Starting this series with the topic of War may not seem like a big surprise. Trading freedom for safety seems to be a theme found often in the pages of history. It seems doubtful, however, that the topic of this article would make the board on Family Feud if they surveyed 100 people and asked them: “What actions does your government partake in that makes you less free?”
School!?! You mean that lovely institution that our noble government provides absolutely FREE?? The one that children are forced to attend or else??
According to the late John Taylor Gatto author of Dumbing Us Down, the answer was YES! Why should anyone listen to that guy?? Well, in his book, Gatto says, “I’ve worked as a New York City Schoolteacher for the past 30 years, teaching for some of that time elite children from Manhattan’s Upper West Side between Lincoln Center, where opera is, and Columbia University, where the defense contracts are; and teaching in most recent years, children from Harlem and Spanish Harlem whose lives are shaped by the dangerous undercurrents of the industrial city in decay.” During this time Gatto discovered a pattern which eventually led him to introduce a different way of teaching. A method that unlocked the unseen potential in many of his students, regardless of where they were from. He was named New York City teacher of the year in 1989, ’90 and ’91 as well as “Teacher of the Year” for the entire state of New York in 1991.
Gatto then resigned in protest by writing an article for the Wall Street Journal titled “I Quit, I think” then proceeded to write books such as Dumbing Us Down, The Underground History of American Education, Weapons of Mass Instruction and more. The first is a very easy read right around one hundred pages. If reading isn’t your thing(or even if it is) you can watch Richard Grove interview John Taylor Gatto in “The Ultimate History Lesson” for free on YouTube.
In chapter one of Dumbing Us Down, Gatto says, “Seven lessons are universally taught from Harlem to the Hollywood Hills,” before listing these lessons Gatto says, “These are the things I teach; these are the things you pay me to teach. Make of them what you will.” These sevens lessons are: Confusion, Class Position, Indifference, Emotional Dependency, Intellectual Dependency, Provisional Self-Esteem & One Can’t Hide. Each lesson has a great description in the book. Here is an expert from the One Can’t Hide lesson: “I teach students that they are always watched, that each is under constant surveillance by me and my colleagues. There are no private spaces for children; there is no private time… Students are encouraged to tattle on each other or even tattle on their own parents.”
Sounds a lot like life in the old Soviet Union. Yet if most Americans reflect back on their own years in school, it seems pretty likely they’d remember being taught this very same lesson, over and over again. Does this sound like the behavior of a free society? One could argue that because they are children it’s different. Children don’t have the same rights and need strict supervision in large groups. Everyone has a different opinion, and this could easily become an argument that gets bogged down because of beliefs. The real question is why teach this in the first place. Simply to keep order in the classroom? Asking these questions is the first step that leads into a giant rabbit hole, which very much sounds like a whacky conspiracy, but it’s all out in the open.
Here goes the super condensed version… In 1806 Napoleon, with a volunteer army, defeats Prussia, which had a professional army. The higher ups in Prussia, which later on basically becomes Germany, realized that they need a new way to make better armies. So after much research and experimentation, they heavily modified their current schooling system in order to make children into good soldiers. Later, some very wealthy and important people in the United States thought it would be a good idea to import this system into their own country. Not to make good soldiers as much as to make good factory workers, but good soldiers were produced nonetheless. In his book, Gatto argues that this system has destroyed much of the independence and ingenuity that once existed in the American people, and the way they make a living. It’s hard to argue against this point, equally as hard to argue that this has not made the American people less free. Especially when that same system persists in U.S. schools today.
One story you won’t hear in a U.S. school history class today is one which Gatto tells in chapter two of Dumbing Us Down, “Our form of compulsory schooling is an invention of the State of Massachusetts around 1850. It was resisted, sometimes with guns, by an estimated 80% of the Massachusetts population, the last outpost in Barnstable on Cape Cod held out until the 1880s, when the area was seized by militia and children marched to school under guard.” Still feel free??
What can be done? Educate yourself and share the knowledge. Don’t go out and start yelling at teachers. It’s doubtful that most even know anything about the history of the schooling system. If you have children, look into alternative options, read books, research. In this internet age, there is no excuse for ignorance.