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An American Affidavit

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

93. The Technology Of Subjection: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archve.org

93. The Technology Of Subjection: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archve.org

The Technology Of Subjection  

     Administrative Utopias are a peculiar kind of dreaming by those in power, driven by an  urge to arrange the lives of others, organizing them for production, combat, or detention.  The operating principles of administrative Utopia are hierarchy, discipline, regimentation,  strict order, rational
planning, a geometrical environment, a production line, a cellblock,     and a form of welfarism. Government schools and some private schools pass such  parameters with flying colors. In one sense, administrative Utopias are laboratories for  exploring the technology of subjection and as such belong to a precise subdivision of  pornographic art: total surveillance and total control of the helpless. The aim and mode of  administrative Utopia is to bestow order and assistance on an unwilling population: to  provide its clothing and food. To schedule it. In a masterpiece of cosmic misjudgment,  the phrenologist George Combe wrote Horace Mann on November 14, 1843: 

     The Prussian and Saxon governments by means of their schools and their just laws and  rational public administration are doing a good deal to bring their people into a rational  and moral condition. It is pretty obvious to thinking men that a few years more of this  cultivation will lead to the development of free institutions in Germany.  
     Earlier that year, on May 21, 1843, Mann had written to Combe: "I want to find out what  are the results, as well as the workings of the famous Prussian system." Just three years  earlier, with the election of Marcus Morton as governor of Massachusetts, a serious  challenge had been presented to Mann and to his Board of Education and the air of  Prussianism surrounding it and its manufacturer/politician friends. A House committee  was directed to look into the new Board of Education and its plan to undertake a teachers  college with $10,000 put up by industrialist Edmund Dwight. Four days after its  assignment, the majority reported out a bill to kill the board! Discontinue the Normal  School experiment, it said, and give Dwight his money back: 

    If then the Board has any actual power, it is a dangerous power, touching directly upon  the rights and duties of the Legislature; if it has no power, why continue its existence at  an annual expense to the commonwealth?  

     But the House committee did more; it warned explicitly that this board, dominated by a  Unitarian majority of 7-5 (although Unitarians comprised less than 1 percent of the  state), really wanted to install a Prussian system of education in Massachusetts, to put "a  monopoly of power in a few hands, contrary in every respect to the true spirit of our  democratical institutions." The vote of the House on this was the single greatest victory  of Mann's political career, one for which he and his wealthy friends called in every favor  they were owed. The result was 245 votes to continue, 1 82 votes to discontinue, and so  the House voted to overturn the recommendations of its own committee. A 32-vote swing  might have given us a much different twentieth century than the one we saw. 
      Although Mann's own letters and diaries are replete with attacks on orthodox religionists  as enemies of government schooling, an examination of the positive vote reveals that  from the outset the orthodox churches were among Mann's staunchest allies. Mann had  general support from Congregational, Presbyterian, and Baptist clergymen. At this early  stage they were completely unaware of the doom secular schooling would spell out for  their denominations. They had been seduced into believing school was a necessary  insurance policy to deal with incoming waves of Catholic immigration from Ireland and  Germany, the cheap labor army which as early as 1830 had been talked about in business  circles and eagerly anticipated as an answer to America's production problems.   
      The reason Germany, and not England, provided the original model for America's essay  into compulsion schooling may be that Mann, while in Britain, had had a shocking  experience in English class snobbery which left him reeling. Boston Common, he wrote,  with its rows of mottled sycamore trees, gravel walks, and frog ponds was downright  embarrassing compared with any number of stately English private grounds furnished  with stag and deer, fine arboretums of botanical specimens from faraway lands, marble  floors better than the table tops at home, portraits, tapestries, giant gold-frame mirrors.  The ballroom in the Bulfmch house in Boston would be a butler's pantry in England, he  wrote. When Mann visited Stafford House of the Duke of Cumberland, he went into  culture shock:  

     Convicts on treadmills provide the energy to pump water for fountains. I have seen  equipages, palaces, and the regalia of royalty side by side with beggary, squalidness, and  degradation in which the very features of humanity were almost lost in those of the brute. 

      For this great distinction between the stratified orders of society, Mann held the Anglican  church to blame. "Give me America with all its rawness and want. We have aristocracy  enough at home and here I trace its foundations." Shocked from his English experience,  Mann virtually willed that Prussian schools would provide him with answers, says his  biographer Jonathan Messerli.  
     Mann arrived in Prussia when its schools were closed for vacation. He toured empty  classrooms, spoke with authorities, interviewed vacationing schoolmasters, and read piles  of dusty official reports. Yet from this nonexperience he claimed to come away with a  strong sense of the professional competence of Prussian teachers! All "admirably  qualified and full of animation!" His wife Mary, of the famous Peabodys, wrote home:  "We have not seen a teacher with a book in his hand in all Prussia; no, not one!"  (emphasis added) This wasn't surprising, for they hardly saw teachers at all. 
      Equally impressive, he wrote, was the wonderful obedience of children; these German  kinder had "innate respect for superior years." The German teacher corps? "The finest  collection of men I have ever seen — full of intelligence, dignity, benevolence, kindness  and bearing...." Never, says Mann, did he witness "an instance of harshness and severity.  All is kind, encouraging, animating, sympathizing." On the basis of imagining this  miraculous vision of exactly the Prussia he wanted to see, Mann made a special plea for  changes in the teaching of reading. He criticized the standard American practice of  beginning with the alphabet and moving to syllables, urging his readers to consider the  superior merit of teaching entire words from the beginning. "I am satisfied," he said, "our  greatest error in teaching lies in beginning with the alphabet."  
     The heart of Mann's most famous Report to the Boston School Committee, the legendary  Seventh, rings a familiar theme in American affairs. It seems even then we were falling  behind! This time, behind the Prussians in education. In order to catch up, it was  mandatory to create a professional corps of teachers and a systematic curriculum, just as  the Prussians had. Mann fervently implored the board to accept his prescription... while  there was still time! The note of hysteria is a drum roll sounding throughout Mann's     entire career; together with the vilification of his opponents, it constitutes much of  Mann's spiritual signature.  
     That fall, the Association of Masters of the Boston Public Schools published its 150-page  rebuttal of Mann's Report. It attacked the normal schools proposal as a vehicle for  propaganda for Mann's "hot bed theories, in which the projectors have disregarded  experience and observation." It belittled his advocacy of phrenology and charged Mann  with attempting to excite the prejudices of the ignorant. Its second attack was against the  teacher-centered nonbook presentations of Prussian classrooms, insisting the  psychological result of these was to break student potential "for forming the habit of  independent and individual effort." The third attack was against the "word method" in  teaching reading, and in defense of the traditional alphabet method. Lastly, it attacked  Mann's belief that interest was a better motivator to learning than discipline: "Duty  should come first and pleasure should grow out of the discharge of it." Thus was framed a  profound conflict between the old world of the Puritans and the new psychological  strategy of the Germans.  

The German/American Reichsbank 

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