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An American Affidavit

Monday, March 30, 2020

220. The Culture Of Big Business: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

220. The Culture Of Big Business: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

The Culture Of Big Business

    Between 1890 and 1930, the culture of big business took over the culture of public  education, establishing scientific management and corporate style as the predominant  imperative. Although linkages between business and education elites were complex, the  goals and values of business established the rules by which both played. And while  schools proved unwilling to dare influencing business, the reverse was far from true. 

      Businessmen dominated the political movement in schools to abolish the system of local  control through wards nearly universal at the end of the nineteenth century. Along with  professionals, businessmen served disproportionately on new streamlined school boards.  Business language permeated the corridors of school management. Businessmen and  their wives were the political force behind Froebelian kindergartens which removed  young children from family influence, and they were behind vocational schooling, which  left no romantic dreams for ordinary children. 

      The National Association of Manufacturers, the National Civic Foundation, the Ad  Council, the Business Roundtable, and other business-relevant private associations  publicized the need for school change, told the public how children should act, what they  should honor, what behaviors would be rewarded. A steadily lengthening school year led  to an extended career ladder, specialization, and a credential-oriented society. School  people were assigned the role of bringing about a conflict-free world by teaching  indirectly that the preemption of work by corporations and professions (later by  government) was right, proper, and "scientific."   

      The Irish historian and philosopher W.E.H. Lecky, in his history of European rationalism,  {Rationalism in Europe), predicted that temptations posed by a forced assemblage of  children would prove in the end too strong to resist, powerful interests would inevitably  manipulate schooling to serve their own agendas:  

     The opinions of ninety-nine persons out of every hundred are formed mainly by  education, and a Government can decide in whose hands the national education is to be  placed, what subjects it is to comprise, and what principles it is to convey.  

     "If all paths of honor and wealth" are monopolized, said Lecky, the powerful motive of  self-interest will be enough to bring most students to heel:  

     The simple fact of annexing certain penalties to the profession of particular opinions, and  rewards to the profession of opposite opinions, while it will undoubtedly make many  hypocrites, will also make many converts.  — Rationalism in Europe (1883) 

      Once a system of reward and punishment is set up and broadcast by frequent public  examples of its power in action, the nature of argument is almost predetermined, although  subjects of such a regimen may be "entirely unconscious of the source of their opinions."  Once the doctrine of "exclusive salvation" for the cooperative (and damnation for the  critic) is clearly established, rulers will never be seriously questioned, thought Lecky. 

      By 1899 William H. Baldwin, president of the Long Island Railroad, descendant of the  man for whom the Baldwin locomotive was named, demonstrated how well the school  lesson had been learned and how forcible could be its application. Baldwin was a  member of the Peabody/ Rockefeller/Carnegie "Southern Education Board," self-  appointed to bring the benefits of Northern schooling to the war-ravaged South. Although  in the beginning of its career freed blacks were treated to the same type of rigorous,  classically oriented schooling we would call "liberal" today — meaning one designed to  liberate the judgment from prejudice and ignorance — as time passed it began to seem  impolitic to so treat blacks as equals. It alienated important elements in the Southern  white community who were more important fish for the Northern school net to land. Thus  a decision was made to jettison equality as a goal and make labor-value the most  important determinant of which way each group would be schooled.  

     There is perhaps no more naked statement of the political uses of schooling on record  than Baldwin's official word about "The Present Problem of Negro Education," delivered  before the Capon Springs Conference on Southern Education (1899): 

      Know that it is a crime for any teacher, white or black, to educate the Negro for positions  which are not open to him.  

     Important liberals like Edgar Gardner Murphy (whose descendants are still active in  American schooling) and other leading progressive humanists hastened to agree with  Baldwin. In David Tyack's analysis, these men sought to develop an applied technology     of school decision-making similar to technologies of production and management then  transforming the bureaucratized corporate economy. This technology reflected  evolutionary presuppositions, rooting its values in supposed evolutionary laws. Ideals  could be hierarchically arranged and pinned down on a scale of races, classes, sexes, and  historical stages grounded allegedly in nature itself. 

      According to James Russell, for thirty years dean of Teachers College, the purpose was to  equip teachers and administrators for "missionary service." What we are looking to  discover through building this new institution, said Russell, is "the modern significance  of the old doctrines of original sin and salvation by grace — to bring forth works meet for  repentance." '(emphasis added)  

     Teachers College, Stanford, Chicago, Johns Hopkins, Wisconsin, Michigan, Yale, etc.,  were the West Points of the Educational Trust, men like Ellwood P. Cubberley its  generals. Cubberley, also writer and editor of Houghton Mifflin's education series, the  largest and most successful set of professional books published for school people in the  first half of the twentieth century, legitimized by his influence the new reforms of  vocational guidance, "junior" high schools, hygiene programs, and more. The book series  gave him great power to shape the new science of education, making him a fortune. Its  effects on school management were vast. 

      Cubberley wrote, "One bright child may easily be worth more to national life than  thousands of low mentality." He taught influential schoolmen that genetic endowment  explained success and failure in the social order and taught thousands of politicians the  same lesson as well. Cubberley was one of a small band of leaders who invented  professional school administration as an occupation, and professional school  administration created the tracking system so that different grades of evolutionary raw  material could be processed in different ways — one of many innovations science and  business efficiency seemed to demand. In doing so, a strong class system possessing  nearly the strength of a caste system was created, with important political implications for  every American child. 

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