For better or worst
At least nine major assumptions about the importance of government schooling must be
acknowledged as false before you can get beyond the fog of ideology into the clear air of
education. Here they are:
1) Universal government schooling is the essential force for social cohesion. There is no
other way. A heavily bureaucratized public order is our defense against chaos and
anarchy. Right, and if you don’t wipe your bum properly, the toilet monster will rise out
of the bowl and get you.
2) The socialization of children in age-graded groups monitored by State agents is
essential to learn to get along with others in a pluralistic society. The actual truth is that
the rigid compartmentalizations of schooling teach a crippling form of social relation:
wait passively until you are told what to do, never judge your own work or confer with
associates, have contempt for those younger than yourself and fear of those older. Behave
according to the meaning assigned to your class label. These are the rules of a nuthouse.
No wonder kids cry and become fretful after first grade.
3) Children from different backgrounds and from families with different beliefs must be
mixed together. The unexamined inference here is that in this fashion they enlarge their
understanding, but the actual management of classrooms everywhere makes only the
most superficial obeisance to human difference—from the first, a radical turn toward
some unitarian golden mean is taken, along the way of which different backgrounds and
different beliefs are subtly but steadily discredited.
4) The certified expertise of official schoolteachers is superior in its knowledge of
children to the accomplishments of lay people, including parents. Protecting children
from the uncertified is a compelling public concern. Actually, the enforced long-term
segregation of children from the working world does them great damage, and the general
body of men and women certified by the State as fit to teach is nearly the least fit
occupational body in the entire economy if college performance is the standard.
5) Coercion in the name of education is a valid use of State power: compelling
assemblies of children into specified groupings for prescribed intervals and sequences
with appointed overseers does not interfere with academic learning. Were you born
yesterday? Plato said, "Nothing of value to the individual happens by coercion."
6) Children will inevitably grow apart from their parents in belief, and this process must
be encouraged by diluting parental influence and disabusing children of the idea their
parents are sovereign in mind or morality. That prescription alone has been enough to
cripple the American family. The effects of forced disloyalty on family are hideously
destructive, removing the only certain support the growing spirit has to refer to. In place
of family the school offers phantoms like "ambition," "advancement," and "fun,"
nightmare harbingers of the hollow life ahead.
7) An overriding concern of schooling is to protect children from bad parents. No wonder
G. Stanley Hall, the father of school administration, invited Sigmund Freud to the United
States in 1909—it was urgent business to establish a "scientific" basis upon which to
justify the anti-family stance of State schooling, and the programmatic State in general.
8) It is not appropriate for any family to unduly concern itself with the education of its
own children, although it is appropriate to sacrifice for the general education of everyone
in the hands of State experts. This is the standard formula for all forms of socialism and
the universal foundation of utopian promises.
9) The State is the proper parent and has predominant responsibility for training, morals,
and beliefs. This is the parens patriae doctrine of Louis XIV, king of France, a tale
unsuited to a republic.
John Taylor Gatto, "The Underground History of American Education"