219. Magic At Work: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org
Magic At Work
Magic in one form or another had always appealed to professional school authorities as the means to manage students. Horace Mann, as you know, dedicated his entire Sixth Report to a paean in praise of phrenology, the "science" of reading head bumps, and every major schoolman from Mann to G. Stanley Hall and John Dewey was a serious phrenologist — long after the craze had vanished fromupper-class drawing rooms and salons. That should tell you something important about the inner itches of these men, I think. The quest for certainty in a confusing new land without rules was as much the religion of our founding schoolmen as searching one's family for signs of reprobation had been for Puritans. But modern schoolmen needed a scientific cast over their religiosity, times having changed.
Early educational psychologists scientized the practice of manipulation behind a common expression of modern pedagogy — "motivation." Book after book advised pedagogues how to "motivate" charges with technical advice based on an underlying premise that young people did not want to learn and had to be tricked into it, a premise which on the face of common experience was absurd. As the significance of Bernays' arguments penetrated the high command of government and industry, so too did manipulation become sine qua non in classroom teaching, the standard by which teacher quality was measured.
But the methods of Bernays or of educational psychologists like Dewey, Munsterberg, Judd, Hall, Cattell, Terman, Thorndike, Goddard, and Watson which so radically transformed the shape of twentieth-century schooling are about indoctrination strategies — building and using psychological tools to create compliant children. If nature hadn't cooperated by actually making empty children, then schooling would have to do the job. And yet, for what grand purpose children had to be emptied, not many knew. For those without religious training or ignorant of the evolutionary sciences, it made only the bleakest sort of sense.