A Quality Education The mantra of "a quality education," was an invention of the real-estate industry in the first decade after the end of WWII, or at least that business was the chief distributor of the deceptively destructive notion. The cry of quality education became the spearhead of a bold and complex scheme to increase the supply of real-estate product-by dissolving the small-farm belts which surrounded cities in those days and converting the farm fields into housing plots. The U.S. government was a major partner in this undertaking, which serves as a useful illustration of how byzantine a reality schooling at the hands of a political state must always be. Government had its own motives, as you'll soon see. The partnership came about in this fashion. Long before the war's end-during the Teddy Rossevelt administration, in fact, as closely as I can figure-a seldom spoken of policy idea had taken root which directed the U.S. government to create a centralization of the national food supply as a tool of efficient political management. Since Prussia's social- class system was not available to organize this process, it would be done through successively corporatizing American agriculture, with strong government assistance through legislation, subsidies, selective purchasing, and indirect advocacy. The small farm family and its children were too formidable an obstacle to efficient governance to be allowed to continue in their independent ways unchecked. The mechanism hit upon to terminate wholesale the little farms was a series of fantastically accelerated school tax increases whose collective effort over time could not be borne by farmers operating only slightly above the subsistence level. Popular support for these taxes among non-farmers was achieved by a long-term propaganda campaign which radically redefined good education to include football stadiums with lights, band uniforms, huge cafeterias, bus systems large enough to meet the needs of a small city though used only a couple hours a day, costly standardized testing, and many similar additions which once would surely have appalled ordinary citizens with both their high cost-and bizarre irrelevance. Yet, in an Alice-in-Wonderland twist, high cost was the very point: without high cost there would be no need for new taxes; without taxes no leverage to force small farms onto the housing market, and more importantly, no augmentation of institutional schooling's ability to serve the purposes of social engineering. Between 1945 and 1965 school taxes had risen only 12 percent nationally, on average, but over the next ten years they more than doubled, and between 1977 and 1993 they tripled from this new high-altitude base! This six-fold increase over three short decades broke small farmers in large numbers, dumping more than a million small farms onto the housing market. Although completely unheard of in the well-mannered and well- controlled journalistic "debate" about public schooling, this adventure in commanding a society and an economy was a decisive turning point in the strange career of post-WWII public education. For years it was unheard of to think of a school board without at least one member representing real estate interests, usually the loudest voice demanding "quality education". The rootless people who accumulated on this once productive farmland offered little resistance to further centralization of school governance, although the farmers they replaced surely would have. As commuters, what interested them most was that schools become places of feeding, recreation, socialization, health care, and life counseling for their children. It was the Prussian formula reborn in late twentieth century America, a formula which allowed displacement of social management into the right hands. Thus is institutional schooling always more than it seems. Who Controls American Education?