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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

29.Extending Childhood: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

Extending Childhood 

From the beginning, there was purpose behind forced schooling, purpose which had 
nothing to do with what parents, kids, or communities wanted. Instead, this grand 
purpose was forged out of what a highly centralized corporate economy and system of 
finance bent on internationalizing itself was thought to need; that, and what a strong, 
centralized political state needed, too. School was looked upon from the first decade of 
the twentieth century as a branch of industry and a tool of governance. For a considerable 
time, probably provoked by a climate of official anger and contempt directed against 
immigrants in the greatest displacement of people in history, social managers of 
schooling were remarkably candid about what they were doing. In a speech he gave 
before businessmen prior to the First World War, Woodrow Wilson made this unabashed 

We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger 
class of necessity, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to 
perform specific difficult manual tasks. 

Byl917, the major administrative jobs in American schooling were under the control of a 
group referred to in the press of that day as "the Education Trust." The first meeting of 
this trust included representatives of Rockefeller, Carnegie, Harvard, Stanford, the 
University of Chicago, and the National Education Association. The chief end, wrote 
Benjamin Kidd, the British evolutionist, in 1918, was to "impose on the young the ideal 
of subordination." 

At first, the primary target was the tradition of independent livelihoods in America. 
Unless Yankee entrepreneurialism could be extinquished, at least among the common 
population, the immense capital investments that mass production industry required for 
equipment weren't conceivably justifiable. Students were to learn to think of themselves 
as employees competing for the favor of management. Not as Franklin or Edison had 
once regarded themselves, as self-determined, free agents. 

Only by a massive psychological campaign could the menace of overproduction in 
America be contained. That's what important men and academics called it. The ability of 
Americans to think as independent producers had to be curtailed. Certain writings of 
Alexander Inglis carry a hint of schooling's role in this ultimately successful project to 
curb the tendency of little people to compete with big companies. From 1880 to 1930, 
overproduction became a controlling metaphor among the managerial classes, and this 
idea would have a profound influence on the development of mass schooling. 

I know how difficult it is for most of us who mow our lawns and walk our dogs to 
comprehend that long-range social engineering even exists, let alone that it began to 
dominate compulsion schooling nearly a century ago. Yet the 1934 edition of Ellwood P. 
Cubberley's Public Education in the United States is explicit about what happened and 
why. As Cubberley puts it: 

It has come to be desirable that children should not engage in productive labor. On the 
contrary, all recent thinking... [is] opposed to their doing so. Both the interests of 
organized labor and the interests of the nation have set against child labor. 

The statement occurs in a section of Public Education called "A New Lengthening of the 
Period of Dependence," in which Cubberley explains that "the coming of the factory 
system" has made extended childhood necessary by depriving children of the training and 
education that farm and village life once gave. With the breakdown of home and village 
industries, the passing of chores, and the extinction of the apprenticeship system by large- 
scale production with its extreme division of labor (and the "all conquering march of 
machinery"), an army of workers has arisen, said Cubberley, who know nothing. 

Furthermore, modern industry needs such workers. Sentimentality could not be allowed 
to stand in the way of progress. According to Cubberley, with "much ridicule from the 
public press" the old book-subject curriculum was set aside, replaced by a change in 
purpose and "a new psychology of instruction which came to us from abroad." That last 
mysterious reference to a new psychology is to practices of dumbed-down schooling 
common to England, Germany, and France, the three major world coal-powers (other 
than the United States), each of which had already converted its common population into 
an industrial proletariat. 

Arthur Calhoun's 1919 Social History of the Family notified the nation's academics what 
was happening. Calhoun declared that the fondest wish of Utopian writers was coming 
true, the child was passing from its family "into the custody of community experts." He 
offered a significant forecast, that in time we could expect to see public education 
"designed to check the mating of the unfit." Three years later, Mayor John F. Hylan of 
New York said in a public speech that the schools had been seized as an octopus would 
seize prey, by "an invisible government." He was referring specifically to certain actions 
of the Rockefeller Foundation and other corporate interests in New York City which 
preceded the school riots of 1917. 

The 1920s were a boom period for forced schooling as well as for the stock market. In 
1928, a well-regarded volume called A Sociological Philosophy of Education claimed, "It 
is the business of teachers to run not merely schools but the world." A year later, the 
famous creator of educational psychology, Edward Thorndike of Columbia Teachers 
College, announced, "Academic subjects are of little value." William Kirkpatrick, his 
colleague at Teachers College, boasted in Education and the Social Crisis that the whole 
tradition of rearing the young was being made over by experts. 

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