Author: Bruce Deitrick Price

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Bruce Deitrick Price discusses these themes (and d

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Summary: There is a current in American history that favors control and manipulation; that strain became especially prominent in education Many elite educators are overly concerned with social engineering, when they should be focused on intellectual engineering

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Summary: There is a current in American history that favors control and manipulation; that strain became especially prominent in education. Many elite educators are overly concerned with social engineering, when they should be focused on intellectual engineering.

“Brave New World” opens with a scene in the factory where embryos are deprived of oxygen, so they will have precisely the needed degree of intelligence, thereby becoming Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, or lowly Epsilons.

Aldous Huxley is making fun of the ideas that built this factory. But if you chort
le at the satire you may miss the true horror of this scene. The Director himself is deeply satisfied with his work and his cold new world. He adores being able to limit the oxygen that future citizens receive.

The American experience has usually been about freedom and choices; but all along there was a separate, minor strain: people who frankly despised all that freedom nonsense. These people believed in control, order, conformity; and of course they believed in the indoctrination required to make control possible.

These people are the Director in Huxley’s novel. To an unsettling degree, the people who moved a century ago into the new fields of Education, Psychology and Sociology seem to be of this type. These were the men in white lab coats; and all around them the world spread out like a maze for training rats. That would be us.

Ivan Pavlov, the Russian who made dogs salivate, is the archetype. The Communists, in general, were drawn to the idea of forcing people to be what Communist doctrine demanded they be. Also think of the Puritans in New England, with their public stocks, and their elaborate social controls; they tried very aggressively to make people conform to their doctrinal visions. Traditionally, many Muslim communities were conducted in a similar way. So, trying to keep people under control is hardly unique to American educators.

But around 1900 there was an extraordinary convergence of four fresh impulses: we now have better techniques for controlling people; we can seize the power to put these techniques into practice; society will be better if we do so; and not only that, people will be happier if they are forced to fit into the lives that they will inhabit. Many smart VIP’s held these beliefs with lofty sincerity.

All of this is just prologue for making a simple point: you cannot understand the decline into mediocrity of American public school education during the past century unless you realize that the people in charge were primarily concerned with shaping and manipulating the students, not in educating them. There is even worse news: these people would break laws, and heads, to achieve their ideological goals.

These so-called educators were like barbarians storming through a Roman library. More than half of what people used to call content and foundational knowledge was rudely tossed out on the curb to rot in the sun.

Here is an extraordinary document from 1902, where the leaders of the General Education Board, a John D. Rockefeller charity, discuss their plans for stunting education in the South. Note the arrogant paternalism, the sweeping ambition:

“In our dreams, we have limitless resources and the people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding bands. The present education conventions fade from their minds, and unhampered by tradition, we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive rural folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning, or men of science....We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have an ample supply. The task we set before ourselves is very simple as well as a very beautiful one, to train these people as we find them to a perfectly ideal life just where they are. So we will organize our children and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way, in the homes, in the shops and on the farm.”

Note the imperial “we.” These are the self-appointed Directors circa 1902. They are clearly discussing a plot to dumb-down the citizens. As a result of their patronizing philosophy, which became epidemic throughout the nation, our so-called educators steadily kicked out all the reasons that civilizations have for creating schools in the first place. All with this shameful goal: “The present education conventions fade from their minds.”

This onslaught got really rough in 1932 when the education commissars decided to impose Whole Word (often called “Dick and Jane”) throughout the school system. This is a non-way to teach reading. A vicious hoax, actually. Ever since, we seem to have had 75 years of planned illiteracy.

Do you doubt it? Consider another revealing document, a 1932 book titled “Toward Soviet America.” This was not a secret communiqué; this was a book published as part of a presidential campaign. William Foster was running for president on the Communist ticket; and he wanted everyone to know exactly what he planned for us, for example: "The great ranches of the Far West, the big corporation farms of the Middle West--all confiscated by the new government--will provide immediate bases for many such great State farms." Did these far-left extremists always think in terms of huge, all-encompassing transformations? You better believe it. “Communist society will go further. It will scientifically regulate the growth of population. It will especially speed up the very evolution of man himself, his brain and body. Capitalism has checked the evolution of the human species, if it has not actually brought about a process of race degeneration. But Communism will systematically breed up mankind."

Point is, do you suppose that these self-appointed Directors would hesitate to “plan” ignorance, illiteracy, and all the rest of our educational woes if it would help them transform society in the desired way? These Directors were, of course, the same ruthless people George Orwell satirized as pigs in “Animal Farm.” And these were the same ideas, propelled by Rockefeller money, that pumped up the schools of education where John Dewey and his social engineering schemes are endlessly praised, and future teachers are browbeaten into accepting ingenious new ways to teach less.

Note that the Directors never think to ask permission. These elite Pigs always know what is best for you. The missing link in all of their plots and plans is your CONSENT. “Hey, peasant! Would you mind if we dumb you and your kids down, make you unable to read, ignorant, fit only for work in farm or factory, because that’s where you’ll end up and you’ll be happier our way?? How about it, yokel?” No, it’s all done on the sly. So how do these Directors differ from thieves, rapists, child abusers, and murderers? Bang! You’re dumb!

Think of the loss to individual people and their lives. Next think of the loss to society. Millions of brains wasted. Typically, jobs have gotten much more complex since these jokers planned our future a hundred years ago. Today, businesses and the military can’t find enough skilled recruits. Today, we urgently need schools to return to the real teaching of real content.

I was lucky. I had a good education. I guess I’m what is called a child of the Enlightenment. I bought into the notion that everyone should develop their talents and pursue their dreams. Not just writers and artists, but people generally, people who may end up in farms and factories. Are these views false? Aren’t people better off having intellectual options? Aren’t they better off at least knowing who Shakespeare was, what science is, and what that war in 1812 was all about?

I suspect that a guy plowing fields all day would enjoy having some songs and speeches in his head. How can it be the business of society to dictate what people can and can’t learn or aspire to? Who can know what skills and talents a child may have hidden inside--talents we may need a decade down the road?

Or do you feel that people should be engineered to fit their slots in life? That is precisely the bureaucrats’ religion depicted in Brave New World. How far are you willing to go? Ignorance and illiteracy?? Isn’t that terribly presumptuous? But these do seem to be the furtive goals operating in far too many schools. If we don’t fight these transformations, we become part of the problem.

Our society is stronger if people are educated to the limit of their ability. That’s the only axiom I bring to writing about education: let’s take children as far as each one can go. Seems reasonable to me. That’s got to be better for the kids, and better for the whole society.

Unfortunately, our education commissars do not flinch from depriving children of educational oxygen. I find this gaudily offensive and tend to think of these Directors who took control of our school system as the swine who dine on us.

(For ideas on how to recover from this onslaught, see “38: Saving Public Schools” on



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About the Author

Bruce Deitrick Price discusses these themes (and dozens of others) on his site See, in particular, "38: Saving Public Schools." His fifth book is THE EDUCATION ENIGMA--What Happened To American Education.