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PJ Media encourages you to read our updated PRIVACY POLICY and COOKIE POLICY.

Has a Century of Progressive Education Turned Us into Obedient Sheep?

I’d like to suggest that 100 years ago someone (or several someones) would have “leapt the table” to defend the honor of those families and those slain teenagers. They’d have at least risked being removed from the courtroom to make sure those families and everyone in the room knew exactly how offensive the “KILLER” shirt was. But I fear a century of progressive policy -- in particular, progressive education -- has turned us into a nation of obedient zombies, unable to question authority and unwilling to stand up in the face of injustice.

John Taylor Gatto, a "radical" education reformer who spent 26 years as a public school teacher in Manhattan -- three times as the New York City “Teacher of the Year” -- wrote:

[S]lowly I began to realize that the bells and the confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of the national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to prevent children from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior.


[T]he structure of schooling is held together by a Byzantine tapestry of reward and threat, of carrots and sticks. Working for official favor, grades, or other trinkets of subordination; these have no connection with education -- they are the paraphernalia of servitude, not freedom.

Consider the control exerted upon students by school authority figures. Students are told when they must arrive and when they may leave according to state compulsory attendance laws. They’re told when they may sit, stand, move about, use the restroom, eat (and even what they may eat), speak, and socialize. Worse, many modern schools have the feel of prisons, complete with metal detectors, drug-sniffing dogs, and guards roaming the hallways. Is it any wonder that when students graduate after spending 13 years in this environment, they have little desire, let alone any skills, for questioning authority?

Ayn Rand, who also had some "radical" views on education, wrote a book called The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, with a chapter titled "The Comprachicos." She began with an excerpt of Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs, describing “Comprachicos” -- a Spanish word meaning "child-buyer." The Comprachicos were 17th century nomads who bought and sold children and turned them into freaks used to amuse the public. They placed young children in oddly shaped pots and as the children grew, they formed to the shapes of the pots. Rand uses the practice of the Comprachicos to describe compulsory education:

The students' development is arrested, their minds are set to respond to slogans, as animals respond to to a trainer's whistle, their brains are embalmed in the syrup of altruism as an automatic substitute for self-esteem. ... They would obey anyone, they need a master, they need to be told what to do. They are ready now to be used as cannon fodder -- to attack, to bomb, to burn, to murder, to fight in the streets and die in the gutters. They are a trained pack of miserably impotent freaks, ready to be unleashed against anyone.