The Indoctrinating Power of Exclusion
July 12th, 2010
Our contemporary educational protocols have their antecedents, and it is enlightening to survey contributing sources now gone from view. One such figure from America-past with a pivotal and influential contribution to education theory and practice is Lester Frank Ward (1841-1913). Never heard of him? Sixty years ago, historian Henry Steele Commager identified him as a peer in the company of William James, John Dewey, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, formatively influencing twentieth-century America. A review of his contribution allows us to better understand the authoritarian methods of pedagogy which we have become unfortunately familiar.
Ward was, among other things, a sociologist, and a pioneer in applying Darwinian evolutionary theory to the social sciences. Ward championed the idea that man, rather than being a mere passive subject of evolution, could now actively control the evolutionary process and thereby engineer social progress. Not surprisingly, Ward gave substantial attention to the enterprise of education, which he viewed as the “great panacea,” and “the universal remedy for political evils.”
Ward drew from evolutionary theory the idea that our environment essentially designs us. Accordingly, if that environment could itself be carefully manipulated by man, he could thereby transform the persons subject to the formative influences of that environment. In such way, and in the context of mass compulsory public education, human consciousness could be redesigned by the benevolent government at the controls. the rest