metablue.jpg (14625 bytes)

November, Volume 11 Nr. 3, Issue 124
Schools as Highly Successful Institutions 
The War Inculcation Assembly Line

Jozef Hand-Boniakowski

When I was a kid, an understandably unenlightened youngster, I was given the school essay writing assignment on the topic of, "What Freedom Means to Me".  The multi-propagandist institution of my secondary education was a private Catholic school.  The local population, in general, feared sending their children to public high school and saw private Catholic schools as good options.  My freshman class had 35 students in one classroom, not the best learning environment.  The mediocre quality of the education I received and the outrageous behavior of my graduating class is a topic for another day.   

All schools are organs of the steady-state State.  Compulsory education, just like compulsory military service, serves the State.  Schools  are today, as they were in my childhood, highly successful in their educational mission.  Contrary to the reported substandard student performance as measured by the corporate standardized testing industry, UStatesian schools are well endowed with the tools required in perpetuating the corporate greed capitalist world view. 

From politicians and administrators to the testing industry, criticism abounds bemoaning the sad condition of "educational achievement".  There is, however, a failure in recognizing, mostly for self-serving reasons, the amazing success story of UStatesian education.  The success includes providing society with willing consumers eager to spend and willing to go to war to defend the "freedom" to  constantly increase their spending.  The success also includes the continued pervasion of the  if-you-only-study-and-work-hard-you-will achieve UStatesian dream mythology.  Michael Moore writing in his best seller, "Dude, Where's My Country" writes,

I have some news for you: You're not even going to lick the plate.  The system is rigged in favor of the well that it dupes otherwise decent, sensible, hard-working people into believing that it works for them...the system drafts an army of consumers and taxpayers who gladly, passionately, fight for the rights of the rich...even sacrifice the lives of their own flesh and blood...

Two years after 9-11, UStatesians continue to be pumped into internalizing that Iraq was responsible entity for the Twin Towers disaster.  The fact is that none of the hijackers came from Iraq.  Yet, over half the population believes they did.  All but 3 were Saudi Arabian.  Not surprisingly, CNN, reported on November 22, 2002, that given a map,

only about one in seven -- 13 percent -- of Americans between the age of 18 and 24, the prime age for military warriors, could find Iraq. The score was the same for Iran, an Iraqi neighbor.

Although the majority, 58 percent, of the young Americans surveyed knew that the Taliban and al Qaeda were based in Afghanistan, only 17 percent could find that country on a world map.

Enforced Ignorance

Michael Moore, speaking on his book tour ("Hey Dude.  Where's My Country?") says that "enforced ignorance" begins at school.  He poignantly points out that, "You are not allowed to bomb a country unless you can find it on a map."  Moore says that 60% of the U.S. people tested could not find Great Britain and 10% could not find the United States.  The November 20, 2002, issue of the Guardian newspaper published an article entitled "Adrift on an Ocean of Geographic Ignorance" revealing that 30% of 18 - 24 year olds think that the population of United States is 1 - 2 billion.  Imagine.  Moore relates this inflated self-perception of the world's only super-power as being part of the "We're number one!" syndrome where nothing else matters but us.  No wonder "the public is manipulated so easily with lies and fear."  No wonder it believes the 9-11 hijackers to be Iraqi.  Not so insignificantly, enforced ignorance is rampant within the  age group that typically populates the rank and file of the military.

An ignorant public is exactly what the status quo wants.  Schools successfully lay the foundation that creates a lie-pliable public, ever-ready for manipulation by the military-industrial-education-agri-prison complex.  As Tom Paxton's song satirically implies, "Our leaders are the finest men and we elect them, again and again, and that's what I learned in school today.  That's what I learned in school." (Full and updated lyrics below).

The military-industrial-education-agri-prison complex has it both ways by design.  It inculcates and spreads the behavior that creates and makes ignorant a reality-show programmed public.  The military-industrial-education-agri-prison complex is in the lucrative business of creating and administering the tests which evaluate the knowledge in the textbooks it has written.  By continuing to keep the public ignorant, more tests and textbooks are sold keeping the military-industrial-education-agri-prison complex in  control.  And so, we go to war based upon lies, without questioning.  Young  high school graduates fight, get maimed and die in wars that make the shareholders in the  military-industrial-education-agri-prison complex rich and richer.  Why don't schools teach their students to ask: Which of the rich and ruling class elites' sons and daughters are fighting in Iraq?  What Congressmen or Senators, or CEOs' sons or daughters, are on the military front lines defending the profits of the Haliburtons, Bechtels, and McGraw Hill's of the world?  What is the connection between the CEOs and members of the Board of the major military contractors and the government? 

While education fails in teaching the basic geography and geopolitics that helps create knowledgeable citizens, it is highly successful in propagating  the corporate lies necessary in continuing the empire's quest for neo-liberal hegemony.  To enforced ignorance, add a gulp of in-the-throat patriotism and we the people become, we the sheeple.  Starting with the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and ending with Texas and California-School Board-approved textbooks, the internalization of this nationalism is the price students pay for achieving  group and institutional acceptance.  The system's  parameters tolerate few exceptions.  In high school, if you are not part of the in-crowd, you are an outcast.  Out of high school, you are either with us or against us.  

If you are a teacher and not "with us", then expect firing, reduction in force, early retirement buyout, the taking away of choice teaching electives, and expect other incentives to leave.  Some recent examples:

Elizabeth Ito, a Forsyth Technical Community College teacher (North Carolina) was fired, not "...because she expressed a personal opinion in the classroom," said Liz Seymour, a member of the Ito Defense Coalition. "She lost her job because of the opinion she expressed."

A school custodian in Barre, Vermont, at the persuasion of a police officer, in the middle of the night unlocked the door to Tom Treece's classroom and photographed so-called offensive student projects that included anti-war topics.  The police officer shared them with commentator Rush Limbaugh.  Treece's class was taken way from him.

Dominating the Propaganda Resisters

Imagine a dedicated social studies teacher.  Imagine a teacher committed to free thought, critical thinking, and questioning authority.  Imagine a class discussion on labor history with the teacher standing up, reading and encouraging discussion of Utah Phillips, "Stupid's Pledge",

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the multinational corporations and to the profit for which they stand; one interlocking directorate under no government: indivisible, with monopoly and cheap labor for all!

In today's surveillance climate the repercussions would be swift.  With cameras now in many of the nation's classrooms, civil libertarians are questioning their purpose.  Just what behavior are these devices trying to improve?  What crime are they attempting to deter?  

Organizations such as No Indoctrination and Campus Watch as Amber Hussing writes, "strive to expose professors they feel propagate political biases, and document these occurrences on the web".  (Academic Freedom Under Fires. Organization of American Historians).  Unprecedented attacks on academic freedom have no less a goal than the,

...domination and control over all teachers. The law for the reestablishing of the professional civil service made it reexamine all ... teachers and to remove all "harmful and untrustworthy" elements.   Many teachers...were dismissed.  

The above quote come from Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression, Volume I Chapter VII, Means Used by the Nazi Conspirators in Gaining Control of the German State.

Then, there are the following recent events:

  • Teacher tells students in Atlanta to clap for the governor or get detention. (Wiretap magazine, Aug 12, 2003)

  • High school principal bans student peaceful, silent protest against anti-gay violence. (Luther Burban, TX. April 9, 2003.  Reported, June 3, 2003).

  • Oklahoma student suspended from school for "hexing" a teacher.  She was wearing a Wiccan symbol.  

  • Texas passes law forcing students to say the Pledge of Allegiance (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 8, 2003).

  • Missouri becomes 35th state to pass legislations saying the Pledge on August 27, 2003.  (Kansas City Star, Aug. 27, 2002 and Supreme Court decision).

  • School principal censors salutatorian's speech, gives no reason. (Freedom Forum posting, June 11, 2001).

  • Ninth-grade English at Rio Grande High School suspended two days without pay refusing to remove the sign: "No War Against Iraq".  The following day, the art teacher is similarly suspended for putting up a sign in solidarity.  (Albuquerque Tribune, March 11, 2003.)

  • My own 30-year teaching career where I was taken to task for having my "activism affect my teaching" (October 2000 - June 2001).

To their credit, many teachers have refused mandated patriotism.   Among these is Ruth Cody, who led a successful effort against making the Pledge mandatory for the 1,500 children of the Springfield, Vermont, School District.  Contrast this with the account of North Carolina music teacher Deborah Mosier as reported in a Los Angeles Times article of October 12, 2001, entitled "Intended to Unite, Displays of Patriotism Divide Some Schools", 

Can we brainwash the kids?" she pondered. "Well, yeah, we can." But as long as the pro-America fervor is tempered with respect for the nation's diversity--of races, of religions, of opinions--Mosier figures it's OK.

Her colleague, second-grade teacher Cheryl Riddle agrees: "At this point, I can't see overdoing it.  I really can't."  Where have we heard this kind of talk before?

The youth of today is ever the people of tomorrow. For this reason we have set before ourselves the task of inoculating our youth with the spirit of this community of the people at a very early age, at an age when human beings are still unperverted and therefore is building itself up for the future, upon its youth...And will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing.  (Adolf Hitler, 1 May 1937)

Other Nationalistic Objectives

Other implied nationalistic education objectives include self-righteousness, morality of purpose, near-infallibility of the executive branch, obedience, accepting the concept of manifest destiny etc.  John Taylor Gatto in an article entitled, "Against School" (Harpers, September 2003) reminds us what H. L. Mencken said about the aim of public education.  Mencken said the goal is not,

to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. ...Nothing could be further from the truth.  The simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality.  That is the aim in the United States...and that is the aim everywhere else.

The higher institutions of learning, especially the teachers colleges and universities, are heavily endowed with well-equipped professional nationalists talented enough in fulfilling nationalistic objectives.  Higher education today has been more than ever, taken over by the  military-industrial-education-agri-prison complex.  Within today's climate of the USA PATRIOT Act, the stench of anti-libertarian and anti-Bill of Rights education permeates  our values.

The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism, nationalistically acronymed the USA PATRIOT Act, a.k.a., USAPA, became law on October 26, 2001.  The House approved USAPA by a margin of 357 to 66, only a month after the tragedy of 9-11.  Emotions riding high on understandable horror, grief and anger, USAPA was passed with most members of Congress not even reading it.  Only one senator, Russ Feingold (D-WI) voted in opposition.  At a time when clear and critical thinking was needed most, the Congressional body politik, with one exception, responded with the most egregious of  reflex reactions. Revenge.

Why bother to critically examine the USAPA, much less read it.  Members of Congress  are, after all, products of the schools they come from.  Leave it Congress to set the example of passing legislation it did not read.  The logic of school, as John Taylor Gatto puts it is to,

  • train children to be employees and consumers

  • train children to obey reflexively

  • inculcate a low threshold for boredom

  • train children to dread being alone

  • become experimental laboratories on young minds

  • be drill centers for the habits and attitudes that corporate society demands

  • become institutions that turn children into servants

  • suppress the genius that is common

  • extend of childhood into adulthood

What adult, capable of critical reading and free thinking would have voted for the "Sneak and Peak" provisions of USAPA?  What believer in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights would have voted in favor of collecting data on what books UStatesians buy and read?  When was the last time we citizens read the Bill of Rights?  

Kudos to the librarians, who have bucked USAPA and John Ashcroft's neo-fascism.   As Vermont congressperson Bernie Sanders put it, "librarians have caused U.S. Attorney  General John Ashcroft...fits over the USA Patriot Act."  Perhaps, there is some hope?   Whenever John Aschroft responds with "duped by those who are ideologically opposed to the Patriot Act" to those who challenge his attacks on civil liberties, one can be assured that at least a few adults survived their UStatesian educational experience.  

Industrially Managed Education

Ellwood Cubberly, a member of the faculty of Stanford (1906) and dean of its school of education (1917) profoundly affected the character of U.S. schools.  His works include Changing Conceptions in Education (1909), The History of Education (1920), Public School Administration (1929), and Public Education in the United States (1947).  Cubberly was a proponent of forced schooling, applying corporate and industrial management techniques into education.  John Taylor Gato (Harpers, September 2003) quotes Cubberly, 

Our schools are...factories in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned....And it is the business of the school to builds its pupils according to the specifications laid down.

Thank you librarians for saying, to hell with the specifications and rejecting Cubberly and  Ashcroft.

So then.  What is one to think of the school essay assignment, "What Does Freedom Mean to Me", a topic once again in vogue?  What do we write about freedom?  Do we write about freedom being the God-given right to buy and drive a Humvee?  Do we patriotically describe the freedom to buy five of them, a la nuevo-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger?  What do all of those billions, if not trillions of incessant words in essays on freedom say about us?  What do they say about the puppet masters who pull our strings and make our pens and word processors prolific?  

The "land of the free" is a truly unique and baffling place.  Where else would people unconcerned over their vehicles single-digit gas mileage send their youth off to die for the cheap oil needed to run them?  Where else can a war on terrorism be fought through more shopping?  The home of the brave is a place where going to war to keep the Humvee tanks filled is seen as both desirable and an entitlement by virtue of UStatesian consumership.  Citizenship is old thinking Big Brother says.  Those who do not shop are not with us.  Thanks to school, freedom is mom's Apple Pie, Nike sneakers and a Humvee in every driveway.  21st century UStatesians proudly take out $50,000 plus loans to purchase Humvees.  We are free to purchase these 6,400 pound military behemoths masquerading as luxury passenger vehicles.  But, we have no clue how to calculate their gas mileage, nor how many lives per gallon it takes to run them.

As Paul Wilborn of the Associated Press, in an article entitled, Hummer sales plow over criticism of gas mileage, view-blocking bulk puts it, "For most Hummer drivers, the attention they receive is part of the reason they bought a car that can sell for as much as a condo."  What does it matter that, as Ariana Huffington says, "We go to war to protect our supply of cheap oil in vehicles that would be prohibitively expensive to operate without it."  

Education takes it cues from the corporations that sell textbooks, produce and grade  standardized tests, and present "free" audio visual equipment in exchange for a guaranteed adolescent audience.  A Montgomery County, Maryland public school system, for example, contracts with CTB/McGraw-Hill in creating assessment tests.  McGraw-Hilll publishes 6th grade mathematic books that contain brand names embedded within its word problems.  I once had a conversation with a teaching colleague about this.  Her opinion was that the familiar brand names helped the students relate to the math problems at hand.  When teachers do not assess the implications and dangers of blatant  corporate product placement,  then critical thinking skills suffer. That of course, is precisely the point.  

In a recent program on Free Speech TV, Howard Zinn talked about schools where students learn little about Vietnam.  Zinn says that the Vietnam War is obliterated from  history.  Why?  Because as Zinn says, "Vietnam gave war a bad name."  Similarly for Korea.   Though 3 - 4.5 million people died in the Korean war -- the forgotten war.  Korea also did not give war a good name.  The emphasis in schools is on the good war, World War II.  There is an attempt at making the Iraq war look like a good war.  Zinn calls it, burying the specter of Vietnam in the sands of Iraq.  Thus, the under-reported casualties of the Iraq war are shown as being only U.S. casualties.  Where is the truth,  that mostly innocent people, civilians and children die in war?  We are taught to sterilize war's death and destruction.  We are taught to experience our emotional responses only in terms of U.S. casualties.  The people on the other side of obliteration are not human.  

In one school where I taught, the contemporary issues class used the corporate magazine, Newsweek, as the textbook.  Where is the counter to the establishment point of view?  What are those glossy slickly-produced pro-war on Iraq issues conveying to a new generation of UStatesians?  Where is the multiplicity of viewpoints so that students can make up their own minds, develop their own conclusions?  Of course, if the objective is to prevent a countervailing point of view one understands why Newsweek is there.

A countervailing point of view, for example, might be the Guardian Weekly.  How many teachers in the United States know about the immensely well-read Guardian newspaper.  Where is it published?  To borrow a slightly rewritten  phrase from Charles Darwin, "Ignorance begets ignorance".  Where does this lead?  It leads to a world where  the population of the United States is alone in believing that going to war with Iraq is justified.  It leads to a population that doesn't know what the rest of the world thinks.  Worse, it doesn't care. 

What Does it Mean To Learn

Richard Miller, in his 1996 piece, "What Does It Mean to Learn? William Bennett, the Educational Testing Service, and a Praxis of the Sublime", writes that,

What it means to learn within this system, then, is to accept what has been handed down by one’s superiors, to repeat their findings, to grant the assumptions behind their facts and figures, to chant their conclusions.

To which I would add, and to use standardized tests to see how successful our schools  are in being highly successful institutions and propaganda inculcation assembly lines.  The United States is not unique in its corporatization of education.  Jane Kenway and Elizabeth Bullen, University of South Australia, in a draft of a Paper presented at the Traveling Policy Local Spaces Conference, Keele University, UK, (June, 2001),

The corporate curriculum has conventionally bypassed the nation state, educations systems and schools. It has gone directly to the hearts and minds of kids. In this way it has deligitimised schools, teachers and any curriculum which seeks to define citizenship broadly and in multiple ways.

No less than thought hegemony and a global ratings' based world-wide mind market share is the goal.  Imagine 6 billion people watching reality TV at the same time.  With simultaneous world-wide access to reality TV, why would anyone concern themselves with being able to find Iraq on the map?  Why would anyone care to question authority?  Why would anyone concern themselves with being a good citizen when one can be a good consumer with little or no effort?  Boring schools and countless hours of TV ensure enforced ignorance.  We vote with the remote!   We express ourselves by buying  something!  Anything!

In this era of war-inculcated education, the manufacturing of consent, the fictitious neo-news and reality television, it might be time to revisit Steve Allen's "Dumbth. 101 Ways to Make America Smarter" and some of his suggestions.  Here are a few. 

  • Decide that in the future you will reason more effectively

  • Do some casual studying about the brain, the mind, memory, the whole field of psychology

  • Concede ignorance when you are ignorant

  • Know that reason need not be the enemy of emotion

  • Decide to continue your education until death

  • Watch less commercial television

  • When possible, spend time with people brighter than yourself

  • Familiarize yourself with the commonly accepted scientific view of the universe

To which, I would add, educate your children before the  military-industrial-education-agri-prison complex destroys their ability to do so..  

© 2003 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski, PhD

What Did You Learn in School Today?
Words and Music by Tom Paxton

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that Washington never told a lie.
I learned that soldiers seldom die.
I learned that everybody's free.
And that's what the teacher said to me.
That's what I learned in school today.
That's what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that policemen are my friends.
I learned that justice never ends.
I learned that murderers die for their crimes.
Even if we make a mistake sometimes.
That's what I learned in school today.
That's what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned our government must be strong.
It's always right and never wrong.
Our leaders are the finest men.
And we elect them again and again.
That's what I learned in school today.
That's what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that war is not so bad.
I learned of the great ones we have had.
We fought in Germany and in France.
And some day I might get my chance.
That's what I learned in school today.
That's what I learned in school.


What Did You Learn in School Today?
Music by Tom Paxton
New words by Pikku Myy

What did you learn in school today, dear little boy of mine? 
What did you learn in school today, dear little boy of mine? 
I learned that I must pass a test 
To sort the learners from the rest 
That winners win and losers lose 
And TAAS test scores is how they choose 
And that's what I learned in school today 
That's what I learned in school 

What did you learn in school today, dear little girl of mine? 
What did you learn in school today, dear little girl of mine? 
It matters what my parents earn 
I'll get better grades with cash to burn 
If I don't speak English I can't be smart 
And no more music and no more art 
And that's what I learned in school today 
That's what I learned in school 

What did you learn in school today, dear little boy of mine? 
What did you learn in school today, dear little boy of mine? 
Teachers fill my empty mind 
So that I won't be left behind 
I'm learning how to play the game 
And all right answers look the same 
And that's what I learned in school today 
That's what I learned in school 

What did you learn in school today, dear little girl of mine? 
What did you learn in school today, dear little girl of mine? 
Learning's just a job I do 
From seven thirty til half-past two 
And all my interests have to wait 
'Til I drop out or graduate 
And that's what I learned in school today 
That's what I learned in school

Return to Homepage