In a recent article, TheBlaze’s Fred Lucas noted a troubling aspect of the mindset driving Common Core. Lucas revealed that during an education panel at the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, Common Core proponent and former Massachusetts education Secretary Paul Reveille stated “the children belong to all of us.”
Back in 2010, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan argued that schools should have a communal function stating:
“My vision is that schools need to be community centers. Schools need to be open 12, 13, 14 hours a day six, seven days a week, 12 months out of the year, with a whole host of activities, particularly in disadvantaged communities…Where schools truly become centers of the community, great things happen.”
In doing some research on progressive education, we came across “Education: Free & Compulsory,” a 1971 book written by libertarian economist Murray Rothbard. In the book, Rothbard notes that Frances Wright and Robert Dale Owen, two of the first socialists in America, writing in the early-to-mid-1800s, outlined an education system eerily ideologically similar to that of Paul Reveille, Arne Duncan and other proponents of Common Core specifically and progressive education more broadly.
In fact, Wright and Owen start from Reveille’s premise that “the children belong to all of us,” and take this notion to its logical end that children should be taken away from their parents altogether and raised in public schools, more closely reflecting Duncan’s vision.
Check out the remarkably prescient passage from Rothbard’s book below [emphasis ours]:
“By the 1820s, their goals of compulsion and statism were already germinating over the country, and particularly flourishing in New England, although the individualist tradition was still strong. One factor that increased the power of New England in diffusing the collectivist idea in education was the enormous migration from that area. New Englanders swarmed south and west out of New England, and carried their zeal for public schooling and for State compulsion with them.
Into this atmosphere was injected the closest that the country had seen to Plato’s idea, of full State communistic control over the children. This was the plan of two of the first socialists in America—Frances Wright and Robert Dale Owen. Owen was the son of one of the first British “Utopian” Socialists, and with Robert Owen, his father, had attempted an experiment in a voluntary-communist community in New Harmony, Indiana. Frances Wright was a Scotswoman who had also been at New Harmony, and with Owen, opened a newspaper called the Free Enquirer. Their main objective was to campaign for their compulsory education system. Wright and Owen outlined their scheme as follows:
“It is national, rational, republican education; free for all at the expense of all; conducted under the guardianship of the State, and for the honor, the happiness, the virtue, the salvation of the state.“
Title: Education: Free & Compulsory
Author: Murray N. Rothbard
The major aim of the plan was that equality be implanted in the minds, the habits, the manners, and the feelings, so that eventually fortunes and conditions would be equalized. Instead of the intricate apparatus of common schools, high schools, seminaries, etc., Wright and Owen advocated that the states simply organize a series of institutions for the “general reception” of all children living within that district. These establishments would be devoted to the complete rearing of the various age groups of children. The children would be forced to live at these places twenty-four hours a day. The parents would be allowed to visit their children from time to time. From the age of two every child would be under the care and guidance of the State.
“In these nurseries of a free nation, no inequality must be allowed to enter. Fed at a common board; clothed in a common garb…raised in the exercise of common duties…in the exercise of the same virtues, in the enjoyment of the same pleasures; in the study of the same nature; in pursuit of the same object…say! Would not such a race…work out the reform of society and perfect the free institutions of America?”
Owen was quite insistent that the system not “embrace anything less than the whole people.” The effect will be to “regenerate America in one generation. It will make but one class out of the many.” Frances Wright revealed the aim of the system starkly, calling on the people to overthrow a moneyed aristocracy and priestly hierarchy. “The present is a war of class.” Thus, we see that a new element has been introduced into the old use of compulsory education on behalf of State absolutism.
The…aim of the plan was that equality be implanted..so..fortunes and conditions would be equalized
A second goal is absolute equality and uniformity, and a compulsory school system was seen by Owen and Wright to be ideally suited to this task. First, the habits and minds and feelings of all the children must be molded into absolute equality; and then the nation will be ripe for the final step of equalization of property and incomes by means of State coercion.Why did Owen and Wright insist on seizing the children for twenty-four hours a day, from the age of two on, only releasing them when the school age was over at sixteen? As Owen declared:
“In republican schools, there must be no temptation to the growth of aristocratical prejudices. The pupils must learn to consider themselves as fellow citizens, as equals. Respect ought not to be paid to riches, or withheld from poverty. Yet, if the children from these state Schools are to go every evening, the one to his wealthy parent’s soft carpeted drawing room, and the other to its poor father’s or widowed mother’s comfortless cabin, will they return the next day as friends and equals?”
Likewise, differences in quality of clothing invoked feelings of envy on the part of the poor and disdain by the rich—which should be eliminated by forcing one uniform upon both. Throughout his plans there runs the hatred of human diversity, particularly of the higher living standards of the rich as compared to the poor. To effect his plan for thoroughgoing equalization by force, the schools
“must receive the children, not for six hours a day, but altogether must feed them, clothe them, lodge them; must direct not their studies only, but their occupations and amusements and must care for them until their education is completed.”
Rothbard notes that for those who might argue that the “Owen-Wright plan is unimportant; that it had purely crackpot significance and little influence…The contrary is true.”
He cites the former president of the progressive Teachers College at Columbia University, Lawrence A. Cremin, who wrote “The Transformation of the School: Progressivism in American Education, 1876-1957“ as “a contemporary laudatory historian of the public-school movement” who “places it [the Owen-Wright plan] first in his story, and devotes considerable space to it.”
According to Rothbard, the prominent Professor Cremin “reports that a great many newspapers reprinted Owen’s essays on the plan, and approved them.” Further, Cremin notes that the plan:
“exerted a great influence on the widely noted report of a committee of Philadelphia workers in 1829 to report on education in Pennsylvania. The report called for equality, and equal education and proper training for all. And this and similar reports “had a considerable influence in preparing the way for the progressive legislation of the middle thirties.”
Lending further credence to the lasting effect of the Owen-Wright plan, a 2013 book titled “Progressive Education” by education historian John Howlett notes “Perhaps the continuing successes of the educational aspects of Owen’s philosophy attest to their radical, progressive, and, ultimately successful, nature.”