From: John H
I have been reading a particularly interesting book, The Battle for Homestead – 1880-1892: Politics, Culture and Steel, which documents enormous similarities between the Robber Baron era of the 1890s and the Neoliberal era of today. Many of these are highly disconcerting, but one, in particular, took my breath away:
In 1892, on the opening his first library in the United States in Braddock, Pennsylvania, Andrew Carnegie “elaborated on the moral, and indeed the very ethic of his library: ‘Useful knowledge’ did not embrace classical learning, what we today call the liberal arts. Rather, the ‘new idea of education’ was to concentrate, as the new library most assuredly would, on the study of business and science alone.” *Can everyone, in unison, chant “teaching STEM.” This, of course, goes hand-in-hand with downplaying and ignoring the liberal arts. The idea then, just as it is today, was to create a culture of compliant skilled workers who would readily follow orders without questioning the rationale or the authority of leaders. In other words, educated drones, capable laborers never encouraged to think for themselves. To the extent that this succeeds we will all be the worse for it. I don’t for a minute suggest that we do not teach STEM courses, but that we should never give up teaching HISTORY, SOCIAL SCIENCES, CLASSICAL LITERATURE, ART and MUSIC.
Betsy DeVos, for all I am concerned, can go straight to HELL for what she and the Trump Administration are attempting to do to education. And, never forget, the move toward vouchers and private charter schools started in the Bill Clinton administration and has been supported by mainstream Democrats since then – it’s not just the Republicans! But without a good understanding of history; without the learned ability to think for one’s self which comes, one hopes, from a good liberal arts education, any hope for the continuation of a free republic are doomed.
The Great Depression stopped the Robber Barons for a while, will it take another such calamity, or worse, to stop the neoliberal robber barons of the 21st century?
* The Battle for Homestead – 1880-1892: Politics, Culture and Steel, Paul Krause, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992, p.232.