Against Compulsory Schooling: from mass production to empowering individual professionals

Modern compulsory schooling is a product of mass production. It is to produce laborers for the mass production.

When people learned to unleashing the power from the coal and later oil, we entered a new era of human history, the age of machine or the age of mass production. For a moment, please put yourself back to that time and try to understand that era.

Mass production demands a single huge stable market. Otherwise the profit cannot be guaranteed for the investors. A diverse market is too risky for investors. To create such a single national market, people had to be dumbed down, so they would buy whatever was advertised on the TV.

For mass production, they need laborers to work as a dumb machine on the assembly line. But no one wants to be an assembly line worker for life. So they have to dumb people down.

Furthermore, Scientific Management was conjured to improve efficiency. SM basically is to say that workers shouldn’t think. Workers should focus on their mechanic repetitive work. If they think, it will slow the production down. Leave the thinking to a few managers. Only a few people can be the brains. Most people should be legs and hands. This worked. But people, essentially free and complete, are denied their basic rights.

SM is quite easy to understand if you think of yourself. If you want to do something with best efficiency, what do you do? First of all, you need to use your free will to think and feel what you should do. After you think about it, you just do it, finishing those steps without thinking until it is time to do the next round of thinking to prepare for the next round of execution. So SM is totally understandable. But to deny the majority of people their rights to be complete people and to think and feel for themselves, is a mock of our historical limitation.

How do they turn people into machine? Through compulsory schooling. School is not to teach you how to learn math. It is to make you hate math. It is not to teach you English, it is to make you hate English. Some people start understanding math earlier. Some start later. Some people start reading early. Some later. Some start music earlier. Some later. It is totally normal. But compulsory schooling demand children have to learn this much of math and this much of English in a certain grade, and humiliate children who are not ready yet with their test scores. Schooling makes children believe that they cannot do math, or they cannot do literature. So they had better stay in the literature domain to become an English worker, or stay in the mathematic domain to become an engineer. So schooling becomes a sorting machine. It sorts people very early in their lives into different categories of laborers to be employed by mass production in the future. By lengthening the school hours and years, they take people away from real life. Without in touch with real life, people are made to believe they should just be engineer and engineering is the only thing they need to learn or they should be literacy worker and English is the only thing they should learn. If they are ever in touch with the real life, they would know that in real life it demands all dimensions of knowledge. Otherwise they cannot understand the world. Making people only focusing on one subject of knowledge makes people powerless, only suitable to follow command to do some simple repetitive work. They cannot survive once the pre-defined environment change and there is no order to follow anymore.

Of course, school never really teaches you math or English. School only teaches you some facts, just enough for you to be employed in a predefined environment. You are given an illusion that you have mastered a subject (at least you got the degrees). School doesn’t want you to connect dots. It is pretty much true that whatever you major in college is going to be the major you are going to get screwed up with. That is why CS graduate don’t know how to use Unix or do programming. That is also why history major doesn’t know history, philosophy major doesn’t know philosophy, English major hasn’t read much literature, psychology major doesn’t really know the historical background of psychology, business major hasn’t done any business, and so on.

By taking people away from real life, schooling also takes people away from community and family. It is community and family where people learn of friendship and love. Without a taste in friendship and love, people are alienated.

Mass production took all the producing activities from once self-reliant families and turned families into parts of social machine. It might make sense to mass produce clothing and food. But do you believe that the school is better than the family/community in producing men and women? To have real men and women, they need to experience love. Schooling cannot produce men and women. What they can do is only to mass produce laborers.

To make the case more convincing, I want to provide links to the two congressional investigation into the role of business played in shaping American schooling. Mr. Gatto did an awesome job in providing this information: (notes: you can search congress on this page)

Now in our time, we are in the transition from the age of machine to the age of individuals. Enough sacrifice. It is time to make everyone complete.

The book Long Tail talks about the new phenomenon on the web that product or service is able to reach a small market and thus meet people’s diverse needs. So in the web2.0 era, you don’t have to mass produce or have a mass market to be profitable. This definitely changed the rule of the game.

Web lowers the cost of transaction in the market, making it a lot easier for individual professionals coming together to build their own small business. It also makes it easier for individual professionals in different fields to cooperate with each other. We see the evidences in citizen journalism, music industry and so on. So this new age is about empowering individual professionals so more people can be directly involved in creative work. In the old world, business and finance people are in charge. They reap most of the profits made by creative people. Creative people, in a sense, are exploited. In the new age, creative people will be in charge and make key decisions in their business. Google is a good example. Google is basically a technology company in the sense that technology people are making the key decisions instead of being dictated by business people. So is ohmynews, where professional journalists are making the key decisions. Independent musicians will be able to make profits by distributing their music online, or cooperate with independent photographers to make albums. So the new age is all about independent professionals cooperating together on and off the web. This of course has vital meaning for the humanity. We will be in a much better world where everyone has the freedom to pursue one type of art that s/he likes and is very good at. This is what makes people complete. This is what makes people experience beauty, real power and thus true love. Only by enabling people to pursue arts, to understand their selves, to be independent and self-reliant, can we resolve all those social issues we have today.

Of course, all these are built upon the progress we have made in mass production. More efficient use of machine means less people have to do the manufacturing jobs. I certainly hope that less and less people will have to work in the manufacturing jobs in the near future. Not just in the states, but also in China, India, and other third world countries.

I am imagining that some years later it is norm that people only work 5 hours a day and 4 days a week in their companies. All the rest of their time is theirs.

The other side of the story is that people doing creative mental work would love to do manual labor once for a while. For example, I would love to work in the restaurant or be a house cleaner on the weekends. It is good relaxation and refresh of mind. So more people can share the load of manual labor.

Furthermore, as I said before, finally we have something to make the incomplete science more complete. Ever since the founding of modern science, we excluded human being from the scientific research for the sake of not letting subjectivity interfere with objectivity. Misled by such kind of principle, the human science is going nowhere. Alexander Christopher, however, builds a new framework of science, which brings in human’s feelings into scientific research. Briefly, his basic argument is that when asked to compare two paintings, more than 90% of people will point out the same painting as the more beautiful one. So, Alexander argues, that our subjectivity is indeed objective, and that we cannot fully understand the world without bringing in the human subjectivity into our exploration of the world. Computer software is such a tool to explore human world. It is a tool to work with human’s mental world. It is to bridge human’s mental world with the extern physical world. Web is to connect people’s mental world together. Thus we finally have a new way to explore human science. Contemporary software is largely based on Alexander Christopher’s Pattern Language.

Most of the alienation of modern society (scientific management, eugenic, social Darwinism, behaviorism, compulsory schooling) can be traced back to the misuse of the incomplete science. It is time to incorporate human feelings. It is time to understand human mind.

We are indeed standing at the beginning of a great era. Many great ideas people have been fighting for thousands of years finally can be realized. A lot of hard work still needs to be done. And we need to do it quickly before some stupid politicians bring out the third world war and destroy the whole planet. Yes, we can always keep progressing, unless we kill ourselves.

Notes: read of John Taylor Gatto’s books for more details on compulsory schooling. Most of what I wrote about compulsory schooling here is a summary of my reading of his online book The Underground History of American Education.



Filed under Essay, Featured Essays

14 responses to “Against Compulsory Schooling: from mass production to empowering individual professionals

  1. Pingback: The Art of My Life « A hacker of the Internet for the purpose of growth, fun, and creation

  2. Derren

    Great post! You even told it better than Gatto 😉

  3. Pingback: Space and Learning « A hacker of the Internet for the purpose of growth, fun, and creation

  4. Pingback: Build a better playground « A hacker of the Internet for the purpose of growth, fun, and creation


    I am currently reading Mr. Gatto’s book “Dumbing Us Down.”
    Thank you for your article. I appreciate the information that you have gathered and your opinion.

    Can I make one suggestion? When I was reading what you wrote, I was somewhat distracted by the absence of a letter here and there such as, “They need labors to work as dumb machine.” Reading,”They need laborers to work as a dumb machine” makes more sense to me. I believe that you intended “labor” to be plural, and to put an “a” in front of “dumb machine.” Fine tuning your article and proofreading it for errors would help your credibiltiy, especially since you are writing about education.

    I am familiar with working with people who are non-native English speakers and your style of writing seems similiar to the way that they write.

    I will mark your site on my favorites and look forward to reading more. Take care.

  6. Thanks, impressionsstudio2002. I am a non-native English speaker. I will do more fine tuning of my articles. But something like using Laborers is hard for me to spot. And people like you pointing out my errors can always be very helpful.


    Thank you for responding back to me. If you would like me to help you with an article, I will help you. Just email me with your article and I will look it over, make suggestions and email it back. I am not an English scholar, but am an editor and writer for a newsletter.

    I appreciate your deep thinking about important topics.

    Take care and keep in touch, my friend.


    P.S. You handle my language better than I will ever handle yours. You write in English much better than many people in the U.S.A.

  8. Thank you very much for your offer, impressionsstudio2002. I have some friends who are willing to the editing and proofreading for me, otherwise it would be right what I need. I will keep your good heart in mind.

  9. One other thing about blogging is that it is like writing software. I am able to get articles out quickly so readers who want to get an early look can read them. Usually before publishing them, I will proofread twice to get rid of obvious mistakes. For important essays, I will do a lot more revising and proofreading before publishing them. The same as writing software, I keep revising my articles. It is like an evolving process. I need to read my articles from time to time to remind myself my past experiences. So when I see something wrong, I will make changes immediately. Sometimes, I will find an article can link to another article, or some articles can be merged. So I will make changes accordingly.

    So blogging is like writing software. It has different release versions. I am keeping releasing new versions. And it gets better in each version. For articles that are of higher quality and mature enough, I will put them in the Featured Essay category.

    Without blogging, under traditional rigorous publishing there is no way for me to get my ideas out so quickly and be able to have written so much considering I have to do my regular job and many other things at the same time. One other advantage of blogging is the feedback you get through comments. I haven’t got many comments yet (well, I didn’t really promote my blog in various spheres.). But I wish more people can give comments and make it more a two way dialogs.


    Hi Freestone,

    I can see that you are taking what you do very seriously. You are a deep thinker and I appreciate how dedicated you are to improving your information.

    I am almost finished reading Mr. Gatto’s book , “Dumming Us Down” and can agree on many of his points, but not all. He seems very bitter to have been a part of the compulsory education in America. I am bitter, too. Coming out of this form of education myself, it makes sense to me now looking back. What a waste of money, time and the toll it has taken on families is very sad.

    Beyond the compulsory schooling, I am very concerned with the excess of entertainment in the U. S. A. People have to work very hard to a comfortable life. After long hours at work, many people just sit in front a television until it is time to go to bed, so they can get up and do it all over again. Their children are put in sports and other group activities, so there is alot of driving and rushing about.

    As for me, I have turned off my television. Now I read books, watch a movie once in a while, play Scrabble, study the Bible and do other things of value. There are too many people around me that do not take life seriously, and just want to enjoy themselves. Meanwhile, as they are enjoying themselves, the noose of the problems that surround our country is tightening.

    Freestone, I would like to know why the complusory education in North America is of interest to you? How is it impacting where you live?

    Take care my friend,


    Oops! I made a typo.

    It should read, “…work very hard to have a comfortable life.

    Sorry I forgot the word “have”. I stand corrected.

    Take care,


  12. Sorry I missed this comment and thus didn’t get to reply you until now.

    In my opinion, the fact that people are so much into those kinds of entertainment you described has a lot to do with compulsory schooling. When people are locked in an isolated environment and out of touch with reality for so long, they lose interest in real things. In fact, they are not in touch with love anymore.

    I was just thinking today that learning come from love. When you are in love, it is the easiest for learning. For me to learn American culture, I have to love this culture very deeply. But students in school only learned to hate. Forgetting love, how can they learn?

    For your last question, I think the world is very much interconnected. I regard education as the most important thing for China (certainly for any country including America). For the new way of education to emerge and free the learning out of the gridlock, I think America is more ready to make that breakthrough. When this succeed in America, it will certainly spread to China as well and be of great help to my country.

    It is late. I hope you don’t mind my short answer here. 🙂


    Hi Freestone,

    I just finished reading “The Sensate Culture” by Harold O. Brown. Have you read it? I found that it had a lot of interesting points involving cultures, no matter where they are. Education is one of the topics that it covers. If you have time check it out.

    Take care my friend,


  14. I haven’t read it. But I will sure check it out. Thanks, Impressions.


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