“When you take the freewill out of education, that is schooling” – John Taylor Gatto.
A mighty bold statement, but based on what? Well, let’s dig in a little.
In the 1800s, studies began in America on how to enhance the then-current schooling system (then mostly private and/or Christian based). Many scholars, businessmen, and government officials engaged in vigorous research on how to scientifically congregate schools in a manner which would be most conducive to turning children into obedient human resources for the powers that be. After thorough investigations, many came to the conclusion that the compulsory schooling system, that had been thriving in Prussia, was an ideal model America would implement. The Prussian model had some key points, the Americans deemed important to emulate, and are as follows:
- free schooling – tax funded by the citizens
- curriculum to instill a strong sense of nationality, discipline, and sobriety
- stopping of student’s personality
- factory model school
One American educator that promoted compulsory schooling was Ellwood Cubberly; and he stated: “schools as, in a sense, factories in which the raw products are to be shaped and fashioned into products the meet the various demands of life”. In addition, he pointed out that schools are to “breakup these groups as settlements to assimilate and amalgamate these people as part of our American race and to implant into their children so far as can be done, the Anglo-Saxon conceptions of righteousness, law and order and popular government.”
William C. Bagley was another influence on our schooling system in America. He strongly pushed his essentialism philosophy onto the federal school system. He believed that one should be forced into doing something that is of benefit to she or he, although he or she may not believe so. The benefits that one would reap in the end would be worth the forceful, “rough and crude”, even, methods used in the process.
There were also those like John Dewey, William H. Kilpatrick, and (the widely now known) Dr. Montessori, that believed in a pragmatic and progressive schooling method, which stems from the idea that one learns best from doing rather than memorizing (hence the more hands-on approach to teaching in Montessori schools nowadays); and that schools can do away with textbooks altogether, which will most likely get children to want to read all other genres of books for the pure satisfaction of reading and learning.
There were different philosophies on what the best methods to apply in the new compulsory schooling system. But, these methods, although some seemed to be more libertarian than others and at first glance might have given the impression to be for the betterment of the children, all had one thing in common. What they had in common is the fact that they would all be forced. They were forced upon the children and forced upon the parents who, through taxation, would pay for this supposed free schooling.
Many that are in favor of compulsory schooling claim that there are many reasons for which schooling should be mandatory; some of which are:
- prevention of child abuse and child labor
- learning socially acceptable behavior
- learning academics and improving literacy
The above listed could not otherwise be successfully accomplished, for only compulsory schooling could ensure both the safety and the utmost flourishing of children in our present society.
According to a census taken between 1900 and 1960, illiteracy across the United States improved from 11.3% to 2.4%. Now, if you actually look at these numbers you will notice the prevalence of incredibly high percentages of illiteracy in the Southern States, Arizona, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Alaska, in 1900. These numbers drastically decreased by 1960. Taking in account everything that was going on around that place in time (slavery had been recently abolished, western invasions and wars), you may make your own assumptions to why the numbers might have changed so dramatically.
Another statistic on the NCES website shows a more detailed breakdown of the illiteracy percentage based on race and origin of the white population (but not based on states) that ranges from 1870 to 1979. This report also shows a significant improvement in literacy across the United States during this period.
The numbers on these two sources are a bit different from one another. Moreover, on the first source mentioned it even states that “the estimates of illiteracy are subject to errors arising from a number of sources”.
So, how accurate are these numbers? We will probably never know. And who’s agendas are they serving? If we look back in history we might be able to make some very sensible presumptions on this argument.
It so happens that John D. Rockefeller, as well as Andrew Carnegie, had quite an investment in the schooling system since the early 1900s. What interest would such business moguls and industrialists have in the education system? Could it have been to “mold” the society as they see fit, as Frederick Gates (Rockefeller’s charity adviser, whom Rockefeller regarded as the smartest businessman of his time) stated? Maybe.
On the other spectrum, John Taylor Gatto is one of today’s most recognized opposer of the current compulsory schooling system, what it stands for and it’s ultimate purpose from its beginnings.
He believes, contrary to what some of the earlier statistics may show, that literacy was much higher in the colonial times than it is given credit; and that the schooling system is merely an indoctrination system who’s sheer scope is to dumb down our society. Thus making it much easier to manipulate and control. Indeed, according to current (2003) statistics, the US is at 14% illiteracy. Furthermore, 2015 statistics gathered from around the world that report on education levels in 72 countries, the US ranks 24th on average. Not very impressive, in my opinion, for one of the world’s economic powers of the world. But, pretty accurate according to John Taylor Gatto’s theory on the government’s intention to dumb us down through our schooling system.
So, what are we to do as parents? As a society?
Fortunately enough, in the US, homeschooling is still legal, thus we have decided to homeschool our two children. We have taken all information, evidence, and opinions into account and have decided that the best thing we can do for our children in regards to their education is to take them out of traditional public schooling and charge ourselves with this important task. We believe that we, as parents, have the best interest at heart (more than any other stranger) for our children. And, although most teachers may be well-intentioned, they are also people with their own beliefs and characters just as everyone else. So why would we entrust our precious little darlings to be molded by others (complete strangers) that in their time were perfectly molded themselves to suit others’ agendas?
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