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Friday, April 7, 2017

237 Prince Charles Visits Steel Valley High: The Underground History of Amercian Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

Prince Charles Visits Steel Valley High 

An important counter-revolutionary event with a bearing on the changes going on in our 
schools happened quietly not so long ago, just a stone's throw from where Braddock fell. 
Bill Serrin tells of it in his book Homestead. By 1988 the Monongahela Valley had been 



stripped bare of its mines and mills by Pittsburgh financial interests and their hired 
experts who had no place in profit/loss equations for people and communities, whatever 
rhetoric said to the contrary. 

As a consequence, Monongahela, Charleroi, Donora, Homestead, Monessen, all were 
dying, places that had "been on fire once, had possessed vibrancy and life." Now they 
were falling into the aimless emptiness of the unemployed after a century as the world's 
steelmakers. Not idle of their own choice, not even unproductive — the mills still made a 
profit — yet not a profit large enough to please important financial interests. 

In the bleak winter of 1988 Charles of the blood royal came to visit Steel Valley High in 
Homestead nominally to talk about turning dead steel mills into arboretums. Why 
Charles? He was "the world's leading architecture buff," so why not? His Highness' fleet 
of two dozen Chinese red Jaguars crossed the Homestead High Bridge only minutes from 
the spot where Braddock died on the Monongahela. Perhaps the prince had been 
informed of this, perhaps he was making a statement for history. 

In a motorcade of scarlet he roared over the bridge. Residents who had gathered to wave 
at the prince and his entourage "saw only a whir of scarlet as he whizzed into 
Homestead." Charles was too preoccupied with his own agenda to wave back at the 
offspring of Europe's industrial proletariat, thrice removed. Victory as always comes to 
those who abide. We had only one Washington, only one Jackson, only one Lincoln to 
lead us against the Imperial Mind. After they were gone, only the people remembered 
what America was about. 

Serrin writes, "A handful of activist ministers gathered along Charles' way holding 
tomatoes, and Police Chief Kelley assumed, not without reason, they were going to throw 
them at the prince. Or in Monongahela vernacular, 'tomato him.' " The motive for this 
bad hospitality was a growing anger at the text of the prince's speech to a group of 
architects assembled in Pittsburgh for a "Remaking Cities Conference." The conference 
had been co-sponsored by the Royal Institute of British Architects. Andrew Carnegie's 
dream of reuniting with the mother country was coming true in the very town most 
associated with Carnegie's name. The British have a grand sense of history, they do. 

The assembled architects had been studying the settlements of my valley and 
recommending replacement uses for its mills. They proposed conversion of empty steel 
plants into exhibition halls for flower shows. At the public hearing, valley residents 
shouted, "We don 't want flowers, we want jobs. We want the valley back. This was the 
steel center of the world." Prince Charles spoke to the crowd as one might speak to 
children, just as he might have spoken had Braddock won and the Revolution never taken 
place. The upshot was a grand coalition of elites formed to revitalize the valley. I see a 
parallel in the formation of the New American Schools Committee — whose eighteen 
members counted fifteen corporate CEOs, including the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco 
Company's descendant form, RJR Nabisco — announcing revitalization of our schools. 



The effort to save Homestead looked like this through the eyes of New York Times labor 
reporter Bill Serrin: 

In its tragedy Homestead became fashionable.... Homestead was the rage. There were 
study groups and committees, historical exhibits, film proposals, lectures, brown-bag 
lunches, dinners, economic analyses, historical surveys, oral histories, a case study of 
disinvestment and redevelopment plans in the Monongahela Valley done by the Harvard 
Business School, architects, city planners, historians, economists, anthropologists, 
sociologists, social workers, foundation experts — all these and others became involved. 

An echo of the great transformational days when we got factory schooling, the same buzz 
and hubbub, fashionable people with their shirt sleeves metaphorically rolled up. Then 
suddenly the attention was over. All the paraphernalia of concern resulted in: 

Little effort on Homestead or the other steel towns. There never was a plan to redevelop 
Homestead. The goal had been to ensure there were no more protests like the ones earlier 
in the decade. If there was a master plan it was death and highways. Homestead would be 
gone. A highway through the valley would eliminate even the houses, perhaps obliterate 
Homestead and the other steel towns. One more thing.. .the training programs. They were 
bullshit. 

So here we are. In order to clean the social canvas, a reduction in the maximum levels of 
maturity to be allowed grown men and women has been ordered from somewhere. We 
are to be made and kept as nervous, whining adolescents. This is a job best begun and 
ended while we are little children, hence the kind of schools we have — a governor put on 
our growth through which we are denied the understandings needed to escape childhood. 
Don't blame schools. Schools only follow orders. Schoolmen are as grateful as grenadiers 
to wear a pretty paycheck and be part of Braddock's invincible army. Theirs not to reason 
why.. .if they know what's good for them. 

Empty Children 

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