by John Taylor Gatto
Chapter 11 of The Underground History of American Public Education
The thesis I venture to submit to you is as follows: That during the past forty or fifty years those who are responsible for education have progressively removed from the curriculum of studies the Western culture which produced the modern democratic state; That the schools and colleges have, therefore, been sending out into the world men who no longer understand the creative principle of the society in which they must live; That deprived of their cultural tradition, the newly educated Western men no longer possess in the form and substance of their own minds and spirits and ideas, the premises, the rationale, the logic, the method, the values of the deposited wisdom which are the genius of the development of Western civilization; That the prevailing education is destined, if it continues, to destroy Western civilization and is in fact destroying it.
I realize quite well that this thesis constitutes a sweeping indictment of modern education. But I believe the indictment is justified and here is a prima facie case for entering this indictment.
~ Walter Lippmann, speaking before the Association for the Advancement of Science, December 29, 1940
The Struggle For Homogeneity
In 1882, an Atlantic Monthly writer predicted a coming struggle for preservation of the American social order. European immigrants were polarizing the country, upsetting the “homogeneity on which free government must rest.” That idea of a necessary homogeneity made it certain that all lanes out of the 1880s led to orthodoxy on a national scale. There was to be an official American highway, its roadbed built from police manuals and schoolteacher training texts. Citizens would now be graded against the official standard, up to the highest mark, “100 percent American.”
In the thirty years between 1890 and 1920, the original idea of America as a cosmopolitan association of peoples, each with its own integrity, gave way to urgent calls for national unity. Even before WWI added its own shrill hysterics to the national project of regimentation, new social agencies were in full cry on every front, aggressively taking the battle of Americanization to millions of bewildered immigrants and their children.