Monday, March 14, 2011

Education Leaders Unmasked: Elwood Cubberley part 2

Changing Conceptions of Education in America

By Ellwood Cubberley 1909

(Any typos are those of the transcriber not myself. Ignore formatting/font issues, but my words are always in Times New Roman 12 font, not italicized, as seen here.)

"the home altogether too often is unintelli- gent or neglectful in the handling of children, and not infrequently it has abdicated entirely and has turned over to the public school the whole matter of the training and education of the young.”

As you will see later in this post, Cubberley is promoting state takeover of children, not complaining that children are the burden of schools or what have you. Remember that Cubberley is a “pioneer” for administration, ( and who runs the school? The administration) and was Dean at Stanford, a very influential school and position. Keep this in mind as you read on… Cubberley is still referenced in teaching colleges today.

Factory life has also made it undesirable that children should labor. The result is that a boy or girl in our modern life has so little real home life, so much unprofitable leisure, and ac-quires so much through the eyes and the ears anc learns so little by actual doing, that the problem of providing a proper environment and of utiliz- ing this excess leisure time in profitable training has become one of the most serious as well as one of the most difficult problems now before us. The school, begun at first as a means of impart- ing to children the common rudiments of learn- ing, has gradually been transformed into one of the most important institutions of democracy and has been called upon to offer some practi- cable solution of the situation created. This has caused us to look at education in a new and a larger light.

I often reference John Taylor Gatto in my writings and recall reading in his book The Underground History of American Education, something along the lines of the fact that American compulsory education was a way to control people, to remove them from their own intellectual pursuits or musings or evne non-intellectual leisures and to guide young minds in a certain direction. I found this far-fetched but with Cubberley’s quote here, I begin to confirm such indications. Cubberley sees school as the end-all do-all of society, the shaper of democracy and our future, more than as a place of intellectual stimulation. Schools are to replace our failing home lives, and to replace our leisure time with profitable training.

The idea that free education was a right, and that universal education was a necessity, began to be urged and to find acceptance. The landgrants of Congress to the new states for the benefit of common schools greatly stimulated the movement. The published reports of those who

had visited Pestalozzi's school in Switzerland, and had examined the new state school system in Prussia, were extensively read. The moral and economic advantages of schools were set forth 'at length in resolutions, speeches, pamphlets," magazines, and books.


Free education did not come about easily. Americans were hesitant to pay taxes towards school, finding it to be one’s own decision to pursue and pay for (when it was not free). I often wonder if Americans had suspicions of the free compulsory school model, perhaps “nothing comes free” rang true in their minds, and for good reason. (Read my Prussian post for more info). Here Cubberley admits our education is modeled after the Prussian state school system.


A new conception of free public education

as a birthright of the child on the one hand, and as an exercise of the state's inherent right to self-preservation and improvement on the other, had taken the place of the earlier conception of schools as merely a cooperative effort, based on economy, and for the instruction of youth merely in the rudiments of learning. The large immigra-

tion of illiterate Irish and clannish Germans which set in in the late forties gave particular emphasis to this point of view.

Here Cubberley is a little racist, showing his dark eugenic-friendly side of which you will read more of. He didn’t seek to educate the illiterate Irish or clannish Germans out of empathy but rather to try and either get them to conform to the racially superior Northern European societal norms of America, or to train them for menial labor.

The overwhelming success of the Prussian armies in the War of 1870 with France called new attention to the importance of public education. "The

Prussian schoolmaster has triumphed/' was as- serted on all sides.

Here again, in case one doubts my claims of our Prussian-modeled system, Cubberley cites the wonders of the Prussian education system.

In the early [eighteen]seventies, the kindergarten idea came to America from Germany, and was soon recog- nized as a valuable addition. In the eighties, the Herbartian conception of education, with its emphasis on proper psychological procedure and on character-building as the aim of education, began to reshape our educational theory.


One may think that this quote is benign but kindergarten is a Prussian concept. Recall the earlier quote about the home no longer being the rightful place for a child; the concept of “get them while they’re young and impressionable” prevails here. Also, I must ask, should education be a psychological function? If we are using psychological procedures in schools, that sounds to me like me are psychologically manipulating or shaping young minds instead of letting them shape themselves with some guidance. This sounds like a lighter shade of brainwashing to me. Character building has a similar function, to train children how to act because obviously the parents, church, community are not doing good enough of a job (or perhaps they are doing a job gone unchecked). I may be out on a limb here, but Mao Tse Tung re-educated the wealthy and had quite a character-building repertoire.

The new interest in school hygiene and the physical welfare of the child indicates a new and a commendable desire to care for the bodies as well as the heads of our children. The great educational lessons to be learned from a study of the educational, political, and industrial

progress of the German Empire during the past forty years are at last beginning to take root with us. Above all, the new and extensive interest in industrial and vocational training is especially significant of the changing conception of the function of the school and the classes in society which the school is in future expected to serve.

When I read John Taylor Gatto’s The Underground History of American Education, I came across Cubberley’s name and this quote which shocked me; from his 1905 Columbia dissertation, “[schools were to be factories] "in which raw products, children, are to be shaped and formed into finished products... manufactured like nails, and the specifications for manufacturing will come from government and industry." This quote and Cubberley’s quote above confirm to me what Gatto is trying to tell the reader: the founders of our educational system saw our children as products, not people, as slaves to the state and the corporations, to be trained to bend to the will of these powers, to indoctrinate.


school curriculum bids fair, too, to experi- ence many modifications during the next one or two decades, and chiefly along a line that will lead toward preparation for increased social efficiency.

Social efficiency related to eugenics movement and the Progressive movement’s Efficiency Movement which “played a central role in the Progressive Era in the United States, where it flourished 1890-1932.[4] Adherents argued that all aspects of the economy, society and government were riddled with waste and inefficiency. Everything would be better if experts identified the problems and fixed them” (wikipedia). Eugenics was a scientific approach to improving social efficiency, seeking to solve the ills of poverty, alcoholism, feeble-mindedness, etc often through not just education but sterilization. Therefore, when curriculum is designed for social efficiency, it makes one leery. Wikipedia states, in regards to curriculum theory- specifically the social efficiency theory of Franklin Bobbitt, Edward Ross, Cubberley and others, “these theorists believed that society could be controlled. Students would be scientifically evaluated (such as IQ tests), and educated towards their predicted role in society”. Yes, it has been stated: education according to Cubberly (among others) is to manage society. I further this idea below,

Our city schools will soon be forced to give up the exceedingly democratic idea that all are equal, and that our society is devoid of classes, as a few cities have already in large part done, and to be-

gin a specialization of educational effort along many new lines in an attempt better to adapt the school to the needs of these many classes in the city life. City, town, and country schools alike have, in the past, directed most of their training to satisfying the needs of the children of the well- to-do classes, and those headed for business life

or the professions. More recently, most of the larger cities have provided some form of work leading to preparation for the executive positions in technical pursuits.

If we remove the notion that we are all equal, we can more easily segregate the populous. Cubberley prescribes to the notion that our society should marginalize people and when you combine this notion with that of standardized achievement testing, you have the recipe for ability, class, or ethnicity based schooling, proving the eugenic “science” that “less thans” are exactly that, because we create a society where they can be nothing but “less thans”. Cubberley also admits here that certain schools of his time have already implemented a social efficiency curriculum, where children are pre-destined for greatness or not-so-greatness and the educational institutions ensure the progression of these pre-assigned roles. Cubberly bashes the notion of an academically challenging education for all as once existed, and promotes ability-based learning/role training. explores social efficiency further, and argues that schools often implement the social efficienct model for minority students- no wonder we have an achievement gap!


Instead of a study of school methods and management only, the work has

changed into a phase of political science, — that of a study of means of improving the state and of advancing the public welfare. Nearly all of our universities and colleges now have such chairs or

departments, and the state universities and our more democratic private institutions are now or- ganizing professional schools for the training of teachers and educational leaders for the state.

Cubberley is stating that teacher colleges ensure that their professors and department chairs practice the social efficiency model of education; if teacher colleges encourage these practices, that means the teachers they train further this model.

Each year the child is coming to belong more and more to the state,

and less and less to the parent. In all that relates to proper care, kindness, education, and advan- tages, the child belongs to the parent; but when neglect, abuse, and the deprivation of the child of any natural right takes place, the child belongs to the state. The right to reasonably good treatment, proper care, an education, pro- tection from vice, and protection from labor be- yond his strength and years, the state will soon guarantee. The plea in defense that " the child is my child " will not be accepted much longer by society. Our future welfare is too thoroughly in the keeping of the child to permit of such a policy.

This quote is demonstrating the will of Cubberly and like minds to control the child, to remove the power of parenting from the parents and replace it with that of the school. One must wonder if programs such as the school lunch program, school health screenings, and other school welfare programs exist purely to help those in need or if they exist as a way to have the school “keep the child” and promote state welfare under the social efficiency model- leaving parenting to the scientifically-trained experts (teacher-college trained teachers) and way from those who are not the experts (parents).

through all the complicated machinery of the school, some way must be found to awaken a social consciousness as opposed to class consciousness, to bring out the important social and civic les-

sons, to point out our social and civic needs, and to teach our young people how to live better and to make better use of their leisure time.Read- ing, Writing, Arithmetic, Grammar, Geography, and History, the staples of the elementary cur- riculum, are really of little value except as they are closely related with the needs and problems

of our social, civic, and industrial life.

Cubberly argues that school is to awaken a social consciousness, to be conscious of the greater good and welfare of the collective instead of one’s own needs or desires. Schools must teach children what to do with their lives and how to do it because only the experts know what’s good for you. Core curriculum is not important per se, but it must be framed around the idea of social responsibility and pre-determined societal roles as determined by the “experts”.

If our schools are to become more effective social institutions, our teachers must become more effective social workers.

Again, the notion that schools and the properly trained teacher are to encourage social welfare. When the term “social worker” is used, I think of the worker helping people that need “intervention” and that’s the point.

The overeducated man is scarcely possible if an education adapted to his needs and station in life is given him. The work of public education is with us, too, to a large de- gree, a piece of religious work. To engage in it is to enlist in the nation's service. Its call is for those who would dedicate themselves in a noble way. Those who would serve must be of the world, with red blood in their veins ; they must

know the world, its needs, and its problems ; they must have largeness of vision, and the courage to do and to dare ; and they must train the youth with whom they come in contact for useful and efficient action.

Mirroring the Prussian system, everyone gets a free compulsory education but only is trained and educated to a point, so not to be “too educated”. Too much education could challenge the status quo and educating someone of the lower class would be seen as a waste of time and effort because science proves they are less-than. Cubberley encourages a tracking system in education, where roles are determined and never challenged. He calls upon teachers with such emotionally charged buzz words as “blood in their veins”, “dare”, “vision”, “useful”, and “action”; the propagandized words seek to further the agenda under the utopian pretext of passion and a desire to solve the world’s problems.

Changing Conceptions of Education in America can be found at

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