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AnAmerAffidavit

Thursday, July 6, 2017

69. An Insider's Insider: The Underground HIstory of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

An Insider's Insider 

A bountiful source of clues to what tensions were actually at work back then can be 
found in Ellwood P. Cubberley's celebratory history, Public Education in the United 
States (1919, revised edition 1934), the standard in-house reference for official school 
legends until revisionist writings appeared in the 1960s. 

Cubberley was an insider's insider, in a unique position to know things neither public nor 
press could know. Although Cubberley always is circumspect and deliberately vague, he 
cannot help revealing more than he wants to. For example, the reluctance of the country 
to accept its new yoke of compulsion is caught briefly in this flat statement on page 564 
of the 1934 revision: 

The history of compulsory-attendance legislation in the states has been much the same 
everywhere, and everywhere laws have been enacted only after overcoming strenuous 
opposition. 



Reference here is to the period from 1852 to 1918 when the states, one by one, were 
caught in a compulsion net that used the strategy of gradualism: 

At first the laws were optional., later the law was made state-wide but the compulsory 
period was short (ten to twelve weeks) and the age limits low, nine to twelve years. After 
this, struggle came to extend the time, often little by little. ..to extend the age limits 
downward to eight and seven and upwards to fourteen, fifteen or sixteen; to make the law 
apply to children attending private and parochial schools, and to require cooperation 
from such schools for the proper handling of cases; to institute state supervision of local 
enforcement; to connect school attendance enforcement with the child-labor legislation of 
the State through a system of working permits. ...[emphasis added] 

Noteworthy is the extent to which proponents of centralized schooling were prepared to 
act covertly in defiance of majority will and in the face of extremely successful and 
inexpensive local school heritage. As late as 1901, after nearly a half-century of such 
legislation — first in Massachusetts, then state by state in the majority of the remaining 
jurisdictions — Dr. Levi Seeley of Trenton Normal School could still thunder warnings of 
lack of progress. In his book Foundations of Education, he writes, "while no law on the 
statute books of Prussia is more thoroughly carried out [than compulsory attendance]..." 
He laments that "...in 1890, out of 5,300,000 Prussian children, only 645 slipped out of 
the truant officer's net..." but that our own school attendance legislation is nothing more 
than "dead letter laws": 

We have been attempting compulsory education for a whole generation and cannot be 
said to have made much progress — Let us cease to require only 20 weeks of schooling, 
12 of which shall be consecutive, thus plainly hinting that we are not serious in the 
matter. 

Seeley's frustration clouded his judgment. Somebody was most certainly serious about 
mass confinement schooling to stay at it so relentlessly and expensively in the face of 
massive public repudiation of the scheme. 

Compulsion Schooling 

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