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Saturday, November 19, 2016

What Happened to the American Way of Life? by John Taylor Gatto

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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