Wednesday, September 06, 2017

A System Designed to Regiment Large Groups of People

fee |  Hardly anyone disputes the contention that the modem public school is seriously flawed. Test scores continue to be poor while metal detectors are found in the more violent schools. Welfare-state liberals argue that schools in poor areas need more money to place them on an equal footing with their richer counterparts. Conservatives usually reply that the solution is a voucher system that would break the government monopoly on education by restoring choice and control to parents. But virtually all participants on both sides of the debate concede the nobility of the original reformers; in their view, the “good intentions” of such school champions as Horace Mann and John Dewey led to “unintended consequences.”

Such admiration is misplaced. As historian Michael Katz writes, “The crusade for educational reform led by Horace Mann . . . was not the simple, unambiguous good it had long been taken to be; the central aim of the movement was to establish more efficient mechanisms of social control, and its chief legacy was the principle that ‘education was something the better part of the community did to the others to make them orderly, moral, and tractable.’ ”1