Albert Jay Nock on Mass Education

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niccolo and donkey Roland Ferdinand Bronze Age Pervert

I'm lazy about tagging people and forgot who posts here, so Niccolo can tag others if he wishes.

Whenever someone wants to know why I think mass education is one of the gravest ills afflicting modern society, I always mention these words from Albert Jay Nock, which I think do a fine job of recapitulating the problem. Certainly they influenced my own thinking on the issue when I first read them several years ago.

Keep in mind that he was writing this stuff before WWII even started.


For some reason it's important that everyone be literate and take on $100k debt. We need to sell those Hustler and Sports Illustrated magazines!


You can't break down social reality into parts: education, politics, economics, etc. Its discrete only linguistically and to a certain extent, but in essence anything is everything else: politics is economics, economics is politics, education is politics and economics and religion, etc. A holistic approach to social phenomenna is the only one that actually works. And that is why an educational system can't be taken separately from economical and political reality: and that is why Nock's opponents are absolutely right, when they critisize him for elitism - you can't have an egalitarian "all men are equal, one men - one vote" form of government and at the same time have an education system catered more to Antiquity or aristocratic rule of Enlightened Monarchy that confers government to a certain extent to Gentlemen-Scholars. Later Nock understood that and bet on educating the "Remnant", hoping that they would fix the wrongs when the time comes but it was basically a capitulation in a face of complete failure on Nock's part to adequately understand the problem.

And the fact that Jefferson wholeheartedly encouraged an education system catered more to the nurturing of aristoi, rather than mass education to achieve some dumbed down national average, is completely in tune with his overall vision of a society built by and de facto ruled by agrarian aristocracy, but the political system that triumphed was more Adamsian in nature a "one man - one vote" system that was inherently antithetical to any notion of aristocracy, its basically a system where plebs triumphs. John Quincy Adams himself was scared of natural aristocracy and considered it be an enemy of the republic, which it of course is, since Gentlemen-Scholars will easily see through the "mechanism of democracy" and will easily subvert it to their needs, should such a chance arise, but at the same time will have only contempt for a system that depends on the masses to make decisions.

Jefferson was consistent in his own way, but Nock was unable to understand that Aristotelian maxim always proves right in the end: with triumph of ochlocracy (which in essence one man-one vote system is) a rise of a dictatorship becomes imminent, hence his dismay with Roosevelt's New Deal.

Seeing government take more and more power in its own hands, Nock rebelled against the democracy in favor of an anarchy (which is probably he's such a darling to some of the libertarian crowd), but he seemed inherently unable to grasp, that any system be it anarchism or democracy or a republic, essentially turns into tyranny since it looks to a common man to make tough decisions, and a common man is simply unfit to rule, he can't really shoulder this burden and thus the problem is not with the form of government but with the source of power as laid out in most Western constitutions,and all other social ills including the failure of education in favour of "training", also have the rule of hoi polloi as its explanation.


I think you mean Andrew Jackson? Jackson's victory over John Quincy Adams is generally seen as the triumph of the "Common Man" in American politics and final nail in the coffin for the old aristocratic Federalist tradition.

Anyway, I basically agree that democracy is a farce and that the vulgo should have no say whatsoever in matters of import. I still think Nock's concepts are useful and amusing analytical tools even if one wants to go further than him in his rejection of egalitarian democracy. I'm especially partial to Epstean's Law, which explains succinctly why so many progressive reforms often produce mediocre results despite the best intentions of their advocates. It's also important to remember just how long the left has been dumbing down the curriculum in name of "social justice," and all this before they gave priority to foisting education on certain "speshul" groups.
With respect to aristocracy, Adams' approach to the problem of republican government diverges from Jefferson's. In the brute fact of natural inequality Jefferson saw an opportunity for republicanism; Adams, a threat.

Jackson went even further.

I'm not sure this analysis contributes anything new. A worthwhile article anyway, cheers.[/quote]
Drieu -- Interesting stuff. I've not read Nock, but public schooling should not be thought of as an inalienable right to be controlled by the government and funded by taxpayers at the implied barrel of a gun by any forward-thinking society. Sending children to compulsory schools in the States was of course never about any actual education. It was mainly instituted to break the influence of the parents over the children at an early age and to train them to accept the sovereignty of the state, much like the Prussian model on which it was modeled after.
This article discusses John Adams, not John Quincy Adams, and as it makes clear, while he thought an aristocracy could pose a threat to republican institutions, Adams was hardly a champion of the plebes. He was actually more amenable towards hereditary positions as a check on mob rule than Jefferson ever was:

Blaming America's educational problems on "the Prussian model" seems to be a common trope of the American right. The immediate problem that jumps out at me is the fact that the German educational system actually works.
In the US?

Does the US education system have any of the stratification (especially at the secondary level) of the German system? Germany sends a comparatively low percentage of its population to university and, though not merely due to the education system, does not require a university degree if one wishes to obtain a decent job. Is the objection to the "Prussian system" based on it being state centric?