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Friday, November 18, 2016

104. Global Associations Of Technique: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

Global Associations Of Technique 

In 1700 it took nineteen farmers to feed one nonfarmer, a guarantee that people who 
minded other people's business would only be an accent note in general society. One 
hundred years later England had driven its yeoman farmers almost out of existence, 
converting a few into an agricultural proletariat to take advantage of machine-age 
farming practices only sensible in large holdings. By 1900, one farmer could feed 
nineteen, releasing eighteen men and women for disposal otherwise. Schools during this 
period, however, remained trapped in the way things used to be, unable to deliver on their 
inherent potential as massifiers. 

Between 1830 and 1840, the decade in which the Boston School Committee came into 
existence, a fantastic transformation built out of steam and coal became visible. When the 
decade began, the surface aspect of the nation was consistent with the familiar life of 
colonial times, the same relationships, the same values. By its end, modern American 



history begins. Chicago, a frontier fort in 1832, was by 1838 a flourishing city with eight 
daily steamboat connections to Buffalo, the Paris of Lake Erie. 

But something to rival steam-driven transport in importance appeared at almost the same 
time: cheap steel. The embryonic steel industry which had come into existence in the 
eighteenth century revolutionized itself in the nineteenth when the secret of producing 
steel cheaply was revealed. Formerly steel had been bought dearly in small quantities by 
smelting iron ore with coke, converting the resulting iron pigs into wrought iron by 
puddling. This was followed by rolling and then by processing fine wrought iron through 
a further step called cementation. Steel made this way could only be used for high-grade 
articles like watch springs, knives, tools, and shoe buckles. 

The first part of the new steel revolution followed from discovery of the Bessemer 
process in 1856. Now steel could be made directly from pig iron. In 1865 the Siemens- 
Martin open hearth technique gave a similar product of even more uniform quality than 
Bessemer steel. The next advance occurred in 1879 when Thomas and Gilchrist 
discovered how to use formerly unsuitable phosphoric iron ore (more common than 
nonphosphoric) in steelmaking, yielding as its byproduct valuable artificial fertilizer for 
agriculture. These two transformations made possible the substitution of steel for wrought 
iron and opened hundreds of new uses. Steel rails gave a huge push to railway 
construction, and structural steelwork marked a stupendous advance in engineering 
possibilities, allowing a radical reconception of human society. Capital began to build for 
itself truly global associations which made national sovereignty irrelevant for a small 
class of leaders as long as a century ago. 3 And that fact alone had great relevance for the 
future of schooling. As steel articulated itself rationally, vertical integration became the 
order of the day. Iron and steel reached backwards to control coalmines and coking plants 
and forward to acquire rolling mills, plant mills, wire-drawing facilities, galvanized iron 
and tin plate establishments, rod mills, etc. Small under-takings were sucked inexorably 
into large trusts. 

Every one of the most modern developments in technique and organization pioneered by 
steel was echoed in the new factory schools: increase in the size of the plant; integration 
of formerly independent educational factors like family, church, library, and recreational 
facility into a coalition dominated by professional schooling; the specialization of all 
pedagogical labor; and the standardization of curriculum, testing, and acceptable 
educational behavior. What confused the issue for the participant population is that 
parents and students still believed that efficiency in the development of various literacies 
was the goal of the school exercise. Indeed, they still do. But that had ceased to be the 
purpose in big cities as early as 1905. Schooling was about efficiency. Social efficiency 
meant standardizing human units. 

Surprisingly enough to those who expect that institutional thinking will reflect their own 
thought only on a larger scale, what is an asset to a mass production economy is 
frequently a liability to an individual or a family. Creating value in children for a mass 
production workplace through schooling meant degrading their intellectual growth and 
discouraging any premature utility to the larger society. Ellwood P. Cubberley 



inadvertently spilled the beans in his classic Public Education in the United States when 
he admitted compulsion schooling would not work as long as children were allowed to be 
useful to the real world. Ending that usefulness demanded legislation, inspectors, stiff 
penalties, and managed public opinion. 

New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina, 
Michigan, Wisconsin, and Rhode Island led the charge to seal off the escape route of 
useful work for children, just as they once led the drive for compulsion schooling in the 
first place. The child labor rhetoric of the day was impressively passionate, some of it 
genuinely felt and needed, but the cynical aspect can be detected in a loophole created for 
show business children — "professional children" as they are called in the argot. Whether 
the "work" of an actor-child is less degrading than any other kind of work is a question 
not difficult for most people to answer. 



3 This is the simplest explanation for events which would otherwise fall beyond the reach of the mind to understand — such as the well- 
documented fact that legendary German armaments maker Krupp sold its cannon to France during World War I, shipping them to the enemy by 
a circuitous route clouded by clerical thaumaturgy, or that the Ford Motor Company built tanks and other armaments for the Nazi government 
during WWII, collecting its profits through middle men in neutral Spain. Ford petitioned the American government for compensation of 
damages suffered by its plants in wartime bombing raids, compensation it received by Act of CongTess with hardly a dissenting vote. Nor were 
Krupp and Ford more than emblems of fairly common practice, even if one unknown to the common citizenry of combatant nations. 

Labor Becomes Expendable 

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