must be disciplined and prepared for careers in the 21st centun,’.”rnIt is true. Ever)’ socieb,-, whether of rats or Rotarians, has itsrnrules and its system of discipline, and part of everyone’s educationrnmust be tiie trial-bv-ordeal in which we learn the penaltiesrnfor robbing the neighbors or chewing with the mouth open, andrna nation whose business is business must enforce the code of thernRotarian, willy-nilly, upon the children of Zenith and, more recently,rnof Yoknapatawpha.rnIt is no accident that American edueahon first emulated therntechniques of the factory and then passed them back again, suitablyrnstreamlined, to the efficiency experts. The inventor ofrn”Taylorism” confessed that he had been inspired by the rouhnizedrnassembly-line instruehon he had observed in Massachusettsrnschools. Leftist and libertarian historians — Joel Springrn{The Sorting Machine) and Michael Katz (The Irony of EarlyrnSchool Reform) —hiive traced the .symbiosis of school and factor}’rnwhich, in more recent times, has spawned such mind-deformingrnprograms as “School to Work” and the thousand-andonernproposals from national and local groups of illiteraternbusinessmen who think they know how to reform education. Ifrnthe CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies wanted to do somethingrnabout education, it has always seemed to me, they might beginrnwith themselves.rnBut if every society needs its workers and team players, itsrnsports fans and robots, it also needs a of leaders, of warriorsrnand dreamers who will fight for something grander than the GIrnBill and sing the songs that make life seem, if only for the moment,rnworth living. We all know, even the CEO’s, that thernUnited States has failed to train our robots and worker-ants inrnthe habits of diligence, punctuality, and thrift; and some of usrnare even aware that our math instruction is so poor that we havernto import Asian students to fill tiie places in our engineeringrnschools (something like half of our engineering gradtiates arcrnforeign-born).rnIwould like to say I was alarmed by these developments, but Irnam not, because this countr’ has alread- failed in a far morernimportant—indeed, the primary—task of education, which isrnto form the mind and character of an intellectual, moral, andrnsocial aristocracy that is the only excirse for all the dirt}- businessrnthat a nation does. Other societies have fouled the water andrnslaughtered the innocent at the same time they were producingrnthe younger Cato or Walter Scott or George Patton. Yes, Americarndid once produce men who were botii warriors and dreamers,rnmen of action (like Robert E. Lee and Douglas MacArthur)rnwho lived by a higher code than can be contained in a DalernCarnegie handbook or an inspirational lecture bv Tom Peters.rnWhat die United States grinds out year after year, however, arernpost-human androids, the likes of Bill Gates and Wesley Clarkrnand George W. Bush.rnIf Gaetano Mosca was right—that every nation’s character isrndefined by its ruling elite —then U.S.A., Inc., must be set severalrnnotches below the Assyrians, who were, at least, colorful inrntheir butcheries and distinctive in their art. Next time you visitrnChicago, go to the Oriental Institute at the LIniversity of Chicagornand see what is left of Nineveh and Tyre. (The collection, byrnthe way, owes much to the exertions of by far the greatest manrneer to grow up in Rockford, J.H. Breasted, whose name is forgottenrnin his hometown, which, like most hometowns, has triedrnto eliminate its historical memory.)rnAs uncongenial as the worlds of Hammurabi and Senacheribrnare to an American, the freshness and vitalit)’ of their art (muchrnof it creatively borrowed from the Sumerians) is disconcertingrnto people dulled and blunted by the endless line of productsrnpitched at weary K-Mart shoppers. The Assyrians were as nastyrnand violent as Madeleine Albright, but they were no hypocrites:rnThey exulted in brutalit)’ and boasted of it in their monuments.rnIt is not our victims’ blood that should be gagging Americansrnbut the pious lies that are used to cover them up. We swallowrnthem, though, and for all their bitterness, we keep down the poisonsrnthat are killing us. Better to be an Assyrian.rnI ha’e taken m’ children to the Oriental Institute twice, oncernwhen they were being taught (not “schooled,” if you please) atrnhome and once when tiiey had some priate school educationrnunder their belts. On the first visit they were, despite their sillinessrnand immaturit”, still open to experience, but by the secondrnthey were exhibiting the signs of the bored, resentful products ofrna religious school doing its best to ape the public schools ofrn1962.rnTheir parochial high school, while it succeeded in teachingrnthem to sit still and work out algebra problems (which we neverrncould do at home), has also poured cold water over the glowingrnembers of tiieir youthful curiosity. Their religion classesrntaught them the faith of Voltaire and Martin Luther King, Jr.;rnhistory and literature amounted to a series of documents in thernprogressive struggle against European Christian patriarchy; andrntheir manners and dialect were reduced to the patois and gesturesrnof delivery boys at the bottom end of Rockford’s famousrn”Pizza Connection.”rnBack in the I960’s, the Yippies used to say, “Your childrenrnbelong to us.” They were right, in a sense, but my kids don’t belongrnto Grace Slick or Tom Hayden, but Mr. Havden’s childrenrn(if he had them) and mine both belong to McDonald’s and Disneyrnand Buffy the Vampire Slayer, whetiier they have ever eatenrna cheeseburger or turned on the television.rnBuffy’s fans, by the way, were desolate this summer, when thernnetwork, in the wake of the Columbine shootings, decided tornpostpone the final episode, in which the fearless vampire-killersrnkill the principal, who has taken the form of a 20-foot snake demon.rnDemons are apparentiv still safe in public schools; it isrnonly students and teacliers who have to worry about gettingrnshot.rnMy primary fear, however, is not for the dangers our children’srnbodies are exposed to in schools but for the sterilizationrnof their minds—rnToo much the baked and labeled doughrnDivided by accepted platitudes.rnAcross the stacked partitions of the day . ..rn— that Hart Crane observed two generations ago. Better tornplunge them again into the chaos of a household where Simonidesrnis no stranger, Simonides who is still learning more inrnhis grave than tiieir fellow students will ever learn in theirrnschool.rnAt this point in the argument, Dr. Gradgrind, Ed.D., playsrnhis trump card: social necessit- and the common good. “If vonrndon’t send }our kids to school, they will never learn to get alongrnwith other people.” In other words, the real purpose of schoolrnis to socialize the littie barbarians.rnThere might be some truth in this. With no authority morernobjective than an adoring mother to judgments on theirrnperformance, the t’pieal product of homeschooling may be anrnunbearable monster, e’en more spoiled and self-centered tiianrnSEPTEMBER 1999/11rnrnrn