Richard Mitchell, The Underground Grammarian
A startling and dramatic improvement in American education requires only that we hang all the professors and burn down the schools.
Despite what you may have been told about the Pilgrims, America was born of the first stirrings of the Enlightenment through the union of Commerce and Exploration, not the Pilgrims seeking religious freedom. And if you had heard this, then despite what you may also have heard, it was not founded by these Merchants and Explorers on an atheistic or agnostic footing. For good or ill, these people held varying degrees of belief in some form of a God, which was for the most part one of the Christian varieties, or some version of an Olde New Agey Diestic conception.
Queen Elizabeth granted Humphrey Gilbert the first English charter for settling a colony in North America, in 1578, the idea being to find a northwest passage to Russia & China, and to settle a half-way station and trading port in Newfoundland. After an initial venture in 1578 was forced to return by bad weather, Gilbert risked his money and his life by personally leading another venture in 1583, which did land at Newfoundland, but no permanent base was established. He died when his ship disappeared on the return journey.
Walter Raleigh, Gilbert’s half-brother, obtained a renewal of the charter in 1584, and sought to settle a colony further south on Roanoke Island in 1587, but those colonists disappeared without a trace. Another group of investors spurred on with hopes of profit, sponsored the Virginia Company, chartered in 1606 and reached the Virginia coast in late April 1607, founding the first colony that survived (through incredible hardships) at Jamestown.
To generalize them, they were what you might call “whole people”, believing in both the need for and existence of the Spirit, and in the value and potential pleasures of the world – tempered by grievously hard experience of the abundant miseries which the world could subject you to without notice, and Reason was recognized as the tool with which you could best experience the world and protect yourself from its dangers, both seen and unseen.
The portion of the Enlightenment which the colonists achieved critical mass from, was that which still held Man to be a creature of marvelous design, imbued with a soul whose key attribute was that of Free Will, waking up to a fresh view of the world which was theirs to shape and create. It wasn’t until after the U.S. Constitution was written that the fading Enlightenments belief in the Emotions superiority over Reason, and the soulless doctrine of materialism and determinism were established as the new intellectual fashions.
When the Pilgrims did arrive in this country in 1620 at a distance further north, they found a land with nothing to mediate between them, their beliefs & desires and Reality. And in this new land they attempted to establish a new Jerusalem, which they thought would be best expressed as a Communist society. They were among the first to try it. Marxist professors always complain that we can’t discount Communism because no one has ever tried to properly implement it – well they’re wrong. The Pilgrims tried Communism in 1620 – and with no pre-existing culture to interfere with them, and it nearly wiped out. As with every attempt since, the system is done in by the same old foe: Reality and Human Nature. William Bradford, Governor of Plymouth Colony from 1620 to 1647, made reports which citizens of East Germany would have recognized “For the young men, that were most able and fit for labor and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense”. It wasn’t until after Governor Bradford privatized the communal property and made each responsible for, and able to benefit from, their own behavior and property in 1623, that the colony began to flourish.
This stark land permitted no rationalistic foolishness. One hundred years later, even as Rousseau glamorized the image of the “Noble Savage”, he didn’t dare to come here for a reason (as Voltaire taunted him); his ideas would have gotten him killed – either by the elements, or by the inhabitants. In that harsh reality, it was only the early Enlightenment ideas of a well balanced Reason which could prevail, and which made a quality education so self evidently a necessity for the survival of both individuals and civil society.
Since before the Founders time, local populations had through agreements in Town Hall meetings, established public methods for schooling their children; experts & their estimates vary quite a bit on how widespread literacy was in the early colonies, but I think it's safe to say that America had from the beginning been a remarkably literate society. Remember, the Federalist Papers were written mostly for the benefit of the normal citizen in the street (!), and most of them DID NOT ATTEND formal schooling.
Unfortunately Thomas Jefferson helped provide some legitimacy for the idea of a public education, when he had proposed an elaborate system for implementing such a system, but the system he had in mind was one which held its reason for being as “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be”, and he suffered under the impression that government could be used to Do Good. It’s important to remember though, that such American lights as Franklin, Lincoln and even later with Edison, were just a few examples of quality intellects in our history who had little or no formal schooling, and yet WERE educated. The citizens of the US saw to it that their children received an education, either at home, or together with other parents, they found someone of good character, who could do it better than they could themselves.
That belief in, and reliance upon the responsibility and ability of individuals to see to their own lives had begun to fade as the new century progressed into the 1800’s, and in 1852, Massachusetts passed America's first compulsory school-attendance law; but even then it was still being handled locally, with local ideas of what education & curriculum would consist of, and with local control being held nearly at the parental level.
It took nearly a century after the Founders time to change, but with the state legislation of 1852, the agitation for federal action and involvement increased, spurred on by the Civil War. In 1862 Federal involvement and control finally did find its way into Education by way of the Morrill Act, to establish Land Grant colleges. There had been land grant colleges before (colleges funded from an income derived from an allotment of land in its name), but this was the first act to begin to remove control and authority from the local level, and place it at the Federal level instead. It was the Morrill Act "that revolutionized American higher education" The Act, as passed by Congress, granted public lands to states for the sites of institutions teaching “agriculture and mechanics,” to prepare students for “the ordinary pursuits and professions of life.”
Ironically (in view of today's political scene), public education was begun on the Federal level, by a Republican President, Lincoln, at the instigation of a powerful Republican Senator, Morrill who, in 1855, was one of the founders of the Republican Party in Vermont. He served 12 years as a Representative in the House, and 31 years as a Senator. He first put forward the act in 1857, but it was vetoed by President Buchannon (D), who was concerned about the implications it had for states rights, and its threat to private property. However, it was reintroduced in 1861, primarily as a War Measure! In Morrills words: “The role of the national government is to mould the character of the American people." and, "Ignorant voters endanger liberty. With free schools in the South there could have been no rebellion in the future...when our youth learn to read similar books, similar lessons, we shall become one people, possessing one organic nationality."
The Governments job was to “mould the character of the American people”? Where did such ideas come from? Did no one stop to ask what kind of ignorance might come of education directed by a bureaucrats removed from a caring parents interest? Sadly for us, there was no one left around of the caliber of a Patrick Henry or either of the Adams’ cousins (Samuel or John), who were able to distill from these seemingly benevolent actions, the principle of tyranny looming over us, had there been, they might have saved us from the 20th century. The act was strongly fought against by private colleges and others who foresaw and feared the federal control of education that would surely follow, but they were not skilled enough to win the debate.
This was partly because the publics conception of Higher Education, as it was in Jefferson’s time, was still understood to be in the "Liberal Tradition", as Montaigne put it “A traditional liberal arts curriculum of history, language, and literature--the arts that liberate," of educating one to be worthy of Liberty. It was concerned with imparting to its students a broad, Ethical, integrated understanding of the world; the principles which drove it, and which in turn also molded themselves. An Educated person was expected to be enabled to inquire, discover and integrate knowledge systematically, to know how one seemingly distinct part of one's life integrated with and affected another. As Aristotle negatively put it, a persons "... Inability to distinguish arguments germane to the Subject from those foreign to it, is a lack of education." How could a measure that extended such understanding, be bad?
“Liberating The People” rather than educating one to be worthy of Liberty
Morrill and the public may have thought they would be promoting Education with a capitol "E", but unfortunately the Colleges had for some time been quietly slipping away from the direction of the Educated, as that term had formerly been understood. The Educational Ideal that had shaped the Founders generation was one which focused on learning, discussing and disputing the texts of the Classical Humanities of Greek & Latin culture as well as biblical studies, in order to foster a comprehensive and principled view of the world and of human nature. However, such an “old fashioned” education was by this time beginning to be dismissed as un-scientific by the new German Philosophies of Kant & Hegel, and later Henri Saint-Simon, Comte, which had begun to filter back into America through its most affluent members, who themselves sought to acquire a more prestigious name and educated credentials in the Universities of Europe.
The intellectual fashion of the day became the ability to boast of a European (especially German) education and even a “Phd” (initially minted in Germany by a colleague of Hegel), and of course the most likely place of employment for such educated Elites, were within the colleges, whose institutions also sought to enhance their intellectual respectability. Soon the colleges were falling under the sway of the Hegelians and Progressives, which would be later typified by Harvard's President Elliott and Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson.
This was the initial infusion of poison which spawned the “Progressives” movement, which held a fervently materialistic and deterministic view of education. The Progressives saw the purpose of a college as being chiefly to produce students able to earn a living, which would enable the colleges to further research, all the while creating a more dis-integrated, unsystematic view of the world in general and Human Nature in particular. The Progressives can best be summed up as an strident and emotional set of convictions based on at best, a surface level pseudo-scientific analysis of issues followed by knee-jerk conclusions that recommended action to help others (whether they liked it or not) at the expense of the public, through the actions of the State, a type of Sophistic assertion that "WE know all, and know best", or what Thomas Sowell calls the "Vision of the Anointed" in his book of the same name.
Where Jefferson’s ideal was educating one to be worthy of liberty, the progressives were focused on merely liberating people at the lowest “democratic” level as possible, in order to best suit them to be guided and contribute to the society the progressives deemed most appropriate. Woodrow Wilson, prior to becoming President of the United States, was President of Princeton College, and he typified the progressive goal with his advice to the Federation of High School Teachers: "We want one class of persons to have a liberal education and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity in every society, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks." What could be better than an entire class of slaves, who didn’t realize that they were slaves?
The Progressives realized that there was no way to stop "the masses" who persisted in educating themselves, except by convincing them that their autodidactic educations were inferior to the thoroughly modern educations they would gain from entering their new high schools. Within 50 years of the sheep entering the pen, it was simplicity itself to prevent them from learning anything liberating once they got there. The new educational leaders formed their new secondary schools to offer vocational training in particular and something called industrial education in general. When the influential Douglas Commission said in 1905, that this was a "new idea" in education, they were correct, until ordinary Americans began attending secondary school, no secondary school in the civilized world had ever seen teaching its students a trade, as being a part of a worthwhile education.
The true new idea was that while the public schools posed as institutions to train citizens, the country's leading educators were insisting that pupils be trained not for citizenry, but primarily only as future workers. Charles W. Eliot, president of Harvard, even urged teachers strive to "sort" students by their "evident or probable destinies." – the start of High School guidance counselors.
Educational Reformers such as John Dewey, with their “Modern, Scientific, Democratic” methods and ideals, reassured anxious Teachers that training students for their industrial "destiny" was the heart and soul of "democratic" education. Dewey wrote in 1897 that schools must be adapted "to the circumstances, needs, and opportunities of industrial civilization." Fitting students for economic interests rather than Republican interests was far more realistic and important to their daily needs. Where Jefferson had urged education to teach future citizens "how to judge for themselves what will secure or endanger their freedom.”, Dewey said that the new object of "democratic" education was to teach every child "to perceive the essential interdependence of an industrial society." and to develop "a socialized disposition."
When Progressives then, as with the Leftists of today, say "Democratic", what they mean is "Socialistic".
With students now being taught the need for "interdependence" by an educational system geared towards producing "socialized" workers as the new "democratic" goal, History presented a problem for the curriculum. For History, political history in particular, is concerned with the thoughts and actions of men, and that didn't present the proper collective image. Jefferson had urged teaching children political history so that Americans would "know ambition under all its shapes and [be] prompt to exert their natural powers to defeat its purpose." A proper understanding of History would teach them to spot would-be despots in demagogues cloaked in popularity, and of an oligarchy masquerading as the enlightened and the elect. History would teach them that liberty always has ambitious enemies, and that just wouldn't do.
Conveniently, Dewey felt that political history was "undemocratic” precisely because it deals with the deeds and intentions of ambitious men, of the high and mighty, which common people weren't fit to consider. "Social studies," would replace such "elitest theory" with what was more appropriate for the modern division of labor ("how milk is brought to the city") and about the "evolution" of American industry. Do-Gooders such as Jane Addams wrote in her 1902 "Democracy and Social Ethics" that " American children would not only develop a cooperative disposition, but they would find their adult toil "much more exhilarating," as they fit into their place on the national industrial "team."
The Morrill Act opened the chink in the national character & government, which the government control oriented Progressives had been seeking for several decades. Prior to that, they were stymied by the fact that such actions were blatantly unconstitutional. As, on a different subject, James Madison said to congress (quoting from memory here, might be a bit off) "I find myself unable to place my finger on the text of the constitution that justifies taking funds from the people and giving them to refugees or anyone else". But in the patriotic fervor of the Civil War, where the constitution was already being overridden (necessarily so), the little infringements of the Morrill Act were seen as no big deal, and as a necessary public good.
Land Grant colleges weren't the cause of the Progressives; they were the tool that the Progressives used to spread their rot through the sales sizzle of “Progress!”. It spread the lure of a college education. Land Grant colleges popped up across the country, where it would have taken decades for private funding to become worth the while to build. Torrents of students, who otherwise (not having the drive to achieve it on their own) would not have gone to college, and not been exposed to the bad Philosophies in them, and in turn spread it further into the culture themselves. "Free" education brought far more victims and influence into the realm of the Progressives than they otherwise would have received on their own power, for several decades to come. I also think that “Free” or subsidized education, in and of itself, was and is a cause of deterioration to the American system & character - it plants the evil seed of desiring, even expecting, the unearned. People who really didn't want (or deserve) it enough to put forth the effort to earn or achieve a proper education, were suddenly, easy prey for the Progressives. This accelerated & I think intensified, the infection rate. At that point the populace and the body politic was infected, and it really didn't matter whether you went to public or private school – since all the teachers were created in the Progressive image in the Teachers Colleges mandated by the Progressive elites in order to certify them as being “Qualified” (indoctrinated with the Progressive “scientific” agenda). In a shortened matter of time, they were going to get you. It was the mechanism which enabled an essentially good Diestic Enlightenment philosophy to be driven out by an essentially bad Deterministic/Materialistic Enlightenment philosophy.
As one paper approvingly puts it (http://www.nmsu.edu/president/commentary/Newsletter8-04.pdf) the Morril Act represented a
"...profound innovation in higher education for several important reasons.- (note: promoting “without excluding other scientific and classical studies” is bureaucrat-speak for Not A Priority”)
First, it enabled the creation of accessible equalitarian “people’s”
universities. The Morrill Act reflected the belief that American social and
economic development could be best served if higher education were made broadly
available to the citizenry. Second, the Morrill Act established a public,
federally assisted system. Third, Congress chose not to use federal funds but
rather federal land as a means to encourage states to accept the land-grant
charter. Finally, the land-grants were charged by law with promoting “without
excluding other scientific and classical studies ... the liberal and practical
education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in
Once the precedence was set, it didn’t take long to be repeated. By 1874, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that local governments could use tax money to support elementary and secondary schools. By 1890 the U.S. Congress passed the second Morrill Act, which withholds grants from states that deny admission to land grant schools based on race.
The Progressive Elites (who soon abscond with the name "Liberal", after the public began to catch on to the meaning of the Socialism they espoused) which were churned out by the explosion of Public Vocational or Elective Colleges which followed, spread the views of Rousseau, Kant & Hegel, Henri Saint-Simon, Comte, Mann and later, Dewey into the populace, who in turn grew into the Legislators and Judges of the next generation. By 1917, the Smith-Hughes Act provided Federal funding for Industrial, Home Economics and Agricultural courses, and by 1936 the George-Deen Act extended the trend further, to include teacher education and training for certain other occupations.
In other words, it established the precedent for Congress to manage & control & take property at the state level, for its own purposes of the public good.
The Slide Towards Today
By 1918, every state in the Union had laws establishing compulsory education. If a citizen, a Parent, didn't have complete say so over their most valuable possessions, their children, what was the fuss over such trifles as Income Tax, the Federal Reserve, or how Senators should be elected?
Some years ago, I listened to a series of lectures on Education by Dr. Leonard Piekoff & I didn't quite understand his disgust, disdain and outright hostility towards the Teachers colleges. I, like those of a century before, couldn't imagine how you could be against colleges... seemed a bit out of character for him, so I began to take a look into the matter, and I can now only say that I am impressed with how Dr. Peikoff kept his cool so well. The history of Education in general and Teachers colleges in particular is intellectually horrifying, and a better accelerator couldn't be found, as Nitrous Oxide is to a dragster, so has the Educational establishment been to spreading the Kantian/Hegelian/Marxist slop into our culture & government and laws.
By the time of the 1930's, the concept of Education as integrated systems of thought which made the generation of the Founders possible, had turned to one which made "the old Men" of the supreme court (the thorns in the side of FDR, who tried to prevent the Welfare State), into the last holdouts of the Founders view; oddballs, who thought property rights had some strange connection with freedom and Individual Rights.
As another paper states(http://www.civiced.org/papers_butts02.html)
"If I may draw upon Lincoln's memorable phrases, it is for us the educators and
legislators "to be dedicated here to the unfinished work so nobly advanced" by
Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for
Religious Freedom, by Madison in the Preamble and the Bill of Rights of the
Constitution, and by Lincoln's view of the role of government at Gettysburg. It
is for us "to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us" begun by
Jefferson's "creed of our political faith" in which he stressed the goal of
liberty and the role of education and the people's government in sustaining it,
and which Lincoln carried on by underlining the goal of equality as a goal of
the people's national government."
The philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.
- Abraham Lincoln
The roots, and the true meaning behind what has developed into the modern "Multi-Culturism" expressed in all textbooks today, not just Social Studies, is the image of every citizen being a "team member", or more honestly a tribesman, each and every one of which is but the hapless subject of powers and dominions he does not comprehend, but which governmental agencies alone can manage for the betterment of the ecology, the economy, the community of nations. I don't think that Jefferson would recognize this concept of "good citizenship", or rather he would, as a new version of the tyranny and slavery he had fought against, merged into one new monster.
John Dewey wrote in his 1897 My Pedagogic Creed, that "I believe that the schools is primarily a social institution.... Examinations are of use only so far as they test the child/s fitness for social life..." and later in 1916 in Democracy and Education, he wrote, "There is always a danger that increased personal independence will decrease the social capacity of an individual.... It often makes an individual so insensitive in his relations to others as to develop an illusion of being really able to stand and act alone - and unnamed from of insanity which is responsible for a large part of the remedial suffering of the world.", and even more clearly in "Earlier liberalism regarded the separate and competing economic action of individuals as the means to social well-being as the end. We must reverse the perspective and see that socialized economy is the means of free individual development as the end".
What do these people of the 19th and the early 20th centuries have to do with our world today? Well, Dewey's views became the views of the Educationists, and in particularly those of the NEA, which as early as 1946, formed their educational goals in their Journal under "The Teacher and World Government" "In the struggle to establish an adequate world government, the teacher can do much to prepare the hearts and minds of children for global understanding and cooperation. At the very top of all the agencies which will assure the coming of world government must stand the school, the teacher and the organized profession."
And if that is not clear enough for you, in 1948, in "Education for International Understanding in American Schools: Suggestions and Recommendations” produced by the NEA, contained the following statements: "The idea has become established that the preservation of international peace and order may require that force be used to compel a nation to conduct its affairs within the framework of an established world system. The most modern expression of this doctrine of collective security is in the United Nations Charter. Many persons believe that enduring peace cannot be achieved so long as the nation-state system continues as at present constituted. It is a system of international anarchy, a species of jungle warfare. Enduring peace cannot be attained until the nation-states surrender to a world organization the exercise of jurisdiction over those problems with which they have found themselves unable to deal singly in the past."
Freedom has no place in such a philosophy, and consequently America has no place in such a philosophy. If you wonder why the Leftists of the United Nations, and of our own countrymen seem to be Anti-American, it is because they are.
The supreme irony is that out of the Civil War which Lincoln fought to preserve the Union, came legislation to enforce and mandate Public Education, which Jefferson had proposed as a way of preserving a people worthy of, and able to hold onto their Freedom; and it has become the instrument which has created the Educators, Legislators, Judges and Executives who have come so perilously close to destroying it.
I think Shakespeare was a bit shortsighted when we said "First thing we do is hang all the Lawyers"... I'm more inclined to H.L. Mencken, who observed, "a startling and dramatic improvement in American education requires only that we hang all the professors and burn down the schools".