As the reform pattern of 'reform, endorse, excuse and reform again' was busily churning out one new 'plan' after another over the course of the 19th Century and into the 20th - from the Boston Public School Plan, on up to the St. Louis plan, the Cincinatti plan, etc., - individual complaints about their graduates' level of knowledge and competence, would periodically garner an uncomfortable amount of negative public attention. When that happened a little something extra was needed to reassure the public that their schools would 'get back to basics!', and justify doubling down with still larger reform efforts. During one of those peak periods of complaints, the NEA approached Harvard's longest serving president in 1892, the education reformer Charles W. Eliot, to head up a task force of scholars for their recommendations on how best to go about 'fixing secondary education'.
The 'Committee of Ten', as it came to be called, dutifully convened, and deliberated, and studied, sent many letters back and forth over the need for more centralizing of power (some of that captured here), as well as trivializing traditional literature into factually identifiable trivia which he promised would strengthen 'traditional scholarship', while also raising the profile of the new methods (elective classes, textbooks, testing, etc.), which, echoing the rhetoric of Pro-Regressives such as Teddy Roosevelt & Woodrow Wilson, was just the sort of thing that helped folks to feel very modern in comparison to our bewigged Founding Fathers of 'a century ago!'. The report they returned, was full of what once would've been considered an insult to any self-respecting school teacher, that "...The principal end of all education is training....". He added several other such efficient observations, as:
"...As studies in language and in the natural sciences are best adapted to cultivate the habits of observation; as mathematics are the traditional training of the reasoning faculties; so history and its allied branches are better adapted than any other studies to promote the invaluable mental power which we call judgment...", and so on. As comparatively good as that passage might sound to us today, a closer look reveals how far the shift away from True North had already gone - notice that the statement doesn't mention anything about truth or understanding; instead, it aligns more with the belief that 'knowledge is power', which was Thomas 'life is nasty, brutish and short' Hobbes' summary of the views of his master, Sir Francis Bacon. Interestingly, Elliott was the one who first promoted the pre-cursor of a 'Great Books Program', with his famous 'five foot shelf of books', but his purpose in both was not to promote or revive the traditional understanding that 'knowledge serves understanding and deepens virtue and wisdom', but that 'knowledge is power' in everything from being useful cocktail party banter, to technical knowhow, to acquiring rhetorically 'useful things to know', which came to be seen as the uses of 'The Classics', views which would later be easily made to serve postmodern & critical studies attacks upon them as 'meaningless knowledge' - not because Elliott would have agreed with the post-modernists, but because the absence of truth & virtue that he promoted, reinforced the vacuum that would become most useful to them.
As far as the NEA was concerned at that point though (Samuel Blumenfeld's book 'NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education' is an eye-opener (available online here)), what the Committee of Ten had proposed was old news which they'd already normalized, and what they wanted was not more of the same 'our new methods help promote traditional scholarship', but something much more 'New! Progressive!'. And so, as with our periodic 'rediscovery' that Phonics works better than 'look-and-say' which prompts new studies that divert public attention and are soon forgotten, the NEA first promoted the Elliot Commission's recommendations, then let them fade from memory with no action taken. In just a few years though, in that fateful year of 1913, they organized yet another new effort in the 'Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education', a.k.a. The Gang of Twenty-seven. The new commission no longer felt the need to bother too much with the stodgy 'traditional scholarship' of scholars like Charles W. Eliot, who still pretended to value education in the old sense, and instead loaded itself up with mostly educational bureaucrats who were after 'progress!', at all costs. Emphasizing their break with the past, as The Gang of Twenty-seven looked upon 'The Committee of Ten', and, in Richard Mitchell's words in The Graves of Academe, they had:
"... found that proposal an elitist's dream. They concluded, in other words, that precious few schoolchildren were capable of the pursuit of knowledge and the exercise of the mind in the cause of judgment. That, of course, turned out to be the most momentous self-fulfilling prophecy of our century. It is also a splendid example of the muddled thought out of which established educational practice derives its theories. The proposals of the Eliot report are deemed elitist because they presume that most schoolchildren are generally capable of the mastery of subject matter and intellectual skill; the proposals of the Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education, on the other hand, are ``democratic'' in presuming that most schoolchildren are not capable of such things and should stick to homemaking and the manual arts...." [BTW, if you noticed how that last line sounds a lot like Equity in action, good for you, 2 points to Hufflepuff], and so rather than fussing on about 'rigorous training of the mind in college', their final report, issued in 1918 as 'Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education', Mitchell observed:
"... It rejected the elitist and undemocratic education of the dark past and provided in its place ``preparation for effective living...", where 'effective living' meant keeping your mind free of 'elitist' notions of 'inalienable truths', 'individual rights', and those stuffy 'old & outmoded' works of literature that might put such notions in your head, so that 'we' could focus instead on more useful skills to 'get a good job!', and helped to usher in ever more 'useful classes' to further edge out those paths to an actual education which still remained (such as Latin and Logic which were still common classes at the opening of the 20th Century), while expanding the power of those who know best, to keep those who don't, comfortably ignorant. Doing so also ushered in important new "...objectives of education...", which began with... Health.
When they say the silent part out loud - listen
Funny how the 'progressives' always had an inkling that 'health' would help in building a royal road to power. Elwood P. Cubberley, again, was a leader in proposing schools to wield 'Health' with official authority in the community,
"...The work of health supervision in our schools is as yet, generally speaking, only in its beginnings, but that the service will be very materially extended in the future seems practically certain. The argument that it invades the rights of the home is on a par with the arguments against compulsory school attendance and prescribed courses of study. A generation ago compulsory school attendance was regarded as a meddlesome interference with the rights of parents to do with their children as they saw fit, and a million illiterate adults among us today stand as a witness to the value of such a theory...", which prepared the foundational assumptions that would prepare the way for SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) being written into federal law in the 1990s.
|Today's 'norms', are old 'Progressive' reforms|
“Each year the child is coming to belong more to the State and less and less to the parent.”That is the education reformer's primary goal, and we wouldn't be so surprised by it today if we'd pay closer attention to what reformers - from Rousseau, to Marx, to Dewey, to today's gender bending mutilators - have been reforming us towards along, as when Horace Mann said as much sixty some years earlier in 1848, in his 'Lectures on education', that:
"...We, then, who are engaged in the sacred cause of education, are entitled to look upon all parents as having given hostages to our cause;..."Neither should we be surprised to learn that additional health based powers are beginning to be realized through our schools by way of 'Trauma-Informed SEL'. As described by leading SEL survey data-miner Panorama Ed, and as implemented in Washington State K-12 (I highly recommend listening to New Discourses Bullets: 'Systemic Trauma and Harm'), it began with promoting the idea that 'microaggressions' can be considered a form of violence, perhaps even warranting educators to facilitate government intervention, or, saying the quiet part out loud: Helping the child to come to belong more to the State and less and less to the parent. .
The reformers of education have always fervently believed that their 'good intentions' are just the ends they need to justify whatever means they deem as being necessary 'for the greater good' as they see it. And though they occasionally do say the silent part out loud, there's another aspect of their purposes that we've been deafened to, and that needs to be stated as loudly as possible today, that these reformers who delight in the child coming to belong more and more to the state, are people who increasingly have no fondness or desire for anyone reasoning well in a state of liberty, preferring instead to instill in their students a zeal for 'organized social action' under the auspices of the state - same goal, different path.
The wise person who desires the liberty of living a good life in society with others, is who traditional education's methods of learning grammar and studying literature through identifying plot, theme, etc., were designed to benefit. But, as seen in the previous post, valuing liberty and the individual choices that lead to a life worth living, are what Dewey & Co. saw, and his successors today still see, as being 'anti-social', and so they used our educational systems to progressively eliminate the thinking and behavior that concerned itself with liberty and individual rights, by developing an Americanized form of Fichte's scientific method for preventing 'too much thinking'.
The purpose of the educational system reforms which began to be developed here in the early 1800s, was (and is) to prevent, or at least reduce, occasions of 'wrong think' (AKA: consideration of timeless truths) in students' lives in and after graduating from school. Doing so required 'installing' the 'answer that killed the question' into student's thinking through uninteresting materials and tests which students would find answers to that were satisfying enough that they wouldn't feel the need to give such matters further consideration for themselves. To do that required reversing what had been our school's primary task of introducing students to that literature which led them past easy answers and into questioning their way out of those caves of ignorance that are otherwise too easily imposed upon us, and instead it became priority #1 of the schools to gradually, progressively, sideline all vestiges of Homer, The Bible, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Virgil, Cicero, Dante, Milton, Shakespeare, etc., as being 'elitist', boring, and useless to 'the greater good', while quietly removing them from the curriculum and the school library (what remains in yours?), while simultaneously promoting counter-literate schemes such as the 'Look-And-Say' method of reading, which lamed their students' ability to read such literature in a thoughtful manner on their own (detailed in the previous post).
Accordingly, the curriculums that schools replaced the jewels of Western Civilization with, were an uninteresting assemblage of issues, key facts, names and dates, presented in the mediocre and stultifying language of textbooks written by committees of experts, whose pre-chewed answers and 'right responses' are what are installed by training students to memorize them for answers to tests, rather than bothering to come to their own conclusions about them. Answers and attitudes that are reinforced through successive quizzes, tests, and standardized testing ranging from the local varieties, to the state, and national level, with ACTs & SATs of today. Elwood P. Cubberley, again, was one of the founders and earliest promotors of national Standardized Testing, and I assure you, he did so with the conviction that it would serve his and the State's purposes for your child coming to belong more to the state, than to their parents.
The reformers were and are very much aware that the 'Straight A!' students which their educational system seeks to produce are not what our 'anti-social' Founders would've regarded as being educated, neither would Albert Jay Knock's visiting Italian nobleman (who'd asked why he'd met no educated Americans, who were educated after 1895). Of those most successful in our schools today, it is becoming expected that the
"... “Valedictorians aren’t likely to be the future’s visionaries . . . they typically settle into the system instead of shaking it up.”...", as the grades and test scores of 'Straight A!' students, SAT/ACT stars, and Valedictorians, incline them towards 'organized social-action' by being the most malleable and conformist to those 'key facts' required for benefitting 'the greater good'. Our 'best and brightest' are smoothly enter into the approved ranks of power and influence, unlikely to rise too high within them, while efficiently continuing to promote the organized social actions of those who know best.
In just three generational steps away from our Founding Reformers in Webster & Dr. Rush, their good intentions of 'Go to school, get good grades to get a good job!', had enabled first Horace Mann, then Dr. Elliot, then John Dewey & Cubberley, to implement enough 'practical' changes that our schools key lessons teach us to forego wisdom and truth for apparent utility, which led to the mistaking of information for understanding, data for principles, quantity for quality, and to mistake the recalling of other people's answers, as being the same as understanding the questions which they were answers to, so as to persist whatever seemed most useful upon society for 'the greater good'.
Those three generations of reformers took us from being the people that Jefferson presumed to be so familiar with Aristotle, Cicero, and other classics that the Declaration of Independence needed only to evoke the '...harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or in the elementary books of public right...' for them to recognize what the gathering threat that tyranny poses to the liberty they valued, into being a people for whom it had become common to speak of 'Educators' as being the active hand of 'democratic government' in every home and association in your community (see Dewey's 'Democracy and Education' which was adored in the early USSR), and in that context, the knowledge, content, and individuality which the original Founding Reformers had intended their reforms to strengthen, were summarily dismissed by the new reformers, using the very means - education - that our Founders had trusted their preservation to. Dewey expressed that sentiment with:
"...Each generation is inclined to educate its young so as to get along in the present world instead of with a view to the proper end of education: the promotion of the best possible realization of humanity as humanity. Parents educate their children so that they may get on; princes educate their subjects as instruments of their own purposes..."The new reformers - and whether they're Progressive, Socialist, Marxist, Crony-Capitalists of the Left and Right, are distinctions without a meaningful difference here, which is why I use Pro-Regressive for short - saw 'We The People' as creatures in need of their expertise, and used lowly parents & powerful princes desire for their kids to 'succeed' and be useful, as a means for experts such as themselves to shape 'We The People's lives to fit within their vision for them. Reason and history both show that only inhumanity can follow from that, but that's something which pragmatic materialists who deride principles and truth, are unlikely and unwilling to grasp.
Similar ideals and interests drove what Woodrow Wilson was promoting when still president of Princeton University in 1909, when he told the Federation of High School Teachers, that critical to the purpose of teaching:
"...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..."My Troll and I both agree that that speech should be read carefully, but where we disagree, is in taking his words at face value. He'd like you to go no further than the seemingly sensible, even conservative sounding lines, whereas I think you should refuse to sever those phrases from their roots in his wider views and writings, and if you pay attention to how the oft repeated theme of 'we want' pervades this speech and his wider writings, you'll begin to notice what it is that those who view themselves as being 'those who know best', desired (for you, who don't know enough). They have always intended to decide who to staff the nation with, because, as Wilson repeatedly points out in his speeches and books, the 'people' cannot be trusted to decide what to do with their own lives (and people thinking of their 'own lives', is something that he, and Dewey, and the rest, viewed as being 'anti-social' by nature), but lucky for us he knew that they were just the right people to 'help' determine who of us should go where, do what, and how and when they might permit our doing it, 'for the greater good' they had in mind for us.
In classic reformer manner, the 'innovative' classes of 'Home Economics', 'Shop Class', 'Automotive', which they'd added into the course schedules in the early 1900s, in order to force out still more of the 'useless' classes in literature, history, and Latin, from the schools' schedules, until decades later those same classes, which were at least of some practical reality based utility in themselves, have themselves been forced from the course schedules in favor of more activist oriented classes on 'life skills', or STEM offerings to raise test scores, which has not only contributed to the current crop of illiterate social justice warriors that we're contending with today, but to a backlash of calls for 'back to basics!' with Home Ec. and Shop Classes, which is but the rinse & repeat of the school reform cycle.
Neither should it be surprising that our Founding Reformer's paths of good intentions have led to such a very different destination than they'd intended, for knowingly or not they attempted to reverse cause & effect, and so introduced the pursuit of power where the love of wisdom should have been. The logical progression of effects to those causes led directly to the point where someone like James E. Russell (another weasel extraordinaire), when as head of Columbia University Teachers College, used his 1905 address, "The Trend in American Education", to tout the European, and particularly the Prussian and German methods of public education, as he fretted about what might result in our 'Social Democracy' from 'the wrong' sort of students being 'led out' (educare, educate, 'to lead out') of the cave (where he thought they belonged), and into the ability to know their own minds and make their own choices (*gasp* - what if they 'choose wrong!?') and interfere with the ordered society which he, they, were using education to create amongst us. Pay attention:
"...How can a nation endure that deliberately seeks to rouse ambitions and aspirations in the oncoming generations which in the nature of events cannot possibly be fulfilled? If the chief object of government be to promote civil order and social stability, how can we justify our practice in schooling the masses in precisely the same manner as we do those who are to be our leaders?..."Again, as with Wilson's speech, if you read past the sensible sounding distractions and pay attention to what the sum of it must mean in practice, you'll find that they - Wilson, Russell, Dewey, along with the many more once famous names & plans of Lester Ward, Cubberley, and on back to Fichte before them - although they're mostly forgotten now, it is still their ideas that are aiding their successors today in determining who should be permitted to have hopes & dreams, and what they should and should not be. The sum of those 'fogotten ideas' are actively orienting us towards a very different star than the 'True North' of what is right and true which America was founded upon and through, orienting us away from liberty, and towards that sulphureous destination of good intentions which is incompatible with the ideals that American society, our Constitution, and the Rule of Law, depend upon, and cannot continue for long without.
Knowledge, Power, and Corruption
"...Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely..."Where that phrase comes from, is a letter that the historian Lord Acton wrote to his friend Bishop Mandell Creighton, who was the editor of the English Historical Review, and its warning against the corrupting nature of power wasn't confined to only those who'd amassed political power. The reason for the letter that Acton wrote, was to criticize how Creighton had treated the abuses & crimes of popes & kings less harshly than those of other men, and Acton was adamantly opposed to his doing so. The passage the phrase comes from, is:
"...Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority, still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it..."While Acton explicitly referred to the corruption of popes and kings through using the power & influence of their office for improper ends, he was also implicitly warning the Bishop against using the power & influence of his own office as editor, to affect the judgement of the readers of the English Historical Review - not so much because its readers might be getting historic facts wrong, but because what Creighton found pleasing to impart to his readers was historically irresponsible (as Knowledge, with some of its truth deliberately removed, always is) and could negatively influence their present and future thoughts and actions by presenting that misrepresentation as a valid lesson of history, and that lesson of history is one that is still very applicable to our day.
There are plenty of political figures today who deserve to be condemned for abusing their power and influence, but we should be at least as much if not more concerned with how our mostly anonymous academic men with pens are abusing their power and influence by deliberately omitting or altering the content and context of our school's textbooks & lessons, as they've done in everything from the 1619 Project, to the malicious stocking of school libraries bookshelves, to the mind altering lessons of social & emotional 'competencies' and math that doesn't add up, in order to ideologically influence how students will think and behave when living their lives out in the real world.
These 'education professionals' who wield a power of influence that's no longer limited by either a regard for what is true, or the preferences of the community they supposedly represent, have cast off western civilization's history & literature so as to fill our schools' textbooks & lessons with only those 'key facts' that they've deemed to be worthy of being known, while making degrees and diplomas subject to testing that shows how well their narrative has been ingested, in a process that corrupts not only themselves (absolutely), but also their hapless students, and our society at large. Doubtless it's the most clever and attentive of our students that are most at risk of becoming corrupted in how they go about their thinking - how many of those who listened to their parent's advice to 'study hard in school to get a good job!', are the ones today who condemn those speaking out about our schools' hostility to freedom of speech and hyper-focus on race & sex, as being the actions of violent and terroristic extremists, while excusing and even promoting the physical violence of their likeminded fellows when rioting in the streets, as being a protected form of 'speech' which everyone else must be forced to accept and endure?
We need to look past the headline making distractions of lies and crudities that are present in our schools and their libraries, and give greater consideration to why those lies and crudities are there - and what isn't there because they are. Ignorance of Western Civilizations' means of thinking upon and being guided by timeless truths, is the logical and intended outcome of an 'education' that does not educate - the issue is less about what they are being exposed to, than what they are not, and why.
What purpose does education serve? Unless we correct our answer to that 'Why', nothing will meaningfully change, because it cannot. Unfortunately, the relationship between the 'what', the 'how', and the 'why', is usually lost on us today, Left & Right, as can be seen in most peoples' enthusiastic 'thumbs up👍!' to a phrase often attributed to John Dewey (his actually went further & was much worse), or Margaret Mead, but regardless of who first said it, it's made it into common wizdumb:
'Schools should teach children not what to think but how to think!', not noticing that what a student is taught, is a means to teaching the student how to think - and both 'what' and 'how' are chosen to serve a purpose, and unless the correct 'why' is also supplied, we'll only fool ourselves into thinking that the problems of our educational system have actually been 'fixed', and as we congratulate ourselves and return our attention to other matters, that guiding purpose will quickly reassert itself and new 'what's and 'how's will begin being taught in service to it, as it has, over and over and over again, over the course of over two hundred years of 'education reform!'. You might think the folly of that would have been demonstrated to us by now, but that is the power of ignorance - not simply error, but the absence of understanding - and that power too, corrupts absolutely.
No matter how pragmatically sensible that "...teach not what to think but how to think..." might appear ("...Memorization of facts is pointless in a world where everyone carries around the entire knowledge base of the human species on their person..."), the activist pro-regressive agenda is installed into students' minds by making a muddle of how they think; crude and pornographic materials are made available to underage kids in order to affect how they think; and the fewer accurate facts and clear principles that they are given to think with, the more easily manipulated by unsound and emotionally targeted propaganda, they will become - our schools are focusing on how to think, and that's a big part of the problem!
The 'why' that's structured behind that 'how', is what we'll begin taking a closer look at in the next post.