Photography by Gamaliel Masters
As our devoted forefathers who led the American Revolution believed, I believe our human potential is to have a much better life. By better I mean what a highly moral society can manifest, not the authoritarian, materialistic, militaristic, technological society that is what we defended our democracy against. To be the democracy our more idealistic forefathers began and we defended in world wars, there must be moral education for this purpose.
For 200 years the United States had liberal education, modeled after Athens's education for well rounded individual growth and a society ruled by reason. Educational work in these States was more than the teaching of youth; it was the building of a New Social Order. True, not all school districts manifested Jefferson's plan for public education, as our nation was not authoritarian, and each community was free to determine the public education it thought best. However, especially as our young democracy was flooded by immigrants from autocratic Europe, public education that Americanized the children, and therefore their parents, was essential to prevent social chaos, making us a strong and united nation.
When we entered the first world war, Industry, National Defense and Education sat on the same board for the first time, and the National Education Association was born out of the need to use the institution of public education to mobilize our nation for war. At first industry tried to close our public schools, claiming the war caused a labor shortage, and that they were not getting their monies worth, because even after education, employees had to be trained. The response to Industries' argument was to add vocational training to public education; and this greatly increased interest in public education, when such education was a choice and not mandated by the government.
Teachers had argued it was our nation's best, those who understood our democracy and why it must be defended, who signed up first for military service. They pointed out even if we won the war, but did not replace those we would lose in war, by educating for more doctors, attorneys, industrial and civic leaders, our nation would be devastated. Finally, they argued, an institution for making good citizens is good for making patriotic citizens. Our public schools did so much for the war effort, it is doubtful if we could have done so well without them; and here is the real bite in public education! Fear of nationalism driving us into another war, the very real fact that public schools were used to spread propaganda, has resulted in not transmitting our culture; and this increases the danger of destroying our democracy, by failing to prepare our young to understand it.
In 1958 we replaced our domestic, peace time, liberal education with the German model of education for technology, for military and industrial purposes. We have since been on the same path that resulted in Germany starting two world wars. The differences between our education and German education were explained by William James in 1899. "If we reflect upon the various ideals of education that are prevalent in the different countries, we see that what they all aim at is to organize capacities for conduct. This is most immediately obvious in Germany, where the explicitly avowed aim of the higher education is to turn the student into an instrument for advancing scientific discovery. The German universities are proud of the number of young specialists whom they turn out every year, - not necessarily men of any original force of intellect, but men so trained to research that when their professor gives them an historical or philosophical thesis to prepare, or a bit of laboratory work to do, with a general indication as to the best method, they can go off by themselves and use apparatus and consult sources in such a way as to grind out in the requisite number of months some little pepper-corn of new truth worthy of being added to the store of extant human information on that subject. Little else is recognized in Germany as a man's title to academic advancement than his ability thus to show himself an efficient instrument of research".
This education begins when a child first enters school and the result was mentioned at the 1917 National Education Association Conference. Sara H. Fahey, teacher, spoke of our public education as "the one weapon of democracy against the tyranny of the mob, or of the arbitrary ruler" and she went on to speak of our enemy by quoting Tagore. "Whatever their efficiency, such great organizations are so impersonal that they bear down on the individual lives of the people like a hydraulic press whose action is completely impersonal and therefore completely effective in crushing individual liberty and power".
At the same 1917 convention, another argued in favor of imitating the result of German education. "The German military organization is the world's model, at least from the standpoint of immediate accomplishment of results, and therefore we can hardly do better than to emulate it in its perfect working. It was effected in its minutest detail by the very essence of scientific thought and application. In that organization every tongue fitted its groove, every tooth its socket. We have the Kaiser's marvelous soldiers who carried their banner to the very outskirts of Paris in August and September, 1914. It is the Great God efficiency, to which the Germans were required by their commanders to pay the homage of worship - and it behooves us either to effect a thing that will operate as well or to copy theirs," spoke J. A. B. Sinclair, Surgeon, United States Navy. Needless to say this emulation of Germany affects every aspect of our lives, as we glorify survival of the fittest at its most animalistic level of competitiveness, devoid of humanistic and civil values. We no longer respect those in authority, but blindly bow to the power of authority, and don't even question why, except to have some vague and undefined fear of violating government dictates. This is a serious perversion of our what we think we are defending.
Please, ponder this view of Germany as an enemy we should oppose and the praise of Germany as a country we should emulate, because it has everything to do with education before and after 1958 and social changes that have followed the change in public education. This is not just about technology, but about a value system that results in what we defended our democracy against. If you think this education for technology, with its focus on behavior modification and professional impersonalness, is good for this country, think about how quantum physics and the exhaustion of mineral resources will change our perceptions of reality. Ask if we are truly preparing children for a future that is based on the principles of democracy as a way of life, with its form of government being only one expression of that way of life?
Prussians lived for military might as we lived for God. Following the 30 Years War that devastated Germany, the Prussians took control of Germany. They centralized Germany's government and schools. They destroyed Germany's heroes and praised efficient government. They applied Prussian military bureaucracy to the people; and this is what makes government so efficient. It is also what we defended our country against, until we began emulating German bureaucracy and education. There is nothing new about the New World Order Bush announced we have, as it is the military and industrial complex Eisenhower warned us against. It is why our sons, fathers and husbands died. It is why thousands of women and children died. It is Prussian love for military might at its origin, and a more dangerous mentality (with modern weapons) than it ever was.
To modernize what I am saying, Prussian military bureaucracy and education for technology (producing "specialized" individuals to fit in a mechanical society) is also like the computer controlled societies of Star Trek. This organization of humans is so far beyond their ability to control it. Policies are set by committees that are dismissed, leaving no one accountable for the policy, nor with the "authority" to make decisions based on individual circumstances and independent judgement. At the same time specialized individuals have such restricted knowledge they are unaware of the larger picture. Like components to a computer, the humans just do as they are told, and they know nothing about any department besides their own; so they can be a part of the most immoral actions (Enron) and have no knowledge of it. This manifests the most powerful and immoral society the world has ever known.
To demonstrate this social change (resulting from switching from training for independent thinking to the education for technology with its "group think" favored by technology) compare Captain Picard, the "group thinker", to Captain Kirk, the John Wayne of space. We have gone from the New Social Order we defended in wars, to the New World Order we defended our nation against; and we did it for military and industrial reasons. No longer does our military defense depend on patriotic citizens. We can be fully engaged in war before the general public even knows about it, and completely devastate a country before anti-war protest can be mobilized; and this is exactly what we needed to defend our economic interests on the other side of the world. All this military machine needs is our dollars; and we have every almost man and woman working to support this industrial/military complex, although technology makes us a low labor intense economy. This is insane!
We were the Athens of the modern world and Germany was the Sparta of the modern world.
Only when our democracy is defended in the classroom is it defended; and if we don't remember this, the democracy with liberty and justice that we enjoyed, becomes a forgotten memory (as is Athens a faded memory).