Kindergarten Helps Poor Workers

Charities to help poor children of industrial families started kindergartens in Prussia in the 19th Century. This was a world where most people over age 10 worked. The kindergarten idea was radical in a world where young children often had to be left home alone while the parents and older children went to work. The young often were drugged or gassed to keep them safe. Caring people watching over the babies for free made it very popular. Kindergarten provided a safe place for children to receive nutritious food, basic hygiene, clean clothes and companionship. The original movement was inspired by revolutionaries like Rousseau who championed the idea that play was healthy for children. Learning in kindergarten was incidental. Most people went from kindergarten to work.

Eventually, the Prussian government banned kindergartens because it feared covert labor activism. Nevertheless, the idea was too good to abandon and it spread across the industrial west. Fear of labor propaganda abated even in Prussia and by 1860 all of industrial Europe, England, and the United States had private kindergartens.

Kindergarten is still a good idea, but today the state runs most kindergartens. The state also regulates private child care. Kindergarten becomes more a part of state education every year as state education departments push legislation to lower the age of compulsory education. Kindergarten is required in K-12 education in 12 states and The District of Columbia at last count.

The world of work is more humane in 2021 but the structure of work is not. Families too poor to afford leaving a parent to raise the children when maternity leave expires still need the early child care solution. All single parents without family to care for children need kindergarten. When both parents must work, they need kindergarten. Early industrial workers were relatively more affluent than their rural cousins, but everyone had to work. Today people are relatively affluent, but are too poor to raise children even if they have a nice house, two cars, a boat and power tools in the basement. Many parents cannot lose a paycheck. The solution has not changed in two centuries. Public kindergarten still manages the welfare of the child, keeps it safe, fed, healthy, and clean like charitable kindergarten once did.

Sadly, the idea of play is gone. Play is radical again. Rolling kindergarten into K-12 public education transformed it into public school for young children. Most kindergartens are abysmal innervating nets of rules and supervision. Any playing that happens at public kindergarten is incidental to all the work that must be done. The child is placed on the lower rung of the learning system to “prepare them with the basic skills to enter Grade One.” No fun there.

Requirements for Public Kindergarten

Children who will attend public school should attend public kindergarten. This is the simple path. The state says that a child’s basic knowledge to enter kindergarten should include social skills, motor skills, particular reasoning and concept development, specific language skills, reading skills, and writing skills. Despite the bureaucratic language, this reading and writing is not Shakespeare. Children must be able to scribble and watch along as stories are read to them. These are fairly routine skills for any five-year-old human. Parents should not fret. Parents curious about the preparation for kindergarten should search the Internet. Many commercial sites like Leap Frog1 exist to set the parental mind at ease. Non-commercial sites hosted by public school districts, like the Fairfax County “Stepping Into Kindergarten”2 provide free resources. The local school district also hosts websites with specific information about what a child needs to bring to the first day of kindergarten.

It is all serious business and not just for the dragon parents who want the “right” preschool to get into the “right” prep school. Every public kindergarten takes itself seriously and expects no less from parents. The usual kindergarten curriculum is likely be ten or fifteen pages of goals and assessments in specific categories.

VISIONWe inspire learning by providing the greatest public education to each and every student.MISSIONEvery student will have the academic, creative problem solving, and social emotional skills to be successful in college and career.CORE PURPOSEPrepare all students to thrive in their future.CORE VALUESLearningRelationships RespectExcellenceEquity

Social skills3

It is all so deadly serious and dull.

The irony of the “COVID-19 lock-down kindergarten” is that the public kindergarten (and school) usually remained open for the parents who were the “essential workers”, who needed to leave the home. These children lost a year of play that non-essential children got. The white collar parents who worked from home kept an eye on the children attending distance kindergarten in the next room. 2020 is a year of unexpected children appearing in critical corporate zoom meetings. Good times. These were also lucky children.

kindergarten at home, "Kids Wishper" by Uncalno
Mom’s At Work Over There

Public School Not Quite Original Kindergarten

Public school kindergarten prepares the child for work by making school into work. The original flow-chart for public kindergarten must assume that 13 years of school prepares the child for a job. Most work is different from school work.

This all made more sense when most parents worked in factories or the mills. Workers went to the factory. Johnny and Joannie went to PS 135. Now the jobs are in offices, but the Kindergarten remains a blue collar factory.

Parents who use the public kindergartens should work hard to push the administrators toward the original impulse of play. Kindergarten should be fun. It is not some subversive idea. Make a sign. “Less marching, more dancing please.” Post it on Tik-Tok. Work will come to children soon enough.

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Give the Classics a Voice

Living languages have a voice. Humans spoke them and speak them. Dead languages sit as silent hieroglyphs in a rock temple or cuneiform on mud tablets. Dead languages rarely return.

Dominant cultures sometimes kill languages. The speakers resist. Yiddish was the daily language of millions of middle Europeans. That stopped with the Holocaust of the 1930s and 1940s with the killing of most Yiddish speakers and virtually all Yiddish writers.

Native American and First Nations languages were actively suppressed by Canadian and US government schools in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Generations of native speakers learned English at the government boarding schools and forgot the world that grandmother knew.

barbarian invadors anglo-saxon helmit
“Anglo Saxon Helmet, Sutton Hoo, Suffolk”

Greek and Latin vanished from Britain and Western Europe as the Germanic tribes overwhelmed the countryside at the end of the Roman Empire. Christians kept the languages alive in the east for centuries. The monastic movement eventually pushed back against the obliteration of culture. In the 7th Century the monks Theodore and Hadrian reintroduced the Greek and Latin to Canterbury.

“[England] took kindly to the Latin and Greek culture brought her in the seventh century by the Asian Theodore and the African Hadrian, scholars learned in worldly, as well as in divine, lore, who “made this island, once the nurse of tyrants, the constant home of philosophy.” -William of Malmesbury 1

Classical Homeschools

The homeschooling movements in 2021 are testaments to the 7th Century monasteries. Interest in classical education serves exactly as it did 1,300 years ago. A small but growing number of people resist the idea that the accumulated knowledge of the Hellenic Period, the Roman Empire, all of the Enlightenment, and the American Revolution should vanish like the knowledge of the Huron or the Muskogees 2 with the abandonment of the languages and ideas on which they were founded.

This is especially critical in the United States because the Founders benefited from traditional classical education. A classical education in the time of the Founding Fathers meant the study of Latin and Greek and the works written in those languages. Fluency in classical languages came before college. Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, Madison, and Washington were literate by the standards of the day. Jefferson all were fluent in both Latin and Greek. They could and did speak and write to one another in these languages.

Contemporary classical education runs the gamut from reading the classics in English, as Mortimer Adler promoted, to full classical language learning in programs like Classical Academic Press that offer both Greek and Latin at every level. Homeschools feel their way forward like Anselm of Canterbury learning with bits and scraps.

Why Classical Education was Dismantled?

The 1914 – 1918 war destroyed a generation of the best educated young men in Germany, Austria, Russia, France, Belgium, and Great Britain. Millions of young men, the best of Europe and America, took their Greek and Latin, their logic and reasoning, and buried them in shell craters on the Marne or in Flanders.

                  Those who survived no longer believed in the same values. They rejected Horace’s Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori and dumped it out with the bathwater and everything else.

The progressive education of the common school movement came from a desire to change the traditional curriculum from what existed before the Great War. The new curricula gradually reduced exposure to the classics. It abandoned classical language learning. Experts believed the classics no longer relevant in the modern age. The Interwar Period from 1918 until 1939 wiped away the classical school philosophy and replaced it with a new progressive behaviorist philosophy. The old way had not worked. New standards were needed.

“Apart from the thought of participation in social life the school has no end nor aim. As long as we confine ourselves to the school as an isolated institution we have no final directing ethical principles, because we have no object or ideal.” – John Dewey3

Advocates of progressive public education still say “it takes a village.” A much reduced human comes from modern industrial education. This is fine with the leaders who prefer the new citizens.

These leaders are wrong, of course. John Dewey, a bloodless Alaric with his timid progressive reformers, overthrew the system. Greek was dominant from Homer through the rise of Christianity. The Bible originally was promulgated in Greek. Latin was the dominant language of the Roman Empire. The Reformation and Enlightenment were founded on classical knowledge. The modern Visigoths wanted to start from scratch.

The Secret Power of the Founding Generation.

The cultural war continues. Americans who read Cicero in Latin, like Hamilton and Jefferson, improve the Republic. Reading Thucydides in Greek opens an archive of recorded business frauds and political crimes. A classically educated public resists the rented barbarians from distracting the public with war while they plunder the treasury.

Homeschool families should make the extra effort.  Learning and teaching classical languages is still part of a classical education. Christian homeschools using programs like Charlotte Mason4 should especially add Latin and Greek for the reason Anselm of Canterbury taught himself Greek word by word from every scrap of Bible annotation. He wanted to read what Paul wrote. It is not easy, but Greek, Latin, and the books written in them are still our best chance to avoid the tyranny of the next Dark Age. Learn to speak to one another.

1 William of Malmesbury, I, 12.

2 Read more at: https://www.aaanativearts.com/extinct-tribes/extinct-tribes-o

3 “Ethical Principles Underlying Education”

4 Simply Charlotte Mason https://simplycharlottemason.com/

In Search of the Victorian Education

Why Can’t Education Change?


Queen Victoria became Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1837 and reigned continually until her death in 1901. The UK was the preeminent Colonial Super Power when she came to power, although that term was not used. Spain and Portugal lost their colonies in the New World. The Holy Roman Empire gone. Russia emerged from the Napoleonic Wars as a great empire but was not a global competitor with the UK. France, changed by the Revolution, lost the Napoleonic Empire, and the United States ended at the Mississippi River.

Wealthy British children in 1837 were educated at home by governesses until about age 10 when the boys went off to Public Schools like The Rugby School, The Harrow School, or The Perse School and girls continued education at home. Poor British children grew without formal education and most could not read or write. In 1870 a law passed for compulsory education of all children 5 to 10 years old. As most poor children worked, this put a great strain on many British families to maintain even a subsistence living. Nevertheless, the push was to end child labor, not necessarily to provide education. This movement spread like Abolition and proved as irresistible.

The United States education was different in 1837. The large number of religious dissenters who settled in the colonies influenced education. After the Reformation that began in 1524 Martin Luther called for mandatory education laws in Europe to ensure that more Christians could read the Bible. Massachusetts passed a compulsory education law in 1647. Unlike their British peers, most American children learned to read from the Bible at an early age.

Spread of Compulsory Education

Compulsory education spread across Europe and by the 1830s most countries were using the Prussian Model of education. The Prussian Model of Gottlieb Fichte provided hierarchical education for commoners, guided by those who determined the needs of society. Called “Prussian” because it was supported by the Emperor. His army’s defeat in 1808 at the hands of Napoleon seemed to come from too much individuality in the army. He proactively sought a solution.

The Prussian Educational System consisted of tiers. All education would be free for eight years. During that time, elite pupils would be elected to continue their educations at a secondary level and would be trained to think, control, educate, and rule the country in their adulthoods. The rest of the students, the 99%, would, during that same eight year education, be trained well enough to subserviently work in the lower sectors of industry, agriculture, and the military.” (From Weebly.com. See the reference below.)

Prussian Model of Education
The Prussians Set the Bar

The British compulsory education act curbed child labor, but Americans, particularly American industrialists saw the benefits of the Prussian Method and led the way in education. Massachusetts expanded the compulsory education law in 1852 to require every city and town to offer primary school, focusing on grammar and arithmetic. The secular philosophy prevailed. The state fined parents who refused to send their children to school. Egregious cases required the state to strip parental rights. The children taken from a bad environment were apprenticed to other families to be schooled.

By the 1850s most places continued to provide education through private schools and through churches. The Common Schooling Movement of Horace Mann took hold as communities tried to curb the influence of parochial schools on the immigrant children coming from Catholic countries. This moved the emphasis from church and private schools to secular public schools.

Compulsory Education Law

Compulsory education is the still the law. Exemptions exist for homeschooling and the Amish, but every state requires that the homeschoolers follow specific regulations. Ironically, the most pressure for home schooling now comes from Christian dissenters who are not happy with the results of government common school where it is unlikely children are exposed to the Bible. Private schools must also comply with education law. In every sense public school, common school, and compulsory school is government school. What was just a vision for European, British, and American reformers at the start of Queen Victoria’s Reign, is now an accepted right of the state, the law of the land.

The vision realized, now public schools take responsibility not just for compulsory attendance to limit child labor, but following in the early Massachusetts model, they aggressively take responsibility for the welfare of the child, often protecting the child from the family. Today Social Services and Foster Care provide this government intervention, but the philosophy of enforcing the government’s rights over children remains the same as it began in Massachusetts 168 years ago. During the strictest COVID-19 lock-down in 2020 when public schools provided no classroom education, they still provided meals and health care to students. When all education stopped, or went online, the schools still provided social services. Public schools may not create good industrial workers anymore, but the central mission is unchanged. Compulsion. Control. Schools delivers social welfare. It really does take a village to provide public education in America.

Online Resources:

The Prussian Model

Compulsory Education Law

Victora

Historic Maps 1837 

Victorian Children

Early British Public Schools