Education History Reading List (preliminary!)

This is a work in progress, begun January, 2019.

This is a more real list of sources, a selection of writings of and about the people involved in shaping the educational system we suffer under today. Modern writers, meaning pretty much all of them since around 1900, read and write education history through modern filters. There is a place for this, but it is no substitute for trying to understand the people who were there at the time.

An example: universal, compulsory, tax-funded schooling has long been seen as a triumph, something essential to an truly modern and progressive society. Some flavor of this take will be encountered in virtually all modern writers on education. (The need for perpetual school reform and the abject failure of the schools to consistently provide anything readily identifiable as education to vast swaths of their victims is an utter mystery, rarely discussed side by side with the claim current schools are a triumph. But I digress.) Yet when one reads the source materials, especially the critics, a somewhat different picture appears. For one thing, the assumed benevolence of the proponents of ‘scientific’ schooling becomes increasingly hard to maintain. Modern schooling’s roots in the desire of certain puritanical control freaks to manage us commoners is a recurring theme. From Luther through Locke, Rousseau, Pestalozzi, and Fichte to Mann, Bernard and the utterly loathsome Dewey and Freire, the desire to use the schools to achieve the social and political goals of our self appointed betters is patent. That Luther wanted schools to produce Lutherans, Puritans to produce Calvinists, Mann good generic anti-Catholic Protestants, and Dewey and Freire good Communist cannon fodder is in some sense a minor detail – the use of the schools to control *us* is the consistent theme.

Links will be to Amazon, or online copies, or both. Default will be Amazon.

Note: I’m going to list a few books from my bookcase/bookmarks that I’ve yet to read, but seem essential.

A. Overviews & Background.

These are books that got me started on the investigation, or provided general background:

Gatto, John Taylor:

  1. The Underground History of American Education: A School Teacher’s Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling, Odysseus Group, 2000. Also available free as a pdf. This book pointed me to Fichte and the whole sordid history of Prussian Model schooling, the Prussian University model (they are strongly tied) and to the American dilettantes who went to Prussia to study this education, starting with Mann.
  2. Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, New Society Publishers, 1992. This short book describes how, in practice, Fichte’s ideas, as filtered through Mann, Dewey, and Freire, work in practice.

A History of Education in Antiquity, by Henri Marrou (Author), George Lamb (Translator), Sheed & Ward; First American Edition edition (January 1, 1956). This fun work gives some flavor and introduction to how education was done among some of history’s best educated peoples. Hint: not graded classrooms.

Plato’s Republic

As I’ve said elsewhere, from an educational perspective, the Republic is a compendium of bad ideas – but ideas that provide the germ of what we’re dealing with today. Available everywhere. Here’s a free online version.

Essays, Articles, Letters

The Seven Lesson Schoolteacher John Taylor Gatto, New Society Publishers, 1992

St. Jerome’s Letter to Laeta (letter 107). Translated by W.H. Fremantle, G. Lewis and W.G. Martley. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 6. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1893.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight.

On instructing the unlearned, Saint Augustine. Edited by H. de Romstin, Parker & Co., Oxford & London, 1885. Haven’t read this yet.

B. Books By and About the People Who Inspired Mann, et al:

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi:

  1. How Gertrude Teaches Her Children translated by Lucy E. Holland and Francis C. Turner, London : S. Sonnenschein, 1894.
  2. The Educational Ideas of Pestalozzi by John Alfred Green , Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi; W.B. Clive, University tutorial press, ltd. 1905.

Emile, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Translated by Barbara Foxley. Foundational. Rousseau is, following or expanding the writings of Bartolomé de las Casas, a Spaniard I’d never heard of in this context, promulgated the ides that man, in a state of nature, is sweetness and light, but that society corrupts him. Never mind that man, in his original state of nature, somehow invented society…. (Wanted to say: “This work demonstrates not only Rousseau’s feeble intellect, but his poor writing skills as well.” But that would have been petty.)

Johann Gottlieb Fichte:

  1. Addresses to the German Nation Jones, Reginald Foy, b. 1882, tr; Turnbull, George Henry, b. 1889, joint tr; Chicago and London, The Open court publishing company, 1923. Absolutely critical. While a first reading can be tedious, as he spends 90% of the book telling you how wonderful native German speakers are and how great things will be if only – if only! – smart people will do exactly as Fichte says. Eventually, he gets around to spelling out that parents and families and everything they love are the problem, and that the solution is to remove ALL children from their families and allow NO contact with anyone outside school until the state has educated them properly – which his methods are stone guaranteed to do! It’s magic! All that background material, however, is invaluable in understanding the lineage of his ideas: you can see them in Hegel and especially Marx, of course, but he inspired the Weimar Republic and the H-Man himself. And all the modern educational theorists who want parents, family, religion, etc., out of the way so that schooling run by theorists can fix the world.
  2. Characteristics of the Present Age, by Johann Gottlieb Fichte, translated by William Smith. This is a popular outline of Fichte’s philosophy, presented, as the Addresses above, in a series of lectures. Here we get spelled out Fichte’s Utopian theory that man, in a Rousseauian state of nature, was in the first age of his development; now, it is time for German to kick the game up a notch, one step from Heaven on Earth. Yep, Fichte, like his followers Hegel and Marx, is an End Times cultist, believing God/History/whatever is moving man toward ultimate perfection right here on earth.

C. American Schooling

One-Room Schools of the Middle West: An Illustrated History, by Wayne E. Fuller, Univ Pr of Kansas; 1st edition edition (October 1, 1994). This book, which I deeply fear I lent to somebody and never got back, is invaluable for a snapshot of what schooling in much of America looked like before schools were ‘consolidated’ under state control. In passing, Fuller discusses the dishonesty of the whole thing: claims were made that one room school graduates did poorly (they did better than the graduates of the consolidated schools) and that consolidated schools would be cheaper – they ended up an order of magnitude more expensive, more time-consuming, and produced inferior results. Scholarly, but with lots of pretty pictures and nostalgia as well.

Essays, Articles, Letters

D: Catholic Schooling

The Catholic school system in the United States, its principles, origin, and establishment by REV. J. A. BURNS. C.S.C.. Ph.D. Published in 1908, this is the granddaddy of all the subsequent histories of US Catholic schooling. Highly recommended, not least of which for its numerous links

Parish School, Timothy Walch. Good overview, a surfeit of notes and a huge bibliography I’ve barely scratched. Of course, I’m strongly biased toward contemporary sources, which, for the 19th and early 20th centuries, are less overwhelming. This is where I found out about Fr. Burns’ epic work. Dr. Walch sent me a copy of the revised edition linked here a couple years ago- that you, Dr. Walch!

Essays, Articles, Letters

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