There are a variety of obstacles homeschoolers may face, but I’m finding one to be particularly frustrating. It causes people to doubt themselves, to be anxious and fearful, to quit, or never even start.
It’s a simple yet significant lack of knowledge of history.
Most of us have been raised within the school system bubble to believe it is THE way to enlightenment and success in the future. And yet, none of us are ever taught about the circumstances or motivations that created the standardized system for the general population. Not in any detail, anyway. I’m talking about modern schooling specifically here (c. 1890 to present).
Over the years, I’ve gone in search of answers in history as to why it is we do what we do even when it doesn’t work or seems contradictory. Why are we so incredibly devoted to methods and philosophies that rarely deliver or cause more problems than they solve? What I found in the writings and speeches of the compulsory school movement was a mixed bag of ideas—many of them shocking! If only there had been an internet back then…
The book I’m currently writing has a section explaining the origins and development of modern schooling. Using as many primary resources as possible and the very words of those involved, I convey how and why the system came about.
It is absolutely necessary to understand this if we are to break out of the “training up” we’ve had and free ourselves to follow God’s lead in learning.
Although, it’s still a work-in-progress, I’ve decided to share an excerpt of one of my history chapters. Hopefully, it will prompt questions. You can visit the Mentor’s Corner and check out some of the resources for yourself.
This post is a little long, but it’s really important. I hope you’ll take a moment…
Note: As you’ll see, I like to show Bible references in red and the quotations of man in blue. I know this is unusual, but it allows one to really take in God’s word as it compares to man’s.
(Excerpt from Chapter 11. The Untold Story in a Nutshell: Part 2 – Down the Rabbit Hole)
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. (Romans 16:17-18).
If there was no real education crisis in this country, then why the persistent push for a school system that few citizens wanted? Well, several factors were in play. One stemmed from a massive influx of immigrants during the 19th Century. Millions of people from different cultures came pouring into the “melting pot,” only they weren’t exactly melting. As large numbers of the foreign-born have come to our shores, and particularly from countries where general education is not common and where the Anglo-Saxon conception of law, order, government, and public and private decency do not prevail, a new and still greater burden has been placed on all the educative forces of society to try to impart to these new peoples, and their children, something of the method and the meaning of our democratic life. (Public Education in the United States; Ellwood P. Cubberley; 1919; pg. 357). These families established neighborhood schools in which traditions, religious beliefs, and native languages were being preserved. To complicate matters for Universities, the coursework and graduation requirements varied from school to school, so the response of Academia—the call for common standards—was certainly understandable.
A second dynamic came out of the Industrial Revolution as man’s dreams took form. What was impossible now seemed possible, if not now then soon. Manufacturing cities swelled with people who left the agricultural centers of yesteryear in pursuit of jobs and opportunity. The once thriving rural communities broke apart and the diverse learning options found in those places eventually disappeared from the educational landscape. Instead, a more narrowly focused education was desired for compartmentalized factory workers. And, of course, the indomitable spirit of American individualism that built this nation would have to yield itself to the new doctrines of scientific management. It wasn’t long before the side effects of these changes were noticeably felt. …the worker in every field of trade and industry tends more and more to become a cog in the machine, and to lose sight of his part in the industrial processes and his place in our industrial and civic and national life. The effect of such conditions on the family has been very noticeable, and in some respects very unfortunate. (Cubberley, pg. 349).
Still, there was a third and more sinister agent leading the charge for universal schooling. Quietly, it had slipped in through a window opened by the Enlightenment, and it was busy turning many away from the spiritual in favor of intellectual pursuits. In time, our own logic and reasoning was used in place of God’s wisdom, and thinkers like Darwin, Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche were becoming the heroes of the day. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. (Friedrich Nietzsche; The Gay Science, Section 125, tr. Walter Kaufmann). Utopian philosophy in particular, with its promise of a harmoniously communal society, was popular among the scholarly elite. With this in mind, they invested “philanthropically” in projects and studies aimed at perfecting mankind. A perfect example of this is John D. Rockefeller’s funding of studies in eugenics1. Another is the development of standardized schooling for the masses. In our little microcosm of life, the children shall form an ideal society. Their life shall be developed and perfected individually through a close-knit social life. (The Occasional Papers, No. 1; pg. 12). Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Corinthians 1:20).
By the end of the 19th Century, the attitude of the influential class toward educating the public had taken a drastic turn away from individual development. The old Protestant-inspired principles of personal action and accountability were traded in for an allegiance to a collective. And, why not? The fruits of factory-style management had improved lives, built empires, and made fortunes. Surely education would be more efficient and yield a more consistent product if the same approach was applied. Why not keep this ball rolling? What could possibly go wrong?
Behold! The conveyor belt approach to learning was born!
Yes, through science and invention America was riding a giant wave of progress into the 20th Century. From the railroad to the airplane, the telegraph to the telephone—one gain was followed by another. The Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution had opened our eyes to new possibilities for this world, and with that, the serpent’s promise of equality with God was dangled before us once again. In the midst of it all, an opportunity for school reform presented itself and those with the means to act did just that. Between 1896 and 1920, a small group of industrialists, financiers, together with their private charitable foundations, subsidized university chairs, university researchers, and school administrators spent more money on forced schooling than the government itself did. (John Taylor Gatto, The Underground History of American Education).
They were the ones pushing for a uniform school system, and from where they stood in history, the future was theirs to define.
1 Eugenics is defined as “The science of improving the population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics.” (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/eugenics)
(End of Excerpt)
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I welcome comments and conversation.
Also, For Your Information:
**The Occasional Papers cited were reports and writings of The General Education Board – a John D. Rockefeller endeavor that was chartered by Congress to promote compulsory education across the United States.
***Ellwood P. Cubberley was Dean in the Stanford Graduate School of Education – definitely an insider who wrote quite honestly about the development and effects of public education.
**If you want an incredibly thorough history of education that follows its development over a longer period of time, I highly recommend John Taylor Gatto’s The Underground History of American Education.