Context: "People yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hand" - Gates

Mick West

Staff member
First of all, Fredrick T. Gates is not related to Bill Gates.

This out-of-context quote from the Rev. Frederick T. Gates exemplifies an article on the "Thrive" web site:

The original context of the quote comes from an article titled: The Country School of Tomorrow - In which young and old will be taught in practicable ways how to make rural life beautiful, intelligent, fruitful, recreative, healthful, and joyous. Which you must admit sounds like a good thing. So why does Gates say we should not to try to make lawyers and doctors out of people?

First let's look at the context. I'm going to give the paragraph first in its surrounding context, and then give the entire article, with relevant parts highlighted. You can just skip down, or read the whole thing if you are really interested.

In reading this, the basic context you need to understand is that he is talking about rural schools, i.e. schools in the country, and those schools were in terrible shape.

And here is the entire article. I've highlighted various key sections:

In summary, the key points are that country schools are in a terrible state. Gates recommends education that is initially tailored to the immediate problems of the rural poor - specifically health, food, clothing, shelter. He note the current system with it's blind emphasis on rote learning of the thee Rs is not working. He notes that better educated people is better for the economy, and suggests this is justification to raise taxes to pay for public education.

But I think the most telling quote that answers the Thrive accusations is:

This does not, I think, gel in any way with the claims of Thrive:
[bunk]The General Education Board was not interested in encouraging critical thinking. Rather, its focus was on organizing children and creating reliable, predictable, obedient citizens.[/bunk]

It seems more, at least for Gates, the goal was to raise up the rural poor, especially in the South from their miasma of abject poverty and crippling ill health, to fix an education system that did nothing to address those problems, and get them to a place where they could actually think for themselves.

Badnews Bear

New Member
Thanks for the post. Strange thing is that the current Gates Education philanthropy encourages many of the things Frederick T. Gates was trying to get away from.

Our schools will no longer resemble, in their methods and their discipline, institutions of penal servitude. They will not be, as now, places of forced confinement, accompanied by physical and mental torture during six hours of the day. Straitjackets, now called educational, will no longer thwart and stifle the physical and mental activities of the child.

The NCLB/Common Core public schools and the KIPP type charter schools serve this kind of thing up in spades, only now the bullies do the physical torture, not the staff.


Senior Member.
Do you have any evidence that the bullies are being supported by the 'system' in any way? Or are they just the common bullies that have always been in our schools?

How does Common Core contradict that ?

Badnews Bear

New Member
I just threw the bully thing in as an afterthought to show we have ended up back where we started, and didn't mean it as an accusation that it was deliberate systematic discipline. I supect bullying is a bigger problem since the rise of large factory type schools.

Common Core will be penal for many by influencing the system into a one size fits all model of education, which will be a straightjacket for some people. I do admit there are some things that it would be good to teach everyone, but there are not enough of them to base a 13 year curriculum on. Strange that the most important of these besides reading and basic math (economics and deep history) are precisely the things our present system avoids like the plague.

Common Core may work to keep the industrial testing complex of NCLB more firmly entrenched in the system, and while it says it will encourage critical thinking, I suspect it will only be a very narrow range of free thought. But that remains to be seen.

Edit: come to think of it I wouldn't make everyone learn economics and deep history in k-12, if it was made available and done well many would take it. But I would make k-12 into k-9
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Senior Member.
Am I understanding you correctly, That you don't think there is enough things that a person needs to know to take up 12-13 years of school?

Badnews Bear

New Member
A person needs to keep finding things to know for their whole life, so rather than concentrating on the 'what' to know, more emphasis should be given on the 'how'. This would require more attention from teachers toward individual students, but with the huge US education budget it could probably be done quite well. I don't know what they do with the money, burn it to heat the schools?

Edit, to put what I just said in practice, I am interested in education and fairly savvy about it, but I see now that my lack of knowledge in economics is holding me back in my exploration of education.

So by paying attention to 'how' I am being held back by what I lack, I learn 'what' I need to learn.


Senior Member.
We need more education, not less. Folks need history that is not basically only England based. They need courses in Latin American History, Asian history, European history and African history. They need a history or trade and the development of business. Then need a firm grounding in the science, biology, microbiology, geology, chemistry, physics, and some knowledge of oceanography, meteorology and environmental science.

Cultural anthropology is needed, we need to know that others have a different set of influences on their thinking, from religion to being colonies, to being invaded. Even a light study of Russian history will show one why they tend to be paranoid.

There needs to be entire courses on how to use the internet and how to judge sources you find there. Courses in what to look for in a 'science study' so you can tell if it is worth considering or just a waste of electricity .

Badnews Bear

New Member
They need courses in Latin American History, Asian history, European history and African history. They need a history or trade and the development of business. Then need a firm grounding in the science, biology, microbiology, geology, chemistry, physics, and some knowledge of oceanography, meteorology and environmental science.

Most people don't have the memory capacity/detail for a 'firm grounding' of such broadness. Where we both agree is in the need for a firm grounding.

Alfred North Whitehead, The Aims of Education p14


Senior Member.
The problem I have often seen is that it easier to teach dates, rather than why they are important. The Civil War is taught, as a series of battles, instead of what lead up to it. What happened during the battles is important, because it did effect how folks responded afterward.

All Common Core is trying to do, is to guarantee that a student in Cut and Shoot, TX gets the same basics as one does in the Bronx, or in Walla Walla. There is a good chance that any of the students, may end up job hunting in Denver or Tallahassee, their future employers need to know that a HS diploma or GED will include how to figure the sq footage of a room or yard, for instance.

I understand the reasons for testing, but I don't like that children are being taught to the 'test'. That problem is one that has been there before Common Core. In the early 60s, one of the assistant superintendents of the school district, gave my 5th grade class a 'special project'. We were to do a one month project on India. Different students/groups researched certain areas, I did the animals and minerals of India. India has been an interest of mine ever since.


New Member
Try to do all the common core is to ensure that students in the cut and shoot, Texas have the same knowledge base in the Bronx or in Walla Walla, WA. There is a good chance that each student could end up in Denver or Tallahassee job you need to know that their future employers, HS Diploma or GED include how to calculate the space on the screen, such as a room or terrace.