We have the current American public school system because the Prussians (Germans) were defeated by Napoleon at the battle of Jena in 1806.
The King of Prussia decided that the reason why the battle was lost was that the Prussian soldiers were thinking for themselves on the battlefield instead of following orders.
At that time the Prussian philosopher, Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814), was very much in vogue. He promoted the state as a necessary instrument of social and moral progress. He said, "The schools must fashion the person, and fashion him in such a way that he simply cannot will otherwise than what you wish him to will."
Using this basic philosophy prescribing the “duties of the state”, combined with John Locke’s view (1690) that “children are a blank slate” and lessons from Rousseau on how to “write on the slate”, Prussia established a three-tiered educational system that was considered “scientific” in nature.
Work on this system began in 1807 and was in place by 1819. The new Prussian system defined for the child what was to be learned, what was to be thought about, how long to think about it and when a child was to think of something else.
This model was eventually responsible for educating 92% of Prussian children. Another 8% were educated privately
The national school system was reinforced by King Frederick William III Children aged seven to fourteen had to attend school, and parents who did not comply could have their children taken away.
If they met government standards private schools could exist. Teachers had to be certified, and high-school graduation examinations were necessary to enter the learned professions and the civil service.
The schools imposed an official language to the prejudice of ethnic groups living in Prussia. The purpose of the system was to instill nationalism in demoralized Prussia and to train young men for the military and the bureaucracy.
This model for compulsory education was also a response to the industrial revolution. Nationalism actually became relevant and nations needed their citizens to think alike.
In 1814, the first American, Edward Everett, went to Prussia to get a PhD. He eventually becomes governor of Massachusetts.
Over the next 30 years or so, numerous American dignitaries came to Germany to earn degrees (a German invention). Horace Mann, instrumental in the development of educational systems in America, was among them.
In 1850, Massachusetts and New York utilize the system, as well as promote the comforting concept that “the state is the father of children.”
Most of the “compulsory schooling” laws designed to implement the system were passed by 1900. By 1900, most PhD’s in the United States were trained in Prussia.
In order to make sure that the independence for communities to hire their own teachers would cease, the Carnegie group instituted the concept of “teacher certification” – a process controlled by the teaching colleges under Carnegie and Rockefeller control.
One of the reasons that the self-appointed elite brought back the Prussian system to the United States was to ensure a like-thinking work force to staff the growing industrial revolution.
One of the prime importers of the German “educational” system into the United States was William T. Harris, from Saint Louis. He brought the German system in and set the purpose of the schools to distance children from parental influence and that of religion.
Just as the Prussian system was intended to unify Germany, the American educators' goal was to create a national culture out of the disparate subcultures that comprised the country in that period. (Catholic immigrants were a prominent target.) "To do that," children would have to be removed from their parents and from inappropriate cultural influences."
The current modern public school curriculum also comes directly from the Prussian system. American educators imported three major ideas from Prussia.
The first was that the purpose of state schooling was not intellectual training but the conditioning of children "to obedience, subordination and collective life."
Second, whole ideas were broken into fragmented "subjects," and school days were divided into fixed periods "so that self-motivation to learn would be muted by ceaseless interruptions."
Third, the state was posited as the true parent of the children.
The public schools are intended to create complacent "good citizens" — not necessarily independent thinkers. The growth in government power since the advent of public schools is hard to ignore.
Earlier in the century there were “school boards” in every town. Between 1932 and 1960, the number of school boards dropped from 140,000 to 30,000. Today there are about 15,000
Unlike our ancestors' private schools, the public schools sought to produce citizens who looked to government to make important decisions for them and solve societal problems.
America was a literate country before the importation of the German educational system. It was more literate than it is today. The textbooks of the time make so much allusion to history, philosophy, mathematics, science and politics that they are hard to follow now.
The bottom line is, according to the model, the public schools are working just as they were designed.
If we do not like what they have achieved, then we have to junk the Prussian system and move toward an education based on the American principles of free markets and individual liberty. Mere reform is not enough. We need to re-separate school and state. That's the only sure way to revitalize education, families, and the American spirit. We need to step out of the box and shift the paradigm.