Michael Mendizza

Writer, Filmmaker

Mass Education and Mass Media Do The Same Thing, But Differently



Speaking with a colleague whose husband had, what we plebeians (commoners) would call, an aristocratic title, noted, “He was bred to believe he was superior.” From his perspective what we might call arrogant is simply how reality is. When one’s republic dumbs-down into an Oligarchy, as former President Jimmy Carter describes has taken place in the United States, all the underlying assumptions regarding democracy, the rules and morality that govern society we are taught in school are off. We are witnessing what Chris Hedges, John Taylor gatto and Noam Chomsky call class warfare, a very old story indeed.

Having met, discussed with and interviewed quite a number of highly intelligent, savvy and wise individuals, when an observation like this pops up it rings a number of associative bells like that metal ball in a pinball machine. Bing! The first flashing light was John Taylor Gatto describing what he called the hidden curriculum buried in America’s compulsory education system. The elites, he said, have completely different forms of education than commons. They live in a different reality. This is the overarching theme in Noam Chomsky – Requiem for the American Dream.

The second bell that rang was an interview with Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer class journalist; The Pathology of the Rich. See below. Chris describes growing up in a lower to middle class family and finding himself in a boarding school populated with elite children. What he saw was, in his words, disgusting and changed his life forever. In the same way that my colleague’s titled husband was not, from his reality set, being arrogant, those bred to feel superior simply do not see the suffering their hubris causes, similar to tragic blindness attributed to Marie Antoinette, “let them eat cake.” Below are the links to Hedges interview and the full transcript of my discussion with John Taylor Gatto. They may help bring current events into a new focus.

As you read our interview below, note phrases like “majority of human biology is fatally corrupted, if we cross-breed the mass with the evolutionarily advanced, the managerial classes of the planet, find ways to lock up the evolutionarily retarded, keep them away from the good stuff (goods and education), taking human improvement into their own hands,’ etc., and apply these phrases to what is taking place on the stage we call mass-media, perhaps the underlying challenges will appear quite different.

M: John, part of your thesis is that the true purpose of compulsory government schooling is conditioning; conformity, rows of chairs, routine, bells. Jerry Mander, author of The Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, uses the phrase ‘form is content.’ The form of public schooling is its content.

J: Jerry is one of my heroes.

M: His insights, in my view, have never been equaled. Marshall McLuhan said the same thing about television. The true content of the television experience is the relationship we have to the box, not what is flickering on the screen. This notion that the form of the system, the structure, is that system’s primary content, is your underlying thesis. You are not talking about the math, reading or history. You are talking about the structure being the real content – not learned – but deeply conditioning. Form is content. We are learning how to conform and part of this conditioning is to not question the structure.

J: The architects of institutional schooling were completely conscious of this. Alexander Inglis, around the First World War, wrote a book, which is very hard to get, called “Principles of Secondary Education.” In one section, he lists the purposes of what we call schooling. There are six and every one is illuminating – hair raising. The first is to make people predictable so that the economy can be rationalized. You can only do that if people are predictable. Yet, history has demonstrated, over and over again, that we’re not. So, the very first purpose or goal of institutional schooling is to make people predictable.

Darwin’s Descent of Man, which is about twelve years after Origins of Species, made a much bigger impact. It said that the overwhelming majority of human biology is fatally corrupted. It cannot be improved by cross-breeding because it’s so far gone. If we cross-breed the mass with the evolutionarily advanced, this will drag everyone back into the swamp. That book probably has caused more damage than any piece of writing in human history. It was immediately adopted by the managerial classes of the planet. The challenge is to find ways to lock up the evolutionarily retarded, to waste their time and set them against one another. And whatever you do, keep them away from the good stuff (goods and education)! There was no evil intended – quite the reverse. They were taking human improvement into their own hands.

In the United States there was a seminar course taught by the President of Indiana University, David Starr Jordan, a legendary name on the West Coast. Jordan called the course Bionomics. The idea was to take charge of evolution by reducing the breeding propensities of the inferior. As Darwin said in Origin of Species, only mankind is stupid enough to allow its inferior stock to breed. What Jordan did was to organize a class that would politically and intellectually take charge of this. Who was the President of the University of Indiana? He turned out to be the first President of Stanford University, the Harvard of the West, a position he held for 30 years. What we are really talking about is a deliberate and massive retardation of normal human growth processes and the monopolistic assumption of responsibility and decision making so that the challenge of reducing inferior breeding can be conferred on a superior managerial group.

M: I get the impression of creating a pen, herding together the masses, feeding them mediocrity, structuring and conditioning them in ways that insure that they do not cause any trouble, so they can be predicted and controlled.

J: Well said. Let’s start five centuries ago with John Calvin, who seemed to me the most influential theologian of the last fifteen hundred years. Calvin says clearly that the damned are many times larger in number than the saved. The ratio is about twenty to one. There are too many damned to overwhelm with force. So, you have to cloud their minds and set them into meaningless competitions with one another in ways that will eat up that energy. Jump from Calvin to a thoroughly secular philosopher in Amsterdam, Benedict Spinoza, who published a book in 1670 that had a huge influence on the leadership classes of Europe, the United States and Asia. It is called, “Tractate Religico Politicu.” In it, he said it was nonsense to think people were damned or evil because there was no supernatural world. He also said there is an enormous disproportion between permanently irrational people who are absolutely dangerous and the people who have good sense. The ratio is about twenty to one.

Spinoza actually says that an institutional school system should be set up as a ‘civil religion.’ It is a term you find common in early colonial writing because everyone read Spinoza, all over the planet. He said, we need a ‘civil religion’ for two reasons. One, to eliminate official religion, which he says is completely irrational and dangerous. And two, to bind up the energies of these irrational ninety-five percent and destroy their imagination. In all but words he said the same thing as Calvin, but Spinoza said it flatly. We have to destroy the imagination because it is only through the imagination that the maximum damage is unleashed. Otherwise, people can struggle against the chains, maybe even cause local damage, but they cannot do much harm to the fundamental structure because they cannot think outside of the box.

Jump from Spinoza in 1670 to Johann Fichte in Northern Germany in 1807, 1808, 1809, where the very first successful institutional schooling in the history of the planet was established. Fichte says in his famous Addresses to the German Nation*, that the reason Prussia suffered a catastrophic defeat against Napoleon at Jena was because order was turned on its head by ordinary soldiers taking decisions into their hands. He called for a national system of training that would make it impossible for underlings to imagine any other way to do things. A decade later Prussia had the first institutional form of mass schooling on the planet.


In 1820 we have Darwin saying that people are biologically fixed in classes and there’s nothing you can do about it. Every one of these people, in a sense, is saying that what ‘we call education’ is not even possible. What we call education is romantic nonsense. Real education is for the managing class. Darwin said we were insane to try to invest people with inferior IQ’s with positions of responsibility. We are not talking about a fringe intellectual position. This was the dominate map for how to run a society in the early 19th century. Once you know this – you view the form and content of public education differently. Today mass education and mass media do the same thing, but differently. You can dislike the Dick Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s of the world, however; you quickly see that eliminating these people does not work. They will simply be replaced by others who think the same way. This is the leadership point of view. It has come from the great intellectuals of human history, an unbroken stream of them. All the romantic stuff is for the middle class, lower middle class. It is stuff for boobs.  John Taylor Gatto

If you got this far – great. Now, view at least part one of Hedges interview and follow that with the Chomsky documentary. Bing!

Michael Mendizza

Requiem for the American Dream – Noam Chomsky