Arnold Kling  

The Problem with Schools

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Bryan is not the first one to worry about schools. In 1962, John Holland Snow accused the educational establishment of subversion.


I believe that an educational movement or philosophy which minimizes or denies the possibility of our people and institutions for self-improvement -save through the expanding agency of government-is subversive.

It builds from there. Read the whole passage, which is found around page 7 (as numbered in the printed text), under the heading of "Opinion."

A contemporary libertarian might say that subversion is a good thing--we're supposed to be against government, right? But Snow was thinking of an America that embodies a libertarian ideal, and it is from that perspective he was against subversion.

Anyway, if you follow the link, you will find a book that takes a very conspiratorial view of how education evolved. I stumbled on the book during a Wikipedia surf while indulging my curiosity for how the Great Depression affected the intellectual climate. I recommend treating the book as one perspective, not as the way you should look at the world.

My view is that in the 1930's there certainly was a group of elite intellectuals who thought that people needed to be educated to the evils of capitalism and the virtues of collectivism. The question is what sort of influence that group had. I do not think they executed a complete takeover of the education system. I think that American education is an emergent phenomenon. It incorporates many strands. I don't think that the Marxist strand is everywhere dominant, but it is important in some instances, particularly in the way that the story of the Great Depression gets told.

I have a sense that the first draft of history of the Great Depression was heavily influenced by Marxism. It was a story of excess capitalist profit leading to collapse, and demonstrating the need for a collectivist system. I do not think this first draft ever lost its influence. In my view, this first draft has not been sufficiently examined or subjected to critical thinking by mainstream intellectuals. You have to go very far to the right on the political spectrum in order to find people who question that first draft.


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COMMENTS (8 to date)
Joe Cushing writes:

Like I said on the last post about this. I remember being taught that the government was laissez faire under Hover and that caused the depression to get worse. The Roosevelt came in with the wonderful new deal to make things better for everyone. Then WWII ended the Depression.

Today I always hear people say WWII ended the Depression. It's funny that Every other war caused economic slow downs and collapses. Now; because of this official myth, handed down to us by the government; people believe war is good for the economy.

I think it would be a good step for freedom if we taught people a more truthful history of the Depression. The foundation of how many people think about economics comes from this lesson we get in middle school.

"I do not think they executed a complete takeover of the education system."

You should talk to my sister who was trained as a teacher in "conservative" South Dakota, she was the only non-socialist in her classes, which, instead of teaching teachers how to teach or teaching them subject material, focused on leftist indoctrination.

The inmates run the asylum.

Jacob Oost writes:

I guess I'm missing something, I'd always heard that Friedman's explanation of the Great Depression had since become the standard, textbook explanation among economists as the primary cause of the G.D., with the exception of hardcore ideologues like maybe Krugman.

Or do you just mean intellectuals outside of the economics realm?

Alex writes:

It's just as bad, if not worse, here in England. My mother recently went through teacher training, and it was mainly indoctrination in to a warped descendent of cultural marxism blended with Labour style bureaucracy. I suspect that even if the anglo-american state education systems did not begin in conspiracy, state control of education would have had similar results thanks to the post war political environment - what environment could be better suited for the student radicals than state run education?

granite26 writes:

20 years before prohibition passed, it was required by law that schools taught the evils of alchohol. The facts were largely wrong too.

DeWitt Payne writes:
You have to go very far to the right on the political spectrum in order to find people who question that first draft.

I guess that qualifies the WSJ as very far to the right. See for example: Five Myths About the Great Depression : Herbert Hoover was no proponent of laissez-faire

Seth writes:
I think that American education is an emergent phenomenon.
Kling

However, one that has been progressively emerging more from the top down with DOE standards attached with bribes.

When I hear things from educators like, "We could choose not to accept federal funds, but that's 8% of our budget and that's a lot of money" I get concerned.

I would like to see it move in the other direction so that's it emerges more from the bottom up.

Noah Yetter writes:

I do not think they executed a complete takeover of the education system.

Takeover of the system? Those people created the system. American public schools were copied after the Prussian model, the purpose of which was to crank out thoroughly-indoctrinated, loyal little soldiers. It is not and has never been aimed at educating anyone about anything. It exists to enforce conformity and destroy creativity.

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