The Libertarian

Vin Suprynowicz
Website: Liberty Book Shop
One Carol A. Davis writes in: “Since Mr. Suprynowicz is allowed to take almost a half of a page making, just one more time, the RJ’s constant point that ‘public schools just ain’t no damn good,’ ” (March 26) “why doesn’t he enlighten us some more. I want to hear all about the educated populace at the time of our Founding Fathers which he refers to in his closing paragraph. Who was educated and who wasn’t? To use this argument, Mr. V., you should be willing to back it up with facts. Prove you are correct, please, I want to learn.”

For someone who “wants to learn,” Ms. Davis gives little indication of having done any of the recommended background reading. I have repeatedly recommended “Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling” and “The Underground History of American Education” (the latter available free Online at www.rit.edu/~cma8660/mirror/www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/index.htm.) Both books are by former New York City and New York State (government school) Teacher of the Year John Taylor Gatto, hardly some “sour-grapes outsider.”

Useful background reading would also include de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” in which the great French scholar found in America the best-educated, best-read working class in the known world, decades BEFORE Horace Mann and John Dewey brought back the idea of regimented, tax-funded, mandatory government schooling from Prussia in the 1840s; Joel Turtel’s “Public Schools, Public Menace: How Public Schools Lie To Parents and Betray Our Children”; and the thoroughly researched and documented “Public Schools” chapter of my own 1999 book, “Send in the Waco Killers” (available for free at many local public libraries.)

Also instructive would be a comparison of the adult population of America in 1776 to contemporary estimates of the sales of the pamphlets of Thomas Paine, since it’s doubtful anyone bought them who could not read.

Usually raising its perfumed head around this time is the red herring that it was illegal to educate slaves in the slave states prior to 1865. Slavery was indeed an evil thing and we should all rejoice that people of all races are now allowed to seek an education on an equal footing. With one caveat: one of the most insidious tendencies of today’s government youth propaganda camps is the systematic way they allow black children -- especially black children -- to attend school for years without really teaching them to read, while the parents of those children are lied to, duped, and falsely reassured (often till their kids have fallen irredeemably behind) through the mechanism of report cards which insist these poor stragglers are making “satisfactory or better” progress. This is the worst kind of racism, and the hardest kind to fight, since it masks itself with “caring,” and will never admit its own fault in the pernicious outcome.

(As C. S. Lewis noted, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. Those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”)

Fortunately, in home-schooling and in true private schools the racial performance disparity disappears. That is to say: Black and Hispanic children show no genetic inability to excel; they thus have the most to gain through the elimination of the fraud-riddled, wasteful, and counterproductive anti-literacy camps know as “the public schools.”

The main problem with the government schools is not that they “ain’t no good” (note the enlightened tendency of the educrats to ridicule any critic as an illiterate gomer in bib overalls), but the fact that they were purposely structured to limit the complex literacy of -- to dumb down -- the children of the working class, in order to produce docile, unquestioning bureaucrats and factory workers who won’t do the reading.

The process of installing a government school system designed on purpose to dumb down a free and feisty populace into quasi-literate drones took decades. Digging out and documenting that history takes some time, particularly since the modern-day practitioners have belatedly taken to covering their tracks.

Very briefly, however -- and choosing a reputable source easily available to all -- visit with me an excerpt from Mr. Gatto’s “Underground History” at www.spinninglobe.net/lessons.htm. Scroll about a third of the way down. Here we find:

“Six years later another war began in Korea. Several million men were tested for military service, but this time 600,000 were rejected. Literacy in the draft pool had dropped to 81 percent even though all that was needed to classify a soldier as literate was fourth-grade reading proficiency. In the few short years from the beginning of WWII to Korea, a terrifying problem of adult illiteracy had appeared. The Korean War group received most of its schooling in the 1940s; it had more years in school with more professionally trained personnel and more scientifically selected textbooks than the WWII men, yet it could not read, write, count, speak, or think as well as the earlier, less-schooled contingent.

“A third American war began in the mid-1960s, By its end in 1973, the number of men found non-inductible by reason of inability to read safety instructions, interpret road signs, decipher orders, and so on -- the number found illiterate, in other words -- had reached 27 percent of the total pool. ... The 4 percent illiteracy of 1941, which had transmuted into the 19 percent illiteracy of 1952, now had grown into the 27 percent illiteracy of 1970. Not only had the fraction of competent readers dropped to 73 percent, but a substantial chunk of even those were only barely adequate; they could not keep abreast of developments by reading a newspaper; they could not read for pleasure; they could not sustain a thought or an argument. ...

“Consider how much more compelling this steady progression of intellectual blindness is when we track it through Army admissions tests rather than college admissions scores and standardized reading tests, which inflate apparent proficiency by frequently changing the way the tests are scored,” Mr. Gatto notes. “Looking back, abundant data exist from states like Connecticut and Massachusetts to show that by 1840 the incidence of complex literacy in the United States was between 93 and 100 percent wherever such a thing mattered.

“According to the Connecticut census of 1840, only one citizen out of every 579 was illiterate, and you probably don’t want to know, not really, what people in those days considered literate; it’s too embarrassing. Popular novels of the period give a clue: Cooper’s ‘Last of the Mohicans,’ published in 1826, sold so well that a contemporary equivalent would have to move 10 million copies to match it. If you pick up an uncut version, you find yourself in a dense thicket of philosophy, history, culture, manners, politics, geography, astute analysis of human motives and actions, all conveyed in data-rich periodic sentences so formidable that only a determined and well-educated reader can handle it nowadays. Yet in 1818, the U.S. was a small-farm nation without colleges or universities to speak of. Could those simple folk have had more complex minds than our own?

“By 1940, the literacy figure for all states stood at 96 percent for whites, 80 percent for blacks. Notice for all the disadvantages blacks labored under, four of five were still literate. Six decades later, at the end of the twentieth century, the National Adult Literacy Survey and the National Assessment of Educational Progress say 40 percent of blacks and 17 percent of whites can’t read at all. Put another way, black illiteracy doubled, and white illiteracy quadrupled. Before you think of anything else in regard to these numbers, think of this: we spend three to four times as much real money on schooling as we did 60 years ago, but 60 years ago virtually everyone, black or white, could read. ...”

Why? Because the schools had abandoned literacy and traditional academic learning as their goals, replacing them with the goal of indoctrinating good little redistributionists, brought up on memorized sound bites about “social justice” and the evils of unequal economic outcomes (read: economic freedom) promoted by greedy capitalists.

“When literacy was first abandoned as a primary goal by schools,” Gatto notes, “white people were in a better position than black people because they inherited a 300-year-old American tradition of learning to read at home by matching spoken sound with letters; thus, home assistance was able to correct the deficiencies of dumbed-down schools for whites. But black people had been forbidden to learn to read during slavery and as late as 1930 averaged only three to four years of schooling, so they were helpless when teachers suddenly stopped teaching children to read; they had no fallback position. Not helpless because of genetic inferiority but because they had to trust school authorities to a much greater extent than white people.

“Back in 1952 the Army quietly began hiring hundreds of psychologists to find out how 600,000 high school graduates had successfully faked illiteracy. Regna Wood (in Chester Finn and Diane Ravitch’s Network News and Views) sums up the episode this way: ‘After the psychologists told the officers that the graduates weren’t faking, Defense Department administrators knew that something terrible had happened in grade school reading instruction. And they knew it had started in the thirties. Why they remained silent, no one knows. The switch back to reading instruction that worked for everyone should have been made then. But it wasn’t.’

“In 1882,” Mr. Gatto concludes, “fifth-graders read these authors in their Appleton School Reader: William Shakespeare, Henry Thoreau, George Washington, Sir Walter Scott, Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Bunyan, Daniel Webster, Samuel Johnson, Lewis Carroll, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and others like them. In 1995, a student-teacher of fifth-graders in Minneapolis wrote to the local newspaper: ‘I was told children are not to be expected to spell the following words correctly: back, big, call, came, can, day, did, dog, down, get, good, have, he, home, if, in, is, it, like, little, man, morning, mother, my, night, off, out, over, people, play, ran, said, saw, she, some, soon, their, them, there, time, two, too, up, us, very, water, we, went, where, when, will, would, etc. Is this nuts?’ ”

NEXT TIME: More sources, same conclusion -- government schools have reduced our literacy rates, and it’s no accident.