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Stupefying America

By Alan Caruba
web posted June 1, 2009

If you have a suspicion that many of your fellow Americans are too stupid to trust with the great affairs of this nation, you might just be right, but you might not know why.

Take a look at the choices television offers. Do you ever wonder why shows featuring stupid people or animated characters are so popular? I cite The Simpsons, Family Guy, Two and a Half Men, My Name is Earl, et al. Why do we enjoy laughing at stupid people? Does it make us feel smarter?

Does the shallowness of so much that passes for entertainment or even passing itself off as educational actually reflect the lives of those watching? The answer is probably yes and they didn't get that way by accident. The education system of America has been deliberately fashioned to create a docile, easily controlled population. And that means YOU.

There is a book available that explains why "Every single school day in America, 7,000 students drop out, some confused, some angry, but all are brave…What does it say to us that a million and a quarter young people a year don't want to be in classrooms, don't want to be there so much they're willing to endure scorn, insult, and constant discrimination as the price of escape?"

The book is John Taylor Gatto's Weapons of Mass Instruction: A School Teacher's Journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling. ($24.95, New Society Publishers).

"The rigid stupidities of forced schooling, its linear logics, its bell curves, its buzzers and tests and multiple humiliations, its resort to magical spells, fills me with rage these days as an old man," wrote Gatto, a former acclaimed teacher of the year.

Today's (and for several generations yesterday's) schools are factories of boredom. They don't exist to educate, but to produce students who will obey rules, dutifully move from class to class when the bell rings, and accept nonsense like "fuzzy math" and "global warming." The No Child Left Behind Act of 2009 includes $500 million for the teaching of 'Environmental Literacy' when real literacy rates—the ability to read—have been dropping like a stone in water for decades. They are a national disgrace.

Why can't our schools teach reading or arithmetic skills when even pre-school toddlers can learn these things if given the opportunity? Why are we spending $10,000 per student, per year, to produce such poor results? Why would anyone willingly spend their youth cooped up in classrooms when they could be out in the "real world" learning real skills of their own choosing, learning from open sources of information?

And why wouldn't they flee schools where life is dangerous? Since last September, 20 Chicago Public School students have been killed, 18 by gunfire. Last year, 24 of the more than 30 students killed were shot to death. Nationally, homicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10 to 24 in 2004. Elsewhere in the nation bullying is widespread. School in America is too often a very unpleasant experience dominated by boredom.

The American school system as we know it today was imported from Germany in the 1850s. As America's industrial base boomed in the years following the end of the Civil War, the need was for millions of immigrants to do the often difficult manual work involved in making steel, building railroads, and manufacturing the first automobiles and countless other inventions that burst on the scene. Industrialists, men like Rockefeller and Carnegie, decided that compulsory education was the best way to produce not just a functional work force, but people conditioned to purchase the bounty of new goods.

The bible of the compulsory educational system was Benjamin Bloom's two-volume Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Gatto describes him as "an academic madman" in whose system "children would be forced to learn 'proper' thoughts, feelings, and actions, while 'improper' attitudes from home were 'remediated.'" In other words, schools were to be laboratories of social change designed to serve business and industry.

This has led to schools where students are literally drugged if they show any vitality or curiosity. The more docile are simply on a treadmill, so much human sausage to be processed. Indeed, why should we wonder why drug addiction is such a massive social problem in an America filled with people who were either trained to be cogs in some faceless corporation or told early in life they were failures?

Since you no doubt passed through this process, it may in retrospect become more clear why schools as often fail to educate the students entrusted to them, than not. The excuses for this are many, but the most popular is that less privileged students in urban centers are virtually doomed to failure from birth. This is not true. Given the opportunity to learn in charter or parochial schools, they do as well or better.

The best of our students today are home-schooled. They win the spelling and geography bees. Some of the nation's great leaders of the past never attended school. They include George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. They self-schooled themselves with great success and they did it early in life, often before they reached their teens.

In modern times, the secrets of the Human Genome Map were cracked by a surfer named Craig Venter and a born-again Christian home-schooler named Frances Collins. Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Airlines and other ventures dropped out of high school. The examples of those who self-schooled themselves to success are numerous and put the lie to the jails, often with on-site police, that we call modern schools.

Our nation's schools have been failing generations of Americans, particularly since around the 1960s and, despite no mention in the Constitution, education is now totally controlled by the federal government and by the powerful teachers union, the American Education Association.

It is truly no laughing matter when Jay Leno asks simple questions of people in the streets to reveal time and again how little actual knowledge they possess. They are the products of our school system.

The United States is falling behind many other nations in educating its citizens.

Tellingly, China takes schooling and learning seriously. Its students all learn English, knowing they may become part of their nation's international legion, likely to be the next great world power. While China builds coal-fired plants for energy and locks in deals for oil, our government calls coal "dirty" and refuses to permit exploration of our vast offshore continental shelf for oil and natural gas.

It takes a special kind of stupidity to deny one's own nation the energy it requires to grow, to force corporations to move overseas, to take control of industries such as banking and automobile manufacturing without having the slightest idea how to run them.

It's the stupidity that is the result of a nationwide school system that prolongs childhood while making learning an unpleasant chore.

To learn more, read my four part series: http://www.anxietycenter.com/subversion.htm ESR

Alan Caruba writes a daily blog at http://factsnotfantasy.blogspot.com and a weekly commentary at http://www.anxietycenter.com, the website of The National Anxiety Center.  © Alan Caruba, June 2009

 

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