Toward the Destruction of Schooling

Below is a critique of modern schooling by Jan D. Matthews. Drawing on extensive historical and literary research, it demonstrates that institutionalised education has long been resisted as a coercive, homogenising force primarily designed to reproduce capitalist social relations. 

I: The Role of Schooling in Society

“When examined, answer with questions” -Graffiti Paris, 1968

Most people don’t like being told what to do. Any institution that aims to structure and regiment a person’s life is, to a certain extent, in conflict with that person. The interesting thing is that that person is not always in willful conflict with the institution. Those who are obedient and fulfill their role as students understandably try to ignore the negative effects their schooling is having on them. But who would honestly deny that these effects are quite visible? Students are taught, through the process of schooling, to be conformist, unimaginative, docile, and a great many other things that are by and large considered virtues in the working world. Stay this way and you may never feel good about yourself, but you will be congratulated by authority figures for the rest of your life. I think that the antagonistic feelings that people have toward school reflect what schools are trying to do to you. Our present situation in which compulsory schooling appears to be so natural has a historical context; the forces at work and reasons why we spend so much of our lives in school can only be adequately explained from a perspective that looks at schooling historically in terms of the means employed and the ends desired and looks at where these institutional designs leave the individual caught up in school. Such a perspective can be revolutionary only if it identifies with the individual caught up in school—with their needs and desires, their anger and frustration. We must look at how schooling fits into the whole of society and what sort of social relationships and institutions are hinged upon keeping this individual—you, for all practical purposes—acquiescent. The problem, namely, that most people do in fact do what they are told, is a problem with the totality of capitalist social relations.

Schooling is a fundamental process of our society. It can be understood as the ensemble of techniques by which a society instructs the young in the knowledge, values, and attitudes necessary for becoming responsible members of society, reproducing the dominant social order. The bells, the classes, the rules, the discipline–all are important aspects of a controlling process aimed at molding the individual into a form more desirable to others–to authorities. Schooling, like work, is based on coercion. Generally speaking, one does not do schoolwork because the experience itself is rewarding. One does not do schoolwork on one’s own terms. Also, there is a carrot or a stick guiding your progress–usually both. Max Stirner had it right when he said that “the school question is a life question.”1

The most important life-skill taught in schools is subservience. It is absolutely essential to all hierarchical social systems. Education, as William Torrey Harris (U.S. Commissioner of Education at the turn of the century) once defined it, is “the subsumption of the individual.”2 Nobody is absolutely free of social pressures, material forces, outside influences. But it does not follow that we should submit to the ideal of the individual’s “adjustment” to the social terrain: behavior modification administered by the guardians of the Republic. There is an essential tension here: the tension between unique individuals and the social institutions that prevent their self-determination.

The necessity of schools is deeply ingrained in the modern psyche. Implicit in the acceptance of any modern political ideology is the assumption that the individual exists to serve the common good or some higher principle exterior to personal subjectivity–in fact, this seems to be the basis of all ideology, all political systems, all forms of rule. So, proceeding from this assumption, the sufficiently schooled person–the university student, for example–assumes the thinking of a social planner with regard to all political questions. Critical thinking is so discouraged that many are virtually incapable of taking an anti-political stance against all the moral baggage of formal ideology, against the totality of “mental production”.3 Alexander Inglis had the following to say about this aspect of schooling: “It must be recognized that in American society each individual must be not merely a law-abiding citizen but also to some extent a law-making citizen.”4 In a democratic state, social stability rests principally on the internalization of the values behind the rules, the morality behind its reification in law. One can dislike school and still believe in its mythology–most people do. The stereotypes of good students, bad students and every other category of student conceal the question of the desirability of systems of grading and categorization. “Banalities, due to what they conceal, work for the dominant organization of life . . . words will not cease to work until people do,” wrote Mustapha Khayati.5 The mythology of this dominant organization of life consists of myths such as the necessity of being schooled in order to learn, the detached objectivity (and intelligence!) of the intellectual, and many others, all reflecting capitalist values–the most salient of which is Progress.

The student, like society, is continually making progress. The student’s progress, like that of society, is fundamentally a domestication of the human animal. When Derrick Jensen asked himself why schooling takes so long, the answer he came up with was straightforward and truthful: “It takes that long to sufficiently break a child’s will. It is not easy to disconnect children’s wills, to disconnect them from their own experiences of the world in preparation for the lives of painful employment they will have to endure.”6 A few centuries earlier, Immanuel Kant put it more succinctly: “Man must be disciplined because he is naturally wild. . . .”7 Discipline is at the heart of the educational enterprise. Schools are obviously not organized by the students–they are the population that is to be controlled, monitored, measured, and disciplined. Discipline is “what the factory and the office and the store share with the prison and the school and the mental hospital.”8 There are certain rules to be followed and the student is watched at all times to make sure she is conforming. Discipline is essential, but it does not explain all aspects of schooling. Knowledge, the commodity that the school deposits in you or showers you with is something exterior to the student, who accumulates knowledge in a process beyond her control. Knowledge is power, most commonly to the extent that one can serve the interests of power and secure a comfortable or powerful place in the social order. Foucault pointed out that power necessarily produces knowledge: “. . . power and knowledge directly imply one another . . . there is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations.”9 Highly specialized knowledge of the type that schools impart reflects complex power relations hinging on extensive hierarchy and division of labor. The increasing importance of schooling in modern society reflects society’s increasing totalitarianism, in the sense that more and more human activities are subordinated to and conditioned by the advanced techniques of a technological society whose driving force is Capital.10

It is obvious that any critique of schooling must have within it a critique of the social order of which the schools are a part and vise versa. Schooling seems to be a positive feedback system: more and more people go through schools, capitalism advances, and more schools are needed to keep people subservient to the bosses. Education is such an important “right” for all people that it “shall be compulsory” according to Article 26 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.11 Education seems to be something that all the ideologues can agree on. It is obviously helping people to adapt to the insanity of modern society. We become automatons, docile bodies–boring, dumb, and monotonous from doing schoolwork with the same characteristics. By and large, students submit to their behavior modification and faithfully reproduce the current social order.


The History of Schooling

“It may be an easy thing to make a Republic; but it is a very laborious thing to make Republicans. . . .” -Horace Mann

“The family and the tribe are the schools of savages,” wrote James Mulhern.12 It would be far more accurate to say that “savages” don’t have schools, but that would perhaps bring the whole idea of schools into question, or at least get the reader to think about how tribes have been replaced by schools, families by classes. If modern schools are presented as simply more advanced forms of something that has always existed, they somehow seem more unavoidable, a part of our “human nature.” Schooling is necessary to a society to the extent that a given society constitutes a social order where individuals are subordinated to some collectivity. Government and hierarchical social relations maintain “social order” in capitalist societies, and are therefore prerequisites for the development of schooling.

The development of writing systems in Sumeria and Egypt set the stage for the first specialists in the modern sense: scribes. Writing evolved as a way of monitoring wealth, keeping track of the size of armies, and recording monetary transactions–important functions of power for early cities.13 Scribes, or intellectuals, have always existed to serve the interests of power. Schooling was originally intended for scribes and other functionaries who occupied administrative and priestly roles. The impersonal relationship of students to an authority figure who instructs them is thus historically very intimately tied to the functioning of power. Schools developed as adjuncts to the temple-courts of the ruling castes of ancient cities. Accounting, mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, and a significant amount of literature concerned with religious themes grew out of these first specialized intellectual environments. Along with all of these cultural pursuits, emphasis was always placed on morality and good manners–renunciation being at the root of the work ethic so essential to schooling.14 Education in the East shared these characteristics: Hindu schools stressed mental purity and self-discipline, which were religious as well as school virtues.15

It is with Greece that the Western tradition in education is said to begin. Greek education was originally concerned with the ideal of the noble warrior. Slowly this heroic culture became more of a scribe culture, although the written word was not to be the sole concern of education until all learning was organized around the Book of Books, the Christian bible. In Sparta, education had an essentially military character, its chief purpose being the training of the hoplites, or heavy infantry. Athenian education was never as strictly organized as that of Sparta. Nonetheless, the ephebia of Athens were schools for future soldiers organized by the state. The ephebia, however, eventually lost their military focus, ceased to be compulsory, and began teaching philosophy and rhetoric to the wealthy that would never have to work.16

Prior to the sixth century B.C., Greek education was generally “artistic rather than literary, athletic rather than intellectual.”17 Many Greek cities, especially Athens, were developing a very active political life around this time. This more democratized Athens developed forms of collective education that paved the way for the development of the school as an institution. The Sophists responded to the need for a new ideal of education and began to teach students with the intention of molding successful citizens: people who were intellectual, scientific, and rational.18 If “man is the measure of all things,” as Protagoras said, are sophists the best measurers?19 The Sophists went from town to town searching for pupils, literally selling their skills–they became the first paid teachers. Their approach was looked upon contemptuously by many who saw education as encompassing so much more than practical pursuits; nonetheless, they laid the foundation for the more highly developed Hellenistic education that would consist of a complex course of studies undertaken from the age of seven to twenty. Although there were no infant schools in Greece, Plato felt that children should go to school at six. Aristotle felt that five would be the most sensible age to begin, and Chrysippus was modern enough to say three. Schooling was beginning to assume great importance in the minds of influential thinkers.20 Plato felt that with schooling, man becomes “the most divine and most civilized” of all animals; without it, “he is the most savage of earthly creatures.”21 Still, for all his seriousness about preparing the next generation of political leaders, the academy he founded was incredibly informal by modern standards.22

Roman education was originally very different from intellectual Hellenistic education. Whereas the Greek boy was led to school by a slave, a pedagogue, the Roman boy stayed at home and was raised by his mother and educated by his father until he was old enough for military service. As Rome extended its empire, Greek influence increased and eventually Roman schools were created for the purpose of training administrators and state functionaries. Still, there was never any general scholastic policy as was to be developed later by the modern nation-state. Christianity developed in the midst of Greco-Roman civilization, and its educational practice would incorporate both Greek intellectualism and Roman severity, absorbing what is perhaps the most persistent theme of Western Education, the ideal image of man–man who bowed down before the law and sacrificed himself for an ideal.23

The first Christian schools were the catechetical schools of the first centuries A.D., where instruction was exclusively oral. They were institutes of higher learning in the sense that they were geared toward an older audience. They were principally concerned with instructing pagans in Christian beliefs so that they could be baptized.24 The monastic school, originally created for future monks, appeared in the fourth century and they became the first genuine Christian schools.25 Cathedral schools which were provided by every Cathedral were a later development, and the enrichment of their program helped bring about the rise of the Universities during the medieval period.26 From the 11th century onward, the church was very much concerned with the development of an effective educational system. At the same time, the characteristics of higher education were being established between the 11th and 16th centuries.27 Frederick Eby writes, “By the end of the 15th century, 79 universities were recognized in western Europe. Almost all had the blessings of the Pope, even if they did not owe their initiation to papal decree. . . . Most of the students were laymen, and secular subjects such as law, medicine, and the sciences dominated their interest [more and more].”28 With the rise of Christianity, education came to have a fundamentally moral aim. Discipline was becoming ever more precise as living and learning became more and more conditioned by set parameters of space and time.29

The 16th and 17th century grammar school that was physically separated from the church was the product of the Renaissance and the Reformation. The humanism of the Renaissance stimulated a greater interest in intellectual activity and classical learning, while the reformation moved beyond the traditionalism and formalism of medieval times. In terms of schooling, the two movements seemed to work in harmony.30 Martin Luther, who was a staunch advocate of schooling, influenced the growth of lower schools throughout northern Europe. With Gutenberg’s invention of moveable type, more and more Bibles were being printed, and universal education, if not a humanist ideal, was rapidly becoming a Christian one.31 The provincial schools and the Christian elementary schools of the seventeenth century were founded principally to combat the ignorance of God and idleness among the poor. Comenius, an educator born in 1592, believed that children are not born human, but can become human through the proper training–educating them thus became God’s purpose. Christian schools not only trained docile children, but also tried to make sure parents stayed faithful and replicated the discipline of the school in the home.32

The advancements of science during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries permanently changed the ways in which schooling was viewed and implemented. In Francis Bacon’s unfinished utopia, The New Atlantis, the inhabitants of the perfect commonwealth organize a scientific society, the end of which is “the Knowledge of causes, and the secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible.”33 Bacon’s book influenced the founding of the Royal Society and the scientific academies, while some of his short essays, such as “Of Marriage and the Single Life” and “Of Parents and Children” signaled the decreasing importance of the family and traditional social groupings.34 Descartes, too, made observations that very clearly represented the increasing importance of science. He came to the conclusion that he was “a substance the whole essence or nature of which is simply to think, and which, in order to exist, has no need of any place nor depends on any material thing.”35 Science was slowly beginning to replace religion, in the sense that it occupied the same place as an object of faith: a good in and of itself.

“The ‘Enlightenment’, which discovered the liberties, also invented the disciplines,” wrote Foucault. “In the eighteenth century, ‘rank’ begins to define the great form of distribution of individuals in the educational order: rows or ranks of pupils in the class, corridors, courtyards, rank attributed to each pupil at the end of each task and each examination; the rank he obtains from week to week, month to month, year to year; an alignment of age groups, one after another; a succession of subjects taught and questions treated, according to an order of increasing difficulty.”36 The individual was more and more enmeshed in a psychogeography shaped according to the interests of power. Such is the shape of the new schooling being forged during the Enlightenment, soon to be systematically applied by the nation-state. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, for example, both saw education as a way to create a more “homogenous” citizenry.37 Benjamin Rush, echoing Aristotle’s thinking, spoke the hidden truth of schooling: “Let our pupil be taught that he does not belong to himself, but that he is public property.”38

In the United States, the Puritans were the first people to be preoccupied with schooling. According to Puritan thinking, the child was “not only ignorant but sinful in nature.”39 The preacher, coincidentally also the main teacher in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, was there to raise them up to civilized status.40 In accordance with the philosophy of John Calvin, Massachusetts voted for “the compulsory establishment of schools, ordering every town, that is, township, of fifty households to establish an elementary school and every town of one hundred households a secondary school as well.”41 Virginia was much less concerned with universal education. Tutors were often hired by the wealthy to prepare their boys for College (usually William and Mary or a European school), but the poor had less opportunity for education. “In moving from seventeenth-century Massachusetts to eighteenth-century Virginia one senses a marked decompression in religious climate; in place of ‘sin and profanes’ the Virginia teacher’s foes become the awkward and uncouth.”42

The character of American education was nothing new: “Both [Noah] Webster and [Benjamin] Rush believed that the teacher should be an absolute monarch.”43 The classroom was rapidly becoming an instrument for the formation of modern republicans. Benjamin Franklin’s virtues of temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility were perhaps the Bourgeois virtues par excellence.44 These values were becoming ever more entrenched in society as industry progressed and industriousness became the absolute good: “The workshop, the school, the army were subject to a whole micro-penality of time (latenesses, absences, interruptions of tasks), of activity (inattention, negligence, lack of zeal), of behavior (impoliteness, disobedience), of speech (idle chatter, insolence), of the body (‘incorrect’ attitudes, irregular gestures, lack of cleanliness), of sexuality (impurity, indecency). . . each subject find[s] himself caught in a punishable, punishing universality.”45

Arising out of the belief that the existing schools were not systematic enough to accomplish their purpose, and starting in the urbanizing, industrializing regions of the East where America was acquiring a mostly foreign-born proletariat, the common school movement strove for universal “free” public education.46 As the state’s attitude toward economic life was becoming more non-interventionist, its attitude towards education was changing in the opposite direction. The 1837 founding of the Massachusetts Board of Education and the appointment of Horace Mann as its first secretary marked the transition into the modern epoch of education in America.47 The blazing humanitarianism of the advocates of popular education was chiefly concerned with integrating masses of people into the new industrial economy and diffusing social tensions created by increasing inequality. Michael B. Katz disproves the myth that the working class struggled for popular education: “The committees [school committees] saw themselves arrayed against the mass of parents, whom they considered uncomprehending and indifferent. School committees were unashamedly trying to impose educational reform and innovation on this reluctant citizenry. The communal leaders were not answering the demands of a clamourous working class: they were imposing the demands; they were telling the majority, your children shall be educated, and as we see fit. Promoters represented educational reform, especially the high school, as an innovation directly aimed at urbanizing, industrializing communities. The high school was simultaneously to foster mobility, promote economic growth, contribute to communal wealth, and save towns from disintegrating into an immoral and degenerate chaos.”48

Horace Mann called education “the great equalizer of the conditions of men–the balance-wheel of the social machinery.”49 Since schooling was becoming more democratic, common school reformers were trying to appeal to everyone: “To employers he [Horace Mann] claimed that schooling made workers more industrious, obedient, and adaptive, thereby increasing their output; to working people he held out the hope of increased earnings.”50 The overall trajectory of this schooling, however, is best understood not in relation to democratic ideology, but in its relation to industrialism and the new forms of social organization being developed. Schooling was to “assimilate the immigrants and teach all children to shun the moral temptations of modern life.” Eventually, schools became graded, policy making centralized, curricula standardized, and architecture uniform.51 What emerged were systems of public education, education having acquired its entirely institutional character. This development paved the way for the sterile bureaucracy of the 20th century.52 The schools became important auxiliary institutions to the factory, teaching children to be orderly and tractable. An important transitional period (1800-1830) in the development of industrial society in England and America was marked by a type of school known as a Lancaster or monitorial school. Such schools were originally inspired by the schooling system in India whereby the caste system was preserved through the gathering of hundreds of children from the bottom two castes (95% of the population) into big rooms where they were taught self-abnegation and little else by a Brahmin. Joseph Lancaster, after reading a report of the Hindu system, worked to establish similar schools in England and the United States. These schools were very much like factories, emphasizing economy, routine, and competition. While this particular form of school did not survive, the ethos that informed the Lancasterian system continued. In other words, the factory continued to be a model for schools. Schooling became inextricably tied to the reproduction of the new industrial order and capitalist social relations. Given the importance of the new schooling system, it is no wonder that schooling would soon become compulsory.53

America’s compulsory school system was inspired by the first effective compulsory school system which was developed in Prussia and functional by 1819. “In 1806, in the battle of Jena, Napoleon crushed the military forces of Prussia, and in the Treaty of Tilsit, by which peace was concluded in 1807, he exacted severe and humiliating terms of the defeated nation.”54 A wave of Prussian nationalism swept over the nation. Creating a massive compulsory education system aimed at creating patriotic masses that would die for their country was seen by leaders as the way to assure national greatness. Johann Gottlieb Fichte, the most influential proponent of such a system, wanted students to develop a love of “regular and progressive mental activity” that would direct them toward a life of service to society. He was preoccupied with the importance of an “image of a moral order of life” and “the good [as opposed to my good], simply as such and for its own sake.”55 From the Swiss educator John Henry Pestalozzi (“the father of the modern elementary school”) the Prussians learned of the great potential of modern common schools.56 The Prussian schools formed at this time were divided into three categories: Akadamiensschulen for future policy makers (1% of students), Realsschulen for future professionals (5 to 7.5% of students) and Volksschulen, which emphasized obedience, for everybody else. Horace Mann visited Prussia in the 1840s and praised the Prussian schooling system in his Seventh Annual Report. The curious thing, which Mann neglects to mention, is that he “arrived in Prussia when its schools were closed for vacation. He toured empty classrooms, spoke with authorities, interviewed vacationing schoolmasters, and read piles of dusty official reports.”57 Nonetheless, Mann’s glowing report accurately represents his opinion of the Prussian system. He was particularly impressed by the Prussian classification of scholars throughout their course of instruction and their enforcement of compulsory school laws: “After a child has arrived at the legal age for attending school,–whether he be the child of noble or of peasant,–the only two absolute grounds of exemption from attendance are sickness and death. The German language has a word for which we have no equivalent either in language or in idea. The word is used in reference to children, and signifies due to the school; that is, when the legal age for going to school arrives, the right of the school to the child’s attendance attaches, just as, with us, the right of a creditor to the payment of a note or bond attaches on the day of its maturity.”58

Slowly but surely, the state was able to impose compulsory attendance on the citizenry. During the latter half of the 19th century, the United States, France, and England, all established systems of public education with compulsory attendance.59 John Taylor Gatto describes the imposition of compulsory attendance in America: “Our form of compulsory schooling is an invention of the State of Massachusetts around 1850. It was resisted–sometimes with guns–by an estimated eighty percent of the Massachusetts population, the last outpost in Barnstable on Cape Cod not surrendering their children until the 1880s, when the area was seized by militia and children marched to school under guard.”60 By 1900, most states had government schools and compulsory attendance.61

An area of investigation that very clearly shows the role of schooling in a society is the conflict between a society that has schools (the United States) and societies that don’t (American Indians). During the 300 years following the establishment of a Jesuit missionary school in Havana, Florida in 1568, Catholic and Protestant religious groups dominated attempts to educate Indian youth. It was in the 19th century that schooling came to be seen as a way of assimilating young Indians into the dominant (white) society. Civilization, Christianity, and farming were to be the values forced upon the uncivilized. “In 1819 Congress established a civilization fund, which lasted until 1873 [when the Bureau of Indian Affairs took control of Indian education], to provide financial support to religious groups and other interested individuals who were willing to live among and teach Indians.”62 The House Committee that recommended the creation of the fund, revealed the philosophy behind the program: “Put into the hands of their children the primer and the hoe, and they will naturally, in time, take hold of the plough . . . and they will grow up in habits of morality and industry. . . .”63

In many treaties with Indians from 1778 till 1871 (when Congress stopped recognizing tribes as independent powers), the government made education provisions, but it was not until after the reservation system was established (following the California Gold Rush of 1849 and the building of western railroads) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs took control that Indian education became more of a systematic effort of acculturation.64 A significant figure in Indian education was Richard Henry Pratt, who, while serving in the army, had helped bring about the collapse of the Southern Plains tribes. The fact that there was little contradiction between killing Indians and educating them says a lot about the way many educators viewed the natives. Pratt felt that in order to save the man, it was necessary to kill the Indian. He believed that Indians could, if instructed properly, be fully incorporated into American society. After the defeat of the Southern Plains tribes, Pratt took on the task of being the jailor for 72 of the most intractable Kiowa, Comanche, and Cheyenne at a new prison in Fort Marion, Florida. In three years, he was able to convince himself and others that Indians could be transformed into proper citizens. He went on to found the Carlisle Indian School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. “The opening of Carlisle Indian School in 1879 came just at the time policy makers were desperately searching for a means of absorbing Indians into the larger society. . . . Between 1879 and 1900 the Bureau of Indian Affairs created twenty-four off-reservation schools roughly modeled after the Carlisle prototype. By 1900 the Indian School system had taken on the shape of an institutional hierarchy. When the system functioned according to plan, students progressed from reservation day schools to reservation boarding schools, finally moving on to Carlisle-type off-reservation schools. By 1900 three quarters of all Indian children were enrolled in boarding school, with approximately a third of this number in off-reservation schools.”65 Children “were taken from their grieving parents and kept for years, punished for speaking their own language, and brainwashed of all traces of Indianness.”66

Students, often with the help of their parents, sometimes went to great lengths to resist the schooling experience. The problem, as one Indian agent put it, was that they had “not yet reached that state of civilization to know the advantages of education, and consequently look upon school work with abhorrence.” When parents refused to enroll their children in schools, Indian agents employed by the state had the power to withhold rations or use the police to track down the children and force them to go to school. Thomas J. Morgan, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, wrote in 1892 that he did not believe that Indians “have any right to forcibly [!] keep their children out of school. . . .”67 Students resisted in a variety of different ways: simply running away was very common, some risking death or dying on their journey home. Even “mysterious” fires were somewhat common. In 1897, two Carlisle girls tried to burn down the girls’ dormitory twice in the same day: once right after the bell for supper and once just after the bell for chapel. At Fort Mojave, several kindergartners were locked up in the school jail for repeatedly running away from school. During breakfast one morning, the kindergartners not locked up used a large log as a battering ram, broke through the jail door, and ran for the river bottom with their rescued classmates.68

Schools represented, especially to American Indians, a new relationship to space, which was conceived of in linear terms. Lines, corners, squares, and strait rows represented industrial civilization’s relationship to wilderness. Space was colonized by the disciplinary imperative: freedom of movement was carefully regulated. As the student learns to heed the teacher’s commands, he internalizes the discipline that shapes individuals. “A relation of surveillance, defined and regulated, is inscribed at the heart of the practice of teaching, not as an additional or adjacent part, but as a mechanism that is inherent to it and which increases its efficiency.”69 Is it any wonder that schools resemble prisons? As Morris and Rothman wrote, “With no ironies intended, they [19th century prison reformers] talked about the penitentiary as serving as a model for the family and the school.”70 Foucault has written of the transition from the penality of spectacular torture to that of an organized prison system, roughly coinciding with the emergence of the nation-state and the Industrial Revolution: “The reform of criminal law must be read as a strategy for the rearrangement of the power to punish, according to modalities that render it more regular, more effective, more constant and more detailed in its effects. . . .”71 An early reformer, Cesare Beccaria, wrote that “the most certain method of preventing crimes is, [sic] to perfect the system of education.”72 Some time later Horace Mann declared that “School is the cheapest police.”73

By the time the common schools had proven their utility, the very wealthy took a marked interest in education. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Ezra Cornell, James Duke, and Leland Stanford created universities bearing their names. The universities were meant to train the middlemen of the American system who would uphold its values: teachers, doctors, lawyers, administrators, engineers, technicians, politicians. As late as 1915, Carnegie and Rockefeller alone were spending more on education than the government was. “In our dreams . . . people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands [those of Carnegie’s General Education Board].”74 Marvin Lazerson wrote of the formation of the urban school system at the turn of the century: “What had been an amorphous collection of parochial and virtually autonomous agencies under the guidance of transient untrained teachers became an integrated system whose characteristics were strikingly similar across the nation, and whose tone was set by a professionally certified interest group.”75 By 1914 twelve of the twenty largest cities in Massachusetts had public kindergartens, which were intended to domesticate the slum child, and teach the parent, through the child, how to be a good parent.76 Friedrich Froebel had founded the first kindergarten (or, literally, a garden of children) in 1837, and the proliferation of kindergartens allowed educators to better shape the young child’s character.77 The new schooling system was seemingly unstoppable, irreversible. “Just see,” said Carnegie, “whenever we peer into the first tiny springs of the national life, how this true panacea for all the ills of the body politic bubbles forth–education, education, education.”78 There was resistance, but usually not enough to really threaten this constant bubbling forth. The Irish community, for example, boycotted and may have tried to burn down a school in Lowell, Massachusetts; but, over time, truant officers were employed and the institution moved ahead, as it did across the United States.79 Parents often faced fines or the possibility of arrest if they refused to send their children.

The Progressive movement (1890-1930) was philosophically concerned with tailoring education to the needs of the child. Practically, this meant categorizing, observing, testing, and controlling the child to smooth the transition to corporate capitalism.80 Education became quite the religious calling: “Every teacher should realize he is a social servant set apart for the maintenance of the proper social order and the securing of the right social growth. In this way the teacher always is the prophet of the true God and the usherer in of the true kingdom of God,” wrote John Dewey.81 Understood metaphorically, the kingdom of God could signify a new era of capitalism; although Dewey considered himself a socialist. To focus on politics would be to miss the point–social order, the “subsumption of the individual” has become a good in and of itself. Progress is what matters–the truth behind the capitalism. Raymond E. Callahan observed the real structural changes shaping modern schooling: the adoption of business values in educational administration started about 1900 and by 1930 administrators saw themselves as business managers or “school executives.” Emphasis was placed on accounting, finance, public relations, and running schools like businesses. At the annual meeting of the National Education Association in 1905, George H. Martin (Secretary of the State Board of Education in Massachusetts) decried the fact that “educational processes seem unscientific, crude, and wasteful” when compared to modern business practices. In 1907, William C. Bagley published Classroom Management, which concerned itself with the most efficient operation of the “school plant.” School boards were increasingly dominated by businessmen, and a more utilitarian, career-focused education was called for.82

“We couldn’t ask more from a patriotic motive than Scientific Management gives from a selfish one,” said Theodore Roosevelt, obviously full of enthusiasm.83 Frederick Winslow Taylor (who developed Scientific Management) clearly grasped the import of his ideas when he wrote, “In the past the man has been first; in the future the system must be first.”84 Taylor saw that the best type of industrial management in operation in his time was based on the workman taking initiative and the employer giving some special incentive in order to keep the worker motivated and productive. Taylor’s idea of Scientific Management or task management was that the employer could even more effectively and efficiently secure the initiative of workmen by studying the tasks of the workmen and developing a science for each element of a man’s work and then selecting and training workmen best suited for the tasks which the employer had familiarized himself with. By studying tasks, assigning workmen to definite tasks which they are to perform within a specified amount of time, and monitoring the workmen’s progress, the employer takes on new responsibilities, but will be able to greatly increase the efficiency of his operation. Taylor was indifferent to the dehumanizing aspects of Scientific Management; he felt that an increase in efficiency would bring greater prosperity to all; and the rights of “the people” (in other words, people as consumers) were more important to him than those of employers or employees. 85 Scientific Management sounded the death knell for what was left of the dignity or autonomy of labor–a prerequisite for the fast-paced consumer culture of today.86

There was much enthusiasm for scientific management in the corporate world and especially the corporate media: articles appeared in popular magazines seeking to apply Taylor’s principles to the army, the legal profession, the home, the family, the household, the church, and of course, education.87 Taylor’s ideas “were adopted, interpreted, and applied chiefly by administrators; and while the greatest impact was upon administration, the administrator, and the professional training programs of administration, the influence extended to all of American education from the elementary schools to the universities.”88 An abstract of a speech (regarding the application of scientific management to schools) delivered to the High School Teachers Association of New York City was published in the Bulletin:

A [.] Purpose or object of ‘Scientific Management.’
1. To increase the efficiency of the laborer, i.e., the pupil.
2. To increase quality of the product, i.e., the pupil.
3. Thereby to increase the amount of output and the value to the capitalist. . . .89

Another development was the Gary Plan, started in Gary, Indiana in 1908 by William A. Wirt, superintendent of schools there at the time. The Gary Plan consisted of the departmentalization of school subjects and children being “platooned” into groups that would use assembly rooms, gymnasiums, shops, laboratories, and playgrounds at the same time as other groups used classrooms so that all facilities were being utilized; and at the sounding of the bell, children would change classes. The Gary Plan allowed administrators to show how efficient they were. After it was endorsed by the Federal Bureau of Education in 1914, it was blocked in New York in 1917 where riots broke out in opposition to it: schools were stoned and police tires slashed and 300 students (mostly Jewish) were arrested. Nonetheless, by 1929, the Gary Plan or variants of it were in operation in 1,068 schools in 202 cities. After 1930, this specific form of schooling declined, yet Wirt’s innovations left a permanent mark on schooling in general.90

With the increasing specialization of American life came the growth of specialized training in education. As John Taylor Gatto observed, “Before the 20th century there was no parasitic army of assistant principles, coordinators, and assorted bureaucratic specialists.”91 The increasing complexity of the administrative hierarchy and the proliferation of standardized tests helped to ensure teacher conformity. Given impetus from the work of Edward Lee Thorndike, standardized testing spread rapidly after World War I and the Carnegie Corporation poured over $3 million into the effort.92 Worldwide, universal primary education became the goal of virtually all governments in the post-World War II era. Also in this era, higher education experienced tremendous growth in industrialized nations. More and more money is being put toward postgraduate training and scientific and engineering research and experimental development.93 Schooling in America looks now like a finely tuned behavior modification machine, channeling people into various meaningless jobs for the rest of their lives.94 Schooling produces masses of people, not autonomous individuals. Individual parts of the schooling machine don’t really matter any more. Technology has obviously served to institute new forms of social control, as Marcuse observed in One-Dimensional Man.95 Our very consciousness is surrounded on all sides by a mass media, and in this modern context, schooling becomes a technique of propaganda that functions through the use of knowledge, not in the service of any classical ideal. When Jacques Ellul wrote about modern propaganda in Propaganda: the Formation of Men’s Attitudes, he emphasized that it is above all a set of methods of a technological society based on mass media that addresses individuals only as members of a mass that shares common feelings and myths. Ellul pointed out that not all propaganda is explicitly political. Schooling is a type of sociological propaganda, aimed at the integration of the individual into the social group.96 As students go hazily from class to class, box to box, schooling as a technique of social control perpetuates itself. And as leftists drone on about better education for the people, for the masses of people, they are unaware of what an important role they play in reproducing existent social and economic formations.


Theories of Schooling

“Why not whip the teacher when the student misbehaves?”–Diogenes of Sinope

Schooling is seen as a good thing. Those who are uneducated are seen as lacking something essential to being fully functioning, fully human. From Plato to Comenius to Kant, humanity is something that is imposed upon the young. Even Paolo Freire, a favorite of leftists, believes in a “humanizing pedagogy,” presumably one that makes people more fully human.97 We need to spend less money on the military, more money on schools, say the progressives. Their complete identification (“we”) with the nation-state is utterly pathetic. “Humanitarianism” has saturated the left and the right: everyone is working hard oppressing themselves, all for a better humanity, a better future. Like George Bush, the progressives don’t want to leave a single child behind.98

In Hebrew there is one word for both “education” and “chastisement.”99 The powerful men of the ancient world were rather clear about what schooling entailed. Today it is of the utmost importance to conceal the role of schooling in society. Submission to authority is always the goal of schooling. The power wielded by authorities–the power to reward and punish, to habituate the individual to desired patterns of thought and action–works to integrate the individual into a hierarchical social order. 19th century prison reformers and progressive school reformers were working to make this integrating function more efficient and more total in its effects. Both groups were humanitarians because they sought to make the individual better adapted (obviously doing her a great service) to a new set of social conditions; society had to be shaped into a different form, re-formed. Society is the main actor, and individuals merely respond. To those who haven’t picked up on this clever phrasing, “society” can be understood as those who have the power to make administrative and legislative decisions. Individuals only act as a part of “society” to the extent that they submit to existent social conditions, and possibly try to influence those who hold positions of power. As John Dewey put it, “through education society can formulate its own purposes, can organize its own means and resources, and thus shape itself with definiteness and economy in the direction in which it wishes to move.”100

At first glance Dewey seems to be saying that education can determine the direction in which society goes, but in fact he says that society shapes itself through education, so education is really not determining anything. In other words, schooling is a technique that society uses. One cannot fault him for such truthfulness. Durkheim agreed that education is “only the image and reflection of society. It imitates and reproduces the latter in abbreviated forms. It does not create it.”101 Educators respond to changes in society and make sure their schooling produces the necessary products. In a Harvard lecture of the 1920’s George S. Counts said the following: “This is not the place to evaluate industrial civilization. . . . Education must come to terms with industrial civilization and discover its tasks in the new age.”102 Educators work within institutional confines, within the confines of their social roles as authorities and slaves (just like the Greek pedagogues) of the powers that be. Since most educators believe unquestioningly that schools serve a positive function in society, all of their theories of schooling and ideas for reform are likely to reinforce the basic assumption that schools are a good thing.103

Modern theories of schooling are based on a social ideal of progress. This is basically a conservative ideal in the sense that technological change tends to be irreversible and reform tends to build upon itself, by and large keeping institutional structures and social relations intact. The more things change the more they stay the same. Schools have been steadily expanding (progress) and have been able to reform by accretion.104 The technical basis of modern industry may be revolutionary in the Marxist sense of bringing us closer to revolution within a linear model of historical progress, but is this revolutionary at all? Marx himself praised the essentially “dangerous character” of revolutionists such as “steam, electricity, and the self-acting mule.”105 Attributing such a character to technology is clearly an oversight, more or less incompatible with any revolutionary theory based on the need for an insurrectional rupture with our technological society. Marx’s oversight stems from his failure to adequately identify the relationship between the productive apparatus and the capitalist system that produces it and to fully recognize Capital’s domesticating function. The writings of Jacques Camatte and Fredy Perlman are excellent in expanding upon these themes. In many ways, resistance to the proliferation of the factory system parallels the resistance to compulsory schooling. When a definite loss of autonomy was seen as a new and threatening imposition, radical acts of resistance and sabotage were not uncommon. The industrial system (along with puritanical morality) served to domesticate the exploited, allowing for resistance to be more easily recuperated through institutional channels such as union bargaining and political reformism. What were considered factory virtues are virtually the same thing as school virtues. Discontents who have internalized these virtues aim at tinkering with the repressive apparatus, not destroying it.

Modern theories of schooling can be said to begin with Rousseau. Rousseau considered civilization some form of mistake, but he did not oppose it. In his view, society was the source of all evil. He did not, however, see the teacher as part of this “evil,” and consequently gave teachers invaluable advice about how to exercise their supposedly righteous control over their pupils. “Begin then, by studying your pupils more thoroughly, for it is very certain that you do not know them,” he wrote.106 Rousseau gave the following advice in regard to the way teachers should control their students: “Let him [the student] believe that he is always in control though it is always you [the teacher] who really controls. There is no subjection so perfect as that which keeps the appearance of freedom.”107 This statement describes much of the philosophy of modern schooling. The institutionalized authority of the teacher is a given. The question is how the teacher can make best use of this authority. Rousseau gave an excellent answer. To think that this somehow encourages the freedom and independence of the student is reasonable, as long as that freedom and independence is exercised within the boundaries set by the authorities. As B.F. Skinner said approvingly, Rousseau “did not fear the power of positive reinforcement.”108 B.F. Skinner was an influential behaviorist psychologist of the mid-twentieth century. His overriding interest was in the control and modification of human behavior–a practice he believed could solve the world’s problems–if only everyone could value efficiency over freedom.

B.F. Skinner’s Beyond Freedom and Dignity is a work of profound scientific insight–but total crap compared to Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil. Skinner feels that what people call autonomy is an illusion since no behavior is uncaused.109 He assumes that autonomy refers to the existence of causes of behavior and not the nature of those causes. The nature of the causes of human behavior is contingent upon social relations–which Skinner doesn’t want to get into. The application of his science is allowed free reign only when reified social roles separate the controllers from the controlled–the managers from the managed. And since the application of Skinner’s science of human behavior is his top priority, institutionalized authority and its relationship to scientific advancement must remain unquestioned. Skinner sees any questioning of the desirability of scientific advancement as taking “a stubborn position of not knowing” and valuing “ignorance for its own sake.”110 So anyone who abandons scientific thinking is doing so “for its own sake,” whereas the enlightened specialist obviously has a multiplicity of valid reasons for their practice. Skinner’s agenda is made somewhat clearer in Reflections on Behaviorism and Society, where he bemoans the “damaging” influence of “noncontingent reinforcers”–or things that come to us for free. Such things do not allow the “control of people by people” to realize its full potentiality. So a gift economy is bad and a capitalist economy is good because money is “possibly the greatest of all conditioned reinforcers.” As our social environment becomes increasingly complex, more control must be exercised over the individual growing up. “Programmed sequences of contingencies, in the hands of skillful teachers and counselors, can lead to the complex repertoires demanded by a social environment,” writes Skinner.111

The implications of Skinner’s ideas for the modern classroom are profound. They explain much of the behavior of teachers and provide a scientific foundation for their future progress. He saw more efficient teaching practices as extremely important, hoping that teaching could eventually become a science.112 Indeed, much educational theory in the last 50 years has shared Skinner’s behaviorist conception of teaching, an advancement from the older method of mirroring the factory. It is not the rules or the enforcement of rules that is most important–it is the habitual following of those rules that helps the individual internalize desired patterns of behavior. The focus shifts from more obvious forms of discipline to the use of techniques which encourage a self-discipline which diminishes the need for those more obvious forms of discipline. Even early in the 19th century, Fichte saw this as ideal. The pupil of pure morality (a concept similar to what Jesuits might call being a man for others), Fichte professed, “goes forth at the proper time as a fixed and unchangeable machine produced by this art [teaching], which indeed could not go otherwise than as it has been regulated by the art, and needs no help at all, but continues of itself according to its own law.”113 This is the essential feature of modern schooling. Fichte called the ideal pedagogy an art, Skinner would call it a science, but the message remains the same. Even when the teaching of values is the professed goal of pedagogy, if modern techniques and methods of organization are employed, the approach (which Skinner might term “mentalistic” or not thoroughly focused on scientific analysis) has similar goals and effects upon the student as a purely behaviorist approach.

During the 1950’s, Benjamin Bloom and a team of specialists worked very hard to put together a book (in two volumes) called Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals, which had a significant influence on government schools in America. It was designed as a tool to help educators classify the ways in which students are to respond to their lessons. Thanks to standardized testing, intelligence is the new idol that educational theory must bow to. The ideal student is a well-behaved and objectively intelligent automaton.114 The second volume deals with “affective objectives,” in other words character development, attitude, values–things that Bloom feels are not graded mainly due to the “inadequacy of the appraisal techniques and the ease with which a student may exploit his ability to detect the responses which will be rewarded and the responses which will be penalized.” “In contrast,” Bloom writes, “it is assumed that a student who responds in the desirable way on a cognitive measure does indeed possess the competence which is being sampled.”115 Due to this danger, educators must stress not just the outward conformity of socialization, but “internalization,” or the student’s acquisition of values organized into a moral code used to regulate one’s life.116 The book goes on to classify in a hierarchy the various responses to teaching that a teacher must bring about in the student. The peak of this internalization process is the student’s “characterization by a value or value complex.”117 An example of this would be a student who has learned not to talk back: such a student stays quiet and only speaks when the teacher allows.

A less refined list of goals/functions of schooling was presented in the early 20th century by Alexander Inglis. In his book Principles of Secondary Education, he lists the “six important functions of secondary education; (1) the adjustive or adaptive function; (2) the integrating function; (3) the differentiating function; (4) the propaedeutic function [training the future guardians of the system]; (5) the selective function; (6) the diagnostic and directive function [not necessarily in that order].”118 So basically, students must be adjusted so that they behave, integrated into the social group, tested, sorted, classified, trained, etc. It would be difficult to better describe the function of schooling. Inglis sees the school for what it is, “a social institution or agency maintained by society for the purpose of assisting in the maintenance of its own stability and in the direction of its own progress.”119 In this sense it is clear that it is society and the network of control that covers it that must be destroyed. It is hardly radical to substitute the existing society for another one which will serve the same functions in different ways.

In many ways, Marx’s theory of alienation explains the student’s situation as well as the worker’s. Does not the knowledge that the student works to accumulate confront him “as something alien, as a power independent of the producer”?120 And to use Marx’s words for the student, one could say that the student only feels herself outside her schoolwork, and in her schoolwork feels outside herself.121 Life itself becomes a means to life; or, as the situationists felt, life has been reduced to mere survival. School is undoubtedly an institution that initiates students into a life of alienated living. In school, the student learns that learning requires its usually authoritarian counterpart: teaching. Once the young learn dependence, the other lessons come much easier. Is not knowledge treated as a commodity, and, as such, fetishized by the consumers/producers? It begins to acquire all the metaphysical power that modern man attaches to facts. All knowledge becomes interchangeable and divorced from social context, and units of knowledge are to be accumulated–having practical application only within the specialized world of academia. The detached objectivity of the scholar is idealized. As Raoul Vaneigem wrote, “Knowledge is inseparable from the use that is made of it.”122 And academic knowledge–in this sense knowledge that is not used against the interests of power–can only serve to enlarge and consolidate power. “What makes power hold good,” said Foucault, “what makes it accepted, is simply the fact that it doesn’t only weigh on us as a force that says no, but that it traverses and produces things, it induces pleasure, forms knowledge, produces discourse. It needs to be considered as a productive network which runs through the whole social body, much more than as a negative instance whose function is repression.”123 In the era of fragmentary power, when all can share in its ability to compensate for the poverty of our everyday lives, the world of schooling reinforces power by managing and allocating knowledge–possibly power’s greatest tool.

When Marx mentioned schools, he merely said that “government and church should rather be equally excluded from any influence on the school.”124 The pristine school! Divorced from its social context, the school can look like a rather positive thing. But as long as there are governments and churches, they are going to have something to do with schooling. Schooling has a long history of pseudo-opposition from libertarians: Tolstoy, Ferrer, and Freire did not critique schools as such, but called for different educational practices.125 In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire even talks of the pedagogy of the revolutionary leadership, tipping his hat to authoritarians such as Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.126 Revolutionary educational practices, if they are not based on a fixed ideology to which the masses are to be converted, cannot have anything to do with schooling or schools. Schools are institutions, and all institutions have a certain degree of permanence that can extend beyond the control of their initiators; they are not associations developed for a specific limited purpose and they are not self-organized. Institutions perpetuate themselves because people organize each other’s living activity through them, not living for themselves. In order for educational practices to have a subversive character they must not aim to fit themselves into the dominant society as an “alternative” to what is already offered. They must be a part of a community actively seeking to undermine the dominant social order. The ateneos, or storefront cultural centers of Spain in pre-Civil War times which had classes for those who wanted to learn to read and write, provide a simple example. The Spanish anarchists did not try to build an “alternate society,” but rather a “counter-society.”127 Some conception of the difference between the two is essential. In order to destroy capitalism and the state apparatus, we cannot simply build new institutions and expect the old ones to fall apart. Only through attacking the old institutions and organizing ourselves in a decentralized manner can we function outside the realm of capitalism and attack it as a social system. Capitalist social relations must be actively subverted; we cannot simply form co-operative or collective exchange relationships which reproduce capitalist logic. The Soviet Union, for example, was never communist in any real sense; it could best be described as state-capitalist.

Max Stirner, a poor German schoolteacher, was one of the most radical thinkers of the 19th century. In “The False Principle of Our Education,” Stirner criticized popular theories of schooling of his time: “Only a formal and material training is being aimed at and only scholars come out of the menageries of the humanists, and only ‘useful citizens’ out of those of the realists, both of whom are indeed nothing but subservient people.”128 Stirner saw the ideas and knowledge acquired in schooling as being detached from the person who supposedly learns such things. Stirner criticized all abstractions which are held above people’s own wills and desires. In an authoritarian society, such abstractions or ideologies seem to govern our actions to the extent that people merely accept the idea that they should serve such things, such “wheels in the head.” Clearly schooling, which subordinates the individual to the social group, utilizes such abstractions in the socialization process. In criticizing the institutionalization of the socialization process that was taking place in his time, Stirner criticized authority–the crux of the matter, around which all socialization revolves.129

A more in-depth critique of schooling in particular came from Ivan Illich in Deschooling Society, published in 1970. Illich was opposed to the school as an institution and formed a cogent critique of its functions. Schools divide social reality: “education becomes unworldly and the world becomes noneducational.”130 Illich saw childhood as a product of industrial society and a social category that perpetuates the authority of the schoolteacher. “Once young people have allowed their imaginations to be formed by curricular instruction, they are conditioned to institutional planning of every sort. ‘Instruction’ smothers the horizon of their imaginations. They cannot be betrayed, but only short-changed, because they have been taught to substitute expectations for hope.”131 His criticisms of schooling are manifestly evident and entirely valid: “The school system today performs the threefold function common to powerful churches throughout history. It is simultaneously the repository of society’s myth, the institutionalization of that myth’s contradictions, and the locus of the ritual which reproduces and veils the disparities between myth and reality.”132

The themes inherent in theories of schooling have been rehashed for centuries. It is all too easy to see the devastating effects of schooling in our everyday lives: people have lost their imaginations and others must determine the meaning of our lives. Students are taught to recognize that they are constantly under surveillance. The rooms are distributed along a corridor at regular intervals. The teacher stands in front of the class making sure that everyone displays acquiescence in receiving the lesson. Later the students are examined, tested–observed and controlled. The examination “manifests the subjection of those who are perceived as objects and the objectification of those who are subjected. The superimposition of the power relations and knowledge relations assumes in the examination all its visible brilliance.”133 We must be made dependent, even helpless–memorizing bits of knowledge without any need. All sorts of industries would collapse, John Taylor Gatto observed, “Unless a guaranteed supply of helpless people continued to pour out of our schools each year.”134 Capital must dominate the future not just through the production of new commodity-things and technologies, but through the production of commodity-people. Every individual is merely a component, a piece of machinery. This is the essence of modern schooling. To argue otherwise would be mundane, untrue, and utterly academic.


Notes on the Poverty of Student Life

“I suspect God of being a Leftist intellectual”–Graffiti Paris, 1968

The university is the training grounds for the future ruling class and their most dependable lackeys. Most university students–after being constantly adjusted throughout their youth–are already well adjusted to subservient roles. They are model consumers, if not always model students. The students who are content with their social role as students have accepted passivity. Some accept passivity by ignoring all politics, others by becoming politically active. The result is the same–a useful citizen–useful to others. “Modern capitalism and its spectacle allot everyone a specific role in a general passivity. The student is no exception to the rule. He has a provisional part to play, a rehearsal for his final role as an element in market society as conservative as the rest. . . Meanwhile, he basks in a schizophrenic consciousness, withdrawing into his initiation group to hide from that future.”135

Students are vaguely conscious of why universities exist and what is expected of them–most simply don’t care. To be (a)pathetic is to be fashionable. When Nietzsche said that the idealism of humanity was on the verge of deteriorating into nihilism and meaninglessness, he couldn’t have been more prophetic. Instead of the transvaluation of all values that Nietzsche called for, however, we have experienced a further devaluation (Nietzsche saw nihilism as the devaluation of the highest values—a condition at once regrettable and full of possibility). Money, too, is fashionable–how could it not be? Wilhelm Reich’s middle-class reactionary dominates the radio, the television, and popular culture in general.136 He is a person who gives the appearance of independence, of rebelliousness, while being Capital’s most faithful servant. He is a person who has been yelled at, disciplined, and brutalized during the socialization process only to grow up with no greater desire than to do the same to others. Often he is the hero of high school, the well-trained athlete, the well-trained imbecile. What Max Stirner said of college students in general clearly applies: “Trained in the most excellent manner, they go on training; drilled, they continue drilling.”137

The modern student thrives in a milieu of privileged consumption. All social life is subordinated to the imperative to accumulate commodities that affirm the student’s chosen identity within the social group—so much so that it is possible for the student to ignore much of the substance of schooling. Entertainment is organized around (sub)cultural identity—a dead world of media swill with an appearance vaguely reminiscent of actual life (which has been vanquished by modern capitalism). Sexual activity, long repressed, is now tolerated within the context of relationships which could only be described as masturbatory. If it had any meaning, if it opened up new realms of communication, sex would be a force antagonistic to schooling—instead it is a safety valve. In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud said that civilization uses sexual energy for its own purposes (displacing it through work, for example). We are now so alienated from each other that it is difficult to conceive of a world in which our energies and desires are not systematically controlled and manipulated—a world in which meaningful communication is commonplace. Our capacity for self-regulation and autonomy has been schooled out of us; we are left with a character armor (the colonization of Capital) which protects us from expressing ourselves freely.138

“Politics, morality, and culture are all in ruins–and have now reached the point of being marketed as such, as their own parody, the spectacle of decadence being the last [hopefully] desperate attempt to stabilize the decadence of the spectacle.”139 Religion is a perfect example of this. It is now often marketed as spirituality, an admission of some vague need to retreat from reality and be enriched by assorted mystical beliefs. Any justification for the present madness will do. Depression is endemic. Drugs and alcohol help out as much as possible, setting the stage for all social interaction. But is it enough? Consumer goods help fill the void, but are they sufficient? So far, it seems to be. The life that gets away from us can always be sold back to us by the mass media in the form of images. All that once was directly lived has become mere representation. “For in the mass society, individuals have a tendency to withdraw from each other more and more. Their relationship is only artificial; it is only the product of the mass media,” wrote Jacques Ellul.140

The student often finds more meaningful forms of escapism–ideological escapism. Students are for justice, Che Guevara t-shirts, and affirmative action. And the socialist organizations are waiting to recruit. The student’s “rent-a-crowd militance for the latest good cause is an aspect of his real impotence.”141 The student serves the cause and the cause serves to justify the student’s subservience. The student activist consciously aligns their thinking with what they perceive to be that of an oppressed group (which they may or may not be a member of). Now they can speak for that group and articulate the desires of that group, usually phrased as demands made of the authorities. Every person, every group, must be represented. Representation is at the heart of the logic of modern politics, and its so-called enemies uphold this logic better than anyone. Such thinking is institutionalized among the academic Left, who are proud of their broad curriculum which includes all sorts of women’s studies, queer studies, African-American studies, etc. As long as students learn to demand “justice” for everyone, the possibility of revolutionary change can be ignored. Through appeals for justice or equal rights within the system, the academic Left perpetuates the system and its moralistic logic. And since academia is virtually defined by the dissociation of thought and action, no revolutionary theory could possibly thrive in this context; conversely, it is here that revolutionary ideology is at home, an object of passive consideration.

The university gives the appearance of fostering learning on one’s own initiative. Indeed, many of the controlling aspects of high school are absent–but only because they are no longer necessary. The university student is self-oppressed, a beautiful example of modern schooling’s hegemony. Her only hope is to stop identifying with the university and its myths. The student must commit the sin of pride (non serviam–I will not serve) just as Stephen Dedalus did: “I will not serve that in which I no longer believe whether it call itself my home, my fatherland, or my church. . . .”142 Perhaps the student read this in high school but thought nothing of it. Perhaps, too, they read of the Combine in Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest but did not recognize the similarity to their teachers. As long as knowledge is looked at from afar as one views the world of commodities, whatever truths it may reveal remain concealed.

The fact that universities serve the interests of power is all too obvious. As Fredy Perlman observed, students are taught to be innovative when it comes to the sciences and the physical universe, but their approach must be adaptationist in regard to the social world. Every academic field must be focused toward progress where it is needed and apologetics when it comes to the effects of such progress. Every individual must fit themselves into institutions, jobs, and the whole social network without ever thinking twice about what is lost. As Michael B. Katz put it, “We live in an institutional state. Our lives spin outward from the hospitals where we are born to the school systems that dominate our youth through the bureaucracies for which we work and back again to the hospitals in which we die.”143

The university is a perfect representation of our institutional reality. The university is an impersonal bureaucracy even when it tries to be something else. Alexis de Tocqueville clearly described the techniques through which such institutions function: “[Administration] covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting; such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which government is the shepherd.”144

The university purveys an advanced form of schooling. It is advanced mainly because the university is the schooling institution most directly in the service of Capital. But haven’t the students had enough of schooling by the time they get to the university? They are most likely tired of it. It is not easy to have your will systematically softened, bent, and guided by authoritarian social structures. Opposition to work itself must now be the basis of any radical opposition to Capital (which recuperates all forms of partial resistance). Opposition to schooling is now a necessity for those who resist the domestication of capitalist society. “Schools function as the organization of the passivity of the soul, and this is true even when active and libertarian methods are used; the liberation of the school would be the liberation of oppression,” wrote Camatte.145 It is all too apparent that schooling breaks your spirit. And while it is not easy to resist, it is well worth it. Only through resistance to this society can life become worth living.


1. Max Stirner, “The False Principle of Our Education,” This article was originally published by Marx in the Rheinische Zeitung. After Stirner wrote his masterwork The Ego and Its Own (an excellent book), Marx was so infuriated by it that he devoted a large (most of the book) and largely irrelevant portion of The German Ideology to a critique of Stirner’s ideas.
2. John Taylor Gatto, A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling (Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Hills Books, 2002), 61-62.
3. “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas: i.e., the class which is the ruling material force of society is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, consequently also controls the means of mental production, so that the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are on the whole subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relations, the dominant material relations grasped as ideas; hence of the relations which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance.” Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology (Amherst, New York: Prometheus, 1998), 67.
4. Alexander Inglis, Principles of Secondary Education (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Riverside Press, 1918), 343.
5. Ken Knabb ed., Situationist International Anthology (Berkeley, CA: Bureau of Public Secrets, 1995), 170-175. The Situationist International (1957-1972) was a relatively small yet influential Paris-based group that had its origins in the avant garde artistic tradition. The situationists are best known for their radical political theory and their influence on the May 1968 student and worker revolts in France. The most important situationist books are probably The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord, The Revolution of Everyday Life by Raoul Vaniegem, and the anthology cited above.
6. Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2000), 102. This book is possibly the most accessible and convincing critique of civilization.
7. Immanuel Kant, The Educational Theory of Immanuel Kant (Philadelphia: Lippincott Company, 1904), 225.
8. Bob Black, The Abolition of Work and Other Essays (Port Townsend, WA: Loompanics, 1986), 20. The theme of the essay “The Abolition of Work,” readily available on the internet, closely parallels the theme of this essay.
9. Michel Foucault, Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Vintage, 1977), 27.
10. Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society (New York: Vintage, 1964).
12. James Mulhern, A History of Education (New York: The Ronald Press Company, 1959), 52. This idea is echoed elsewhere: “In the most primitive cultures, there is often little formal learning, little of what one would ordinarily call school or teachers; for, frequently, the entire environment and all activities are school, and many or all adults are teachers. . . . The concentration of learning in a formal atmosphere allows children to learn far more of their culture than they are able to do by merely observing and imitating.” “History of Education,” The Encyclopedia Britannica (1988 ed.), 11.
13. Michael Cole, “Cognitive Development and Formal Schooling: The Evidence from Cross-Cultural Research,” The Evolution of Education ed. David Swanger (Orlando, Florida: Harcourt Brace, 1995), 68.
14. William A. Smith, Ancient Education (New York: Philosophical Library, 1955), 20-46; Everett Reimer, School is Dead (Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1971), 56.
15. Mulhern, 111.
16. H.I. Marrou, A History of Education in Antiquity (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1956).
17. Ibid., 43.
18. Ibid., 39-47.
19. Ibid., 51.
20. Everett Reimer, School is Dead (Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1971), 57; H.I. Marrou, A History of Education in Antiquity.
21. Edward J. Power, A Legacy of Learning: A History of Western Education (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 1991), 32.
22. Ibid., 30; Plato, The Republic. The Portable Plato (New York: Penguin, 1977).
23. Marrou, A History of Education in Antiquity.
24. Power, 95-96; Mulhern, 258.
25. Power, 106.
26. Frederick Eby, The Development of Modern Education: Second Edition (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1952), 20; Mulhern, 279.
27. “History of Education,” The Encyclopedia Britannica (1988 ed.), 34; “Higher Education,” The Encyclopedia Britannica (1988 ed.), 1. Also of note: “Between the eleventh and the fourteenth centuries, an attempt to reduce the influence of emotionality in religion took command of church policy. Presenting the teachings of the Church in scientific form became the main ecclesiastical purpose of school, a tendency called scholasticism. This shift from emotion to intellect resulted in great skill in analysis, in comparison and contrasts, in classifications and abstraction, as well as famous verbal hairsplitting–like how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. Scholasticism became the basis for future upper-class schooling.” John Taylor Gatto, The Underground History of American Education: An Intimate Investigation into the Prison of Modern Schooling (New York: The Oxford Village Press, 2003), 15. This book, though hard to find, is possibly the most eye-opening book on the subject.
28. Eby, 22-23.
29. Reimer, 58; Foucault, 150: “For centuries, the religious orders had been masters of discipline: they were the specialists of time, the great technicians of rhythm and regular activities.”
30. Kenneth W. Richmond, The Free School (London: Methuen & Co., 1973), 102; Eby, 40-41.
31. Reimer, 357. “I maintain that the civil authorities are under obligation to compel the people to send their children to school.” –Martin Luther, quoted in Sheldon Richman, Separating School & State: How to Liberate America’s Families (Fairfax, Virginia: The Future of Freedom Foundation, 1994), 40.
32. Eby, 181; Foucault, 210-211.
33. Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning and New Atlantis (London: Oxford University Press, 1960), 288.
34. Eby, 155; John Taylor Gatto, A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling, 151.
35. Rene Descartes, Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy (Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett, 1998), 18-19.
36. Foucault, 222, 146-147.
37. David B. Tyack, Turning Points in American Educational History (Waltham, Massachusetts: Blaisdell Publishing Company, 1967), 85: George Washington on education: “The more homogeneous our citizens can be made in these particulars, the greater will be our prospect of permanent union. . . .” Thomas Jefferson: “They [the most beloved and trusted] are those who have been educated among them [the American people], and whose manners, morals and habits are perfectly homogeneous with those of the country.”
38. Sheldon Richman, Separating School & State: How to Liberate America’s Families (Fairfax, Virginia: The Future of Freedom Foundation, 1994), 37. “But matters of public interest ought to be under public supervision; at the same time also we ought not to think that any of the citizens belongs to himself, but that all belong to the state, for each is a part of the state, and it is natural for the superintendence of the several parts to have regard to the superintendence of the whole.” Aristotle, Politics. The Evolution of Education, ed. David Swanger (Orlando, Florida: Harcourt Brace, 1995), 10.
39. Tyack, 3.
40. Ibid., 2.
41. H. G. Good, A History of Western Education: Second Edition (New York: Macmillan, 1960), 383.
42. Tyack, 28-34.
43. Ibid., 88.
44. Ibid., 66-67, 92. Noah Webster: “. . .good republicans. . . are formed by a singular machinery in the body politic, which takes the child as soon as he can speak, checks his natural independence and passions, makes him subordinate to superior age, to the laws of the state, to town and parochial institutions.” Quoted in Sheldon Richman, Separating School & State: How to Liberate America’s Families (Fairfax, Virginia: The Future of Freedom Foundation, 1994), 47. Benjamin Rush: “The government of schools. . . should be arbitrary. By this mode of education we prepare our youth for the subordination of laws and thereby qualify them for becoming good citizens of the republic. I am satisfied that the most useful citizens have been formed from those youth who have not known or felt their own wills til [sic] they were one and twenty years of age.” Quoted in Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, Schooling in Capitalist America (New York: Basic Books, 1977), 36.
45. Foucault, 178.
46. Tyack, 120-121.
47. Michael B. Katz, The Irony of Early School Reform: Educational Innovation in Mid-Nineteenth Century Massachusetts (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1968), 3-13. Mann was asked if he would accept the position by Edmund Dwight, a major industrialist from Springfield, after Dwight had convinced the governor that the position was too important to give to an educator. Mann was a politician, and as Secretary of the Massachusetts Senate he had advocated railroad construction, insane asylums, and other reforms. Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, Schooling in Capitalist America (New York: Basic Books, 1977), 165.
48. Katz, 47.
49. Horace Mann. The Republic and the School: Horace Mann on the Education of Free Men (Richmond, VA: William Byrd Press, 1957), 87.
50. David Tyack and Elisabeth Hansot, Managers of Virtue: Public School Leadership in America, 1820-1980 (New York: Basic Books, 1982), 55.
51. Howard P. Chudacoff, The Evolution of American Urban Society (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1975), 41, 164.
52. Michael B. Katz emphasizes the importance of the word systems as representative of a profound development in schooling in Michael B. Katz et al The Social Organization of Early Industrial Capitalism (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1982), 351 and in Michael B. Katz, Reconstructing American Education (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1987), 6.
53. John Taylor Gatto, The Underground History of American Education: An Intimate Investigation into the Prison of Modern Schooling (New York: The Oxford Village Press, 2003), 17-21; Carl F. Kaestle, “Introduction.” Karl F. Kaestle ed. Joseph Lancaster and the Monitorial School Movement: A Documentary History (New York: Teachers College Press, 1973), 3-48; John Zerzan, Elements of Refusal (Columbia, MO: C.A.L. Press, 1999), 128. This book examines the origins of modern domestication and presents an impressive account of the practical effects of the Industrial Revolution.
54. Edward H. Reisner, The Evolution of the Common School (New York: Macmillan, 1930), 215.
55. Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Addresses to the German Nation (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), 19-29.
56. Reisner, 179-200. From pages 199-200: “Briefly to mention the major changes which are to be attributed to Pestalozzi’s precept and example, we may say that he called the attention of his age to the social significance of the common schools; that he did much to rescue teaching in the common schools from a nondescript teaching personnel and to place it in the hands of men and women much more adequately prepared to follow teaching as an honorable and skilled calling; that he gave great impetus to the classification of pupils according to their abilities and achievements; that he greatly expanded the curricula of the common schools beyond the narrow exercise in reading which it had been before his time; that he introduced methods of instruction which greatly facilitated the mastery of the ordinary school skills and the acquisition of information; that he substantially improved the quality of school experience by introducing more of concreteness, more of thinking, and more of doing into school; that he wrought a revolution in the conception of school discipline by substituting the rule of love for the rule of fear and by treating children as cooperative individuals in a social enterprise rather than as potential rebels in a kingdom of repression.”
57. Gatto, The Underground History, 137-144.
58. Horace Mann, Life and Works of Horace Mann: Vol. III (Boston: Life and Shepard Publishers, 1891), 302-303, 365-366.
59. Reisner, 235-236.
60. John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down (Gabriola Island, British Columbia: New Society Publishers, 2002), 22. H.G. Good writes, “According to the Massachusetts law of 1852, all children between the ages of eight and fourteen years were required to attend school for twelve weeks a year, and for six of the twelve weeks the attendance had to be consecutive.” H. G. Good, A History of Western Education: Second Edition (New York: Macmillan, 1960), 450.
61. Richman, 44.
62. Jon Reyhaer and Jeanne Eder, “A History of Indian Education.” Jon Reyhaer ed. Teaching American Indian Students (Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma, 1992), 33-44.
63. William T. Hagan, American Indians: Revised Edition (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1979), 87-88. Joel Spring writes, “In the early days of missionary schools, teaching the value of work became a major source of conflict between teachers and parents.” Joel Spring, The Cultural Transformation of a Native American Family and Its Tribe 1763-1995 (Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996), 69. Along with the teaching of “a good work ethic” came profound social transformations. For example, “Among Choctaws, who traditionally did not have social classes, schooling became an important means of creating and distinguishing social classes.” Spring, 201.
64. Reyhaer and Eder, 33-37.
65. David Wallace Adams, “Foreword to the Paperback Edition.” Richard Henry Pratt, Battlefield & Classroom: An Autobiography by Richard Henry Pratt (Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003), xi-xv [from which the quote was taken]; Robert M. Utley, “Introduction.” Richard Henry Pratt, Battlefield & Classroom: An Autobiography by Richard Henry Pratt (Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003), xix-xx. “By 1899 over $2,500,000 was being expended annually on 148 boarding schools and 225 day schools with almost 20,000 children in attendance.” Hagan, 134.
66. Angie Debo, A History of the Indians of the United States (Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970), 287-288. In The Cultural Transformation of a Native American Family and Its Tribe 1763-1995 (Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996), Joel Spring writes, “The specific values that common school reformers of the period wanted instilled [Protestantism, republicanism, and capitalism] matched those advocated for the civilizing of Native Americans.” Since Native American children were considered lazy by missionaries, Lancaster’s method of instruction, which encouraged orderliness, industriousness, and obedience, was at one time used in Indian schools: “. . .many of the missionary teachers sponsored by the Civilization Fund Act established schools among the Choctaws and Cherokees using Lancasterian methods of instruction.” (Both quotes taken from page 29)
67. David Wallace Adams, Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience 1875-1928 (Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1995), 221.
68. Ibid., 210-230: A group of Navajo students who were once asked to write a poem about school, responded with the following:
If I do not believe you
The things you say,
Maybe I will not tell you
That is my way.

Maybe you think I believe you
That thing you say,
But always my thoughts stay with me
My own way.

69. Foucault, 176.
70. Norval Morris and David J. Rothman eds. The Oxford History of the Prison: The Practice of Punishment in Western Society (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 106.
71. Foucault, 80-81.
72. Cesare Beccaria, An Essay on Crimes and Punishments (Boston: International Pocket Library, 1992), 97. Beccaria nonetheless did not foresee the rise of common schools and compulsory schooling.
73. Gatto, The Underground History, 256.
74. Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present (New York: HarperCollins, 1995), 256-257; Gatto, A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling, 52.
75. Marvin Lazerson, Origins of the Urban School: Public Education in Massachusetts, 1870-1915 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1971), xiv.
76. Ibid., 56.
77. “History of Education,” 55.
78. Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, Schooling in Capitalist America (New York: Basic Books, 1977), 19.
79. Ibid., 164.
80. Ibid, 181-199.
81. Gatto, The Underground History, xxvii-xxviii.
82. Raymond E. Callahan, Education and the Cult of Efficiency: A Study of the Social Forces that Have Shaped the Administration of Public Schools (Toronto: University of Chicago, 1962), preface, 4-10.
83. Ibid., 20.
84. Frederick Winslow Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1919) [copyright 1911], 7.
85. Ibid. “No efficient teacher would think of giving a class of students an indefinite lesson to learn. Each day a definite, clear-cut task is set by the teacher before each scholar, stating that he must learn just so much of the subject; and it is only by this means that proper, systematic progress can be made by the students. The average boy would go very slowly if, instead of being given a task, he were told to do as much as he could.” (p.120)
86. John Zerzan, Elements of Refusal (Columbia, MO: C.A.L. Press, 1999), 170: “The age of the consumer began from the systematic destruction of much of the last autonomy of the producer.”
87. Callahan, 23.
88. Ibid., 41.
89. Ibid., 58: Some suggested labor saving devices were printed outlines, seating plans, recitation cards, and attendance sheets.
90. Ibid., 128-146; Gatto, The Underground History, 187-189.
91. Gatto, The Underground History, 193.
92. Gerald L. Gutek, A History of the Western Educational Experience (New York: Random House, 1972), 378; Bowles and Gintis, 195-197.
93. Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes: A History of the World, 1914-1991 (New York: Vintage, 1995), 295-296, 522-525.
94. “One of the distinctive features of modern schooling is the use of classroom and school organization to consciously shape the social behaviors of students.” Joel Spring, The Cultural Transformation of a Native American Family and Its Tribe 1763-1995 (Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996), 200.
95. Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964).
96. Jacques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes (New York: Vintage, 1973). From page 13: “No contrast can be tolerated between teaching and propaganda, between the critical spirit formed by higher education and the exclusion of independent thought. One must utilize the education of the young to condition them to what comes later.”
97. Paolo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003), 68.
98. John Taylor Gatto, “Against School,” Harper’s (September 2003): 34. Contains the George Bush quote being alluded to.
99. Marrou, 159.
100. John Dewey, “The Democratic Conception in Education,” in The Evolution of Education ed. David Swanger (Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace, 1995), 232.
101. Quoted in Geoffrey Walford and W.S.F Pickering eds. Durkheim and Modern Education (New York: Routledge, 1998), 4.
102. George S. Counts, Secondary Education and Industrialism (Norwood, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1929), 11-12.
103. Jill Haunold, “It’s About Time: Schooling as Oppression,” Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed (#57, Spring-Summer 2004): 45.
104. Tyack and Hansot, 11.
105. Saul K. Padover ed. The Essential Marx: The Non-Economic Writings (New York: Signet, 1979), 355.
106. Eby, 329-337.
107. Michael P. Smith, The Libertarians and Education (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1983), 8.
108. B.F. Skinner, Beyond Freedom and Dignity (Indianapolis, Indiana: Hacket Publishing Company, 2002), 40.
109. Ibid., 19.
110. B.F. Skinner, Science and Human Behavior (New York: The Free Press, 1953), 5.
111. B. F. Skinner, Reflections on Behaviorism and Society (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1978), 12-13, 22.
112. Ibid., 129,132; B.F. Skinner, “How to Teach Animals,” Skinner for the Classroom: Selected Papers (Champaign, Illinois: Research Press, 1982), 261.
113. Fichte, 31.
114. Benjamin S. Bloom ed., Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals: Handbook I: Cognitive Domain (New York: David McKay, 1956).
115. Benjamin S. Bloom et al., Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals: Handbook II: Affective Domain (New York: David McKay, 1964), 17.
116. Ibid., 29-30.
117. Ibid., 176-185.
118. Inglis, 375-376.
119. Ibid., 340.
120. Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (New York: Prometheus, 1988), 71.
121. Ibid., 74: “The worker therefore only feels himself outside his work, and in his work feels outside himself. . . . His labor is therefore not voluntary, but coerced; it is forced labor. It is therefore not the satisfaction of a need; it is merely a means to satisfy needs external to it. Its alien character emerges clearly in the fact that as soon as no physical or other compulsion exists, labor is shunned like the plague. External labor, labor in which man alienates himself, is a labor of self-sacrifice, of mortification.”
122. Knabb, 168.
123. Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews & Other Writings 1972-1977 (New York: Pantheon, 1980), 119.
124. Padover, 226.
125. Michael P. Smith, The Libertarians and Education.
126. Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
127. Murray Bookchin, The Spanish Anarchists: The Heroic Years 1868-1936 (San Francisco: AK Press, 1998), 48.
128. Stirner, “The False Principle of Our Education”
129. Joel Spring, A Primer of Libertarian Education (Montreal, Quebec: Black Rose Books, 1975), 50-51.
130. Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society (New York: Harper and Row, 1970), 35.
131. Ibid., 56.
132. Ibid., 54.
133. Michel Foucault, Discipline & Punish, 184-185.
134. Gatto, Dumbing Us Down, 9.
135. “On the Poverty of Student Life,” reprinted in Dark Star, Beneath the Paving Stones: Situationists and the Beach, May 1968 (San Francisco: AK Press, 2001), 10. This essay was quite an inspiration. See
136. Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1970).
137. Max Stirner, “The False Principle of Our Education”
138. Jay Amrod and Lev Chernyi, “Beyond Character and Morality: Towards Transparent Communications and Coherent Organization.” Howard J. Ehrlich ed. Reinventing Anarchy, Again (San Francisco, California: AK Press, 1996), 321: “Throughout the first years of our lives we were forced not just to internalize a few aspects of capital, but to build up a structure of internalizations. As our capacity for coherent natural self-regulation was systematically broken down, a new system of self regulation took its place, a coherent system, incorporating all the aspects of self-repression. We participated in capital’s ongoing project of colonization by colonizing ourselves, by continually working at the construction of a unitary character-structure (character armor), a unitary defense against all drives, feelings, and desires which we learned were dangerous to express. In the place of our original transparent relations to our world, we created a structure of barriers to our self-expression which hides us from ourselves and others.”
139. “On the Poverty of Student Life”
140. Ellul, Propaganda, 210.
141. “On the Poverty of Student Life”
142. James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (New York: Penguin, 1992), 268.
143. Michael B. Katz et al., The Social Organization of Early Industrial Capitalism (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1982), 354.
144. Quoted in Gatto, The Underground History, 91.
145. Jacques Camatte, This World We Must Leave and Other Essays (Brooklyn, New York: Autonomedia, 1995), 109.



    • edufactoryblog

      Agreed, Jane. The question is whether an institution that is thoroughly committed to the reproduction of a flawed economic, political and social system can provide ‘good education’.

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