Lamar Alexander is not what most people expect to emerge from the hills of Tennessee, but in the New World Order, the state that produced Sergeant York, Jack Daniels, the Grand Ole Opry, and the Great Dayton Monkey Trial retains about as much cultural singularity as an enterprise zone in Detroit. Indeed, that’s pretty much what Mr. Alexander, now President Bush’s education secretary, helped turn his state into.

It was he, as Tennessee’s governor from 1979 to 1987, who struck the deals and baited the traps that lured Nissan and General Motors from the foreign climes of Japan and Michigan to the bucolic meadows of the Volunteer State. Mr. Alexander may have been born on a mountaintop in Tennessee, but he never kilt a bar when he was only three. He’s a dressed-for-success Rockefeller Republican who marches to globalist music, and he sees nothing wrong and everything right with the home state of Allen Tate and Andrew Lytic being ingested into the maw of planet-spanning bureaucracies that promise Progress through Universal Affluence.

But materialism is by no means the only tune Mr. Alexander likes to hum. One of his favorite stories relates how, soon after the hordes of Michiganders began to descend on the Tennessee backwaters, a union official told him that one of the main questions with which his serfs always quizzed him was, “Where can I get good schools for my children?” The learning that produced Tate and Lytic wasn’t good enough for the progeny of Detroit, it seems, and Mr. Alexander furrowed his brow to help them out.

Soon the gubernatorial noggin split asunder with the Comprehensive Education Reform Act of 1984, which the Legislature promptly defeated by one vote. The next year, after intensive campaigning by Mr. Alexander, it passed, and today it serves as a model for other states in reforming their educational systems.

The plan allows for such useful ideas as merit pay for teachers, but its main utility is for business, a subject from which Mr. Alexander’s mind never strays too far. His legislation emphasizes more adult education (for the retraining of workers), more computer instruction, more math, and more science for the budding Einsteins and Edisons in a state where teaching Darwinism used to be illegal. How, after all, can Japanese and Northeastern multinationals conscript a New World work force if they have to make do with yokels drilled only in the Book of Genesis, reading and writing, and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance?

Now Mr. Alexander has gone to Washington, from which perch he will preach his global gospel to the whole nation. This spring he and President Bush unbosomed themselves of yet another “comprehensive reform” for the country’s schools. The plan strikes all the strings on the educational reformers’ harps: merit pay, parental choice, national standards, and vouchers. But buried amidst the good ideas, bad ideas, and mere slogans, there’s one part of the legislation now in Congress that ought to make parent and pupil alike reach for their spitwads.

The New York Times modestly described it as “a plan for schools to provide children with a range of social services,” and the official name for it is the “New American Schools” program. Under the direction of the nonprofit New American Schools Development Corporation, headed by Alcoa’s chief executive officer Paul O’Neill, the program will sponsor 535 “experimental” and “innovative” schools using new organizational structures, new technologies, and new teaching methods and linking formal education with “social services.” It’s likely that the mental loins from which the idea of the “New American Schools” sprang were those of Chester Finn, former aide to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, former deputy to education czar Bill Bennett, and current professor at Vanderbilt University, which, by a curious non-coincidence, just happens to be in Tennessee.

The “more social services” idea is what Mr. Finn, affectionately known as “Checker,” calls “total schooling,” and last winter, before the Alexander plan hit the legislative calendar, the Wall Street Journal‘s editorial page poked at it with genteel skepticism. “Some neoconservatives,” wrote the Journal, “find so many youngsters bereft of a supportive home life that teachers often have little chance to instill knowledge in the hours a week they have with a child. The new thinking is that if an extended school facility could serve as the base for nurturing and oversight—not necessarily by official personnel but by community groups or even parents themselves—we could catch kids before they fall by the wayside.”

The idea of “total schooling” is that “dysfunctional homes” don’t provide the right kind of socialization—not just instruction, but the processes by which children are subjected to social discipline, from toilet training to sharing their toys to using language to responding to authority. Therefore, argue Checker and his supporters, the schools should do it for them.

The appeal of the idea is that some homes really are “dysfunctional” by anyone’s standard. Some parents don’t bother to buy shoes and clothing for their children, much less raise them to know how to get to school on time, shut up while others are talking, or accept personal responsibility for what they do or don’t do. But “dysfunctional” is a slope down which whole societies may slip. Once institutionalized, Mr. Finn’s idea that schools and social policy in general should provide the remedies for “dysfunctional” homes will become an invitation for the invasion of not-so-dysfunctional homes by educational and government authorities.

“Dysfunctional” will soon come to encompass parents who don’t say the right things to their children about religion, race, sexuality, women, global warming, smoking, the hazards of not wearing seat belts, the welfare of laboratory rabbits, the oppression of lesbian Eskimo belly-dancers, and all the other evils inflicted on the universe by the middle-class white male hegemony. In short, whatever Mr. Finn’s intentions, his “total schooling” is an introductory textbook for the totalitarian manipulation of the family.

In a paper delivered last year before the Center of the American Experiment in St. Paul, Mr. Finn expanded on his idea, affirming that “we need to promulgate—and then enforce—a doctrine of accountability for parents as well as for their children.” “We cannot confine ourselves within the boundaries of what is conventionally thought reasonable for public employees to do,” he entoned. “It is-no coincidence that when a group of businesses opened a free private school in Chicago designed to be a model for effective education of disadvantaged children, one of the first decisions they and the new principal made was that teachers in this school will routinely make home visits.” He also envisions that “we are going to have to be prepared more frequently to remove children from their homes and send them into other settings,” where they can receive the level of affection Mr. Finn deems appropriate. It’s one thing to take a child away from its parents because physical abuse endangers life and limb, but Mr. Finn wants the state to confiscate the kid just because he’s not receiving enough emotional warmth.

Mr. Finn’s ideas might seem better, suited for Stalin’s Moscow or George Orwell’s 1984 than for a Republican’s Washington, but the Vanderbilt professor is one of the country’s chief spokesmen for neoconservative educational policy, and he and the Tennessee school czar are working closely together. Moreover, the marriage is not as strange as it might seem, since there is a long history among educational reformers of trying to replace the informal authority of social and family institutions with the formal power of an educational and social-therapeutic bureaucracy. Historian Christopher Lasch, who for some years has been emerging from the leftist cocoon of his youth into the authentic conservatism of his maturity, notes the process in his 1979 classic, The Culture of Narcissism. “The factory system established in the 19th century,” he wrote, “socialized production, but left other functions of the family intact. The socialization of production, however, proved to be the prelude to the socialization of reproduction itself—the assumption of childrearing functions by surrogate parents responsible not to the family but to the state, to private industry, or to their own codes of professional ethics.”

The idea of surrogate parents in the form of non-family institutions was popularized by Progressivist reformers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but it had the full support of those in business and government who wanted and needed a docile and welltrained mass labor force, electorate, and consumer market.

Mr. Lasch quotes two leading educational reformers of the era, Abraham Flexner and Frank P. Bachmarr, as announcing in 1918 that “Social, political, and industrial changes have forced upon the school responsibilities formerly laid upon the home. Once the school had mainly to teach the elements of knowledge, now it is charged with the physical, mental, and social training of the child as well.” Progressives deplored the wreckage that the “dysfunctional” homes of the day wreaked upon their children, but they also wept over what any home did.

“In the social republic,” chirped the founder of social work, Ellen Richards, “the child as a future citizen is an asset of the state, not the property of its parents. Hence, its welfare is a direct concern of the state.” Opponents of child labor, pioneers of child psychology, and most of all, the movement to create special courts and codes of law for dealing with juvenile offenders, writes Mr. Lasch, show “the connections between organized altruism, the new therapeutic conception of the state, and the appropriation of familial functions by outside agencies.”

What “some neoconservatives” are now prescribing for education reform, therefore, is not so neo after all. Advocacy of the replacement or control of the home and family by external and formal organizations is common to the Progressivists as well as to Mr. Finn’s conception of what schools should do, and both are in close alliance with corporate and managerial elites who stand to gain from the bureaucratic management of the processes of socialization.

But Mr. Finn is not the only neoconservative to warble over the displacement of the family and its social functions by bureaucratic disciplines. In the Summer 1989 issue of the Heritage Foundation’s Policy Review, Ben Wildavsky, son of neoconservative political scientist Aaron Wildavsky, thrills to the virtues of McDonald’s as a surrogate parent, a conscriptor of youth for “upward mobility,” and a manager of the assimilation of autonomous parts of the American heartland into the managerial corporate-cultural system.

Reviewing the life history of a McDonald’s employee, Marion Foran from Helena, Montana, young Mr. Wildavsky bubbles with glee at the woman’s metamorphosis from an aspiring college student paying her own tuition to a “professor of hamburgers” at McDonald’s “Hamburger University.” The transformation wasn’t easy. After learning how to make milk shakes for a year or so, she decided she wanted to be a manager, “so she moved to Las Vegas and started work as a manager trainee at a McDonald’s in a poor section of town, a far cry from small-town Montana.” Now, having been exposed to the pleasures and rewards of hamburgerological cosmopolitanism, Miss Foran teaches class in employee retention and “also instructs managers . . . in how to tame her old nemesis, the Taylor milk shake machine.”

If the epic of Miss Foran’s ascent from what young Mr. Wildavsky considers Montana’s cow-paddy culture to following the star of her destiny in mastering the mysteries of milk shakes in Las Vegas were all that McDonald’s did for (or to) its employees, the social consequences might be minor. But young Mr. Wildavsky has seen the future, and it has milk shakes for everybody. He swoons over what he was told by Yvonne Willis, a manager at Washington (D.C.) Gas. “Willis believes working at McDonald’s can help people learn ‘those skills we take for granted. You learn what it means to work, to get up in the morning, to be on time, to plan your day and plan your activities.'”

Another manager, Kim Whittington, told him she looks kindly on applicants with “fast-food experience.” “They learn people skills, cash handling, getting people in and out quickly; they could even learn some management skills if they’re training other people.” In other words, McDonald’s—and by extension, other bureaucracies—can do what families have failed to do or can’t do, and the gratitude and loyalty inspired by bureaucratic disciplines and organizations displace what workers once felt for their families, their homes, and their communities, even in such wildernesses as “smalltown Montana.” Survivalists and the Posse Comitatus can stash away all the AK-47’s they want to, but they don’t have a chance against the Taylor milk shake machine.

Republics, such as the one Americans used to inhabit, don’t work when teachers administer therapy for homes and multinational corporations replace families and communities. Republics work only when independent, selfsupporting citizens know how to govern themselves, both personally and politically. If they don’t know how to rule themselves morally through autonomous social institutions, they won’t know how to rule themselves politically as free men, and the more they neglect the discipline that self-government teaches, the more slavish they will be to the kinds of bureaucratic empires over which Lamar Alexander, Ronald McDonald, and their praise-singers preside.