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Extrications from “The Death of Free Will, Part I” by Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt

11 Jan

Always an optimist and believer in the good will of people, I have always thought of our educational system as broken versus manipulated.  After reading this short essay by Iserbyt, I am sorry to say I am starting to believe more in manipulation versus government monstrosity, as public education has certainly failed several generations of children, myself being one to go through part of the experience.

This has nothing to do with teachers, with administrators, or students and parents, as people.  I will remain optimistic about the hearts and souls of those we live and work with.  This does have everything to do with federal entities making decisions at a federal level that are harming the brains and thought-processes of our students (and this is just per the education itself, there is another broken part of the system and that is the food that we are eating, but that is for another time).

Innocuous-sounding initiatives and agendas, e.g., the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition (RISC), set forth to restructure education using models; seeking to change K-12 academics into an individualized, non-graded, non-competitive training for specific workforce needs (this arguably has an effect on the values that are taught to students).  This is a different system for educating than what had originally been planned for this country at its founding and inception as the freest country in the world.

Want to learn more about how and why these models were developed?  Take a look at Frederick T. Gates’ “The Country School of Tomorrow” Occasional Papers No. I (General Election Board, New York, 1913) “A Vision for the Remedy”.   Equally frightening are the social-engineering agendas set forth by the Carnegie Corporation’s Conclusions and Recommendations for the Social Studies (Charles Scribner’s Sons: N.Y. 1934) and Human Relations in Curriculum Change (Ed. Kenneth D. Benne and Bozidar Muntyan, The Dryden Press, Inc., N.Y. 1951).  There will always be an argument that these works are helpful to teaching people, if you respect free will, you will see that this ideology is different than embracing such.

What has been developed out of these works, and is actually already in some classrooms across the country, is a feat of social-engineering of sorts – a Pavlovian/Skinnerian performance-based workforce training agenda that desires to train students versus teaching them to think.  Teachers teach to a test – and employers hire based off of workforce training.  All of these initiatives can have positive spin associated with them – at then end of the day – we are training the next generation to work versus to think.  I dare anyone to argue with me on that point.  Today most our students who are educated in the public school setting cannot tell you how or why our country became a republic and what individual rights mean, they do not understand currency and the value of a currency in the free market, they cannot tell you how to grow a carrot (or that chickens were slain in the process of making a Chicken McNuggets®), and they don’t have the opportunity to pursue the arts (visual or performing) or sports during the every-day school day.  A training agenda has kids passing tests in a classroom (standardized tests created at a national or state scale), but not even close to passing the test of common-sense, the ability to think critically, and the ability to protect their own individual rights as citizens of an increasingly less free country.

“This agenda MUST be stopped or all of us will suffer: our children, their teachers and our free political and economic system of government.  Once FREE WILL is destroyed, there is no protection from descending to the level of animals, subject to ‘training’.  Only human beings can be educated.  Why have we opted for animal training, with or without the computer, rather than continuing to educate our children in the traditional way for upward mobility?” (Iserbyt, 2010, pg. 2).

Richard DeLorenzo is the co-founder of the previously mentioned Reinventing Schools Coalition.  His touting of “Baldrige principles” for the creation of an educational system redesigned to achieve specific results (a work plan created for each student who then proceeds at his or her own pace), sounds like something beneficial for workforce development (and granted, it probably is), however, it is an intrusion into the minds of our youth.  His program won the Malcom Baldrige National Quality Award (other winners included Cadillac and Ritz-Carlton).  I am a businesswoman, I believe in capitalism and techniques for business like the Baldrige principles and Total Quality Management.  Do I believe in this type of process for education?  Of course not!  I want FREE people with FREE minds to make choices in a highly COMPETITIVE market that encourages people to STRIVE for not only success, but also ACHIEVEMENT.

“What does this kind of education have to do with developing reading, writing, and math skills, understanding of history, the United States Constitution and our republican form of Government? What room is there in DeLorenzo’s agenda for art, music, foreign languages, and sports? Will the use of this international business model (Total Quality Management) in our schools allow for the encouragement in our children of ingenuity, imagination, intellectual curiosity, individuality, the pursuit of their hopes and dreams? Our children are human beings, not animals to be trained. They have been created by God, with a soul, intellect, conscience, imagination. Education must consider these factors” (Iserbyt, 2010, pg. 4).

The key to remember is that using techniques created for animals (Skinnerian/Pavlovian) creates training-based learning vs. critical-thinking-based learning.  When trained to do something, it is and easier simpler process (very good for things like working on an assembly line or forgetting that we have individual rights that trump the federal government).  When taught to think, it is a more complex and sometimes bumpy process – especially bumpy for those who don’t want to hear the critical thinking of free and creative people.  Oh well.

There are simple, actionable solutions to the dilemma that we are in with education.  We must be willing to work together and examine principles that some may view as teaching, but are in fact training.  We must embrace the free will of people, specifically the next generation, as that is our only hope to be a prosperous and competitive nation in this century.

Places to make a difference?


Iserbyt, C.T. (2010, December). The Death of Free Will. Retrieved December 15th from: Death of Free Will_Iserbyt

Please check out these writing and resources from Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt:

The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America

Back to Basics Reform or…OBE..Skinnerian International Curriculum

The Death of Free Will, Part I (“Reinventing Schools Coalition”)

The Death of Free Will, Part II