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An American Affidavit

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

206. Valhalla: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

206. Valhalla: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org


    By the end of 1999, 75.5 million people out of a total population of 275 million were  involved directly in providing and receiving what has come to be called education. And  an unknown number of millions indirectly. About 67 million were enrolled in schools and  colleges (38 million in K-8, 14 million in
secondary schools, 15 million in colleges,) 4  million employed as teachers or college faculty (2 million elementary; 2 million  secondary and college combined), and 4.5 million in some other school capacity. In other  words, the primary organizing discipline of about 29 percent of the entire U.S. population  consists of obedience to the routines and requests of an abstract social machine called  School. And that's only so far. According to the U.S. Department of Education, these  figures are expected to grow substantially through the first decade of the new century.     Could Hegel himself have foreseen such an end to history, the planet as a universal  schoolhouse where nothing much is learned?  

     At the top of this feeding chain are so-called public colleges. As Valhalla was the reward  where Vikings killed in battle got to drink, fight, and fornicate in an endlessly  regenerating loop, so public colleges are a lifetime of comfort and security for those  systems people who play ball skillfully or belong to some political family with a record  of playing ball.  

     If public colleges functioned in meritocractic ways as their supporters allege and as I  suspect the general public believes they do, we would expect the economy of public  schooling at this level to reflect with reasonable sensitivity what was happening in the  total public economy. Spending on public colleges should be a litmus test of how much  respect is being accorded the democratic will at any given time. With that in mind try this  garment on for size: Tuition at public colleges over the last fourteen years has increased  three times as fast as household income, and more than three times faster than the rate of  inflation, according to the General Accounting Office. What pressure could possibly  squeeze ordinary people to pay such outlandish costs, incurring debt burdens which  enslave them and their children for many years to come?  

     How, you might ask, at the very instant the inherent value of these degrees is being  challenged, at the very instant business magazines are predicting permanent radical  downsizing of the middle-management force in private and public employment — the very  slots public colleges license graduates to occupy, and at the very instant in time when the  purchasing power of middle-class American incomes is worth less than it was thirty years  ago and appears to be in a long-term continuing downtrend, how in light of these things  have public college teachers been able to double their incomes (in real dollars) in the past  fourteen years and public college administrators raise their own share of the take 131  percent?  

     I'm asking how, not why. Greed is too common a characteristic of human nature to be  very interesting. How was this done? Who allowed it? Not any "free market," I can tell  you. We're talking about several million individuals who've managed to make their  leisured and secure lives even more so at the same time their product is questioned and  the work their attention supposedly qualifies students for is shipped overseas for labor  cost advantages. It seems obvious to me that the whole lot of these collegiate time-servers  lacks sufficient clout to treat themselves so well. Their favored treatment is, then, a gift.  But from where, and why? Only from an investigation of the politics of schooling might  come an adequate answer. So let's begin to look under a few rocks together.  

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