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An American Affidavit

Saturday, March 30, 2019

90. In Opposition to Centralization (1839).: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

90. In Opposition to Centralization (1839).: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

90. The Prussian Reform Movement  

The devastating defeat by Napoleon at Jena triggered the so-called Prussian Reform  Movement, a transformation which replaced cabinet rule (by appointees of the national  leader) with rule by permanent civil servants and permanent government bureaus. Ask  yourself which form of governance responds better to
public opinion and you will realize  what a radical chapter in European affairs was opened. The familiar three-tier system of  education emerged in the Napoleonic era, one private tier, two government ones. At the  top, one-half of 1 percent of the students attended A kadamiensschulen,' where, as future  policy makers, they learned to think strategically, contextually, in wholes; they learned  complex processes, and useful knowledge, studied history, wrote copiously, argued often,  read deeply, and mastered tasks of command.  
     The next level, Realsschulen, was intended mostly as a manufactory for the professional  proletariat of engineers, architects, doctors, lawyers, career civil servants, and such other  assistants as policy thinkers at times would require. From 5 to 7.5 percent of all students  attended these "real schools," learning in a superficial fashion how to think in context, but  mostly learning how to manage materials, men, and situations — to be problem solvers.  This group would also staff the various policing functions of the state, bringing order to  the domain. Finally, at the bottom of the pile, a group between 92 and 94 percent of the  population attended "people's schools" where they learned obedience, cooperation and  correct attitudes, along with rudiments of literacy and official state myths of history. 
      This universal system of compulsion schooling was up and running by 1819, and soon  became the eighth wonder of the world, promising for a brief time — in spite of its  exclusionary layered structure — liberal education for all. But this early dream was soon  abandoned. This particular Utopia had a different target than human equality; it aimed  instead for frictionless efficiency. From its inception Volksschulen, the people's place,  heavily discounted reading; reading produced dissatisfaction, it was thought. The Bell-  school remedy was called for: a standard of virtual illiteracy formally taught under state  church auspices. Reading offered too many windows onto better lives, too much  familiarity with better ways of thinking. It was a gift unwise to share with those  permanently consigned to low station.  
     Heinrich Pestalozzi, an odd 2 Swiss-German school reformer, was producing at this time a  nonliterary, experience-based pedagogy, strong in music and industrial arts, which was  attracting much favorable attention in Prussia. Here seemed a way to keep the poor happy  without arousing in them hopes of dramatically changing the social order. Pestalozzi  claimed ability to mold the poor "to accept all the efforts peculiar to their class." He  offered them love in place of ambition. By employing psychological means in the  training of the young, class warfare might be avoided.   
      A curiously prophetic note for the future development of scientific school teaching was  that Pestalozzi himself could barely read. Not that he was a dummy; those talents simply  weren't important in his work. He reckoned his own semiliteracy an advantage in dealing  with children destined not to find employment requiring much verbal fluency. Seventeen  agents of the Prussian government acted as Pestalozzi's assistants in Switzerland,  bringing insights about the Swiss style of schooling home to northern Germany. 
      While Pestalozzi's raggedy schools lurched clumsily from year to year, a nobleman, von  Fellenberg, refined and systematized the Swiss reformer's disorderly notes, hammering  the funky ensemble into clarified plans for a worldwide system of industrial education for  the masses. As early as 1808, this nonacademic formulation was introduced into the  United States under Joseph Neef, formerly a teacher at Pestalozzi's school. Neef, with  important Quaker patronage, became the principal schoolmaster for Robert Owen's  pioneering work-utopia at New Harmony, Indiana. Neef's efforts there provided high-  powered conversational fodder to the fashionable Unitarian drawing rooms of Boston in  the decades before compulsory legislation was passed. And when it did pass, all credit for  the political victory belonged to those Unitarians. 
      Neef's influence resonated across the United States after the collapse of New Harmony,  through lectures given by Robert Owen's son (later a congressman, then referee of J.P.  Morgan's legal contretemps with the U.S. Army 3 ), and through speeches and intrigues by  that magnificent nineteenth-century female dynamo Scottish emigre Fanny Wright, who  demanded the end of family life and its replacement by communitarian schooling. The  tapestry of school origins is one of paths crossing and recrossing, and more apparent  coincidences than seem likely.  
     Together, Owen and Wright created the successful Workingman's Party of Philadelphia,  which seized political control of that city in 1829. The party incorporated strong  compulsion schooling proposals as part of its political platform. Its idea to place working-  class children under the philosophical discipline of highly skilled craftsmen — men  comparable socially to the yeomanry of pre-enclosure England — would have attracted  favorable commentary in Philadelphia where banker Nicholas Biddle was locked in  struggle for control of the nation's currency with working- class hero Andrew Jackson.  Biddle's defeat by Jackson quickly moved abstract discussions of a possible social  technology to control working class children from the airy realms of social hypothesis to  policy discussions about immediate reality. In that instant of maximum tension between  an embryonic financial capitalism and a populist republic struggling to emerge, the  Prussian system of pedagogy came to seem perfectly sensible to men of means and  ambition.   

8. I've exaggerated the neatness of this tripartite division in order to make clear its functional logic. The system as it actually grew in those days  without an electronic technology of centralization was more whimsical than I've indicated, dependent partially on local tradition and resistance,  partially on the ebb and flow of fortunes among different participants in the transformation. In some places, the "academy" portion didn't occur  in a separate institution, but as a division inside the Realsschulen, something like today's "gifted and talented honors" programs as compared to  the common garden variety "gifted and talented" pony shows.   

9. Pestalozzi's strangeness comes through in almost all the standard biographical sketches of him, despite universal efforts to emphasize his  saintliness. In a recent study, Anthony Sutton claims Pestalozzi was also director of a secret lodge of "illuminated" Freemasonry — with the  code name "Alfred." If true, the Swiss "educator" was even stranger than I sensed initially. 

10. During the Civil War, Morgan sold back to the army its own defective rifles (which had been auctioned as scrap) at a 1,300 percent profit.  After a number of soldiers were killed and maimed, young Morgan found himself temporarily in hot water. Thanks to Owen his penalty was  the return of about half his profit!   Travelers' Reports 

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