Aaron Swartz's "Against School" – business leaders have been decrying education since 1845

"Against School" is a previously unpublished Aaron Swartz essay about the centuries of word-perfect complaints about the US public school system, which have led to mass-scale, sneak privatization of the public system.

Since 1845, US business leaders have been decrying the quality of public schools, claiming that students were not being educated to the level they'd need to attain to be competitive with their foreign counterparts. Aaron agrees that schools have often failed in this, and that the more you delve into their setup and administration, the more it seems that this may be by design. But why set up schools to fail?

A group of bold entrepreneurs find they can make cloth more efficiently by building large mills. The girls who staff them keep causing strikes and other trouble, so they require their employees go to school from a young age and learn to behave themselves.

But obviously most people won't be thrilled to go to school so that they can learn to accept lower wages without complaint. So the bosses develop a cover story: schools are about teaching people the things they need to know to survive in the world of business. It's not true, of course—there's no connection between the facts memorized in school and the skills needed on the job—but the story is convincing enough.

And so the spread of schools and factories destroys the American model of freedom. Instead of being independent farmers or self-employed manufacturers, Americans are herded into factories en masse, forced to work for someone else because they cannot earn a living any other way. But thanks to schools, this seems normal, even natural. After all, isn't that just the way the world works?

The essay appears along with many of Aaron's other work in The Boy Who Could Change the World: The Writings of Aaron Swartz, to which I contributed an essay of my own.

Against School

(via Making Light)

(Image: Schoolchildren reading 1911)