Isle of Rational People 1
Bertrand Russell once observed that American schooling was among the most radical
experiments in human history, that America was deliberately denying its children the tools of
critical thinking. When you want to teach children to think you begin by treating them seriously
when they are little, giving them responsibilities, talking to them candidly, providing privacy and
solitude for them, making them readers and thinkers of significant thoughts from the beginning.
You keep the games and songs and pretty colors in balance with the soberer purpose. That's if
you want to teach them to think. There is no evidence that has been a State purpose since the
start of compulsion schooling.
When Frederich Froebel, the inventor of kindergarten in 19th century Germany fashioned his
idea he did not have a "garden for children" in mind, but a metaphor of teachers as gardeners
and children as the vegetables. Kindergarten was created to be, and was quietly celebrated as, a
way to break the influence of mothers on their children once and for all. I note with interest the
growth of day care in the U.S. and the repeated urgings to extend school downward to include
4-year-olds. The movement toward state socialism I've been speaking to you about today is not
some historical curiosity but a powerful dynamic force in the world around us. It is fighting for its
life against those forces which would, through vouchers or tax credits, deprive it of financial
lifeblood, and it has countered this thrust with a demand for even more control over children's
lives, and even more money to pay for the extended school day and year that its control
requires. Herr Froebel disliked his own family intensely, a fact that may be useful to you when
you come to regard the encroachment of school institutions on infancy.
A movement as visibly destructive to individuality, family and community as government-system
schooling has been might be expected to collapse in the face of its dismal record, coupled with
an increasingly aggressive shake-down of the taxpayer, but this has not happened. The
explanation is largely found in the transformation of schooling from a simple service to families
and towns to an enormous, centralized corporate enterprise.