Sailing in Decent Seas

NOTE: You should NOT read this feeble first draft. Everyone should read Jan D. Matthews work in lieu of plowing through this article; the link is provided where Jan’s name first appears. Jan’s Toward the Destruction of Schooling is glowingly great, filled with essential information for all educators, parents and students, for all citizens. Info that one will NEVER come across in school. This is an archived site. All pieces were written for particular purposes for very specific audiences. Not having proper context can make reading puzzling, off-putting. I highly recommend that you only read what was directly recommended to you. If you cannot find that by scrolling backwards on this site, please contact me for whatever link I may have recommended. That said, I do think that anyone could benefit from reading Jan’s work. And we all could benefit by the reader doing the decent thing. [Long Pause.] I was motivated to write this when my youngest asked, “Wasn’t it indecent for the ‘educated’ Europeans to not only take the Native American land, but to also send their children away to boarding schools?” Indecencies, indeed!

Sailing in Decent Seas
Dedicated to shedding light on our sailing away….
by Ox (and Jan D. Matthews)

“School is the cheapest police.” — Horace Mann

“It was the most ‘civilized’ — the most educated — who were responsible for the atrocities of World War I and World War II, Papi, yes?” — the author’s twelve-year-old home schooled son

The title is dreamy, yes. I almost used the word calling instead of sailing ’cause the other day I had been listening to Paul Simon’s Boy in the Bubble… where he tiptoes with the former so beautifully that he got me thinking about my favorite songwriters… which, of course, led me into Randy Newman’s realm. A list of my family’s favorites is available upon request, but… for the moment… I ask you to simply consider what is decent.

One of the things that I have in common with George Orwell and John Brown is that my intention with others is to do the decent thing daily. That said, there are many, many differences between me and them. Others sailing in such seas of decency sometimes seek violence, or stop short of action… dwelling in documentation. There are lots of variations on this fighting the good fight. No matter, in America today… where we can still do the decent dance for ourselves and others… here and there… somehow — even if we’re busy surviving and/or dealing with the challenges of ego — I ask you to do the decent thing… with or without me.

[Pause.] Take a break for a moment with Don.

I was at Riverside Church in New York City when Martin Luther King described the U.S. government as the greatest purveyor of violence in the world “today.” Today was April 4,1967. Today is now March, 2012 and the ante has been upped incessantly over the years, so that TODAY the government — with YOUR support — inflicts more violence on innocent world citizens than it ever has, and purveys — in absolute terms — much more violence than it did in King’s sixties, with increasing deadly doses slated to come down as we move toward what many reputable souls have described as “Doomsday.” Doomsday or not on the horizon, the fact is that the level of violence at home and abroad — which we support with our tax dollars and denial — is… unacceptable. Unacceptable, in part, because our military is arguably also the greatest single polluter on earth.

All this begs for us to do something about it. Which we can in this country still, what with the built-in opportunities which still remain in what still remains of our so-called democratic system. Meaning, we are obliged to do something, in part, because we have the freedom to do so here still, freedom fast disappearing domestically, and — in most other places — either not a fact of life, or not sufficiently influential.

That said, what’s doable is not to be found on the federal level. Rather, meaningful action must be taken on another plane. I would love to discuss our options with readers, but at another time. Here and now, I want to dip into a sound bite concerning our educational system — its history — and part of the role public education plays — as things stand — in propping up our horror, keeping it going. [Pause.] Let’s face it, in the context of what’s provided above, there needs to be a lot of very focused educational direction in place for parents to still be handing over the offspring for the purpose of being off’d as cannon fodder or some counterpart to that disgusting role.

In my early twenties, when I was getting my M.A. from Teachers College, Columbia University, I noticed that a lot of fuss was made about the nearby Horace Mann School branch at 525 W. 125th Street. Blah blah blah, it never ended. So I was obliged to check out who the hell Horace was. Good thing I did. ‘Cause, like a lot of other American heroes, his baggage begged for re-evaluation, and definitely did not call for unqualified praise… to say the least.

Horace called education “the great equalizer of the conditions of men — the balance-wheel of the social machinery.” (1) To employers, Mr. Mann claimed that schooling made workers more industrious, obedient and adaptive, thereby increasing their output. Privately, he often underscored how all that would contribute to their becoming ideal consumers too. The overall trajectory of compulsory schooling is not to be understood in relation to democratic ideology, whereby we applaud the glories of free schooling for the masses, ignorant of its hidden agenda. (2) Rather, the trajectory IS to be understood in its relation to industrialism and the new forms of social organization that were then developing. Schooling was to assimilate the immigrants and teach all children to play ball with the dominant culture’s values. Personal creativity and individual vision and inclination be damned, if necessary, the only really important consideration was whether or not the schools were doing the job of guaranteeing that The Machine would function as intended. Meaning, maximizing the personal profits of those who advocated for (and financially supported) compulsory education. (3)

Eventually, schools became graded, policy making centralized, curricula standardized, and even architecture uniform. What emerged were systems of pubic education, education having acquired its entirely institutional character. This development paved the way for the sterile bureaucracy of the 20th and 21st centuries. The schools became important auxiliary institutions to the factory, teaching children to be orderly and tractable, in great part, so that they could be pigeon-holed and motivated as needed for military and consumer purposes.

America’s compulsory school system was inspired by the first effective compulsory school system which was developed in Prussia and functional by 1819. In 1806, in the battle of Jena, Napoleon crushed the military forces of Prussia, and in the Treaty of Tilsit, by which peace was concluded in 1807 (on terms that were as harsh as what was imposed by the Versailles Treaty of WWI), he exacted severe and humiliating terms of the defeated nation. Well — just as there was a reaction in Germany to Versailles’ irrationality and cruelty — a wave of Prussian nationalism swept over the nation. Creating a massive compulsory education system aimed at creating patriotic masses that would die for their country was seen by leaders as the way to assure national greatness (as was the case under Hitler years later). Youngsters were directed toward a life of service to society, not encouraged to bloom as individuals in harmony with each of their singular natures.

Well, getting back to King… and bringing in Rachel Carson… and ringing up the total at the societal register which we’ve rung up, wringing our own necks in the process… it’s easy to see where all that has gotten us.

Now… if you’ll glance at the thrust of the blah blah in footnote #3 below (again?), I have a few questions… points to make.

[Pause while you take in the main point in footnote #3.]

Now… why do you think that was, that financial support from private quarters? While you’re pondering that, please understand that the situation today, especially with regard to corporate-controlled higher education, is much worse than what’s touched upon by Carnegie General Education Board quote directly below:

“In our dreams… people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands.”

Which brings me back to King… and his dream. Some variation of which can be our dream, our dream realized.

But first… let’s return to The Horror, an abomination — in its consequences — as far reaching and wrenching as The Nazi Holocaust. [Pause.] The Prussian schools formed in the 19th-century were divided into three categories: Akadamiensschulen for future policy makers (1% of students), Realsschulen for future professionals (5% to 7.5% of students) and Voksschulen, which emphasized obedience, for everyone else. (4)

Horace Mann visited Prussia in the 1840s and praised the Prussian schooling system upon his return to America. The curious thing, which Mann neglected to mention to anyone, is that he arrived in Prussia when its schools were closed for vacation. He toured empty classrooms, spoke with authorities, interviewed vacationing schoolmasters, and read piles of dusty official reports. Nevertheless, Mann issued a glowing report which culminated in our children having to be subjected to the public orchestration of their souls — not so unlike what Stalin pulled off in later years for the Soviet state — with the only two absolute grounds of exemption from attendance being sickness and death.

Death. That is why I am appealing to your sense of decency. As Orwell did. As John Brown did.

Public schooling does not need more funding. For it is rotten to the core. And anyone who disagrees with that premise, I invite to read through Jan D. Matthews’ Toward the Destruction of Schooling (link provided above), and to engage me in dialogue. If the reader does not have time to do so, well… I guess we can chalk that up to the schedule which The System was successful in getting the reader to embrace… successful in making the reader too busy for such tripe, yes?

Slowly but surely, the state has been able to impose compulsory attendance on its citizenry. During the latter half of the 19th century, the United States, France and England, all established systems of public education with compulsory attendance. Our form of compulsory schooling is an invention of the State of Massachusetts around 1850. It was resisted — sometimes with guns — by an estimated eighty percent of the Massachusetts population, the last outpost in Barnstable on Cape Cod not surrendering their children until the 1880s, when the area was seized by militia and children marched to school under guard.

Again, today parents are still offering up their offspring for slaughter to the greatest purveyor of violence on earth. Why? In part, because they themselves are products of our compulsory public school system. And why do the children go marching off to endless war? [Pause.] Because they are taught to do so.

War is a racket. So is school. And school — by its nature — doesn’t just make war possible, it guarantees war.

And I can prove that. All you’ve got to do is ask why no one has ever heard of Smedley D. Butler. And why no one has intellectual curiosity to check him out of the library. [Or, if they do, there's no in-depth discussion of him or his many counterparts (5) in the stacks.] And why no one is saying shit about what’s happening to our libraries. [Pause.] Oh, you don’t know what troubled waters I’m talking about? Ah!

No matter, contact me at Let’s set up a rendezvous for the purpose of sailing in decent seas.


1) By this he was advocating that popular education should be chiefly concerned with integrating masses of people into the new industrial economy and diffusing social tensions created by increasing inequality.
2) School committees were not answering the demands of a clamorous working class: they were imposing the demands; they were telling the majority your children shall be educated, and as we see fit.
3) By the time the common schools had proven their utility, the very wealthy took a marked interest in education. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Ezra Cornell, James Duke and Leland Stanford — unconscionable murderers all — created universities bearing their names. The universities were meant to train the middlemen of the American system who would uphold its high falutin’ (cold, cold, cold) values trimmed in (what is now) obsolete religious decoration: teachers, doctors, lawyers, administrators, engineers, technicians, politicians. [Ever wonder why/how those in charge overcharging you can be so cold? They've been trained so that when push comes to shoving your pennies in their pockets they could give a shit... just like they were taught in the institutions created by the greatest thieves in all of history.] As late as 1915 — only four years before Versailles — Carnegie and Rockefeller alone were spending more on education than the government was.
4) Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s Mayor and a major leader of school privatization (and for a long time Obama’s right-hand man), recently went on record as saying that, “Twenty-five percent of these kids will never amount to anything.” How is that any less of an abomination that the recent scandal the surfaced about some educator sending kids home with math problems which incorporated violent imagery?
5) Helen Keller is just one high profile example of someone who stood for much of what Butler advocated, but whose radical views are not allowed the time of day, only get in the way of public school priorities; the agenda of educators cannot allow a spotlight on such boat rockers. Helen’s okay… as long as she’s only deaf, dumb and blind.