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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

22.How Hindu Schooling Came To America (III): The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

How Hindu Schooling Came To America (III) 

Young Bell was a go-getter. Two years after he got to India he was superintendent of the 
male orphan asylum of Madras. In order to save money Bell decided to try the Hindu 
system he had seen and found it led students quickly to docile cooperation, like parts of a 
machine. Furthermore, they seemed relieved not to have to think, grateful to have their 
time reduced to rituals and routines as Frederick Taylor was to reform the American 
workplace a hundred years later. 

In 1797, Bell, now forty-two, published an account of what he had seen and done. Pulling 
no punches, he praised Hindu drill as an effective impediment to learning writing and 
ciphering, an efficient control on reading development. A twenty-year-old Quaker, 



Joseph Lancaster, read Bell's pamphlet, thought deeply on the method, and concluded, 
ironically, it would be a cheap way to awaken intellect in the lower classes, ignoring the 
Anglican's observation (and Hindu experience) that it did just the opposite. 

Lancaster began to gather poor children under his father's roof in Borough Road, 
London, to give them rudimentary instruction without a fee. Word spread and children 
emerged from every alley, dive, and garret, craving to learn. Soon a thousand children 
were gathering in the street. The Duke of Bedford heard about Lancaster and provided 
him with a single enormous schoolroom and a few materials. The monitorial system, as it 
was called, promised to promote a mental counterpart to the productivity of factories. 

Transforming dirty ghetto children into an orderly army attracted many observers. The 
fact that Lancaster's school ran at tiny cost with only one employee raised interest, too. 
Invitations arrived to lecture in surrounding towns, where the Quaker expounded on what 
had now become his system. Lancaster schools multiplied under the direction of young 
men he personally trained. So talked about did the phenomenon become, it eventually 
attracted the attention of King George III himself, who commanded an interview with 
Joseph. Royal patronage followed on the stipulation that every poor child be taught to 
read the Bible. 

But with fame and public responsibility, another side of Lancaster showed itself — he 
became vain, reckless, improvident. Interested noblemen bailed him out after he fell 
deeply in debt, and helped him found the British and Foreign School Society, but 
Lancaster hated being watched over and soon proved impossible to control. He left the 
organization his patrons erected, starting a private school which went bankrupt. By 1818 
the Anglican Church, warming to Bell's insight that schooled ignorance was more useful 
than unschooled stupidity, set up a rival chain of factory schools that proved to be 
handwriting on the wall for Lancaster. In the face of this competition he fled to America 
where his fame and his method had already preceded him. 

Meanwhile, in England, the whole body of dissenting sects gave Lancaster vociferous 
public support, thoroughly alarming the state church hierarchy. Prominent church laymen 
and clergy were not unaware that Lancaster's schools weren't playing by Hindu rules — 
the prospect of a literate underclass with unseemly ambitions was a window on a future 
impossible to tolerate. Bell had been recalled from his rectory in Dorset in 1807 to 
contest Lancaster's use of Hindu schooling. In 181 1, he was named superintendent of an 
organization to oppose Lancaster's British and Foreign School Society, "The National 
Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established 
Church." Since those principles held that the poor were poor because the Lord wanted it 
that way, the content of the society's schooling leaves little about which we need to 
speculate. Bell was sent to plant his system in Presbyterian Scotland, while the patronage 
advantage of Bell-system schools contained and diminished the reach of Lancaster. For 
his services to the state, Bell was eventually buried in Westminster Abbey. 

At first, Lancaster was welcomed warmly in the United States, but his affection for 
children and his ability to awaken pride and ambition in his charges made him ultimately 



unacceptable to important patrons who were much more interested in spreading Bell's 
dumbed-down method, without its Church of England baggage attached. Fortunately for 
their schemes, Lancaster grew even more shiftless, unmethodical, and incapable of 
sustained effort (or principled action). In the twenty remaining years of his life, Lancaster 
ranged from Montreal to Caracas, disowned by Quakers for reasons I've been unable to 
discover. He once declared it would be possible to teach illiterates to read fluently in 
twenty to ninety days, which is certainly true. At the age of sixty he was run over by a 
carriage in New York and died a few hours later. 

But while he died an outcast, his system outlived him, or at least a system bearing his 
name did, albeit more Bell's than Lancaster's. It accustomed an influential public to 
expect streets to be clear of the offspring of the poor and to expenditures of tax money to 
accomplish this end. The first Lancaster school was opened in New York City in 1806; 
by 1 829 the idea had spread to the Mexican state of Texas with stops as far west as 
Cincinnati, Louisville, and Detroit. The governors of New York and Pennsylvania 
recommended general adoption to their legislatures. 

What exactly was a "Lancaster" school? Its essential features involved one large room 
stuffed with anywhere from 300 to 1,000 children under the direction of a single teacher. 
The children were seated in rows. The teacher was not there to teach but to be "a 
bystander and inspector"; students, ranked in a paramilitary hierarchy, did the actual 
teaching: 

What the master says should be done. When the pupils as well as the schoolmaster 
understand how to act and learn on this system, the system, not the master's vague 
discretionary, uncertain judgment, will be in practice. In common school the authority of 
the master is personal, and the rod is his scepter. His absence is an immediate signal for 
confusion, but in a school conducted on my plan when the master leaves the school, the 
business will go on as well in his absence as in his presence, [emphases added] 

Here, without forcing the matter, is our modern pedagogus technologicus, harbinger of 
future computerized instruction. In such a system, teachers and administrators are 
forbidden to depart from instructions elsewhere written. But while dumbing children 
down was the whole of the government school education in England, it was only part of 
the story in America, and a minor one until the twentieth century. 

Braddock's Defeat 

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