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Thursday, February 9, 2017

180. Spirits Are Dangerous: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

Spirits Are Dangerous 

The net effect of holding children in confinement for twelve years without honor paid to 
the spirit is a compelling demonstration that the State considers the Western spiritual 
tradition dangerous, subversive. And of course it is. School is about creating loyalty to 
certain goals and habits, a vision of life, support for a class structure, an intricate system 
of human relationships cleverly designed to manufacture the continuous low level of 
discontent upon which mass production and finance rely. 

Once the mechanism is identified, its dynamics aren't hard to understand. Spiritually 
contented people are dangerous for a variety of reasons. They don't make reliable 
servants because they won't jump at every command. They test what is requested against 
a code of moral principle. Those who are spiritually secure can't easily be driven to 
sacrifice family relations. Corporate and financial capitalism are hardly possible on any 
massive scale once a population finds its spiritual center. 

For a society like ours to work, we need to feel that something is fundamentally wrong 
when we can't continually "do better" — expand our farms and businesses, win a raise, 
take exotic vacations. This is the way our loan/repayment cycle — the credit economy — is 
sustained. The human tendency to simply enjoy work and camaraderie among workers is 
turned into a race to outdo colleagues, to climb employment ladders. Ambition is a 
trigger of corporate life and at the same time an acid that dissolves communities. By 
spreading contentment on the cheap, spirituality was a danger to the new economy's 
natural growth principle. So in a sense it was rational self-interest, not conspiracy, that 
drove enlightened men to agree in their sporting places, drawing rooms, and clubs that 
religious activity would have to be dampened down. 



What they couldn't see is that through substitution of schooling for Bible religion, they 
were sawing through two of the four main social supports of Western civilization. Think 
of your dining room table; it was like breaking two of its legs off, replacing one with a 
tall stack of dishes and one with a large dog. The top of the table would look the same 
covered in cloth but it wouldn't be a good bet to get you through dinner. A century 
earlier, Hamilton and Jefferson had speculated whether it might be possible to replace 
religion with a civil substitute. The heady ideas of the French Revolution were on 
everybody's lips. A civil substitute built on expanding the humble grassroots institution 
of schooling might well free leaders from the divided loyalty religion imposes. Could an 
ethical system based on law produce the same quality of human society as a moral system 
based on divine inspiration? Jefferson was skeptical. Despite his fears, the experiment 
was soon to be tried. 

Foundations Of The Western Outlook 

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