Saturday, June 9, 2012

Tracing the roots of "progressive education" back to European ideals of totalitarianism

One of the most dangerous aspects of progressivism is the stranglehold they have upon the educational system. None of the ideas they have are new, some may be modern spins on old ideals, but these ultimately go back a long, long way. John Dewey is very well known as the father of modern education, but Dewey himself cites Mann as the "patron saint of progressive education". This makes Mann an important figure to be readily knowledgable about, as well as the roots of his beliefs.

Horace Mann is to Massachusetts' education what Dewey is to American education, to put it shortly. But tracking down the influences is what I'm going to attempt to do, and in doing so this will take quite some time. Because of the format of a blog, this may come off as convoluted if it's not read all the way through. Here, I copied a small line from TIME which mentions how Mann traveled to Germany and while there, he picked up ideas. What those ideas were, is what's important. I can't read the full article, but I have little doubt that they gloss over the fact that Mann was highly influenced by Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi past that one line.

Wikipedia's page on Social Pedagogy; that is, "Social Education", has a historical evolution from person to person that will probably suffice in the context of a blog posting. (And I would like to note, have you ever noticed how everything with these people is 'social'? Social education, social labour, social regulation, social production, social organization, social justice, social gospel, social rank, social responsibility, and on and on and on)

Pestalozzi, in short, was a follower of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's ideals as expressed in the book "Emile", which is something that the progressives 100 years ago were well aware of. Frank Pierrepont Graves was the educational commissioner for the State of New York for just under 20 years(1921-40), and here is what he wrote regarding this: (page 120)

Pestalozzi as the Successor of Rousseau. - Having outlined the various phases and influences of philanthropic education and surveyed the rise of the common school in America, we may now turn again to the more immediate development of the movements that found their roots in Rousseau. These received their first great growth through Pestalozzi.

As he notes on page 152, Horace Mann was instrumental in the importation of all this:

The most influential propaganda of the Pestalozzian 1 doctrines in general, however, came through the account of the German school methods in the Seventh Annual Report (1843) of Horace Mann, and through the inauguration of the 'Oswego methods' by Dr. Edward A. Sheldon. Mann spoke most enthusiastically of the success of the Prussian-Pestalozzian system of education and hinted at the need of a radical reform along the same lines in America.

Interesting wording - Horace Mann was a "Pestalozzian propagandist". Wheras Dewey is regarded as the father of modern education as a whole, Mann is regarded as "the Father of the Common School". This is a necessary evolution in the usurpation of education for totalitarian purposes. One reformer builds upon the work of a prior reformer. Regarding the book 'Emile', Graves writes this:(page 120 still)

Of course the negative attitude of the Emile was itself accompanied by considerable positive advance in its suggestions for a natural training, but this advice was often unpractical and extreme and its main emphasis was upon the destruction of existing education.

Incredible! So even with this acknowledged, using Emile as a blueprint is still accepted practice. He continues:

Hence the happiest educational results of Rousseau's work came through Pestalozzi, who especially supplemented that reformer's work upon the constructive side. Rousseau had shattered the eighteenth century edifice of despotism, privilege, and hypocrisy, and it remained for Pestalozzi to continue the erection of the more enduring structure he had started to build upon the ruins. Thus Pestalozzi became the first prominent educator to help Rousseau develop his negative and somewhat inconsistent 'naturalism' into a more positive attempt to reform corrupt society by proper education and a new method of teaching. He therein enlarged for education the social and psychological tendencies begun by Rousseau.

Right, so Rousseau is a valid "reformer" which all of us can look upon with shining eyes and open ears. Even with the results of the French Revolution, this goes to show you what kinds of things that progressives see as valid and thought provoking. As I read this, what I'm hearing is Cloward Piven mixed in with this. Destroy the system then you can remake the whole thing, and even if the ideas are widely rejected just implement them anyways. And this nonsense about Rousseau shattering the 18th century mindset, no matter what happy words are spread around, is completely removed from the results of what is actually born of the ideology of Rousseau.(French Revolution, again)

The point being, this is what's infected our school system, at least partly. From Dewey to Mann, who more than any other are the major forces responsible for what we're stuck with today. And considering people like Graves is an important part of the equation. Dewey didn't get elected to every single school board in the nation, that I'm aware of. So who would've been the one implementing Dewey's beliefs and philosophy? People who knew where it came from, and agreed with it.

Dewey himself had a degree of knowledge regarding the lineage of Pestalozzian ideals in the mix here. In an address given by Dewey in 1901 to the National Education Association(NEA), he stated the following:

Horace Mann and the disciples of Pestalozzi did their peculiar missionary work so completely as intellectually to crowd the conservative to the wall. For half a century after their time the ethical emotion, the bulk of exhortation, the current formulae and catchwords, the distinctive principles of theory have been found on the side of progress, of what is known as reform. The supremacy of self-activity, the symmetrical development of all the powers, the priority of character to information, the necessity of putting the real before the symbol, the concrete before the abstract, the necessity of following the order of nature and not the order of human convention - all these ideas, at the outset so revolutionary, have filtered into the pedagogic consciousness and become the commonplace of pedagogic writing and of the gatherings where teachers meet for inspiration and admonition.

Not only is it accepted, but it's viewed as revolutionary, in a good way. Pestalozzian ideals became so prevalent, that there was even a school journal published in Ohio called The Pestalozzian. It gets even worse when you consider who it is that introduced Pestalozzian ideals to Germany - Johann Gottlieb Fichte, one of the acknowledged fathers of socialism.(Hayek, Road to Serfdom, Page 81) In The American journal of education, published by Henry Barnard(who worked with Horace Mann), the introduction of Pestalozzi to the German princes is elaborated as follows: (page 836)

When, in the year of the French domination, the death of all German nationality seemed irremediable; when the dastardly hirelings left their standards in a heap on the field of battle, Fichte saw that for the redemption of Germany a nation must be educated. 'Create a people by national education,' he cried to the princes. The princes appealed to the people, and outward freedom was inaugurated. It was not Blacher, or Scharnhorst, etc., it was Fichte who drove the French out of the land. It was Fichte's deepest conviction that the idea of the perfect State could be gained only by education. He said 'the State cannot be constructed intelligently by artificial measures and out of any material that may be at hand, but the nation must be educated and cultivated up to it. Only the nation which shall first have solved the problem of education to perfected manhood through actual practice will solve that of the perfected State'. The philosopher was the creator of the idea of national education Fichte was the pedagogic statesman.

So what little information I was able to get out of TIME is accurate.

With Fichte having been the one being instrumental in introducing Pestalozzian ideals into Germany, that means that it wasn't purely Pestalozzi's principles that Germany was educating with. This explains Horace Mann's comments with regard to viewing your children as hostages to their cause(I mean, really. Who uses language like this when referring to children, anyways?) as well as his comment "Men are cast-iron; but children are wax." This is not the language of an educator. This is the language of an indoctrinator, which is exactly what Fichte believed should be done.

Ficthe himself was a disciple of Pestalozzi in a way, but also of Rousseau. (1, 2, 3)

Having done some digging into the writings of Fichte, I find his words not all that unlike Mann's, Dewey's, or other statists that I've posted about. He writes this in his "Addresses to the German Nation": (Page 20)

Then, in order to define more clearly the new education which I propose, I should reply that that very recognition of, and reliance upon, free will in the pupil is the first mistake of the old system and the clear confession of its impotence and futility. For, by confessing that after all its most powerful efforts the will still remains free, that is, hesitating undecided between good and evil, it confesses that it neither is able, nor wishes, nor longs to fashion the will and (since the latter is the very root of man) man himself, and that it considers this altogether impossible. On the other hand the new education must consist essentially in this that it completely destroys freedom of will in the soil which it undertakes to cultivate and produces on the contrary strict necessity in the decisions of the will the opposite being impossible.

At least he was honest.

This is what was imported into America. This is at the root of someone who could look at children as "hostages to some cause". From page 21:

If you want to influence him at all, you must do more than merely talk to him; you must fashion him, and fashion him in such a way that he simply cannot will otherwise than you wish him to will

Does this not sound almost word for word what Woodrow Wilson wrote? And further Fichte wrote: (Page 34)

The system of government must be arranged in such a way that the individual must not only abstain, but will also work and act, for the sake of the community.

This is the same sort of aggressive language that John Dewey used. THIS is the language of an indoctrinator. He makes clear what results he wants from his indoctrination. He talks again and again about 'molding' the right kind of german, who puts community 'in place of that love of self'. This has nothing to do with education benefitting the child being "educated", this is all about statist goals and statist idealism. In "Road to Serfdom", where Hayek points out (page 81) that classical liberalism had been killed by the socialists, this is how they did it - using the groundwork that Fichte(with help from said princes) laid. It's no wonder then that Isaiah Berlin lists Fichte as one of the six architects of the modern authoritarian state.

So if we ask the question this way: What exactly is it that the early educational reformers imported? As is shown, they thought they were following Pestalozzi. And in a lot of ways, I'm sure they were. However, with so many similar ideas being promoted and with 'Germanic(Prussian) ideals' being imported, there's bound to be some overlap, particularly when you consider the similarities. With Rousseau being the main root either way, Pestalozzi or Fichte. It all ultimately goes back to the same place.

Like so much of any of the other things I quote, the writings of Dewey, Rousseau, Fichte, or any other could be written today.

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