November 25, 2007 - 10:00 pm
A touching letter arrived last week from a woman in Henderson.
“To the editor: The article in today’s (Nov. 9) Review-Journal about” (a local elementary school principal allegedly) “putting a child in a dark closet brings back a horrible memory. My first day of kindergarten, which was 65 years ago in Detroit, was one which I have never forgotten.
“When my mother left me that very first day, I was scared and so I cried. I cried so much that the teacher put me in the coat closet and left me there all morning. The only light was the light from under the door. There were lots of coats hanging because it was February. Maybe the light from under the door caused me to think all those coats were shadows of people.
“To this day, I hate the dark. I sleep with two small lights, I must always have my head facing the hall so I can see out, and I am very claustrophobic. That is one of the meanest things that can be done to a small child for punishment.”
And here I thought the mandatory government youth camps were “for the good of the children.”
On Nov. 19, a group called “ONE: The Campaign to Make Poverty History” placed a full-page ad in the Review-Journal, urging Nevadans to demand that the current crop of presidential candidates to “go on the record on where you stand on fighting extreme poverty and global disease that affect the one billion people around the world.”
The group urges candidates to take a number of stands, including an embrace of “universal primary education.”
Notice it doesn’t say “universal literacy.” It seeks plans to impose “universal primary education” — which any government or U.N. bureaucrat worth her salt will interpret as a call for universal mandatory state-run schools.
The two are not identical.
Tracing the way Prussian-style statist education was brought to this country in the early 19th century by Horace Mann and his associates, Samuel L. Blumenfeld, a research fellow at the Institute for Humane Studies, made clear in his 1981 book “Is Public Education Necessary?” that the whole scheme was never about improving literacy, that “literacy in America was higher before compulsory public education than it is today. …”
Digging into a January, 1828 edition of the American Journal of Education, Mr. Blumenfeld found an indigenous confirmation of what the visiting Alexis de Tocqueville was to confirm in 1831 about American literacy rates prior to the institution of the compulsory government school:
“There is no country, (it is often said), where the means of intelligence are so generally enjoyed by all ranks and where knowledge is so generally diffused among the lower orders of the community, as in our own,” the Journal reported. “With us a newspaper is the daily fare of almost every meal in almost every family.”
No, “The reasons why this country adopted compulsory public education really had very little to do with education,” Mr. Blumenfeld discovered. The founders of our public schools had something much bigger in mind: nothing less than the elimination — through careful indoctrination of the young — of the old pattern of selfishness and independent thought and action that had doomed their early communist experiments in places such as New Harmony, on the banks of the Wabash.
Mr. Blumenfeld concluded his historic 250-page book as follows:
“After more than a hundred years of universal public education, we can say that it nowhere resembles the utopian vision that drove its proponents to create it. … It has turned education into a quagmire of conflicting interests, ideologies and purposes, and created a bureaucracy that permits virtually no real learning to take place. …
“The only bright spot in the whole picture,” Mr. Blumenfeld continued, “is the technological wonder that capitalism has brought to mankind. ,,, Neither liberal altruism, not universal public education, nor socialism lifted the poor from their lower depths. Capitalism did.
“Is public education necessary?” Mr. Blumenfeld asks. “The answer is obvious; it was not needed then, and it is certainly not needed today. Schools are necessary, but they can be created by free enterprise today as they were before the public school movement achieved its fraudulent state monopoly in education. …The failure of public education is the failure of statism as a political philosophy. It has been tried. It has been found wanting.”
Learning and education are wonderful. The question is whether it’s wise to allow this truism to justify the creation of a vast schooling monopoly and unionized jobs program for reliably thankful socialist worker-voters by a state which has obvious incentives to use the resultant vastly expensive propaganda academies to turn a once free people into a docile and malleable mob, eager to trade our dwindling wealth and freedoms for the largely mythological “services” of a burgeoning government master that sends us shrieking from pillar to post, seeking “protection” from global warming or Iranian nuclear power plants or whatever it is they’ve dreamed up this month.
For “The whole aim of practical politics,” as the great iconoclast H.L. Mencken warned us, 80 years ago, “is to keep the populace alarmed — and thus clamorous to be led to safety — by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
Reform? One wave of “reform” has followed another for generations. An institution cannot be “reformed” if its bad results are inherent in its underlying structure.
We cannot see that the problem is the government schools, because after a century and a half we find it hard to imagine what our society would be like without them.
But we must try.
We recoil in horror from the practices of more “primitive” peoples who routinely subject their children to genital mutilation and other painful rituals, insisting the continuity of such practices is necessary to maintain their cultures. Yet how much more are each succeeding American generation’s views and values warped to accept the “normalcy” of collectivism, enforced mediocrity, and government dependence by 10 to 15 years of incarceration in these state Conformity Camps?
Each year millions of moms wipe away tears as they launch their firstborn 5 or 6-year-olds into the terrifying maw of this trillion-dollar government make-work program, inhabited by older inmates already inured to the culture of violence, toadying, extortion and intimidation. Admonished to be brave, these courageous little troopers do their best to adjust to a frightening and inherently insane world of clanging bells and rushing bodies, reeking of poster paints and floor-sweeping compound and cafeteria mashed potatoes.
Failing, they burst into tears, and — like our 71-year-old correspondent from Henderson — quickly learn indelible lessons about how “the system” deals with those who won’t knuckle down, “get with the program,” learn to tease and torture and steal the lunch money of the next smallest kid in line.
We must do the unthinkable. We must destroy the tax-funded, government-run, compulsory public schools.
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the daily Las Vegas Review-Journal and author of the novel “The Black Arrow.”VIN SUPRYNOWICZMORE COLUMNS