the famous siege by the Sepoy mutineers in 1857. Is the Inglis bloodline germane to his work as a school pioneer? You’ll have to decide that for yourself.
The real conspirators were ourselves. When we sold our liberty for the promise of automatic security, we became like children in a conspiracy against growing up, sad children who conspire against their own children, consigning them over and over to the denaturing vats of compulsory state factory schooling.
-- John Taylor Gatto
|Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009|
|More John Taylor Gatto
From Chapter 11 of "The Underground History Of American Education"
In 1916, the year of Madison Grant’s Passing of the Great Race, Kellor published Straight America. In it she called for universal military service, industrial mobilization, a continuing military build-up, precisely engineered school curricula, and total Americanization, an urgent package to revitalize nationalism. America was not yet at war.
President Wilson was at that time reading secret surveys which told him Americans had no interest in becoming involved in the European conflict. Furthermore, national sympathy was swinging away from the English and actually favored German victory against Britain. There was no time to waste; the war had to be joined at once. John Higham called it "an adventure in high pressure salesmanship."
Thousands of agencies were in some measure engaged: schools, churches, fraternal orders, patriotic societies, civic organizations, chambers of commerce, philanthropies, railroads, and industries, and—to a limited degree—trade unions. There was much duplication, overlapping, and pawing of the air. Many harassed their local school superintendents.
At the end of 1917, Minnesota’s legislature approved the world’s first secret adoption law, sealing original birth records forever so that worthy families who received a child for adoption—almost always children transferred from an immigrant family of Latin/Slav/Alpine peasant stripe to a family of northern European origins—would not have to fear the original parents demanding their child back. The original Boston adoption law of 1848 had been given horrendous loopholes. Now these were sealed sixty-nine years later.
Toward the end of the war, a striking event, much feared since the Communist revolutions of 1848, came to pass. The huge European state of Russia fell to a socialist revolution. It was as if Russian immigrants in our midst had driven a knife into our national heart and, by extension, that all immigrants had conspired in the crime. Had all our civilizing efforts been wasted? Now Americanization moved into a terrifying phase in response to this perceived threat from outside. The nation was to be purified before a red shadow arose here, too. Frances Kellor began to actively seek assistance from business groups to build what she called "the new interventionist republic of America." (emphasis added)
At an unpublicized dinner meeting at Sherry’s Restaurant near Wall Street in November 1918, Frances Kellor addressed the fifty largest employers of foreign labor, warning them that Americanization had been a failure—that really dangerous times were ahead with Bolshevik menace concealed in every workplace. Kellor proposed a partnership of business and social work to "break up the nationalistic, racial groups." The easiest way to do that was to weaken close family life. Miss Kellor, whose upbringing had itself been an ambiguous one, was the perfect person to lead such a charge.
At the Wall Street meeting, plans were laid for a semi-secret organization of Americanizers to be formed out of interested volunteers from major industrial corporations. An impressive amount of money was pledged at the initial meeting, the story of which you can follow in John Higham’s classic account of our immigration years, Strangers in the Land. "The Inter-Racial Council" presented the external aspect of an eclectic public-spirited enterprise—it even recruited some conservative immigrant representatives as members—but, in fact, it was controlled by Kellor’s backers.
The IRC acted both as intelligence gathering office and propaganda agency. In its first year of existence, Kellor put together an association of advertisers to strong-arm the immigrant press into running anti-radical propaganda. Using this muscle, immigrants could be instructed from far away how to think and what to think about, while remaining unaware of the source of instruction because immediate pressure came from a familiar editor. Advertising revenue could be advanced, as well as withdrawn, providing both carrot and stick, the complete behavioral formula.
(1) There is some evidence American social engineering was being studied abroad. Zamiatin’s We, the
horrifying scientific dystopia of a world government bearing the name "The United State," was published in Russia a few years later as if in anticipation of an American future for everyone.
|Sunday, August 30th, 2009|
|A Coal-Fired Dream World
This article, entitled "The Positive Method" is a section of Chapter 8 of John Taylor Gatto's "Underground History Of American Education" - www.johntaylorgatto.com
The Positive Method
Most of the anti-intellectual shift in schooling the young was determined by the attitudes and needs of prominent businessmen. The first exhibit for your perusal is the U.S. Bureau of Education’s Circular of Information for April 1872, which centers around what it calls the "problem of educational schooling." With whose interests in mind did the bureau view education as a problem? The amazing answer is: from a big business perspective. By 1872, this still feeble arm of the federal government is seen filled with concern for large industrial employers at a time when those were still a modest fraction of the total economy.
According to this Circular of Information, "inculcating knowledge" teaches workers to be able to "perceive and calculate their grievances," thus making them "more redoubtable foes" in labor struggles. Indeed, this was one important reason for Thomas Jefferson’s own tentative support of a system of universal schooling, but something had been lost between Monticello and the Capital. "Such an enabling is bound to retard the growth of industry," continues the Circular. There is nothing ambiguous about that statement at all, and the writer is correct, of course.
Sixteen years later (1888), we can trace the growth in this attitude from the much more candid language in the Report of the Senate Committee on Education. Its gigantic bulk might be summarized in this single sentence taken from page 1,382:
We believe that education is one of the principal causes of discontent of late years manifesting itself among the laboring classes.
Once we acknowledge that planned economies of nation or corporation are systems with their own operating integrity, quite sensibly antagonistic to the risks educated minds pose, much of formal schooling’s role in the transformation that came is predictable. If education is indeed "one of the principal causes of discontent," it performs that subversive function innocently by developing intellect and character in such a way as to resist absorption into impersonal systems: Here is the crux of the difference between education and schooling— the former turns on independence, knowledge, ability, comprehension, and integrity; the latter upon obedience.
In The Empire of Business (1902), Andrew Carnegie, author of the Homestead siege which destroyed the steelworkers union, inveighs against "teachings which serve to imbue [children] with false ideas." From a transatlantic business perspective, education taught what was socially and economically useless, transmitting bad attitudes which turned students against the ripening scheme of centralized national management. Carnegie’s new empire demanded that old-fashioned character be schooled out of children in a hurry. It would be a large mistake to assume this new empire of business of which Carnegie boasts was only a new face on old style greed. While it did take away liberty and sovereignty, it put forth serious intellectual arguments for doing so. Ordinary people were promised what Walter Greene’s outraged letter quoted earlier at the beginning of this chapter tells you they got: the best space program, the best high-tech medicine, the strongest military, the highest material standard of living. These things could not have been accomplished without a kind of forced schooling that terminated most independent livelihoods. That was the price paid for a gusher of easy prosperity.
To understand this paradox better requires some insight into what inspired such certainty among the architects of modern schooling that this disruption would work to produce material prosperity. Their faith that wealth would inevitably follow the social mechanization of the population is founded on a magnificent insight of Francis Bacon’s, set down in startlingly clear prose back in the early seventeenth century. Thanks to the patronage of John Stuart Mill, by the mid-nineteenth century, the seeds that Bacon planted grew into the cult of scientific positivism, a movement we associate today with the name of a Frenchman, Auguste Comte. It’s hard to overestimate the influence positivism had on the formation of mass schooling and on the shaping of an international corporate economy made possible by coal.
Positivism holds that if proper procedures are honored, then scientific marvels and inventions follow automatically. If you weigh and measure and count and categorize slowly and patiently, retaining the microscopic bits of data which can be confirmed, rejecting those that cannot, on and on and on and on, then genius and talent are almost irrelevant—improvements will present themselves regularly in an endless progression despite any fall-off in creative power. Advances in power and control are mainly a function of the amount of money spent, the quantity of manpower employed, and correct methodology.
Mankind can be freed from the tyranny of intelligence by faithful obedience to system! This is a shattering pronouncement, one made all the more difficult to resist because it seems to work. Even today, its full significance isn’t widely understood, nor is the implacable enmity it demands toward any spiritual view of humanity.
In the positivist method, the managerial classes of the late nineteenth century, including their Progressive progeny in the social management game, knew they had a mill to grind perpetual profits—financial, intellectual, and social. Since innovations in production and organization are a principal engine of social change, and since positive science has the power to produce such innovations without end, then even during the launch of our era of scientific management it had to be clear to its architects that nonstop social turbulence would be a daily companion of exercising this power. This is what the closet philosophy of bionomics was there to explain. It preached that the evolutionarily advanced would alone be able to tolerate the psychic chaos—as for the rest, the fate of Cro-Magnon man and the Neanderthal were history’s answer. And the circularity of this convenient proposition was lost on its authors.
Faced with the problem of dangerous educated adults, what could be more natural than a factory to produce safely stupefied children? You’ve already seen that the positive system has only limited regard for brainy people, so nothing is lost productively in dumbing down and leveling the mass population, even providing a dose of the same for "gifted and talented" children. And much can be gained in social efficiency. What motive could be more "humane" than the wish to defuse the social dynamite positive science was endlessly casting off as a byproduct of its success?
To understand all this you have to be willing to see there is no known way to stop the social mutilation positive science leaves in its wake. Society must forcibly be adapted to accept its own continuing disintegration as a natural and inevitable thing, and taught to recognize its own resistance as a form of pathology to be expunged. Once an economic system becomes dependent on positive science, it can’t allow any form of education to take root which might interrupt the constant accumulation of observations which produce the next scientific advance.
In simple terms, what ordinary people call religious truth, liberty, free will, family values, the idea that life is not centrally about consumption or good physical health or getting rich—all these have to be strangled in the cause of progress. What inures the positivistic soul to the agony it inflicts on others is its righteous certainty that these bad times will pass. Evolution will breed out of existence unfortunates who can’t tolerate this discipline.
This is the sacred narrative of modernity, its substitute for the message of the Nazarene. History will end in Chautauqua. School is a means to this end.
|Saturday, August 29th, 2009|
Or re-reading, actually. From http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/
Occasional Letter Number One
Between 1896 and 1920, a small group of industrialists and financiers, together with their private charitable foundations, subsidized university chairs, university researchers, and school administrators, spent more money on forced schooling than the government itself did. Carnegie and Rockefeller, as late as 1915, were spending more themselves. In this laissez-faire fashion a system of modern schooling was constructed without public participation. The motives for this are undoubtedly mixed, but it will be useful for you to hear a few excerpts from the first mission statement of Rockefeller’s General Education Board as they occur in a document called Occasional Letter Number One (1906):
In our dreams...people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present educational conventions [intellectual and character education] fade from our minds, and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive 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 are doing in an imperfect way.
This mission statement will reward multiple rereadings.
|Saturday, August 15th, 2009|
|Very Early Zappa
Here is a video of a 22 year old Frank Zappa on the Steve Allen show. I think that would be 1963 or so?
Frank plays, and dragoons Allen into helping to play, a piece for two bicycles, musical ensemble and prepared tape.
There are four parts, of which this is the first.
|Sunday, July 26th, 2009|
|Here It Is! - Henry Lewis Gates vs Cambridge PD Police Report
"I'll speak with your mama outside," Harvard prof told Cambridge cops
Here are the police reports detailing the confrontation last week between Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Cambridge cops... The Cambridge Police Department reports, authored by Sergeant James Crowley and Officer James Figueroa, quote an incensed Gates yelling, "This is what happens to black men in America!," and, when asked by Crowley to speak with him outside the residence, Gates replied, "ya, I'll speak with your mama outside." A disorderly conduct rap was filed against Gates, but quickly dropped by prosecutors....
|Thursday, June 25th, 2009|
|Sunday, June 21st, 2009|
This is what you get for allowing yourselves to be disarmed.
I note that the cops weren't the ones beating and killing demonstrators: it was the Basiji militia which they brought in especially for the purpose.
Might have gotten interesting if some demonstrators had been armed.
We shall see how things develop, but I am much less optimistic about it than I was even a few days ago.
Eventually, I think it will happen eventually. Probably soon. Maybe not soon enough.
|Tuesday, June 16th, 2009|
|I Should Go On Record Here
I think an Iranian revolution more likely with every day that goes by that the demonstrations are not suppressed. And if the government did suppress it, I think it might do nothing but accelerate the revolution.
Those who know me will remember that I have been predicting a transformation in Persia for, oh, what? Fifteen years now?
Persia will be an important US ally (again, and on a more equal basis this time) within five years.
Astute students of the situation will note that the Shi'i are not actually as much of a problem as the Wahabi, and that 'Saudi' Arabia stands at the root of far more anti-US feeling than Iran.
|Tuesday, April 28th, 2009|
Ms Gratia-Hupp lost her parents in the infamous "Luby's Cafeteria" massacre. Here
she talks about gun control issues.