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An American Affidavit

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

216. The Great Transformation: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

The Great Transformation 

One of the finest academic studies of the origins of our time and its economic antecedents 
is Karl Polanyi's The Great Transformation. Published in 1944, it has been kept in print 
ever since. Polanyi's explosive conclusion states unflinchingly that we must now become 
"resigned to the reality of the end of our liberty." How did he figure this out in 1944? By 
extrapolation from the track of modern history which he regarded as unidirectional and 
which teaches us that the end of liberty is "a necessary evil." At the end of his book, 
Polanyi offers a perfect public relations solution to the anguish of losing freedom. By 
cleverly redefining the word to mean "a collective thing," the loss of liberty will not hurt 
so much, he says. This kind of therapeutic Newspeak has been a dominant element in 
national life for most of the twentieth century, infecting every schoolroom. Professional 
manipulation of attitudes by control of language and images, once the stock in trade of a 
few men of bad character like Edward L. Bernays, is a common tool of leadership. 
Polanyi's wish for us to be deluded (in our own best interests) has become the daily bread 
of everyone. 

Walter Lippmann's disrespect for commonality became official government policy 
during the Franklin Delano Roosevelt years and has remained so ever since. One way to 
chart the transformation is through the taxing power which should be seen as a way to 
diminish individual choice in favor of bureaucratic choice. Prior to 1947, less than one 
twentieth of an average income went for taxes, in 2004 the fraction is much, much larger. 
Some powerful dynamic now works to take care of us as if we were permanent children. 
Think of forced institutional schooling as the surgery where out dependency implants are 
first installed. 

The political basis for the schools we have and for the politics of schooling we struggle 
against was laid down just before the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk. Where we are 
today is a kind of intertidal stage in which the last remnants of the historic American 
tradition are being set aside to make way for a thoroughly planned global economy and 
society, an economy apparently intended to be scientifically managed by a professional 
class of technicians at the bottom, a professional proletariat of rootless, well-paid men 
and women in the middle, and a small group, no more than 1 percent, of knowledgeable 
managers at the top. 


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