The Hidden Functions of Schooling and a Population Engineered for Obedience

Ivan Illich What School Is

The avenues whereby man may elevate his consciousness to, as Rene Decartes would say, “Know Thyself” as something truly unique in the world and apply himself, diligently, patiently, honestly in the pursuit of greater happiness and service to his community, his tribe, his nation, his race of fellow human beings is a noble pursuit to be sure. And, I have no problem with that function, if you will, of education. I do have a very big problem with the the insidious institution of modern public schooling, though. Besides the fact that the US public school system is an utter and complete failure, in every imaginable way and standard of measurement, nobody ever seems to ask whether or not the abject failure that every new teaching program, standardized testing regimen, and methodology imposed by government bureaucrats instituted is actually meant to fail, since the true function and purpose of public schooling hasn’t been discerned by the greater part of the population of this country. Is it really complete heresy to suggest that whatever the government sets up…it gets, or else it wouldn’t continue with it?

I’m not even talking about the notion of academic failure, although the US is known to rank towards the bottom or a mediocre middle of the industrialized world in nearly every conceivable category. What I’m referring to is really a failure of imagination, both our own as adults and the crippling of our children’s innate imagination to envision an idyllic and magical world where their parents see only money, duties, and the desire to control every aspect of their kids’ behavior. However, as ignorant and inhumane as many parents are in the US, they at least love their children even if they don’t always show it. And, while their methods are often faulty, conditioned, and laden with neurotic baggage, one could argue that their heart is in the right place. They want what is best for the kids in life or at least what they think is best.

School administrators, psychiatrists, and teachers (on the other hand) have no such stakes in the futures of the children in their charge. It’s usually just a “job” for them. And, while many take on the roles of surrogate mommies and daddies during school hours, they don’t have the time to compensate for what’s lacking at home, and at best they’re merely glorified baby sitters. Most Americans are so totally clueless about what is being done, it would be comical almost, if it didn’t involve so many millions of lives being mentally impaired. That’s what former New City and New York State “Teacher of the Year” several years running said about the function of public schooling. I’m speaking of course of the illustrious and quite erudite former teacher turned author/speaker/activist against schooling, John Taylor Gatto. He makes the case that the function of public schooling is to “reduce children’s capacity to think”. Other functions of “schooling” include prolonging adolescence (even the term itself didn’t exist prior to the advent of compulsory schools) as well as the “adaptive” principle, whereby the mind and behavior of the child is molded to fit the designs of governmental/corporate/psychiatric interests. If you question this, by all means be sure to read John Taylor Gatto’s superb article that he penned for Harper’s Magazine several years ago that explains these functions far more eloquently than I have.

And, to accomplish these goals, schooling has introduced such Pavlovian measures as the “bell system”, which breaks a child’s concentration in his/her studies in one class so they can be shuttled off to another one. No inter-disciplinary understanding takes place, naturally, between subjects that are even obviously linked such as History and Political Science. Questioning is reduced to a bare minimum, and the grading system creates an artificial and irrelevant barometer that is used in the stratification among good, mediocre, and bad students with all the idiotic stigmas that those “labels” imply. In essence, crucial elements in the full flowering and development of the child such as creativity, independent  discernment, higher-order thinking, multi-age cooperative learning, and the achievement of “real world” goals are screened out of the curriculum…assuming they were ever there to begin with. And, these are substituted with rote-memorization drills, multiple-choice testing, and the boring tedium of being forced to take notes based on ramblings of some dim-witted teacher giving a practically, socially, and philosophically-irrelevant lecture that will be largely forgotten about by the next day of class. As a general rule, the teacher’s college is usually the least rigorous and easiest academically of all of the departments and as such tends to both draw and produce the most boorish bunch of neurotic nitwits imaginable to “teach” your kids. Is it really any wonder that the US education system is in crisis?

How did it get to this obviously lowly status and point? As Gatto explains, the American version of the social engineering of minds in the public school system came into existence towards the middle part of the 19th century, when the country of, what was then, Prussia decided to regiment their society according to the Hegelian dictates of the state. Through a system of mandatory enrollment in state-run schools, Prussia would force previously free-thinking children to orient themselves to operate as an obedient, collective tool for the state. This would then preclude many in the population, who in adulthood might abandon the state when they fought another war, as they were often doing. So, Prussian schooling was really a psychological indoctrination program, whose purpose was to ensure plenty of cannon fodder for the state. And, it worked like a charm.

This in turn was the system that was praised, celebrated, and finally implemented in the US by pedagogs such as Horace Mann and John Dewey. By the early part of the 20th century, modern public schooling began to take shape, albeit with another function in mind. It was around this time that the Industrial Revolution was coming into full swing and the industrial corporate business class decided that public schools should become the breeding grounds for a new kind of man, who would be willing to give up simple agrarian life and commit himself to the repetitive tasks that industrial labor would impose upon the worker of the 20th century. School was to act as a coercive adjunct not merely of the state but also of the corporation, whose ascent has made it the dominant institution of the last 100 years.

State control isn’t necessarily mutually exclusive from corporate control. They’re merely different masks of authority and domination over an individual’s life, and what the state always seeks is to create a sense of general collectivization among its ranks just as a corporation desires for its low-level workers to collectivize themselves around the principle of obedience to the productive edicts of the corporation. They standardize, regiment, and homogenize experience just like an army might do only for different purposes…one for war and the efficient slaughter of foreign peoples and the other for the peaceful consumption of consumer goods. Therefore, is it really just a coincidence that “Universal Public Schooling” just so happens to be one of the planks of the Communist Manifesto? Now might be a good time to ask- “Was the US hijacked by a communist agenda?” This is a difficult question to answer definitively, but one could argue that while transnational corporate elites exert the traditional influence from behind the scenes in government as they always have…even so-called communist nations aren’t purely communist in the sense of everyone being equal in status and material goods. However, both capitalists and communists would agree that in order to maximize profits for corporate capitalists and fit individual cogs into the cold machinery of state bureaucracy, strict obedience of the masses is key. And, while the cop can always hold a bludgeon over the heads of the unrelenting, longevity depends on mass mind-control and propaganda, particularly of the youth that will inherit it all.

Certainly, one of the more interesting interviews in this regard ever conducted was an interview that G. Edward Griffin, author of the definitive history of the Federal Reserve The Creature from Jekyll Island, had with Norman Dodd right before he died. This interview is an important puzzle piece in the annals of history and is certainly germane to the history of American schooling. Norman Dodd was an investigator for an extensive congressional inquiry into the role and agenda of tax-exempt foundations. And, he was able to discover that one of the primary objectives of the Rockefeller Foundation was to spread the tenets of “collectivist doctrine” through the institutions of American life with a specific focus on controlling the curriculum of the public school system, so that the US could be turned into a collectivized psycho-civilized state. Foreign countries would be targeted using the Carnegie Endowment, which is named after the steel baron Andrew Carnegie. I encourage all of you that haven’t seen it to go watch the video to this excellent interview on YouTube. If you haven’t got to patience to watch the whole hour, however, I suggest you skip to the 28 min mark, where he talks about what I just did in relation to the control of the public school system. Certainly, if you do have kids, be a “smart” parent, pull them out of the public schools, and either home school them yourself or enroll them in a small alternative like Summerhill, where children actually get to choose what they want to learn and aren’t forced to learn what they couldn’t care less about and isn’t applicable to their lives.

Why You Have to Go to School


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