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Thursday, November 24, 2016

109. German Mind Science: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

German Mind Science 

Back at the beginning of the nineteenth century, wise men and women, honorable 
individuals themselves, came with sadness to realize that for all the foreseeable future, 
more and more ordinary people would need to give their entire lives to a dark hole in the 
ground or in service to a mind-destroying machine if a coal-fired dream world was to 
happen. People who grew up in the clean air and the folk society of villages did not make 
good workers for the screaming factories or the tunnels underground, or the anthill 
offices. 

What was needed was some kind of halfway house that would train individuals for the 
halfway lives ordinary people would be more and more called upon to lead. In a Utopia of 
machinery and steam, there could be free lunch for unprecedented numbers — but only if 
there were chains, bread, and water for the rest, at least for some unknown while. Plans 
for such a halfway institution as forced schooling (think of it as a training factory or a 
training mine) came together in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York, drawn by the best 
minds, for the best motives. They inflicted stupendous damage on the libertarian rights 
and privileges bequeathed to Americans by the nation's founders. 

Profits from the industrial engine signed the checks for many nineteenth-century 
educational experiments like New Lanark in Scotland and New Harmony in Indiana. 
They bought Fanny Wright her school advocacy platform and helped her impose it on the 
Philadelphia Workingman's Party agenda in 1829. Many of the nineteenth-century 
experimental social colonies looked upon themselves as early emanations of Utopia, 
previews whispering to men and women what might be, if only they turned their backs on 



the past and schooled for a new day. The brevity of these experiments did nothing to 
discourage their successors. 

The coal of Westphalia in association with the iron of Lorraine welded the scattered 
states of Germany into a ferocious Utopian empire in the last half of the nineteenth 
century. That empire, birthplace of successful, mass forced schooling, made war upon the 
world, spreading its conception of research universities and its Spartan state philosophy 
of universal indoctrination and subordination all over the planet. In 1868, Japan adopted 
large parts of the Prussian constitution together with the Prussian style of schooling. The 
garment that coal fashioned for Aryan children was worn enthusiastically by coal-free 
Nipponese as their own. 

German mental science came to rule the classrooms of the world in the early twentieth 
century, nowhere more thoroughly than in coal-rich and oil-rich America. America 
provided a perch from which to study people closely and resources with which to find 
ways to bring them into compliance. Even without intense ideological motivation driving 
the project, the prospect of a reliable domestic market which could be milked in 
perpetuity would have been incentive enough to propel the school project, I believe. 

These new studies growing out of the coal-swollen ranks of leisured academic lives 
suggested there should be radical changes in the mental diet of children. A plan emerged 
piecemeal in these years to be slowly inserted into national schooling. Seen from a 
distance a century later, it is possible to discern the still shimmering outline of a powerful 
strategy drawing together at least ten elements: 

1. Removal of the active literacies of writing and speaking which enable individuals 
to link up with and to persuade others. 

2. Destruction of the narrative of American history connecting the arguments of the 
Founding Fathers to historical events, definingwhat makes Americans different 
from others besides wealth. 

3. Substitution of a historical "social studies" catalogue of facts in place of historical 
narrative. 

4. Radical dilution of the academic content of formal curriculum which familiarized 
students with serious literature, philosophy, theology, etc. This has the effect of 
curtailing any serious inquiries into economics, politics, or religion. 

5. Replacement of academics with a balanced-diet concept of "humanities," physical 
education, counseling, etc., as substance of the school day. 

6. Obfuscation or outright denial of the simple, code-cracking drills which allow 
fluency in reading to anyone. 

7. The confinement of tractable and intractable students together in small rooms. In 
effect this is a leveling exercise with predictable (and pernicious) results. A 



deliberate contradiction of common-sense principles, rhetorically justified on the 
grounds of psychological and social necessity. 

8. Enlargement of the school day and year to blot up outside opportunities to acquire 
useful knowledge leading to independent livelihoods; the insertion of misleading 
surrogates for this knowledge in the form of "shop" classes which actually teach 
little of skilled crafts. 

9. Shifting of oversight from those who have the greatest personal stake in student 
development — parents, community leaders, and the students themselves — to a 
ladder of strangers progressively more remote from local reality. All school 
transactions to be ultimately monitored by an absolute abstraction, the 
"standardized" test, correlating with nothing real and very easily rigged to 
produce whatever results are called for. 

10. Relentless low-level hostility toward religious interpretations of meaning. 

There you have the brilliant formula used to create a coal-fired mass mind. 

Before his sudden death, I watched my beloved bachelor friend and long-time fellow 
schoolteacher Martin Wallach slowly surrender to forces of massification he had long 
resisted. One day in his late fifties he said, "There isn't any reason to go out anymore. 
They send food in; I have three hundred channels. Everything is on TV. I couldn't see it 
all if I had two lifetimes. With my telephone and modem I can get anything. Even girls. 
There's only trouble outside anyway." He fell dead a year later taking out his garbage. 

Welcome to Utopia. We don't pray or pledge allegiance to anything here, but condoms 
and Ritalin are free for the asking. 

Rest in peace, Martin. 



Chapter Nine 

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