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An American Affidavit

Monday, November 21, 2016

107. The End Of Competition: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

The End Of Competition 

By 1905, industrial corporations employed 71 percent of all wage earners, mining 
enterprises 10 percent more. At exactly the moment forced-schooling legislation in 
America was being given its bite by the wholesale use of police, social service 
investigators, and public exhortation, corporate capitalism boiled up like sulphur in the 
Monongahela to color every aspect of national life. Corporate spokesmen and academic 
interpreters, often the same people, frequently explained what was happening as a stage 
in the evolution of the race. A Johns Hopkins professor writing in 1900 said that what 
was really happening behind the smokescreen of profit-making was "the sifting out of 
genius" and "the elimination of the weak." 

The leading patent attorney in the nation speaking in the same year said nothing, 
including the law, could stem the new tide running, the only realistic course was 
"acquiescence and adjustment." Charles Willard of Sears & Roebuck was the speaker. 
Willard suggested the familiar American competitive system "is not necessarily meant for 
all eternity." Business was wisely overthrowing competitive wastefulness which 
produced only "panic, overproduction, bad distribution and uncertainty, replacing it with 
protected privilege for elected producers." 

The principles of the business revolution which gave us schooling are still virtually 
unknown to the public. Competition was effectively crippled nearly a century ago when, 
profoundly influenced by doctrines of positivism and scientific Darwinism, corporate 
innovators like Carnegie and Morgan denounced competition's evils, urging the mogul 
class to reconstruct America and then the world, in the cooperative corporate image. 
"Nothing less than the supremacy of the world lies at our feet," said Carnegie 
prophetically. Adam Smith's competitive, self-regulating market would be the death of 
the new economy if not suppressed because it encouraged chronic overproduction. 

Henry Holt, the publisher, speaking in 1908, said there was "too much enterprise." The 
only effective plan was to put whole industries under central control; the school industry 
was no exception. Excessive overproduction of brains is the root cause of the 
overproduction of everything else, he said. 

James Livingston has written an excellent short account of this rapid social 
transformation, cedledOrigins of the Federal Reserve System, from which I've taken some 

lessons. Livingston tells us that the very language of proponents of corporate America 
underwent a radical change at the start of the century. Business decisions began to be 
spoken of almost exclusively as courses of purposeful social action, not mere profit- 
seeking. Charles Phillips of the Delaware Trust wrote, for instance, "The banker, the 
merchant, the manufacturer, and the agent of transportation must unite to create and 
maintain that reasonable distribution of opportunity, of advantage, and of profit, which 
alone can forestall revolution." (emphasis added) It hardly requires genius to see how 
such a directive would play itself out in forced schooling. 

In 1900, in his book Corporations and the Public Welfare, James Dill warned that the 
most critical social question of the day was figuring out how to get rid of the small 
entrepreneur, yet at the same time retain his loyalty "to a system based on private 
enterprise." The small entrepreneur had been the heart of the American republican ideal, 
the soul of its democratic strength. So the many school training habits which led directly 
to small entrepreneurship had to be eliminated. 

Control of commodity circulation by a few demanded similar control in commodity 
production. To this end, immediate sanctions were leveled against older practices: first, 
destruction of skilled worker craft unions which, up to the Homestead steel strike in 
1892, had regulated the terms of work in a factory. Inside a decade, all such unions were 
rendered ineffective with the single exception of the United Mine Workers. Second, 
professionalization of mental labor to place it under central control also was speedily 
accomplished through school requirements and licensing legislation. 

In the emerging world of corporate Newspeak, education became schooling and 
schooling education. The positive philosophy freed business philosophers like Carnegie 
from the tyranny of feeling they had always to hire the best and brightest on their own 
independent terms for company operations. Let fools continue to walk that dead-end path. 
Science knew that obedient and faithful executives were superior to brilliant ones. Brains 
were needed, certainly, but like an excess of capsicum, too much of the mental stuff 
would ruin the national digestion. One of the main points of the dramatic shift to mass 
production and mass schooling was to turn Americans into a mass population. 

America Is Massified 

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