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An American Affidavit

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

200. Disinherited Men And Women: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

Disinherited Men And Women 

In the chapter "Schism in the Body Social" from his monumental Study of History, 
Toynbee calls our attention to some dynamics of Western imperial success over the past 
four centuries which have important implications for the way state schooling is 
conducted. As major victories were registered, he tells us, "many diverse contingents of 
disinherited men and women" were subjected to "the ordeal of being enrolled in the 
Western internal proletariat." Between 1850 and 1950 "the manpower of no less than ten 
disintegrating civilizations [was] conscripted into the Western body social" and 
underwent "a process of standardization" which blurred or wiped out "the characteristic 
features by which these heterogeneous masses were once distinguished from one 

Under his mannerly academic diction runs a river of insight explaining the paradox of 
forced schooling. It can allow no pilgrim way because it aims at leveling the turbulent 
singularity of youth, by a process of standardization, into featureless components of a 
universal mass mind and character. Nor, says Toynbee, has the victorious Western 
political state been content to prey upon its own kind: 

It has also rounded up almost all the surviving primitive societies; and while some of 
these, like the Tasmanians and most of the North American Indian tribes have died of 
shock, others, like the Negroes of Tropical Africa, have managed to survive and set the 
Niger flowing into the Hudson and the Congo into the Mississippi — just as other 
activities of the same Western monster have set the Yangtse flowing into the Straits of 

Not only have Darwin's "disfavored" races been so manhandled, but the free domestic 
populations of these countries have also been "uprooted from the countryside and chevied 
into the towns" in preparation for a strategic replacement of small-scale mixed farming 
by mass production specialized agriculture whose crops are produced by the modern 
analogue of "plantation slavery." 

England was first to commodify agricultural products so intensely, "uprooting its own 
free peasantry for the economic profit of an oligarchy by turning plowland into pasture 
and common land into enclosures." This state-driven push away from the independent 

farms of yeomen reduced that class to "white trash" (in Toynbee's colorful idiom), and 
this disquieting social initiative was powerfully augmented by a pull from the urban 
industrial revolution also being engineered at the same time. Handicrafts were replaced 
by output from coal-driven machines. During the agonizing transition, owners of the new 
mechanical technology created another new technology of social control through 
abundant use of police, spies, sabotage, propaganda, and legislation to hasten the passing 
of the old ways of moral relationship. 

Try hard to visualize through all this milling grief of "beaten peoples" and "disinherited 
men and women," not their agony but the perplexity of the corporate state. What is a 
modern scientific state, having transcended the principles of Christian life, to do with its 
masses once they have been "degraded to the ranks of a proletariat," like so much 
detritus, and then further rendered superfluous by a stream of inventions? Even more 
today than yesterday, this is America's problem. 

The question is all too real. It raises the grim spectre of revolution which public policy 
seeks to push away through schooling. What can anyone do with human flotsam in a 
crowded world that scorns their labor and scorns their companionship? Set them to 
watching television? From a scientific perspective, people management isn't all that 
different from dealing with industrial waste. At bottom, moral principle has little to do 
with it. Dispositions are mainly matters of possibility and technique. Here is the secret of 
scientific life which refuses to stay hidden amidst the hollow moral rhetoric of scientific 

Toynbee's observation that most inhabitants of a modern state are in a condition of 
disinheritance, and hence dangerous, calls for what he terms "creative solutions." One 
creative solution is to establish work for some of the dangerous classes by setting them to 
guard the rest. This guardian class is then privileged a little to compensate it for playing 
the dirty kapo role against the others. 

Toynbee is eloquent about the function of bureaucrats in serving the creative minorities 
which manage society. Creative minorities always manage complex societies, according 
to Toynbee, but the dominant minorities which comprise modern social leadership are the 
degenerate descendants of this originally creative group. Dominant minorities manage the 
rest by conscription of all into a massive two-tier proletariat. The guiding protection is a 
mechanism to ensure these proletariats don't learn much lest they become "demoniac." 
This is the unsuspected function which school tolerance of bad behavior serves — in both 
school and society. The great majority of proles are kept away from what history refers to 
as education. This can be done inexpensively by leading children from ambitious 
exercises in reading, writing, declamation, self-discipline, and from significant practical 
experience in making things work. It really is that simple, and it needn't be done forever. 
Even a few years of control at the beginning of childhood will often suffice to set a 
lifetime stamp. 

Toynbee, and by extension the entire cultivated leadership class he represented, was 
unable to see any other alternative to this stupefaction course because, as he hastened to 

assure us, "the religion of the masses" is violence. There is no other choice possible to 
responsible governors who accept the melancholy conclusion that peasants are indeed 
revolting. The only proles Toynbee could find in the historical record who managed to 
extricate themselves from a fatal coarseness did so by escaping their proletarian 
circumstances first. But if this were allowed for all, who would clean toilets? 

You might expect such an observation would lead inevitably to some profound 
consideration of the astounding crimes of conquest and domination which create 
uprooted, landless classes in the first place — England's crimes against Ireland, India, 
China, and any number of other places being good examples. But a greater principle 
intervenes. According to certain sophisticated theory, you can't operate a modern 
economy without an underclass to control wage inflation; in spite of bell- curve theory, a 
mass doesn't subordinate itself without some judicious assistance. 

In his glorious Republic, which may have started it all, Plato causes Socrates to inform 
Glaucon and Adeimantus, twenty-four hundred years ago, that they can't loll on couches 
eating grapes while others sweat to provide those grapes without first creating a fearsome 
security state to protect themselves from the commonality. It would appear that long ago 
some people realized that a substantial moral trade-off would be required to create ease 
for a fraction of the whole, while the balance of the whole, served that ease. Once that 
kind of privilege became the goal of Toynbee's creative minority, once high culture was 
defined as a sanctuary against evolutionary reversion, certain horrors institutionalized 

The clearest escape route from tidal recurrence of caste madness is a society bred to 
argue, one trained to challenge. A mentally active people might be expected to recognize 
that the prizes of massification — freedom from labors like toilet cleaning, a life of endless 
consumption (and reflection upon future consumption) — aren't really worth very much. 
The fashioning of mass society isn't any chemical precondition of human progress. It's 
just as likely to be a signal that the last act of history is underway. 

Serving The Imperial Virus 

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