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Compelled to Attend – Third and Final Part

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Many know that Thomas Jefferson was “the father of public education.” Do you know what he wanted it to accomplish, or how long he figured it would take? Read on.

The following is the third and final part of “Compelled to Attend” from The Art of Education: Reclaiming Your Family, Community and Self by Linda Dobson, published by Home Education Press in 1995.

The old cliché about the blind leading the blind was written, I suspect, by an elementary school teacher eavesdropping on student conversations on the playground.

It stands to reason that if a group of people is arranged, as in public school, to be as homogeneous, or similar, as possible from the very start, is subjected to intense observation and criticism of minute details of behavior, and is then conditioned/programmed/taught the same things at the same time (without individual interests, through, or ability entering the picture), the results are predictable. We wind up with “graduates” who “will no longer be surprised, for good or ill, by other people, because they have been taught what to expect from every other person who has been taught as they were.” (From Deschooling Society, Ivan Illich.)


Thomas Jefferson specified public education should be "as free as possible of any coercive discipline."

John Taylor Gatto, retired thirty-year veteran of New York City public schools and recipient of the New York State Teacher of the Year award, takes the horror of this “robot” effect one step further. He proposes a well-researched thesis revealing how the “progressive” education movement, working to cleanse the public schools of a colonial, “angry God” Christian curriculum, succeeded in their goal. Unfortunately when this “angry God” disappeared, so did “the idea of God along with him.”

If this is true it explains how public school programming has managed to create a society void of internal moral motivation and filled with hate, violence, and distrust. These are side effects of public school conditioning creating a society devoted to the economy, providing “busy work” for the masses who, in our sleep, are powerless to protect ourselves from the moral bankruptcy of the nation’s political, economic, church, and education “leaders.”

Armed with skilled – and due to additional programming, comatose – social workers and institutionally trained teachers, backed by law and armies of enforcers in every town and village (all funded with huge sums of taxpayers’ money and, incidentally, trained to observe and report on fellow citizens’ thoughts and actions), schools offer the perfect place for all your makers to converge, full force, on the young innocents gathered within the confines of the institution. You might call school the ultimate “institutional melting pot,” the great equalizer. Under their methods, the needs and interests of individuals don’t need to be met – they can be ignored.

Historians have collected materials containing Thomas Jefferson’s view of American education ideals. In 1818, Jefferson set forth six objects of Mount Rushmoreprimary education which, with his knowledge of the people of his time, he calculated would require three years of schooling to achieve:

  • “To give every citizen the information he needs for the transaction of his own business;
  • To enable him to calculate for himself, and to express and preserve his ideas, his contracts and accounts, in writing;
  • To improve, by reading, his morals and faculties;
  • To understand his duties to his neighbors and country, and to discharge with competence the functions confided to him by either;
  • To know his rights; to exercise with order and justice those he retains; to choose with discretion the fiduciary of those he delegates; and to notice their conduct with diligence, with candor, and judgment;
  • And in general, to observe with intelligence and faithfulness all the social relations under which he shall be placed.”

Thirteen-year long, compulsory attendance was not part of Jefferson’s plan.

While it is true Jefferson saw those three years of education as the state’s duty, according to Merrill D. Peterson, author of the Bancroft Prize winning The Jefferson Image in the American Mind, he specified education should be “secular and practical, a matter of local initiative and responsibility, and as free as possible of any coercive discipline.” (Emphasis added.)

“It is better,” Jefferson understood, “to tolerate the rare instance of a parent refusing to let his child be educated than to shock the common feelings and ideas by forcible asportation and education of the infant against the will of the father.”

Thirteen-year long, legally enforced compulsory attendance was not part of the plan. Public school today is a far cry from the ideal public education Thomas Jefferson envisioned as his country’s great equalizer. By the time we’re all done boiling in the great institutional melting post, everyone emerges the same. And void of awareness of the idea of God (or awareness of our spiritual aspect), that means cowardly. Ineffective. Valueless. Lazy. Amoral.

But equally so.

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One Response to “Compelled to Attend – Third and Final Part”

  1. "By the time we’re all done boiling in the great institutional melting post, everyone emerges the same. And void of awareness of the idea of God (or awareness of our spiritual aspect), that means cowardly. Ineffective. Valueless. Lazy. Amoral."

    Have you been in a public school lately? The quote above is a fantasy that satisfies some need not related to what I deal with as a teacher. In my first hour class last year i had 2 Buddhist students, 8 Muslim students, 7 Christian students (of assorted denominations), 2 "traditional shamanist", 2 proclaimed atheists, speaking something like 8 different languages, all of which shared English. When we discussed Tolstoy I got a whole new spin most people have never imagined, including a long struggle with "man vs. man", "man vs. nature", "man vs. God" and Tolstoy's symbolic wrestling with the Devil, or was it God. It was never my role to tell anyone what to believe, what to think, or what to question. It was only my job to ask questions, and maintain civility, respect, precision and respect in discussion. Try that in homeschool.

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