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AnAmerAffidavit

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

96.The Demon Of Overproduction: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

The Demon Of Overproduction 



Real school reforms have always failed, not because they represent bad ideas but because 
they stand for different interpretations of the purpose of life than the current management 
of society will allow. If too many people adopted such reforms, a social and economic 
catastrophe would be provoked, one at least equal to that which followed the original 
imposition of centralized, collective life on men, women, and children in what had been a 
fairly libertarian American society. Reverberations of this earlier change in schooling are 
still being heard. What else do you think the explosion of homeschooling in recent years 
means? 

The reason this cataclysm, out of which we got forced schooling, has been put to the 
question so very little by the groups it violently damaged is that the earlier storm had a 
confusing aspect to it. Those who suffered most didn't necessarily experience declining 
incomes. The cost of the metamorphosis was paid for in liberties: loss of freedom, loss of 
time, loss of significant human associations — including those with one's own children — 
loss of a spiritual dimension, perhaps. Losses difficult to pin down. Coal, and later oil, 
relentlessly forced a shift in crucial aspects of social life: our relation to nature, our 
relation to each other, our relation to ourselves. But nowhere was the impact greater than 
in the upbringing of children. 

Colonial and Federal period economics in America emphasized the characteristics in 
children that were needed for independent livelihoods — characteristics which have 
remained at the heart of the romantic image of our nation in the world's eyes and in our 
own. These characteristics, however, were recognized by thinkers associated with the 
emerging industrial/financial systems as danger signs of incipient overproduction. The 
very ingenuity and self-reliance that built a strong and unique America came to be seen 
as its enemy. Competition was recognized as a corrosive agent no mass production 
economy could long tolerate without bringing ruinous financial panics in its wake, 
engendering bankruptcy and deflation. 

A preliminary explanation is in order. Prior to coal and the inventiveness coal inspired, 
no harm attended the very realistic American dream to have one's own business. A 
startling percentage of Americans did just that. Businesses were small and local, mostly 
subsistence operations like the myriad small farms and small services which kept home 
and hearth together across the land. Owning yourself was understood to be the best thing. 
The most radical aspect of this former economy was the way it turned ancient notions of 
social class privilege and ancient religious notions of exclusion on their ears. 

Yet, well inside a single generation, godlike fossil fuel power suddenly became available. 
Now here was the rub, that power was available to industrialists but at the same time to 
the most resourceful, tough-minded, independent, cantankerous, and indomitable group 
of ordinary citizens ever seen anywhere. A real danger existed that in the industrial 
economy being born, too many would recognize the new opportunity, thus creating far 
too much of everything for any market to absorb. 

The result: prices would collapse, capital would go unprotected. Using the positive 
method of analysis (of which more later), one could easily foresee that continuous 



generations of improved machinery (with never an end) might well be forthcoming once 
the commitment was made to let the coal genie completely out of the bottle. Yet in the 
face of a constant threat of overproduction, who would invest and reinvest and reinvest 
unless steps were taken to curtail promiscuous competition in the bud stage? The most 
efficient time to do that was ab ovo, damping down those qualities of mind and character 
which gave rise to the dangerous American craving for independence where it first began, 
in childhood. 

The older economy scheduled for replacement had set up its own basic expectations for 
children. Even small farmers considered it important to toughen the mind by reading, 
writing, debate, and declamation, and to learn to manage numbers well enough so that 
later one might manage one's own accounts. In the older society, competition was the 
tough love road to fairness in distribution. Democracy, religion, and local community 
were the counterpoise to excesses of individualism. In such a universe, home education, 
self-teaching, and teacher-directed local schoolhouses served well. 

In the waning days of this family-centered social order, an industrial replacement made 
necessary by coal lay waiting in the wings, but it was a perspective still unable to purge 
itself of excess competition, unable to sufficiently accept government as the partner it 
must have to suppress dangerous competition — from an all-too-democratic multitude. 

Then a miracle happened or was arranged to happen. After decades of surreptitious 
Northern provocation, the South fired on Fort Sumter. Hegel himself could not have 
planned history better. America was soon to find itself shoehorned into a monoculture. 
The Civil War demonstrated to industrialists and financiers how a standardized 
population trained to follow orders could be made to function as a reliable money tree; 
even more, how the common population could be stripped of its power to cause political 
trouble. These war years awakened canny nostalgia for the British colonial past, and in 
doing so, the coal-driven society was welcomed for the social future it promised as well 
as for its riches. 

The Quest For Arcadia 

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