This about sums it up:
If only he were kidding. From John Taylor Gatto:
At the start of WWII millions of men showed up at registration offices to take low-level academic tests before being inducted.1 The years of maximum mobilization were 1942 to1944; the fighting force had been mostly schooled in the 1930s, both those inducted and those turned away. Of the 18 million men were tested, 17,280,000 of them were judged to have the minimum competence in reading required to be a soldier, a 96 percent literacy rate. Although this was a 2 percent fall-off from the 98 percent rate among voluntary military applicants ten years earlier, the dip was so small it didn’t worry anybody.
WWII was over in 1945. Six years later another war began in Korea. Several million men were tested for military service but this time 600,000 were rejected. Literacy in the draft pool had dropped to 81 percent, even though all that was needed to classify a soldier as literate was fourth- grade reading proficiency. In the few short years from the beginning of WWII to Korea, a terrifying problem of adult illiteracy had appeared. The Korean War group received most of its schooling in the 1940s, and it had more years in school with more professionally trained personnel and more scientifically selected textbooks than the WWII men, yet it could not read, write, count, speak, or think as well as the earlier, less-schooled contingent.
A third American war began in the mid-1960s. By its end in 1973 the number of men found noninductible by reason of inability to read safety instructions, interpret road signs, decipher orders, and so on—in other words, the number found illiterate—had reached 27 percent of the total pool. Vietnam-era young men had been schooled in the 1950s and the 1960s—much better schooled than either of the two earlier groups—but the 4 percent illiteracy of 1941 which had transmuted into the 19 percent illiteracy of 1952 had now had grown into the 27 percent illiteracy of 1970. Not only had the fraction of competent readers dropped to 73 percent but a substantial chunk of even those were only barely adequate; they could not keep abreast of developments by reading a newspaper, they could not read for pleasure, they could not sustain a thought or an argument, they could not write well enough to manage their own affairs without assistance.
In 1882, fifth graders read these authors in their Appleton School Reader: William Shakespeare, Henry Thoreau, George Washington, Sir Walter Scott, Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Bunyan, Daniel Webster, Samuel Johnson, Lewis Carroll, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and others like them. In 1995, a student teacher of fifth graders in Minneapolis wrote to the local newspaper, “I was told children are not to be expected to spell the following words correctly: back, big, call, came, can, day, did, dog, down, get, good, have, he, home, if, in, is, it, like, little, man, morning, mother, my, night, off, out, over, people, play, ran, said, saw, she, some, soon, their, them, there, time, two, too, up, us, very, water, we, went, where, when, will, would, etc. Is this nuts?”
Someone St. Thomas might have considered an educated man is a dangerous fellow – he thinks for himself; what Fichte, the founder of modern Prussian schooling, considered an educated man is one incapable of thinking what his betters don’t want him to think. America’s public schools were built by people who studied at the feet of Fichte’s Prussian disciples – this is a fairly well known historical fact. Read the bios of the leading American academics in the 2nd half of the 19th century. Prussian schools were the first to offer PhDs – it became de rigueur for Americans with academic aspirations to pilgrimage to Prussia. Then, the holders of the PhD became the gate keepers to all jobs in academia – and all jobs in the newly established education bureaucracies that were the life work of Horace Mann and his followers.
It’s an interesting story – all over America, farmers would vote down all efforts to impose ‘scientific’ ‘consolidated’ schools: why spend more to have strangers educate your sons and daughters somewhere you can’t keep an eye on them? Farmers liked their one room schools just fine – and those schools produced better graduates by just about any measure.
So, in the ignoble history of politics, the education crowd back-doored the establishment of education departments through the legislature – just a department to make sure the noble citizens of Iowa or Indiana were getting properly schooled. The sole purpose of those departments early on was to undermine the one-room schools. Only once those schools were eliminated – and demographics and the Great Depression had largely eliminated them by the end of WWII – was it possible to implement the real goals outlined above.