In the last days of my academic career, a final college course delivered the punchline to a long, drawn-out joke.

By that time, I was quite wise to the absurdity of my educational exercises. I felt akin to a trained circus bear jumping through hoops for rewards I didn’t want or need — all the while daydreaming of being a wild bear free to feast on deer, fish, carrion, berries, or honey as I pleased. It wasn’t until I was given the opportunity to hear some bear cubs discuss their own training that the cruel joke of my education finally landed.

The final group project of my “Community Engagement” course (yes, that was the literal name of a college elective) was to sit with students at a local Alabama public high school and assess their educational experience. Each member of our project group would be assigned 10 to 15 students to audit independently and then we would report our findings.

I remember driving to the high school with the two young women in my group, both of whom I believe were hoping to be teachers and both of whom were busily preparing their questionnaires for the kids to fill out.

I, of course, went empty-handed.

“That’s the last thing these kids want to do,” I recall thinking to myself, “fill out more godforsaken worksheets.”

When we arrived, I was put in a small conference room with a group of about 10 high school sophomores and juniors. After an aggressively unimpressive adult faculty member finally left the room, I asked, “so, how many of y’all hate school?”

All their hands shot up in the affirmative with laughs filling the air.

“Yeah, me too. Can’t wait to graduate myself,” I continued, “It’s something I suppose we all have to go through. But the question is: why do you hate school?”

“I’m too smart for school,” declared a young man sitting directly to my left.

I looked at him skeptically.

“What do you mean you’re too smart for school?”

The kid then proceeded to describe how he would hack websites and teach himself computer programming in his free time.

“Do they have programming classes here at this school to help you?”


And so it continued.

A young lady showed me her remarkable pencil sketches she would do in her free time, but frowned with frustration when she explained her art classes didn’t help much.

Another young man talked fondly about helping his dad work on their land during the summer while bemoaning how much time he had to spend inside cinder block rooms during the school year. He was excited to hear that forestry and fisheries were a possible study and career path but disappointed he couldn’t start down that path immediately.

Yet another boy, the saddest sap of the bunch, proudly described how he would steal his mother’s cigarettes in the morning, wait for the optimal time to light one up in front of his coach at school, and then victoriously return home with an immediate suspension.

At least the kid had pluck. That had to count for something. All of the students there had something to offer, as all kids usually do.

Yet, as I left that small Alabama public high school, I felt the sneaking suspicion that most of those young people weren’t having their “something to offer” fostered in the best way possible, that the system didn’t serve them because they were meant to serve the system.

I had this same suspicion return to me the day I collected my own college degree, that we were all being trained in one way or another as circus animals (or ring leaders) in the art of jumping through hoops for some future reward we didn’t want or need.

And that this was all done by design.

Have you ever wondered why the education system in this nation, and especially Alabama, continually seems to fail the vast majority of the population at exorbitant expense to the citizenry's wealth and basic human dignity?

Ponder the question long enough, and you’ll realize this systemic failure is a feature, not a bug. In fact, the purpose of America’s compulsory education system is not to foster a free-thinking, well-informed, independent citizenry but a docile and domesticated herd of workers, consumers, and voters easily manipulated by government and corporate propaganda.

Don’t believe me? Here’s your homework assignment: read the prologue of John Taylor Gatto’s “Weapons of Mass Instruction.” If this prologue intrigues you, take the red pill and continue reading. If this prologue offends you, take the blue bill and burn the book.

In summary, here’s the gist of John Taylor Gatto’s thesis:

The purpose of compulsory education in America is (1) to create in children a fixed response and respect for given authority, (2) to make children conform to a certain model of behavior and be made as much alike as possible, (3) to determine a child’s proper social role, (4) to train a child for their assessed social role (5) to spotlight and castigate the “lesser” children in the eyes of their elite peers and (6) to identify and train up the next generation of leaders and managers to perpetuate the system.
That this system has worked as designed isn’t hard to see.

That children first learn to respect “the experts” in the front of the classroom only to grow older and as adults respect “the experts” on TV while showing abject deference to authorities with academic degrees is of no surprise.

That such lettered and credentialed elites feel entitled to rule while looking down on the middle and working classes as their “lessers” — especially skilled tradesmen and small business owners — should be of no shock.

That this education bureaucracy, pre-K through graduate degree, continues to grow more distended year after year and yet remains proud in their bloated mediocrity can now be easily explained.

That this same bureaucracy regards your children as their children and does not trust you, the parent, to educate your own child as you choose follows this same pattern of control.

God-willing, more and more Americans are starting to get the joke. And, hopefully, they are tired of seeing their children used as the punchline.

Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and currently, the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 9 am-12noon. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback please email newsandviews931@gmail.comThe views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to