Anyone who has read the classic “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Ramarque remembers his theory that classic tricks by Prussian schoolmasters caused World War 1. John Taylor Ghatto claimed that “the inevitable product of good schooling” caused World War 2. While there is not any real evidence to support these claims, compulsory education has resulted in side effects throughout its existence. Historically, education reforms are compulsory based on socialist values, their goal is to mold an unthinking, obedient working class.
To understand compulsory education, it is important to examine its origins. While the concept of compulsory education stems from Plato, its implementation was never fully successful until 1819 Prussia when controversial German philosopher named Johan Gottlieb Fitche. He conducted a series of lectures in 1806 that introduced a concept of instruction aimed to both build a sense of collective identity and was offered to all Germans regardless of status or rank.
In 1819, the German government created the Volksshule (work school), in which 92 percent of the children gained an education that was not intellectual development, but socialization in obedience and subordination. The goal was to create a loyal class of people who were subservient and unthinking. These people would be the soldiers, clerks, workers, and civil servants who would have uniform thoughts and ideas. Real education was for the elite eight percent of the children, who would be the thinkers of the population.
Horace Mann brought the Prussian idea of compulsory education into America in 1825 through his belief that a republic form of government can only stand on a foundation created by a universal popular education. His efforts led to the passage of the first compulsory education law in 1852 by the Know- Nothing Legislation. This created a form of state socialism that resulted in a paradox that forced out the traditional American purpose of self-reliance under the idea of preparing the individual to be self-reliant.
Around the end of the 1800s, William Torrey Harris reinforced this belief by increasing compulsory education to the high school level. In 1889, Harris stated that he had scientifically designed education to prevent the occurrence of over education. He also admitted that ninety-nine percent of all children are automata. . Even John Dewey adhered to this belief. His view “that independent, self-reliant people were a counter-productive anachronism in the collective society of the future” was the opposite of the American idea of teaching people to become self-reliant.
It is apparent that there are several similarities between these early educational leaders. Most of them were followers of the Prussian purpose of education, which was to create a school system that would turn out graduates who were subordinate and obedient. One aspect of this purpose was supposed to foment a sense of national identity and patriotism as derived from early Nationalist theories. Over time, national identity has lost its importance to education. As a result, the practice has quietly fallen into disuse. Under the guise of teaching students self-reliance, educational leaders designed the system to make the students less self-reliant. Every important educational reformer until the 1900s deliberately reinforced preventing students from realizing their intellectual potential and turn people into pliant and submissive servants who will not challenge authority.
The foundation of education is flawed and reforms of recent history have not been very successful at addressing these flaws. They have attempted to treat the symptoms and the problems. If the reformers truly want to raise SAT scores or truly have no child left behind, then the policies that prevent students from being “over educated” must change. Future changes need to put into place ways to foster self-identity and interest the students in the curriculum.
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