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Sunday, May 7, 2017

19.Counter-Attack On Democracy: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

Counter-Attack On Democracy 

By standards of the time, America was Utopia already. No grinding poverty, no dangerous 
national enemies, no indigenous tradition beyond a general spirit of exuberant optimism, 
a belief the land had been touched by destiny, a conviction Americans could accomplish 
anything. John Jay wrote to Jefferson in 1787, "The enterprise of our country is 
inconceivable" — inconceivable, that is, to the British, Germans, and French, who were 
accustomed to keeping the common population on a leash. Our colonial government was 
the creation of the Crown, of course, but soon a fantastic idea began to circulate, a belief 
that people might create or destroy governments at their will. 

The empty slate of the new republic made it vulnerable to advanced Utopian thinking. 
While in England and Germany, temptation was great to develop and use Oriental social 
machinery to bend mass population into an instrument of elite will, in America there was 



no hereditary order or traditional direction. We were a nation awash in literate, self- 
reliant men and women, the vast majority with an independent livelihood or ambitions 
toward getting one. Americans were inventors and technicians without precedent, 
entrepreneurs unlocked from traditional controls, dreamers, confidence men, flim-flam 
artists. There never was a social stew quite like it. 

The practical difficulties these circumstances posed to Utopian governing would have 
been insuperable except for one seemingly strange source of enthusiasm for such an 
endeavor in the business community. That puzzle can be solved by considering how the 
promise of democracy was a frightening terra incognita to men of substance. To look to 
men like Sam Adams or Tom Paine as directors of the future was like looking down the 
barrel of a loaded gun, at least to people of means. So the men who had begun the 
Revolution were eased out by the men who ended it. 

As early as 1784, a concerted effort was made by the Boston business community to 
overthrow town meetings, replacing them with a professionally managed corporation. 
Joseph Barrell, a wealthy merchant, claimed that citizen safety could be enhanced this 
way — and besides, "a great number of very respectable gentlemen" wished it. Timothy 
Dwight, longtime president of Yale after 1795, and a pioneer in modern education 
(advocating science as the center of curriculum), fought a mighty battle against 
advancing democracy. Democracy was hardly the sort of experiment men of affairs 
would willingly submit their lives and fortunes to for very long. 

This tension explains much about how our romance with forced schooling came about; it 
was a way to stop democracy aborning as Germany had done. Much ingenuity was 
expended on this problem in the early republic, particularly by so-called liberal Christian 
sects like Unitarians and Universalists. If you read relics of their debates preserved from 
select lyceums, private meetings at which minutes were kept, journals, recollections of 
drawing room conversations and club discussions, you see that what was shaping up was 
an attempt to square the circle, to give the appearance that the new society was true to its 
founding promise, while at the same time a sound basis could be established for the 
meritorious to run things. Once again, the spirit of Sparta was alive with its ephors and its 
reliance on forced instruction. In discussions, speeches, sermons, editorials, experimental 
legislation, letters, diaries, and elsewhere, the ancient idea of mass forced schooling was 
called forth and mused upon. 

How Hindu Schooling Came To America (I) 

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