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An American Affidavit

Saturday, December 31, 2016

143. High-Pressure Salesmanship: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

High-Pressure Salesmanship 

In 1916, the year of Madison Grant's Passing of the Great Race, Kellor published 
Straight America. In it she called for universal military service, industrial mobilization, a 
continuing military build-up, precisely engineered school curricula, and total 
Americanization, an urgent package to revitalize nationalism. America was not yet at 

President Wilson was at that time reading secret surveys which told him Americans had 
no interest in becoming involved in the European conflict. Furthermore, national 
sympathy was swinging away from the English and actually favored German victory 
against Britain. There was no time to waste; the war had to be joined at once. John 
Higham called it "an adventure in high pressure salesmanship." 

Thousands of agencies were in some measure engaged: schools, churches, fraternal 
orders, patriotic societies, civic organizations, chambers of commerce, philanthropies, 
railroads, and industries, and — to a limited degree — trade unions. There was much 
duplication, overlapping, and pawing of the air. Many harassed their local school 

At the end of 1917, Minnesota's legislature approved the world's first secret adoption 
law, sealing original birth records forever so that worthy families who received a child 
for adoption — almost always children transferred from an immigrant family of 
Latin/Slav/Alpine peasant stripe to a family of northern European origins — would not 
have to fear the original parents demanding their child back. The original Boston 
adoption law of 1848 had been given horrendous loopholes. Now these were sealed sixty- 
nine years later. 

Toward the end of the war, a striking event, much feared since the Communist 
revolutions of 1848, came to pass. The huge European state of Russia fell to a socialist 
revolution. It was as if Russian immigrants in our midst had driven a knife into our 
national heart and, by extension, that all immigrants had conspired in the crime. Had all 

our civilizing efforts been wasted? Now Americanization moved into a terrifying phase in 
response to this perceived threat from outside. The nation was to be purified before a red 
shadow arose here, too. Frances Kellor began to actively seek assistance from business 
groups to build what she called "the new interventionist republic of America." (emphasis 

At an unpublicized dinner meeting at Sherry's Restaurant near Wall Street in November 
1918, Frances Kellor addressed the fifty largest employers of foreign labor, warning them 
that Americanization had been a failure — that really dangerous times were ahead with 
Bolshevik menace concealed in every workplace. Kellor proposed a partnership of 
business and social work to "break up the nationalistic, racial groups." The easiest way to 
do that was to weaken close family life. Miss Kellor, whose upbringing had itself been an 
ambiguous one, was the perfect person to lead such a charge. 

At the Wall Street meeting, plans were laid for a semi-secret organization of 
Americanizers to be formed out of interested volunteers from major industrial 
corporations. An impressive amount of money was pledged at the initial meeting, the 
story of which you can follow in John Higham's classic account of our immigration 
years, Strangers in the Land. "The Inter-Racial Council" presented the external aspect of 
an eclectic public-spirited enterprise — it even recruited some conservative immigrant 
representatives as members — but, in fact, it was controlled by Kellor's backers. 

The IRC acted both as intelligence gathering office and propaganda agency. In its first 
year of existence, Kellor put together an association of advertisers to strong-arm the 
immigrant press into running anti-radical propaganda. Using this muscle, immigrants 
could be instructed from far away how to think and what to think about, while remaining 
unaware of the source of instruction because immediate pressure came from a familiar 
editor. Advertising revenue could be advanced, as well as withdrawn, providing both 
carrot and stick, the complete behavioral formula. 

There is some evidence American social engineering was being studied abroad. Zamiatin's We, the 

horrifying scientific dystopia of a world government bearing the name "The United State," was published in Russia a few years later as if in 
anticipation of an American future for everyone. 

A New Collectivism 

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