Anyone who willfully keeps their children enrolled in government schools is a fool. They have entrusted the care and upbringing of their precious offspring to government agents whose only incentive lies in how well they can manipulate the psyches of these most vulnerable of individuals. Coming to terms with the reality of this untenable situation forces parents to realize that they must make a conscious choice – they must either rescue their kids from the grasp of the State, or lay down and take their chances by gambling the welfare of their successive lineage away, perhaps forever.
It is accurate to say that rampant use of mind control techniques have been used in the government schools for decades, if not longer. Closely associated with B.F. Skinner, these methods assume that the individual is a programmable automaton who can be easily manipulated by the conditions of his surrounding environment; as a completely deterministic perspective, it necessarily negates any notion of free will or self-determination (and, by implication, liberty itself). Such tactics have had to experience semantic name changes throughout the decades in order to trick parents into thinking that the “newer” version of these exact same methodologies were uniquely dissimilar; at different times, they were known as direct instruction, mastery learning, or (perhaps most infamously) as outcome-based education.
Unfortunately, anything claimed beyond her demonstration of this thesis is where the author falls off the wagon. Iserbyt asserts the existence of a tyrannical “New World Order” without taking so much time as to define the damn thing; now, to be fair, she could mean the same New World Order that H.G. Wells described, but that is just pure speculation on my end. She also seems to act as if there was a Communist infiltrator in every public school, all the while she never mentioned once the sheer legions of National Socialist scientists who, as a result of Operations Paperclip and Bloodstone, merged with the institutions of so-called “higher education,” particularly in the academic disciplines of physics, chemistry, and biology! Why isn’t this cause of concern for her, especially considering that many of these individuals, who further developed the government funded psuedo-science of eugenics, were returning to the country that was its genesis? In a petty attempt to demonize that which she doesn’t understand, she not only dismisses, but also implies that Montessori schools are bad because Maria Montessori was a bit of a tree hugger, and that this somehow demonstrates that she was an enemy of human liberty.
Granted, much of the excerpted documents can sound pretty alarming initially, at least until you realize that since this book was written in 1999, virtually everything that was either suppose to happen either didn’t, in which case some aspects are not as terrible as predicted, or they did occur, in which case this is all the more reason to advocate for the further demonopolization of education from the government (that is, the total separation of school and state). You should also keep in mind that most of her book wasn’t actually written by her; it is mostly an anthology of quotes taken from random pieces of government and corporate literature. Sad to say, at over 700 pages of quoted passages, alongside Iserbyt’s commentary, the content of her book really falls more into the category of watchdog analysis and not problem-solving, the latter of which she studiously avoids like the plague.
In terms of analytical skill, Iserbyt approaches systematic government indoctrination as a incremental development, not through direct experience in the classroom like John Gatto, but more akin to the bureaucratic circle-jerk fest of endless meetings, conferences, and trade journal articles. She also differs from Murray Rothbard because, unlike him, she doesn’t seem to have a problem with the tax burden coercively imposed upon taxpayers, she treats the evil of compulsory attendance statutes only in brief passing, and she doesn’t even address the immorality of college subsidies. If anything, she seems to imply that coercive public education is morally acceptable provided that there is a semblance of intellectual freedom (absent Skinnerian mastery learning/direct instruction/outcome-based education); she also doesn’t seem to give a shit about how the remnants of the free market have already successfully demonopolized the provision of educational services without “help” from the Constitution that she parades about as the symbol for her reformist diatribes. This is highly intellectually dishonest, made all the worse by the fact that she also advocates for Jeffersonian public education, but fails miserably in actually describing what that goal is, or in how it can be realistically achieved, thereby making those genuine advocates for that particular form of schooling look bad by comparison.
Charlotte Iserbyt seems to have a love-hate attitude with homeschooling, or least acts passive aggressive towards it. For instance:
“Malcolm Davis, the director of the Office of Libraries and Learning Technology, Office of Educational Research and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education, in response to this writer’s comment in 1981 that computer courseware could allow children to learn at home, responded, ‘In essence, in the future all education will take place in the home, but the school buildings will be used for socialization purposes.’ This quote is not exact; however, it represents this writer’s recollection of it sixteen years later. I was so stunned by this comment that I recall it often when looking at the issue of ‘choice’ and especially that of homeschooling.” [emphasis added]
This would not be indicative of her attitude towards homeschooling one way or another by itself. Consider this glowing praise of homeschoolers who opposed the Iowa government’s kidnapping of a retarded Indian boy and the subsequent jailing of his parents back in 1989:
“A handful of heroic homeschoolers stopped these efforts; at the same time foiling a truancy bill in the Iowa legislature that would have allowed – even mandated – a homeschooled child to be removed from his parents and placed into foster care.”
So, Iserbyt considers homeschoolers a good influence, right? Wrong, kemosabe…very wrong:
“However, leadership in the homeschool community seems to have embraced at least a portion of the school-to-work proposition. While apprenticeship has been promoted to homeschoolers as an alternative to ‘electives’ by some homeschool organizations and leaders (Bill Gothard, Doug Wilson, et al.), now the apprenticeship concept is being embraced at the post-high school level by none other than Michael Farris of [the] Home School Legal Defense Association…[t]he bottom line is this: ‘apprenticeship’ is ‘workforce training.’ Skipping over traditional academic high school and college subjects, or watering down a liberal arts college education to accommodate its ‘application’ to a workplace setting, constitute the ‘deliberate dumbing down’ of homeschoolers. Could school-to-work at the college level be the ‘camel’s nose under the tent’ for STW at K-12 level for homeschoolers?”
Setting aside Mike Farris and his penchant for politicking with German homeschoolers, Iserbyt is directly contradicting Gatto on this very pivotal topic. Even though I chided Gatto when I reviewed his similar titled book, at least he bothered to suggest apprenticeships as a possible option, no matter how briefly, as opposed to either ignoring it, or as Iserbyt has done, completely demonize it. There is no proof whatsoever that the apprenticeship a homeschooler undertakes (typically through he connections of his parents, truth be told) is in anyway similar to the corporatist school-to-work “programs” that Iserbyt rightly detests. Hell, I had a collegiate liberal arts education, and I was completely screwed over when I didn’t fit the exact bureaucratically quantifiable requirements for any of the internships that I wanted pretty badly. If anything, homeschoolers should be less focused on enrolling in college, and more focused on getting some work experience.
But, ah, Iserbyt’s distaste for homeschooling is certainly not limited to the apprenticeship issue. Again, she on one hand praises homeschoolers:
“’Choice in education’ is an appealing concept until put under the microscope of 1990s reality. At this point in time, ‘true choice’ with no strings attached exists only for homeschoolers and private (independent and religious) schools that have not in any way compromised their freedom to do exactly as they wish.”
Then on the other hand, she completely disregards the successes that private schooling, and by extension, homeschooling co-ops have had:
“Of utmost importance for all Americans at this critical juncture in American education is for us not to accept a solution that may in the long run turn out to be more harmful than the present unsatisfactory state of American public education. Some solutions being floated around sound good, such as the complete abandonment of public education in favor of a privately operated system in which parents ostensibly could choose the school to which they send their children. It is important to take a very hard look at such solutions. First, who is going to run those schools? Are parents aware that the New American School Development Corporation and its charter schools for workforce training were set up precisely for the purpose of replacing the deliberately ‘crashed’ public schools? Where would the children in the low-income urban areas end up? What private and/or ‘publicly-funded private’ entities are waiting in the wings to orchestrate and relegate these students into dead-end workforce training institutions?”
What she fails to understand is that there is no planned “system.” The provision of education services, much like the private provision of security and investigative services, would be automatically decentralized by free market processes though customer choice and, most importantly, price signals. Her question of, “Who is going to run those schools” is exactly the same in structure as “Who is going to build the roads?” They are cop-out questions made by people who don’t understand the free market, and more likely than not, don’t care to; unfortunately, such questions are also asked by minarchists of all stripes who have a tough time understanding the brain-dead simple explanations of the market as described by Gustave de Molinari, Samuel Konkin, or even Ludwig von Mises.
If Iserbyt is hostile to private schooling and homeschooling, but doesn’t like the government indoctrination centers, then what does she propose to do, exactly? Well, we’re in luck, because tucked away at the back of the book (literally), she tells us:
“Eventually, if the public education system can be restored to its former excellence, our nation would be able to get back on track…[a] massive national effort to restore true local control of our public schools seems to this writer to be the only ‘real’ long-term solution which will guarantee freedom and upward mobility for all of our children. Such a solution is no more difficult to implement than solutions presently being offered by those who wish to ‘use’ America’s youth for their profit-seeking motives — resulting in the loss of economic and political freedom. In order for such a solution to be implemented, elected officials must understand from whence came the problems in education. It is for that reason, for the true understanding of public officials, that this book was written. The author hopes and prays that the greatest number of elected officials will read this book and take the necessary courageous action to reverse the situation which, if left unattended, represents a grave threat to the continued freedom of our nation.” [emphasis added]
Oh, great, so she’s a collectivist and a statist (but I repeat myself)! Think for a moment about the implications of what she wants to do; she places more trust in the same enemy rebel government, who created this fucking problem, than she does in American dissidents (of all persuasions) who are desperately trying to save the minds (and hearts) of their children by whatever means possible. Such unmitigated reverence for the Establishment is appalling, even for me. So, here we have a woman who claims to be on “our” side, and then after slogging through this huge tome of hers (tolerating her insipid conspiracist rants the entire goddamn time), she then lays bare at the feet of the reader that not only was this book not written for parents or their children (who are the truly hapless victims of all this shit), but for the congresscritters who authorized all this tyranny in the first place! Such a deep betrayal is an insult to the intelligence of any concerned parent, and for that reason alone this book should be trashed into the ash pile of discarded refuse that is terrible literature.
It is one thing for a reformist to be in favor of voting, or opposing the separation of school and state (both of which I am willing to perhaps tolerate while grinding my teeth to a pulp, provided the reformist in question had something of value to offer, like Gatto did), but this kind of sophistry is really uncalled for. This, alongside what I consider to be her badly conceived reformism, is why Iserbyt reminds me so much of Ellen Brown and her ridiculous notion of “public banking.” At least Rothbard, to his credit, more so than either Iserbyt or even Gatto, advocated for the total separation of school & state without compromising his integrity on this, admittedly, contentious issue.
Charlotte Iserbyt’s The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America: A Chronological Paper Trail is a total waste of time and effort. There, I said it. Quite possibly one of the very worst books I’ve ever written a review on, whose utter shittiness rivals that of The Web of Debt (yeah, it’s that bad). If you want to actually learn about why contemporary government schooling is inherently tyrannical, then it would be better for you to read Chapter 7 of For a New Liberty, which is entitled, “Education.” If you’re really adventurous, then I guess reading John Gatto’s Dumbing Us Down is a half-way decent primer; but, if you’re already homeschooling, neither Gatto nor Rothbard have anything to offer you to help you better educate your children.