The Platonic Ideal
The official use of common schooling was invented by Plato; after him the idea
languished, its single torchbearer the Church. Educational offerings from the Church
were intended for, though not completely limited to, those young whose parentage
qualified them as a potential Guardian class. You would hardly know this from reading
any standard histories of Western schooling intended for the clientele of teacher colleges.
Intense development of the Platonic ideal of comprehensive social control through
schooling suddenly reappeared two-thousand years later in eighteenth-century France at
the hands of a philosophical cultus known to history as philosophes, enthusiastic
promoters of the bizarre idea of mass forced schooling. Most prominent among them, a
self-willed man named Jean Jacques Rousseau. To add piquancy to Rousseau's thought,
you need to know that when they were born, he chose to give away his own five offspring
to strangers at birth. If any man captures the essence of enlightenment transformation, it
The Enlightenment "project" was conceived as a series of stages, each further leveling
mankind, collectivizing ordinary humanity into a colonial organism like a volvox. The
penetration of this idea, at least on the periphery of our own Founders' consciousness, is
captured in the powerful mystery image of the pyramid on the obverse of our Great Seal.
Of course, this was only one of many colors to emerge with the new nation, and it was
not the most important, an inference that can be drawn from the fact that the pyramid was
kept from public notice until 1935. Then it appeared suddenly on the back of our one
dollar bill, signaling a profound shift in political management.