Schools intentionally and deliberately under-educate significant portions of our society.
In January, Frontline aired a documentary about Michelle Rhee's tenure as chancellor of DC Public Schools. On that show, Rhee articulated a major argument of education reformers: "I don't think our kids are broken. I think our system is broken." And she was right about this: our kids are not broken. But is our American public school system broken? Historical truth tells us otherwise.
The first public schools in this nation were charity schools for the children of the indigent and immigrants. Curricula pushed assimilation, acculturation, and morality. Schools sought to educate students just enough so they would be suitable for unskilled labor. Management of our unskilled labor forces would come from those who could afford to educate their children in schools not limited to assimilation and acculturation. Schools for the wealthy included the study of languages and religion, philosophy—things that humanize people and make us think.