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An American Affidavit

Sunday, November 25, 2018

219. Magic At Work: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

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 from upper-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.  

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