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An American Affidavit

Sunday, June 21, 2015

97.The Quest For Arcadia: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

The Quest For Arcadia 

The great mistake is to dismiss too hastily the inducements offered by industrial Utopia. 
Defense of it on strictly humanistic grounds is usually discarded as hypocrisy, but after 
some reflection, I don't think it is. Remember that many philosophical and scientific 
minds were fellow travelers in the industrial procession. Like Adam Smith, they 
predicted that just beyond the grim factory smoke and the foul pits where men mined 
coal, a neo-Arcadian Utopia beckoned — we have already witnessed its evanescent, 
premature embodiment in Chautauqua. Thus was the stage set for institutional schooling 
as it eventually emerged. This Arcadia would be possible only if men of great vision had 
the nerve and iron discipline to follow where rationality and science led. The crucial 
obstacle was this: an unknown number of generations would have to be sacrificed to 
industrial slavery before mankind could progress to its comfortable destiny. On the other 
side of that immoral divide, paradise might lie. 

How to get there? Though Malthus and Darwin had shown the way to intellectually 
devalue human life and to do with protoplasm whatever needed to be done, the force of 
Western tradition, particularly Judeo-Christian tradition, was still too strong to be 
brushed aside. Into this paradox stepped socialism. It was a happy coincidence that while 
one aspect of industrial imagination, the capitalist lobe, was doing the necessary dirty 
work of breaking the old order and reorganizing its parts, another, softer aspect of the 
same industrial mind could sing the identical song, but in a different key and to a 
different audience. 

What socialists helped capitalism to teach was that the industrial promise was true. The 
road to riches could be followed through coal smoke to an eventual paradise on earth. 
Only the masters had to be changed. In place of bosses would sit workers. Meanwhile, 
both sides agreed (Marx is particularly eloquent on this point) that many would have to 
suffer a great while, until predictable advances in social reordering would ultimately 
relieve their descendants. 

Managerial Utopia 

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