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Sunday, March 5, 2017

205. Power: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

Power -=- 22 


FIRST CATEGORY: Government Agencies 

1) State legislatures, particularly those politicians known in-house to specialize in 
educational matters 

2) Ambitious politicians with high public visibility 

3) Big-city school boards controlling lucrative contracts 

4) The courts 

5) Big-city departments of education 

6) State departments of education 

7) Federal Department of Education 

8) Other government agencies (National Science Foundation, National Training 
Laboratories, Defense Department, HUD, Labor Department, Health and Human 
Services, and many more) 

SECOND CATEGORY: Active Special Interests 

1) Key private foundations. 2 About a dozen of these curious entities have been the most 
important shapers of national education policy in this century, particularly those of 
Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller. 

2) Giant corporations, acting through a private association called the Business 
Roundtable (BR), latest manifestation of a series of such associations dating back to the 
turn of the century. Some evidence of the centrality of business in the school mix was the 
composition of the New American Schools Development Corporation. Its makeup of 
eighteen members (which the uninitiated might assume would be drawn from a 
representative cross-section of parties interested in the shape of American schooling) was 
heavily weighted as follows: CEO, RJR Nabisco; CEO, Boeing; President, Exxon; CEO, 
AT&T; CEO, Ashland Oil; CEO, Martin Marietta; CEO, AMEX; CEO, Eastman Kodak; 
CEO, WARNACO; CEO, Honeywell; CEO, Ralston; CEO, Arvin; Chairman, BF 
Goodrich; two ex-governors, two publishers, a TV producer. 

3) The United Nations through UNESCO, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, etc. 

4) Other private associations, National Association of Manufacturers, Council on 
Economic Development, the Advertising Council, Council on Foreign Relations, Foreign 
Policy Association, etc. 

5) Professional unions, National Education Association, American Federation of 
Teachers, Council of Supervisory Associations, etc. 

6) Private educational interest groups, Council on Basic Education, Progressive 
Education Association, etc. 

7) Single-interest groups: abortion activists, pro and con; other advocates for 
specific interests. 

THIRD CATEGORY: The "Knowledge" Industry 

1) Colleges and universities 

2) Teacher training colleges 

3) Researchers 

4) Testing organizations 

5) Materials producers (other than print) 

6) Text publishers 

7) "Knowledge" brokers, subsystem designers 

Control of the educational enterprise is distributed among at least these twenty-two 
players, each of which can be subdivided into in-house warring factions which further 
remove the decision-making process from simple accessibility. The financial interests of 
these associational voices are served whether children learn to read or not. 

There is little accountability. No matter how many assertions are made to the contrary, 
few penalties exist past a certain level on the organizational chart — unless a culprit runs 
afoul of the media — an explanation for the bitter truth whistle-blowers regularly discover 
when they tell all. Which explains why precious few experienced hands care to ruin 
themselves to act the hero. This is not to say sensitive, intelligent, moral, and concerned 
individuals aren't distributed through each of the twenty-two categories, but the conflict 
of interest is so glaring between serving a system loyally and serving the public that it is 
finally overwhelming. Indeed, it isn't hard to see that in strictly economic terms this 
edifice of competing and conflicting interests is better served by badly performing 
schools than by successful ones. On economic grounds alone a disincentive exists to 
improve schools. When schools are bad, demands for increased funding and personnel, 
and professional control removed from public oversight, can be pressed by simply 
pointing to the perilous state of the enterprise. But when things go well, getting an extra 
buck is like pulling teeth. 

Some of this political impasse grew naturally from a maze of competing interests, some 
grew from more cynical calculations with exactly the end in mind we see, but whatever 
the formative motives, the net result is virtually impervious to democratically generated 
change. No large change can occur in-system without a complicated coalition of separate 
interests backing it, not one of which can actually be a primary advocate for children and 

"Ellen Condliffe Lagemann's Private Power for the Public Good (Wesleyan, 1986) is an excellent place to start to experience what Bernard 
Bailyn meant when he said that twentieth-century schooling troubled many high-minded people. Miss Lagemann is a high-minded woman, 
obviously troubled by what she discovered poking around one of the Carnegie endowments, and director of Harvard's Graduate Education 

The pages devoted to Rockefeller's General Education Board in Collier and Horowitz's The Rockefellers: An American Dynasty make a good 
simple introduction to another private endowment which ultimately will repay a deeper look; also, the pages on true believer Frederick T. 
Gates, the man who actually directed the spending of Rockefeller's money, bear close attention as well. 

For a sharp look at how foundations shape our ideology, I recommend Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism: The Foundations at Home and 
Abroad, and for a hair-raising finale Rene Wormser's Foundations: Their Power and Influence is essential. Wormser was a general counsel for 
the House Committee which set out to investigate tax-exempt organizations during the eighty-third Congress. Its stormy course and hair-raising 
disclosures are guaranteed to remove any lingering traces of innocence about the conduct of American education, international affairs, or what 
are called "the social sciences." Miss Lagemann's bibliography will lead you further, if needed. 


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