The Leipzig Connection, by Paolo
Lionni, ©1993 Heron Books --
"In the final years of the last century, a great transformation began in American education. By the end of the first world war, Americans would notice increasingly a change in the way their children were being educated. In the succeeding decades, the same schools that once nurtured the American dream would become infested with drugs and crime, and high schools would be graduating students who could barely read, spell, or do simple arithmetic."
So writes a Swiss born, Italian and American educated author, Paolo Lionni. Along with his several drawings, poetry, essays, and translations as well as publishing in prominent European, American and Mexican magazines... Lionni has spent nearly two decades promoting alternatives to many current educational philosophies and trends. This abstract of historic political processes and educational methodologies is brief yet brilliant.
"Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt was born in 1832 in a small town in southern Germany. He entered the university at Tubingen when he was 19, transferred to Heidelberg after half a year, and graduated as a medical doctor from the university in 1856. For the next seventeen years... [he worked] first as a professor's assistant, and later as a professor himself, in the field of psychology. Psychology, at that time, meant simply the study (ology) of the soul (psyche), or mind.
"In 1874, Wundt left Heidelberg to take a position as professor of philosophy at Zurich. He stayed there for only a year, and then accepted a chair in philosophy at the University of Leipzig, in Germany. He was to remain at Leipzig for the rest of his academic career, eventually being appointed rector of the university. Wundt died in 1920." Lionni (pg 1-2)
"At this time, Germany was the center of scientific and technological advances. They excelled in the application of scientific terms and procedures to previously non-scientific areas. Hegel, at the University of Berlin, proposed to make of history a scientific subject; he became Germany's leading philosopher, emulated by a generation of students. Karl Marx injected Hegel's theories with economics and sociology, developing a "philosophy" of "dialectical materialism...."
At Leipzig, Wundt was carving out his place in German thought. "Soon after his arrival at Leipzig in 1875, he had established the world's first psychological laboratory.
"Wundt made two major contributions to the transformation of education in the West.... Wundt asserted that man is devoid of spirit and self-determination....
"Originally, education meant the drawing out of a person's innate
talents and abilities by imparting the knowledge of languages, scientific
reasoning, history, literature, rhetoric, etc.... To the experimental psychologist,
" ...learning is the result of modifiability in the paths of neural conduction... The situation-response formula is adequate to cover learning of any sort, and the really influential factors in learning are readiness of the neurons, sequence in time, belongingness, and satisfying consequences." Lionni (pg 8-9)
Pavlov studied at Leipzig. Behavioral psychologists such as Watson and Skinner were coming of age. Lobotomies and electro-convulsive therapies were in their prime... and school oriented toward the socialization of the child rather than the development of the intellect were emerging. Lionni (pg 14)
[Just a reminder: It is this Germany that held open the door waiting for Hitler's socialistic Nazis to enter.]
"The first of Wundt's American students to return to the United
States was G. Stanley Hall. Returning from Leipzig in 1883, he joined the
faculty of Baltimore's new Johns Hopkins University, which was being established
after the model of the great German universities. Hall organized the psychology
laboratory.... and, in 1887, established the American Journal of
"In 1892 he played a leading role in founding the American Psychological Association.... Hall was also instrumental in furthering the career of a man who was to have an unusually profound effect on the course of American education: John Dewey.
Dewey published Psychology, the first American textbook on the revised subject. He taught at the universities of Michigan and Minnesota. In 1895 he was invited to join the faculty of the Rockefeller-endowed University of Chicago as head of the departments of philosophy, psychology, and pedagogy (teaching). Lionni writes: "To Dewey, as to Wundt, man was an animal, alone with his reactions and entirely dependent upon experiential data." Dewey influences ultimately earned him the title: Father of American Education.
Edward Lee Thorndike was trained in the new psychology by the first generation of Wundt's protégés. He was offered a position at Columbia Teachers College in New York where he remained for the next 30 years.
[By 1953, Wundtian psychology had reached out from Teachers
The single most powerful educational force in the world is at 120th Street and Broadway in New York City. Your children's teachers go there for advanced training... with 100,000 alumni, TC has managed to seat about one-third of the presidents and deans now  in office at accredited U.S. teacher training schools. Its graduates make up about 20 percent of all our public school teachers. Over a fourth of the superintendents of schools in the 168 U.S. cities with at least 50,000 population are TC-trained. (p.87)]
But back to Thorndike. He was the first psychologist to study animal behavior in an experimental psychology laboratory and... apply the same techniques to children and youths; as one result, in 1903, he published the book Educational Psychology." Lionni (pg 30-32)
Lionni summarizes Thorndike's theories suggesting
"...The only way to strengthen a child's "good" response is by reinforcing it, and the only way to eliminate a child's "bad" response is by denying it. This theory creates certain problems for the educator. Should the child, for example, not want to learn his multiplication, the teacher will have to find some way of making multiplication pleasurable and rewarding, or the child just won't learn it. Similarly, if the child enjoys tossing pencils at his classmates, he will have to be instruct, by denying him pleasure, that such a "behavior" isn't permissible. This thinking favors a society which operates more on the basis of gratification than on the basis o reason or responsibility. Children expect to receive what is pleasurable, and what they desire, because they have learned in school that what is pleasurable is good, and what isn't pleasurable, isn't good." Lionni (pg 36)
"Thorndike also had specific views about education in the basics -- the 3 R's:
Studies of the capacities and interest of young children indicate the advisability of placing little emphasis before the age of six upon either the acquisition of those intellectual resources known as the formal tools -- reading, spelling, arithmetic, writing, etc. -- or upon abstract analysis.
Traditionally the elementary school has been primarily devoted to
teaching the fundamental subjects, the three R's, and closely related disciplines...Artificial
exercises, like drills on phonetics, multiplication tables, and formal
writing movements, are used to a wasteful degree. Subjects such as arithmetic,
language, and history include content that is intrinsically of little value.
Nearly every subject is enlarged unwisely to satisfy the academic ideal
of thoroughness. That the typical school overemphasizes instruction in
these formal, academic skills as a means of fostering intellectual resources...
is a justifiable criticism... Elimination of unessentials by scientific
study, then, is one step in improving the curriculum.
Thorndike continues what he considers the 3 main functions of the
elementary school were to provide 6 years of experience, to determine the
native intellectual capacities and aptitutes of the child, and 3. to provide
for a limited measure of vocational adjustment for those who leave at the
earliest age possible. Lionni (pg 37)
Now that's nifty!
"Thorndike's rationale for vocational discrimination and selection through testing, as expressed in his many writings on the subject, was to provide the theoretical basis for yet another kind of discrimination. From 1913 on, psychologist, H.H. Goddard (inventor of the term "moron") used psychological testing to "prove" the feeble-mindedness of great numbers of Jews, Italians, Hungarians, Russians and other Eastern Europeans attempting to immigrate to America.... [In subsequent years] psychologists Louis Terman and Robert Yerkes, among others... used psychological testing to "prove" the "racial dullness" of the Spanish-Indians and Mexican families of the Southwest and the general "feeblemindedness" of the "colored race." The social effects of the false racial ideas, massive sterilization campaigns, and other brutal eugenics measures spawned by the psychological testing movement are still with us." Lionni (pg 39-40)
[So... who paid for all this? Well... it was a "gift from God"... according to John D. Rockefeller, Sr. He believed the power to make money was a gift from God... and it was his duty to make money.
So... if you're interested in who paid for all this experimentation on the minds of America... check out the history of the Peabody Fund... the Slater Fund... the Rockefeller or Carnegie Foundations. Or how about Rockefeller's extended philanthropy in education as he established the General Education Board. For additional topics of curiousity and interests... you might consider checking out Rockefeller Jr.'s contributions to the eugenics-promoting Bureau of Social Hygiene and the government-restructuring Institute for Government Research (now a part of the Brookings Institution), and who took over the International Association of Chiefs of Police in 1923 while seeing the formation of Interpol (which was soon then to be turned over to the Nazis and was, as late as 1972, directed by former SS officer Paul Dickopf)." Lionni (pg 54)]
Lionni writes: "The real motivation behind Rockefeller's General
Education Board was perhaps best expressed in the Board's Occasional
Letter No. 1:
"In our dreams, we have limitless resources and the people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present education conventions fade from their minds, and unhampered by tradition, we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive rural folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning, or men of science. We have not to raise up from among them authors, editors, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have an ample supply.
"The task we set before ourselves is very simple as well as a very bearutiful one, to train these people as we find them to a perfectly ideal life just where they are. So we will organize our children and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way, in the homes, in the shops and on the farm." Lionni (pg 55-56)
Doesn't it make you wonder... what these social engineering foundations have been concocting for the last 100 years? After all... who really investigates their methods? Who's big enough to even attempt it? Perhaps, their philanthropy should be left unquestioned. Perhaps, as we sense that to doubt their goodness is to indict the doubter. Certainly the power centers are too beautiful... too sublime.. too idealistic to even questions their motives.
But as early as 1917, you will find in the Congressional Record (Senate),
February 8... that someone did. Debate made its way on to the US Senate
floor... as some Senators decried the unharnassed, manipulative and powerful
General Education Board leading to a nation-wide outcry against the attempts
of the GEB to control and alter American education. The Congressional Record
With this financial power in its control, the general board is in position to do what no body in this country can at present even attempt. It can determine largely what institutions shall grow, and in some measure what shall stand still or decay.... Its power will be enormous; it seems as if it might be able to determine the character of American education.
As a mechanism for controlling academic opionion there had, perhaps, never been anything in the history of education that would compare with the board system of subsidizing learning...
...we owe something to our ancestors, who founded and maintained
our older institutions of learning. We have no right to bind up the offerings
which they laid upon the altar of education in the enslaving conditions
prescribed by the Rockefeller board for institutions to which it grants
its humiliating doles.
And "From the New Orleans Times-Democrat:
The case here is plainly stated. The fund which the General Education Board administers is largely provided by men whose interest in shaping public opinion upon certain matters of vital concern to society and to the State is very great. Whether their philanthropy serves as a cloak to attain the ends desired, or whether the plan is unselfishly conceived and the sinister influence unconsciously exerted, the effect is likely to be the same in the end.
So... who won... or more accurately... who's winning the educational contest? Unfortunately, that answer won't be found in The Leipzig Connection.
Finally... and quite honestly, after reading The Leipzig Connection.... I began wondering about the social implications of these holy men of education and all their philosophic and psychological theories, influences and pressures promoting Man as the highest form of animal.
Could this be the essence of the public's outcry of deplorable school conditions and inadequately prepared graduates that we daily hear about on network News? What exactly is Joe Public reacting to? Aren't kids just being kids? Could it be that for the past century most educational districts and systems have, in the eyes of the Public... produced little more than... a bunch of animals? Oh, of course... the most noble of animals.
I hope not, but I don't know. Unfortunately folks, I do know we can't have some of these social theories and educational concepts both ways! If we are NOT made in the image of God or the gods... then please... PLEASE do NOT promote such foolish ideals of character plagerized from pages of primative religious thought. Hey!! Let's come up with our own... if we're not made in His image! If we're simply the highest in a long string of critters... than just maybe we ought to look to our brothers and sisters... the alley strays and of course, Man's Best Friend: Fido... to see how they socially and emotionally get on with life.
As incredible as this august, bizarre work is... and in spite of it oozing with superstition and fear, still The Malleus Maleficarum offers valuable insight into what mind-set governed the European middle and early renaissance periods. And though it may be full of irrelevant notions and even possibly serve as a great source for 21st century moderns like us to ridicule and disparage, it still must be recognized as a work significantly effecting the lives of millions in a not too distant generation.
As a curious side note to this reading, the Introduction to The Malleus Maleficarum reveals an unusual passing fact (or two). It states "Innocent VIII only canonized one Saint, the Margrave Leopold of Austria, who was raised to the Altar 6 January, 1485. However, on 31 May, 1492, he received from Sultan Bajazet the precious Relic of the Most Holy Lance with which Our Redeemer had been wounded by S. Longinus upon the Cross. A Turkish emir brought the Relic to Ancona, whence it was conveyed by the Bishop to Narni, when two Cardinals took charge of it and carried it to Rome. On 31 May Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere solemnly handed it in a crystal vessel to the Pope during a function at S. Maria del Popolo. It was then borne in procession to S. Peter's , and from the loggia of the portico the Holy Father bestowed his blessing upon the crowds, whilst the Cardinal della Rovere standing at his side exposed the Sacred Relic to the verneration of the thronging piazza. The Holy Lance, [an altogether interesting subject in itself...] which is accounted one of the three great Relics of the Passion, is shown together with the Piece of the True Cross and S. Veronica's Veil at S. Peter's..."
Oh! that's right... (I almost forgot I said... two!) An equally interesting and informative tid-bit revealed in this Introduction to The Malleus Maleficarum is that "On 25 July, 1492, Pope Innocent, who had long been sickly and ailing so that almost his only nourishment for many weeks was woman's milk, passed away in his sleep at the Vatican." Imagine that!
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