Bill Kauffman on Human Resources Processing Factories (aka Publik Skools)
The tandem of Silver and Ross propose to make all-day kindergarten mandatory for New York’s alarmingly unregulated five-year-olds. And taking a cue from the Carnegie Corporation’s Task Force on Learning in the Primary Grades, which recommended the incarceration in school of every three and four-year-old in America, Silver and Ross urged the enrollment of New York’s four-year-olds in what the speaker infelicitously terms "a regiment of educational exposure."
Well, this is awfully generous of the state, offering to take our tykes off our hands. True, the unspoken assumption behind herding tots into government factories is that, if left to the tender mercies of mom and dad, New York’s black kids will grow up to be menacing felons, and the whites will mature into slack-jawed cretins. Neither group makes very good soldiers or Microsoft employees. And if we’re going to be cynical about it and look this gift horse in the mouth, we might recall Henry Adams’s statement that "all State education is a sort of dynamo machine for polarizing the popular mind; for turning and holding its lines of force in the direction supposed to be most effective for state purposes." ...
The subordination of American life to the demands of military empire sapped the vital link between families and their neighborhood schools. Consolidation--the merging of small district academies into large schools to which rural children must travel by bus--was one of the biggest saps. The king of consolidation was James Bryant Conant, the Harvard University president who had been a major in the Army’s Chemical Warfare Service during the First World War and an administrator of the Manhattan Project during the second.
After devoting the best years of his life to devising ever more horrific methods of slaughtering people he’d never met, Dr. Conant turned his attentions upon American schoolchildren. Feasting on a fat grant from the Carnegie Corporation (whose thumb prints always seem to be at the scene of the crime), Conant recommended "the elimination of the small high school"; no school with fewer than 400 students should be allowed to exist. "Not many years ago," Conant marveled, "a considerable body of opinion in this country . . . thought that what happened to children was a matter for the parents to decide. The state should not come between a father and his son. . . . These arguments would sound archaic today." The fewer the schools and the more uniform the curriculum, as Conant understood, the more desultory parental input would be and the easier it would be to break down America’s stubborn regional differences and create a standardized Cold War kiddie.
The Conant view, if I may be permitted a slight caricature, is that the child belongs to the state, not the parent: he is a little soldier in a 13-year boot camp who will, if necessary, be bused 50 miles to gleaming, soulless, hyper-efficient super schools, where he can be programmed to be a "productive worker" who can "meet the challenges of our global responsibilities/the space race/the 21st century/the interdependent economy" or whatever will-o-the-wisp our rulers have us chasing today. The child is a cog, a drone, a spoke--all in all, he’s just another brick in the wall. He or she is everything but a son or daughter.
Here in Arkansas, our compassionate/big government conservative governor, Mike Huckabee, is a prominent advocate of doing just what Conant advocated: shutting down the small schools. Meanwhile, up here in the northwest corner of the state, the schools that get shut down in the name of "progress" are usually old neighborhood schools, and the new schools that get built (surprise, surprise, surprise!) just happen to serve real estate mogul Jim Lindsey's new subdivisions. Every one of his real estate signs should include a notice "Your taxes make my property more valuable--Thanks!"
Addendum. Kauffman's impolitic remarks on menacing felons and slack-jawed cretins reminds me of something I've observed in the past: the two groups most subject to constant surveillance and harassment by the drug war are inner city blacks and rural whites. Those are also the two demographics in our society, as it happens, that are least well socialized to have a "good attitude toward authority" and cheerfully take direction from men in suits. These two groups will have to be embraced by any coalition to break the power of the corporate state, if it ever hopes to be successful. And, again, these groups are disproportionately disinfranchised and subject to social control by the single most authoritarian force in American society over the past thirty years. As Lenin might say: comrades, this is no accident.
education , public schools