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An American Affidavit

Saturday, June 25, 2016

213. Who Controls American Education? : The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

Who Controls American Education? 

James Koerner was a well-known national figure in the 1960s when he headed a 
presidential commission looking into the causes of civil unrest after Detroit's black riots. 
A former president of the Council for Basic Education, he had more than enough 
information and experience to write a public guide for laymen in which the players, 
policies, and processes of the system are laid bare. 

His book Who Controls American Education? was published in 1968. The area even 
Koerner, with his gilt-edged resume and contacts, hesitated to tread hard in was that 
region of philosophy, history, principles, and goals which might uncover the belief 
system that really drives mass schooling. While noting accurately the "missionary zeal" 
of those who sell ideas in the educational marketplace and deploring what he termed the 
"hideous coinages" of political palaver like "key influentials," "change agents," and 
"demand articulators," and while even noting that experts at the Educational Testing 
Service "tell us that schools should seek to build a new social order and that they, the 
experts, know what the new order should be," Koerner carefully avoided that sensitive 
zone of ultimate motives — except to caution laymen to "regard with great skepticism the 
solutions to educational problems that may be offered with great certitude by experts." 

"It is not at all clear," continued the cautious Mr. Koerner, "that fundamental decisions 
are better made by people with postgraduate degrees than by those with undergraduate 
degrees, or with no degrees at all." Toward the end of his book, Koerner defined the 
upper echelons of school policy as "progressive, modern, life-adjustment" folk, but 
ducked away from explaining how people with these attitudes gained the driver's seat in 
a democracy from a body politic which largely rejects those perspectives. 

Nor did he explain what keeps them there in the face of withering criticism. Koerner was 
impressed, however, with what he called "the staying power of the ancien regime" and 
challenged his readers to resign themselves to a long wait before they might expect the 
modern school establishment "to give all students a sound basic education": 

Anyone who thinks there [will be] a new establishment in charge of the vast industry of 
training and licensing teachers and administrators in this country has his head in the sand. 

What we miss in Koerner's otherwise excellent manual on school politics is any 
speculation about its purpose. We are left to assume that a misguided affection for the 
underclasses — an excess of democracy, perhaps — caused this mess. That conclusion 
would be dead wrong. Such a madcap course could not have been pursued so long and 
hard without a clear purpose giving coherence to the melee, if only for the simple reason 
it costs so much. What Jaime Escalante, whose teaching career was commemorated in the 
film"Stand and Deliver" and Marva Collins (see her book, Marva Collins Way) — and a 
host of teachers like them — understand is that almost anyone can learn almost anything if 
a few fundamental preconditions are met, not expensive to arrange. Such teachers 
explode the myth of the bell curve — without ever intending to be revolutionaries, they 

The Logical Tragedy Of Benson, Vermont 


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