by Philip Greenspan
(Swans - July 2, 2007) As a young boy during the depression years I would often hear poor older customers who frequented my father's drugstore rail against the injustices of our political system. "The damn government stinks! The Republicans cause depressions and the Democrats start wars! Neither gives the poor man a break! The rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer!" They apparently had not had the educational benefits that had been granted to me. I felt, having been schooled about our democracy and how responsive it was to the people, that they were ignorant and mistaken. But I liked those kindly folks and would not contradict them like a smart-alecky kid. So I just responded with a friendly smile. It has taken almost a lifetime to unlearn what I swallowed in the classrooms, and I eventually discovered that what those supposedly ignorant people had encountered in the College of Hard Knocks gave them an authentic view of the world.
There are many complaints about the educational system in this country and rightly so, but from the point of view of the establishment -- and who is more important than them? -- it is working beautifully, exactly as they want it. They have effectively indoctrinated the booboisie to not only accept but support our government with their very lives.
Long before the government mandated compulsory state schooling, ordinary people were very intelligent and thoughtful. In the early nineteenth century literacy was so extensive that five million copies of James Fenimore Cooper's novels were sold to a population of less than twenty million farmers. Almost everyone rich and poor alike was literate. Over a thousand newspapers and periodicals were devoured by a population desirous to learn. They were well aware of the economic might and political influence of the wealthy class and were able to detect the malarkey peddled by officials and pundits. People who could think for themselves were a danger to the power elite. Something had to be done to minimize that threat.
With industrialization tycoons like Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller needed a means of social control to mold the masses into obedient and compliant workers to man the boring no-brain strong back production and assembly lines. A Prussian state school system had already proven its worth. Assembling children together and indoctrinating them assiduously for years would produce the desired automatons.
Social scientists -- educators, efficiency experts, public relations pioneers -- fine-tuned the educational system to make it in effect a segment of industry and government and thereby provide what the corporations and the state required of its citizenry. Starting from the lowest elementary grades loyalty to the established order was drummed into their hearts and minds. Learn the pledge! Learn the anthem! Learn the nation's official history! Respect and obey authority!!
No longer is an individual free to pursue his interests at his convenience. From an early age until adulthood he is confined for a substantial amount of time to the classroom. He, along with the other inmates, must suffer through a pre-selected list of prescribed courses. They are compelled to conform to harsh regulations. Noncompliant delinquents and possibly a parent or guardian may be punished. Attendance at designated times is mandatory. A class session might be absorbing or it might be dull -- it matters little -- the allotted time is limited to a standard length. Another class on a totally unrelated topic might follow. But this brilliantly designed system delivers the desired outcome. More important than mastery of the subject matter of the courses are the traits ingrained into the emerging adults. Accept what the establishment reports! Do not think, let your betters do it for you! Do not question, but obey the law and preserve order! Yes, a loyal, dedicated, and obedient citizenry is assured.
My family prepared me adequately for the indoctrination process that lay ahead. My parents were immigrants from czarist Russia. They embraced all the fine promises that this country extended and became loyal and patriotic citizens. My father enlisted and served in World War I. I, of course, was expected to be a good student and to study diligently.
The culture of the times, quite different from what it is today, naturally affected my generation's upbringing. The depression was the most imposing factor of that time. In an early grade, we were apprised of the advantages of saving. Benjamin Franklin's maxim, "A penny saved is a penny earned," was impressed upon us. And so we were encouraged to purchase postal savings stamps on a regular basis in school. That culture is now ancient history.
Schools today, bolstered by the advertising and public relations industries, promote the demands of big business by indoctrinating the public with the need to spend. During World War II the folks back home were urged to SAVE, i.e., buy war bonds to help finance the war. Now, the patriotic action of the home front is to buy, buy, buy, and BUY. The new consumer culture has caught on so resoundingly that the U.S. has recently attained a negative savings rate.
I fulfilled the hopes of my parents and became the loyal and patriotic citizen they expected. If I had not continued my eclectic reading over the years I would have remained devoted to the system, not realizing that it was just a subtle con job for the power elite. Is the state-imposed system necessary? Would junking it reduce the country in short order to masses of illiterate ignoramuses?
Many educational successes were achieved without state compulsion. As mentioned, almost all early Americans were literate and intelligent, learning either at home or in the one room school where children of various grades all met together to master the three Rs and a lot more. In one year, in Cuba, a substantial drop in illiteracy was achieved when young teenage volunteers with just one week of training traveled throughout the country to teach reading and writing. The Cuban literacy method "Yo Se Puedo" (Yes it can be) is accomplishing similar results in other countries. Home schooling, practiced for quite a number of years by people of various backgrounds and incomes, has shown impressive results. A greater proportion of them go on to higher education and in more prestigious universities than those in the public sector. Then there are schools based on the Sudbury Valley School model where the students are free to do or not do what they wish, to learn what interests them when they are indeed ready, and at their own pace. Here again the highly intelligent and innovative individuals that emerge attest to its superiority. These examples produce students who will remain impervious to propagandizing. Accordingly they are anathema to the rulers of the country.
Knowing the public is dissatisfied, our ingenious politicians will complain about the ineffectiveness of the educational system, promise reforms, and with great fanfare implement them. Will fundamental change occur? Or will some tinkering make do to expand an already oversized bureaucracy and squeeze more funds into some favored hands?
You know the answer.
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