2013, American and British public opinion said “hell no” to plans to
bomb (and surely regime change) Syria, taking the momentum out of the
march to war. This marked a peak in post-Iraq war-weariness. But then in
August 2014, many hearts were touched by the plight of a group of
Yazidis trapped on a mountain and besieged by ISIS. So public opinion
sanctioned a humanitarian military rescue. During the operation, it was
revealed that the crisis was blown way out of proportion, as excuses for
war so often are.
Predictably, ISIS retaliated. The group posted
snuff films depicting the beheading of western journalists. American
outrage was intense enough to allow President Obama to essentially
launch a new war on ISIS. And since ISIS was in Syria as well as Iraq,
this provided cover for American planes to enter and bomb Syria after
all. This too elicited retaliation, in the form of ISIS terror attacks
against civilians on western soil: in France, the U.S., Belgium, and
Following these attacks, western war weariness was
eclipsed by a resurgent militant hostility toward Muslim peoples. Now
America is in a fighting mood, and may be one major attack away from
tipping headlong into war fever again. And all it took was less than two
years of escalating tit-for-tat hostilities between western militaries
and ISIS, starting with the Yazidi rescue, for public sentiment to
revert from “hell no” to “let’s roll.” The American war machine is
primed and “Ready for Hillary” or Trump.
How did we become so
manipulable and herd-like? So easily spooked into hysterical stampedes?
So docile and ready to be driven by our government herders over the
precipice of war?
In a word, near-universal compulsory schooling.
In school, students are not so much taught as they are conditioned.
Schooling deeply ingrains certain mentalities that foster militancy:
timidity and tribalism, dependency and docility, conformity and
credulity. And so schools sow the spiritual seeds of war.
people conditioned from childhood to be easily terrorized will react to
small-scale crimes with mass panic. Only a people afflicted with rank
tribalism will respond to the murder of a few dozen westerners by a
handful of Islamists by sanctioning mass military violence against
Muslim populations. Only a people beset with learned helplessness would
respond to perceived threats by reflexively offering total deference to
the authorities: yielding their freedoms and totally outsourcing the
responsiblity to protect themselves and their families. Only a people
trained to unquestioningly trust the ordained experts would let
themselves be lied into war time and again.
dependency and docility are cultivated by placing children under
constant direction and supervision by teachers and administrators, who
bestow favors and inflict punishments at will. Then there is the
regimentation: the prescribed classroom routines, constantly being lined
up, the P.E. exercises in military drill formation, the assigned
movements from cell to cell according to a Pavlovian bell. Francis
Bellamy, the author of the Pledge of Allegiance, a daily ritual of
professing submission to the State, originally prescribed it to be
accompanied by what he termed “a military salute”: the same salute now
famously associated with the Nazis.
All this conditioning is
reinforced by the content of the curriculum, which emphasizes reverence
for authority: from its glorification of the police to its cult of the
The factory schools mass-produce lockstep “patriots,”
ready to fall in line in support of whatever war his government has
declared, and to hate whichever foreigners his government has instructed
him to hate. They also churn out “good soldiers” ready to enlist or be
conscripted, and then to lay down their lives if so commanded: the
ultimate “pledge of allegience” to the State.
In fact, universal compulsory schooling was invented specifically for this purpose. As John Taylor Gatto wrote in his Underground History of American Education:
particular utopia American believers chose to bring to the schoolhouse
was Prussian. The seed that became American schooling, twentieth-century
style, was planted in 1806 when Napoleon’s amateur soldiers bested the
professional soldiers of Prussia at the battle of Jena. (…)
most important immediate reaction to Jena was an immortal speech, the
“Address to the German Nation” by the philosopher Fichte — one of the
influential documents of modern history leading directly to the first
workable compulsion schools in the West. Other times, other lands talked
about schooling, but all failed to deliver. Simple forced training for
brief intervals and for narrow purposes was the best that had ever been
managed. This time would be different.
no uncertain terms Fichte told Prussia the party was over. Children
would have to be disciplined through a new form of universal
conditioning. They could no longer be trusted to their parents. Look
what Napoleon had done by banishing sentiment in the interests of
nationalism. Through forced schooling, everyone would learn that ‘work
makes free,’ and working for the State, even laying down one’s life to
its commands, was the greatest freedom of all.”
school, the teachers, textbooks, and answer keys are dispensers of the
“right answers.” This is the prime source of our propensity to gullibly
swallow the false narratives and outright fabrications fed them by the
“experts” in government and the media to sell each war.
are the emergency drills. The fire drills are still with us. The
nuclear terror of duck-and-cover drills have been replaced by the
updated terror of active shooter drills. These do nothing to enhance
safety. The drills only drill into the developing brains of children
trauma, terror, and timidity. They train the public to automatically
defer to authority and yield to regimentation and mobilization whenever a
perceived threat emerges.
also help to seed the tribal nationalism that is so crucial for war.
Pep rallies serve as preparatory play-acting for later participation in
war rallies. The kind of sentiments first stimulated as “school spirit”
and “team spirit” are later rekindled as militant patriotism. In between
wars, and after graduation, the attitude of tribal chauvinism simmers
as team sports fandom, ready to be boil over into militant jingoism as
soon as a foreign country is designated as a “rival team.”
too is reinforced by the curriculum, which is suffused by nationalistic
myths about past wars. In American schools, the lessons most emphasized
revolve around World War II. Largely based on the official narrative of
“the good war,” we are indoctrinated from childhood to accept our
government’s heroic and indispensible role in the world; the folly of
appeasing past and future Hitlers; and the hard but often “necessary”
choice to bomb, even nuke, foreign civilians for the greater good.
Schools are hatcheries of the herd-minded, and nurseries of war.