Neal's Speech to the Students of America
I should start out with an apology. There's something you may not know about these schools you are attending. Something your teachers might not know and your parents certainly don't know.
Yesterday you heard Barack Obama, the President, tell you that here in America you write your own destiny. Nobody writes that destiny for you. The president told you that you make your own future. President Obama called on each of you to set your own goals for your education .. and then to do everything could to meet them.
That's a great message. I hope you took it to heart. But you need to know that President Obama's message was quite a bit different than the message delivered by another president, Woodrow Wilson, prior to the first World War. Now most of you don't study the history of compulsory government education in this country. That's too bad. It was during the years prior to World War I that our present system of government education was being born.
Let me pause for a second here and explain my use of words. You've always heard the schools you attend referred to as "public schools." I prefer to use the phrase "government schools." Let me explain why. The building you're sitting in was built by and is owned by the government. It sits on land owned by the government. All of the people who work in this building -- from teachers to custodians, from coaches to the front office staff -- all of these people work for the government. They're government employees. Their paychecks are written by government. The people who decide what you will study each day are government employees. The people who decide what textbooks you will use are government employees. And it is the government that compels your attendance. The schools are, then, owned, operated and staffed by government. So --- government schools. Now there are a lot of people who don't like for our schools to be referred to as government schools. There's a good reason for this. As a student you may not understand this right now, but when you become an adult one of the painful lessons you will learn is that there are very few things that government does well. My talk to you today isn't the proper place to list decades of government failures. Let's just say that the people who object to the phrase government schools do so because they know that government is synonymous with failure and they have some very strong reasons to portray our government schools as being great successes.
Let's get back to former President Woodrow Wilson and the creation of our system of government schools prior to World War I. These years marked a period of massive industrial expansion in the United States. Great industrialists like Henry Ford, J.P. Morgan and others were concerned that there would be enough workers to man the great new industrial complexes that were being created. Now listen to this, because this is very important. Factories were being built across America. These factories needed workers. They didn't need scholars … they needed workers. They didn't need young people with boatloads of ambition and a desire to see what they could make of themselves … they needed workers. They needed young men and women who would readily accept a subordinate role working on an assembly line somewhere. These people weren't one bit shy about their goals either? Back then, before World War I, the schools were being essentially run by a group the media called "the Education Trust." The National Education Association – today the most powerful union in this country, and the union your teachers most likely belong to – was right there at the table when the Education Trust first met.
Now look .. I'm not trying to turn this into a history lesson. You'll get enough of that later from your teachers. I have something very important to tell you here though. Something you need to know. Simply put .. .you've been had. All along you've thought that this school the government tells you that you must attend is designed to help you achieve every success you want out of life. You couldn't be more wrong. That is most certainly NOT the way our government schools were designed.
Let's get back to the Education Trust and the formation of our schools. After the first meeting of this group … the meeting attended by the National Education Association … a British sociologist by the name of Benjamin Kidd wrote that the very idea behind the formation of these government schools was --- now listen to this --- to impose on the young the ideal of subordination.
How does that sound to you? These schools were designed to teach you to be subordinate? And why was that? A great government school teacher has the answer in his book "The Underground History of American Education." His name is John Taylor Gatto. He was once the New York State teacher of the year. Gatto explains ----- now listen to this. This is so very important. This would explain in part why our schools are doing such a pitiful job of preparing you and your classmates for anything other than a menial job performing manual tasks. Gatto explains that in pre-World War I America the industrialists – Ford, J.P.Morgan, Rockefeller and the like – were concerned that the American tradition of independent livelihoods would rob industry of the manpower it needed to keep the industrial wheels turning. In our government schools, then, students --- that's you! YOU were, as Gatto puts it, to learn to think of yourself as an employee .. .a worker competing for the attention and favor of management. Above all, you were NOT to come to consider yourself to be a self-determined free agent.
And that brings us back to another president … President Woodrow Wilson … and the speech he gave to some American businessmen. Here's the quote … listen hard. This will say a lot about the schools that you are attending today.
President Wilson said:
"We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."
There … can we make it any clearer?
John Taylor Gatto sums it up rather well .. .and I really would hope that you, or maybe your parents, would read his book. Gatto summarizes the goal of the American educational establishment this way: "The ability of Americans to think as independent producers had to be curtailed." They're talking about you here .. not some mysterious other person … you. It is YOUR ability to think as an independent producer that has to be curtailed. It is YOU that must be molded into a good subordinate. How do you feel about that?
Do you see what you're up against here? All this time you've been working and studying inside of an institution that was designed to rob you of your individuality and to turn you into a good government subject and subordinate employee. I'm sure that even your teachers don't really understand this part of the history of American education ... and the role their prized union.
My message to you, then, is this. These schools can give you the basic tools you need to survive as a good worker and government subject. If you have aspirations beyond that – it's going to be up to you. There's no doubt you can do it … but you're going to have to dedicate yourself to that cause now … today.
Now that you know what you're up against, let me see if I can offer some help.
Let me share something with you here. This is something I've said many times on my radio program ... and let me tell you, it really makes people mad. I think I understand why people get so mad – and I'll tell you in a minute. First, though .. the message:
It may be hard for you to accept this right now, but 20 years from now, whatever you are, whatever you do to make a living, whatever your lifestyle … Whatever your condition in life is 20, 30 --- 50 years from now – barring some physical or mental disaster – is going to be directly attributable to the decisions you make between now and then. Every decision counts. Every one.
I don't know who first said this – and a search of the Internet gives me no answers – so I'm going to lay claim to this quote right now. "Use wisely your power of choice." Those choices are going to lead you to the reality that will be yours many years from now. If your 30th high school reunion program says that you're managing the produce section of a grocery store somewhere …
Before the bell rings there's time for a few more points …
First .. I have good news for you. There's a word that is very important to you right now; a word that you hear day after day in your school. I'll promise you, as soon as you graduate from high school and head off to college this word will all but disappear from your life. That word is ….Popular. Who's popular? Who's not? Who's popular with whom … and on and on. Stop worrying about popularity. Just treat your classmates the way you would like to be treated, and leave the popularity games to people who aren't yet serious about their futures. In about 20 years you might be surprised to find out that the kids who were oh so popular during high school and now working for the kids that were teased and laughed at. Hold your ground. Things get better really fast once you graduate.
And one more thing. I hate to be the one to break this to you, but you are not going to be a professional athlete or a rapper. Don't fool yourself into believing
otherwise. Here is some truly tragic news from Ebony Magazine. Sixty-six percent of 7th and 8th grade black males think they are going to make a living in pro sports. That's two out of every three young blacks in these two important grades. Guess what … it just ISN'T going to happen. A study at Northwestern University shows that just one out of every 50,000 high school athletes will ever play for a professional team. Did you hear me? One out of fifty thousand. Work as hard as you can, and the one out of 50,000 figure holds. Simply put … you're just not going to make it.
Now … let's talk doctor or lawyer. If you make up your mind that you want to be a doctor, or you want to be a lawyer, and if you put the same amount of effort into achieving that goal as you would in becoming a professional athlete, your chances of success are much better than one in 50,000. Your chances of success approach 100%. You put in the effort and you will be that doctor or lawyer. So what makes more sense to you? Working hard day after day to pursue a one in 50,000 chance of being a professional athlete? Or working just as hard to pursue the certainty of becoming a doctor, lawyer or some other honored professional?
Again .. use wisely your power of choice.
Before I go … one more thing. A great writer by the name of Og Mandino once came up with three basic rules …..
Wait! That's it! That wonderful phrase came from Og Mandino! I knew it would hit before we were through here.
Those three rules combine nicely with three additional rules written by who-knows-who. The "who" isn't important here. The "what" is. If you follow these three rules, I can almost guarantee that you will never live in poverty. Here you go. Copy these down.
There. That's all I have time for. Maybe this speech wasn't quite as inspirational as the president's speech yesterday … but at least now you have an idea of what you're up against in your government school. Are you willing to spend all of this time in school just to be a subordinate? I thought not. So show them that you can't be molded into just another mass-produced employee. Proclaim your rarity. Go the extra mile ... make your choices wisely ... and you'll leave a lot of people in the dust.