S8 E4 | A Brief History of the American Education System and Why You Should Avoid Employing it in Your Homeschool (Jeannie Fulbright)
Embracing the Charlotte Mason educational model, so different from our own education, can often be challenging. We often have to deprogram from the beliefs about education that we accepted as truth and the models that purport to be the standard by which education should be measured. This is hard for us to do when we were so thoroughly immersed in the system of education that was created and instituted in the early 1900’s and still continues unchanged (if not worsened) in America today. But it’s much easier if you understand the history of this system and what its ultimate purpose was. It's also important to see the research and results of this model on American education. In this episode, Jeannie will share a brief history of the modern education system. As it often does, the truth will set us free. You will be freed from the system that not only extinguishes a child’s natural self-motivation and inborn creativity but also suppresses divine curiosity and turns an innate love for learning into drudgery. Jeannie hopes this episode will give you confidence in homeschooling using the tried and true, research-based Charlotte Mason methodology of education.
Jeannie Fulbright, a 24-year veteran homeschooler, is the author of the #1 best-selling, multi award-winning Apologia Young Explorer science series: Exploring Creation with Astronomy, Chemistry and Physics, Botany, Zoology, and Anatomy & Physiology. She is also the author of the action-packed historical time travel book series Rumble Tumbles Through Time, as well as preschool science books and activity kits, the Charlotte Mason Heirloom Planner, and many high-quality Charlotte Mason based products. Jeannie and her husband Jeff became empty nesters in 2019. All four of their children all went to the University of Georgia on scholarship (homeschooling works!). For more than 20 years Jeannie has traveled around the country speaking to homeschoolers at conventions, covering a plethora of topics from Charlotte Mason to marriage and prayer.
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Jeannie Fulbright Welcome to The Charlotte Mason Show, where we discuss Charlotte Mason's philosophy and how to implement her life-changing methodology in your homeschool. My hope is to come alongside you and mentor you as you seek to homeschool your children with excellence and joy using the Charlotte Mason model. I'm your host, Jeannie Fulbright, the author of the multi-award winning bestselling science series Exploring Creation with Astronomy, Botany, Zoology, Anatomy and Physiology and Chemistry and Physics, which all employ the Charlotte Mason methodology and have been helping families fall in love with science for over 20 years. I also created the Charlotte Mason Heirloom Planner and the Culture and Craft Enrichment Curriculum, which is coming out fall of 2023. These and many other Charlotte Mason products can be found on my website at JeannieFulbright.com, where if you sign up for my email list, you'll receive your Charlotte Mason daily and weekly checklist which will simplify your homeschool days. While there, check out my blog which covers almost every aspect of the Charlotte Mason method and philosophy.
Jeannie Fulbright One thing that I consistently hear at—I would say at least once, usually four or five times—at every single conference after I have spoken about the Charlotte Mason philosophy or some element of hers, people say to me, I believe. I am convinced that this is a brilliant methodology. It makes so much sense. This just really resonates with me. It resonates with my heart and who I am and what I want for my family, what I want for my children. The wisdom of Charlotte Mason's ideas, all this research that I'd shown them for the effectiveness, they're convinced. They are completely convinced, but they are held back from fully embracing this model because it's so different from the education that they received in the public school. The fact is, most of us were public schooled and we all have, in order to truly and fully embrace the Charlotte Mason model, we have to deprogram and rewire our brain, our belief system and our beliefs about education. And so I think one of the best ways to facilitate this with you is to unpack what the modern education system is, how it developed and what it was meant to do. And I think that once you see that, once you realize what really is going on in this modern methodology, this modern system of education, which was implemented in the very early part of the 1900s, I think it'll be easier for you to embrace the Charlotte Mason method and release the tyrannical hold that that system has on your understanding of education.
Jeannie Fulbright The fact is we are somewhat brainwashed. I mean, when we think of brainwashing, we think of a religious cult and a system of duties that one must perform in order to have goodwill or whatever it is. And we don't think of our beliefs about the education system as mind control, but we were educated under it and therefore we kind of are brainwashed into believing it's the right way to do education, that it is what education is. This system, the scope and sequence, the deconstruction of every single subject into parsing out over a series of 12 years, different elements of it to children to memorize and regurgitate for a test. We don't realize that just like the Bolshevik Revolution in the 20s or the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the 70s or even modern day North Korea, we also have been somewhat brainwashed. And here's the problem is that when we struggle with this lie, when we believe that the modern system of education isn't broken, that if we could do the same kind of education they're doing in the public and private school but just do it a little better, more thoroughly in our homes, that that's going to be a great education for our children then we're not free to embrace the true education, which Charlotte Mason truly gives us in her model. Things such as short lessons and no grades or marks for work done, hours of daily out-of-doors and nature walks, nature study, nature journaling as fully important as any other part of the education. Back before they implemented the modern system of education, every educated person knew all of the flora and fauna in their region. They could name not just the common names, but the scientific names for everything. That was part of an education and it was fully as important as literature and mathematics.
Jeannie Fulbright The fact is the Charlotte Mason philosophy, the Charlotte Mason method, works because it is proven and it has been fleshed out over centuries. That copywork and dictation and common placing are better than a writing curriculum. That narration and notebooking over fill-in-the-blank worksheets and guided assignments is superior. Living books, whole books, literature over textbooks, which again parse out tiny bits of information each year. The fact that Charlotte Mason believed like John Locke that self-education is the best form of education and that we should be essentially providing the feast, but practicing masterly inactivity by allowing our children freedom and the ability to gather information. A self-guided pursuit of what interests them the most, being led by their divine curiosity over some prescribed curriculum that tells us exactly what to do every single day, that we allow children to follow and focus on their interests. And of course, of equal importance is intellectual culture, which every person that was educated before this system, which I'm going to give you the history of this system, because I think it's really important that we know this and we understand it so that we can let go of it and be freed from it. But the intellectual culture used to be part of every educated person's experience—poetry, music, art, handicrafts. All Jeannie Fulbright kinds of cultural experiences were as important, fully as important as reading, writing and arithmetic. But so many of us have a struggle to incorporate these things, perhaps sometimes in place of a writing assignment, in place of a math lesson, because we don't see their importance because we have been, again, somewhat brainwashed by the modern system.
Jeannie Fulbright This brainwashing is evidenced by the fact that without logic or reasoning, we feel that the modern public education system, if implemented correctly and well, could result in a good education or a great education, that if we did it perfectly the way it's designed, then we would be imparting to our children superior education. But the fact is that the modern education system was never designed to impart a true education. It was designed to create a nation of not thinkers, but workers. And in fact, 50 years before they instituted the modern system of education, the United States was a nation of high literacy. 93% literacy rate, and most everyone could enjoy very high level literature. They knew history, and that the history of the world was knowledge that most everyone had. They had a solid grounding in natural sciences in almost every other subject. So what happened? What happened was the industrial revolution and the need that government and industries had for human bodies—workers. Workers that were not independent thinkers, workers that were not learned, workers that were willing and obedient and would do the work necessary to get things manufactured, Whether it be railroads or trains or cotton mills or whatever it was, they needed human bodies and they needed human bodies in factories to do the work. They needed people who were obedient and willing to live a life of drudgery in a factory, who were willing to take on that 9 to 5 job and life was about being obedient to the authority and getting the work done and going home, going to bed to wake up and do it all over again. And that's what the schools needed to teach them to do. The schools needed to program that mindset into their belief system. The school system needed to remove from children the idea that they could force their own path. They needed to remove originality and uniqueness.
Jeannie Fulbright And in fact, the leader of this movement towards a public system of education was John D. Rockefeller. He was a self-made billionaire, but kind of an evil guy and he did not want anybody else to be a billionaire, didn't want the competition. But his biggest problem was American individualism and private education. It was really hard to get factory workers among people who were self educating, people who were forging their own path or building their own wealth, people who believed America was really the land of freedom and opportunity. This whole "all men are created equal" thing just wasn't working for him. And so billionaire that he was he set about to change the future of American education. And he did a lot of research, he gathered advisors around him, like Frederick Taylor Gates, and they really had some great ideas for fixing John D. Rockefeller's big problem. And they fleshed out a dream. They dreamed that they could fix this problem with compulsory education. And in fact, Gates wrote a tract which you can still find online today. It's called The Country School of To-morrow, and here's a quote from that tract. And this will help you understand their dream. So Gates writes, "In our dream, we have limitless resources and the people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hand. The present educational conventions feed from our minds and unhampered by tradition we work our own goodwill upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or science. We are not to raise up from among them authors, orators, poets, or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians. Nor will we cherish even the humbler ambition to raise up from among them lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, or statesmen of whom we now have ample supply." Basically, these schools were not designed to educate.
Jeannie Fulbright And this dream for this educational system, which they wanted to implement and they intended to implement and they were going to and did implement in the United States was based on the Prussian system of education, which Horace Mann, who had gone throughout Europe looking at educational models, found the Prussian system was superior in creating the kind of nation of workers that John D. Rockefeller wanted. So what was this Prussian system of education? Well, the Prussian system of education was developed by what is now Germany, but was called Prussia, and they developed this system of education because they had once again lost a war to Napoleon. So we can basically blame the modern education system on Napoleon because Germany realized that the reason or they believed that the reason that they had lost to Napoleon was because their soldiers were thinking for themselves rather than following orders to the letter without question. So they instituted a system of education that required a young child to go through eight years of rigorous training, that taught the reading, writing and arithmetic, but most importantly, focused on duty, unquestioned respect for authority, the ability to follow instructions and orders to completion; a system that taught children what to think and what not to think, what to believe, what not to believe, and formed in them unquestioned loyalty to the King, to the authority, leaving no room for individuality in preparation for military work or work in the bureaucracy. And critical thinking was not only not allowed, but punished.
Jeannie Fulbright And so in seeing this beautiful dream that they had for creating a nation of mindless, obedient workers, many other billionaires got on with this program. They all joined in and pitched in their billions to make this thing happen. One was Andrew Carnegie, but what's really interesting is that Carnegie realized that the key to success for this operation would be to alter the teaching of American history, because American history, as taught in truth, actually highlighted individualism and self-government; personal accountability and the equality of man; the ability for men to choose his destiny; the ability of man to rise from the ashes and be whatever God put in his or her heart to become; and that no king, no authority was above any other that we all had equal ability to pursue life, liberty and happiness. And so they needed American history to be taught differently. They wanted the American history to not focus...they wanted to downplay individualism and self-government and highlight dependance on government and highlight dependance on the ruling class. And so they went to the most prominent teachers of American history during that time, like Charles and Mary Beard and others, and asked them to alter the way history was being taught to young people in primary schools and in college. And these people, these historians said no. And so what did they do? They went and found 20 doctoral students in American history and gave them grants, gave them money to finish their doctorate, and created the American Historical Society that basically rewrote all of our history books in the 1920s.
Jeannie Fulbright So that's where things started to change in what is now American education. You see, our education system was never designed for the good of the people. It was never designed to truly educate, it was designed to impart an education that resulted in obedient workers. It was designed for the good of the government and the ruling class, and not the good of the people. Essentially, the education system that is still in effect today was designed to do the opposite of educate our children. It was never designed to give our children a rich and living, genuine education. It was actually designed to do the exact opposite because a real education would be counterproductive to the corporations, to the ruling class, to the government. An educated middle class would be a big problem and educated people would be nothing but a hindrance to their rule and control of the masses.
Jeannie Fulbright And just as more evidence, I'd like to quote Johann Fitch, who was one of the top developers of this Prussian system of education. And this is the system, this is the model that today's modern education system is modeled after. This person, Johann Fitch, says, "The schools must fashion the person and fashion him in such a way that he simply cannot will otherwise than what you wish him to will." Isn't that nice? Basically, the school system is designed to remove free will, autonomy. And of course, we know this is true because children are not allowed to study what they want to study. They have to follow the order of sequence given to them. That holy grail of state standards that somebody arbitrarily made up. Johann Fitch also says, "Education should aim at destroying free will so that after pupils are thus schooled, they will be incapable throughout the rest of their lives of thinking or acting otherwise than as their schoolmasters would have wished." Do you see how the system is actually designed to brainwash children? Whatever they want children to believe, that's what children come out of school believing. He also says, "When this technique has been perfected, every government that has been in charge of education for more than one generation will be able to control its subjects securely without the need for armies and policemen."
Jeannie Fulbright So you see, our system of education that we were schooled under was designed in such a way that it rewarded those who were the most obedient, who did not buck the system. Those with original thoughts and ideas were unacceptable in this system. And people left school, they left these years of schooling either to work for the government or to work for corporations. And the best, most obedient performers were upper management, and everyone else was somewhere lower on the rung. And the fact is, the least obedient of these students were the ones that questioned everything. And those were often the smartest people. They couldn't mold themselves into this system. People like Albert Einstein, who got kicked out of school for questioning the teacher. Try for a moment to imagine being the good little girl sitting in class with poor, dumb Albert Einstein. Just how dumb you thought he might be. I mean, everybody thought he was so dumb. He got kicked out of school, he didn't listen, he didn't know how to behave. And he was in that Prussian system there in Germany, and he got kicked out of school. In fact, some of the greatest men, the greatest minds in history, were boys and girls that did not perform well in school. Many of them got kicked out of school, many of them dropped out of school. Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens—these people could not mold themselves into this obedient, memorizing of facts, regurgitating it on a test and accepting as fact every single thing they were taught.
Jeannie Fulbright And here's the thing is Charlotte Mason saw all of this happening in real time, because while she had been developing her model of education through evidence based research, she saw what was happening. She saw the systems of education that were being implemented to create workers. And she saw that the deconstruction of education from something that originally developed a child's natural genius into something that actually punished uniqueness and rewarded compliance and sameness. And guess what? It worked. And it was true what Johann Fitch said, It only took a generation. And now we have so much evidence that this system doesn't educate children, that the scope and sequence, the way that we have created these standards of what children need to memorize every single year and regurgitate on a test, which they don't retain through high school or through college, yet this is what they need to do and how they need to do it. Listen, I got my degree from the University of Texas. I got my master's degree, and I honestly didn't realize how little I knew until I started homeschooling my own children. I thought I had an illustrious education, but actually I didn't get an education at all. Homeschooling showed me that. As homeschoolers, we have an opportunity to toss out the system that doesn't work and employ methodologies that do.
Jeannie Fulbright And I want to set you free from the belief that that system works because it doesn't work. In fact, the National Center on Education and Economy says we now have the worst educated workforce in the world. The fact is that American schools consistently score at the bottom on international assessments. One of the biggest cross-national tests is the Program for International Student Assessment, the PISA test, which measures reading ability and math and science literacy and other skills in about every three years for 15-year-olds in developed nations, and we always consistently score at the bottom on all of these tests across the board on international assessments. And the countries that score at the top do not use this Prussian model of education. They use research based models, models that work, models that, unsurprisingly, follow Charlotte Mason's methodology, whether they know it or not. And so even if we perfectly implement the public school system of education in our home, it will not give our child the kind of education that truly educate...the word educate actually comes from the word to draw out. To draw out from the child. It's not putting information in, it's drawing genius out. It's drawing from the child the ability to think and reason and question and develop ideas.
Jeannie Fulbright More than a decade ago, Bill Gates, no one's favorite person, made an important observation. He says, "When I compare our schools to what I'm seeing traveling abroad, I'm terrified for our workforce of tomorrow. Our high schools, even when they're working exactly as designed, cannot teach our kids what they need to know today." And frankly, the research shows that to be true. And why would we in any way want to implement a methodology, a system of education that has been proven to not work? American children graduate without even knowing, understanding, having retained any knowledge of just the basics, even if they scored at the top on their exams. High school graduates that graduate to the top 10% still don't know basic level knowledge. There's a study that says that 73% of American eighth graders score below proficient in writing. And you know what, a lot of those people went on to college. In fact. It says that less than 20% of 12th graders can write at a basic level. And if you think those 20% didn't go to college, they did because they found out that 30% of American college graduates have deficient writing skills. You know, the Charlotte Mason model, if implemented correctly, it's a gentle, sure, effective approach to developing incredible skilled writers. Incredibly skilled writers. Studies show that 90% of American English teachers feel like they do not have the training to teach or grade student writing. Joseph O'Brien, a research journalist, was quoted as saying, "In 100 years we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to teaching remedial English in college."
Jeannie Fulbright And the fact is that American children don't even read anymore. An American test called the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that 2/3rds of American schoolchildren were not proficient readers. And another study showed that only 17% of 13-year-olds read for fun. That's compared to 27% in 2012 and 35% in 1984. And 100 years ago everybody read for fun. Reading was part of family life, whether it was reading the Bible or novels in the evening. The modern education system doesn't teach the basics. It makes children memorize information, regurgitate it, fill out the worksheets, get a check + or an A or a grade, and then move on to the next subject. But then they find that when they test these kids, they don't know the information. One study found that only 34% of American fourth graders scored as proficient in science, the rest were below proficient. Only 34% of fourth graders. The same tests showed that it dropped to 30% by 8th grade and by 12th grade, only 21% of American 12th graders scored as proficient. The rest were below proficient, and 40% of them scored at the very lowest level on the test. The trends in International Math and Science study, which like PISA, tests children in developed nations but only in math and science, have found that American schoolchildren are scoring at the bottom because of the way our education system is modeled. Math and science is an inch deep and a mile wide, leaving students with little knowledge because the teachers try to cover too much territory. And this just goes back to the Charlotte Mason model of allowing children the whole book, to go deep, to absorb, to understand, to spend time on the topic and not try to fill their mind with a bunch of facts and data and vocabulary and believe that's an education, because that's not an education. It found that most American children really have no understanding of math, even when they scored well on math exams.
Jeannie Fulbright Another study found that American schoolchildren by the age of seven are completely unmotivated when it comes to learning. Not only that, they have lost that natural, innate curiosity. Charlotte Mason calls that the divine curiosity, and the studies show they lose it by the age of seven. Well, what's happened by the age of seven? They've been in school for two years. It only took two years for the school system to suppress and all but extinguish their natural curiosity. We know children are naturally curious. It's innate within them. They come into this world hungering for knowledge. They want to learn. They come into this world asking questions because they want to learn. Albert Einstein says, "It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education." And of course, again, he went through that Prussian system, or he dropped out of it. Charlotte Mason says, "The divine curiosity, which should have been an equipment for life, hardly survives early school days." The reason that our divine curiosity should have been equipment for life is because it is the driving force for us to search out education that is unique to the passions and interests that God has placed within us, and yet it barely survives early school days as Charlotte Mason says. And not only that, children who go through this system of education lose their natural creative genius. I believe God has given every single child their own individual genius and it is our job to educate, which is to draw out that genius from within our child. And the Charlotte Mason model actually enables us, empowers us to give our children the kind of education that does draw out from them that natural creative genius. Every child has creative genius.
Jeannie Fulbright In fact, they did a study on 2,400 children, and they tested them at the age of four or five and then consistently every few years after that. At the age of four and five, 98% of these children scored at a level that they considered creative genius. 98% of them. They followed these children all the way through their education, after they graduated around the age of 24, they found that only 2% of them still retained creative genius. 2%. And they concluded that the education system is designed to hinder and extinguish creativity and creative genius. And of course, that's what it was designed to do. And that is what the system of education that we need to unbrainwash ourselves from believing is the right way to educate children, that's what it's designed to do. And we need to release this tyrannical hold it has on our belief system and our beliefs that we should educate our children the way they're doing it in school because that's how we were educated and how our parents were educated and our grandparents were educated. The fact is it doesn't work. And it was never meant to work. And so I just want to encourage you, if you are struggling to embrace the Charlotte Mason model and it feels unnatural to you, really consider that perhaps it's because you have been fed a lie that you believed that that's the way to educate children. And you might just need to unlearn, to de-program, to, to de-school yourself, to set yourself free from the lie that they fed us, that this was how education is done and this is what makes up an education. Because we as homeschoolers can actually get the education we missed and give our children the education that will unleash their potential.
Jeannie Fulbright Because as it says in Ephesians 2:10, "Your children are God's workmanship." They are his poiema. The word poiema–his masterpiece, and they're uniquely created by God in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that they should walk in them. And we need to not put them under this system of oppression and this educational system where they have to fill all this information, that they have to fill out and memorize these facts and put it in a worksheet and get the checkmark. We need to release this Prussian system of creating cookie cutter factory workers, and allow our children to become all that God created them to be. And I believe that through the Charlotte Mason model, your children will not only love learning, but they will develop into the people that God created them to be. They will thrive while they learn their divine curiosity. The Holy Spirit will guide them into the paths which God has prepared for them to walk in. And so I just wanted to encourage you with that today, and I hope that it releases you to fully embrace the Charlotte Mason model, which truly does work. I've seen it with my children, I've seen it with hundreds of other children. And I believe that you will find it to be the biggest, most important decision that you make in your homeschooling. Thanks and have a blessed rest of the day.
Jeannie Fulbright Hey, to simplify your homeschool, I created a Charlotte Mason daily and weekly checklist. To get it, all you have to do is sign up for my newsletter on my website, JeannieFulbright.com. If you haven't already, join my Charlotte Mason Christian Homeschool Facebook group with thousands of Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, both new and old, share ideas, curriculum suggestions, encouragement, and community. And be sure to follow me on TikTok, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. And on Instagram, you can also follow this podcast @HomeschoolingDotMom. And please subscribe to the podcast. And it would be so great if you leave us a review, only if you enjoyed the show. Just kidding. But it really does help us to reach more listeners and to add more to the ranks of the Charlotte Mason community. One last thing— have you been to a Great Homeschool Convention? They are amazing. The Great Homeschool Conventions are incredible events where thousands of homeschoolers meet to hear amazing speakers, hundreds of workshops covering every topic possible, and you can get your hands on all that amazing Charlotte Mason curriculum. Go to the GreatHomeschoolConventions.com to learn more. Have a blessed day and may you experience the joy of the Lord as you homeschool your children.