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Real Purpose of Education System

During the early 20th century, the education system across the US expanded secondary schools geographically and extended formal education to 12 years. This “new vocationalism” provided a short cut to skilled jobs needed by factories and agricultural enterprises. Simultaneous, academics switched from a classical base to progressive experimentalism. Harvard professor of education Alexander James Inglis’ career mimicked these changes. His book “Principles of Secondary Education1” in 1918 outlined the factors, aims, and principles that determine the form of secondary education.

John Taylor Gatto, author and former three-time New York State and New York Teacher of the Year,” describes what the real purpose of education is2:

“We don’t need Karl Marx’s conception of grand warfare between the classes to see that it is in the interest of complex management, economic, or political, to dumb down, to demoralize them. To divide them from one another, and to discard them if they don’t conform. Class may frame the proposition, as Woodrow Wilson, then President of Princeton University, said the following to the New York City School Teachers Association in 1909: “We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very large class, of necessity, in manual tasks.” But the motives behind the disgusting decisions that bring about these ends need not be class-based at all. They can stem purely from fear, or from by now familiar belief that “efficiency” is the paramount virtue, rather than love, liberty, laughter, or hope. Above all, they can stem from simple greed.”

Form follows function. The driving forces behind progressive education are fear and social efficiency, developed through the physical, mental, moral, and aesthetic efficiencies in each pupil. Social is the operative word, whose root comes from the Pro-Indo-European word “*sekw” meaning “to follow”. Efficiency deals with producing a desirable effect. For whom? Cleary, society, which dehumanizes the individual in the name of group efficiency. This is about control. Authority reigning over cooperation.

As Mr. Gatto observed the alternate path:

“After a long life, and thirty years in the public school trenches, I’ve concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress our genius only because we haven’t yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.”


1 Alexander Inglis, Principles of Secondary Education, The Riverside Press Cambridge, Hougton Mifflin Company, 2018 - https://archive.org/stream/principlesofseco00ingliala?ref=ol#page/n7/mode/2up

2 http://www.wesjones.com/gatto1.htm