By Jacob G. Hornberger
The WikiLeaks controversy is exposing one of the
great divides among the American citizenry: the good,
little citizen who has a reverential deference for
government power and the independent, critical thinker
who isn't scared to expose and oppose government
Those in the reverential, deferential category are
shocked and outraged over WikiLeaks disclosure of U.S.
government secrets to the American people and to the
people of the world. They want the U.S. government to
criminally prosecute the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian
Assange, for treason, even if he is an Australian
citizen. Others want him assassinated. No doubt there
are some who would be willing to settle for a lifetime
prison term without trial at Gitmo.
Where do these people acquire this reverential and
deferential attitude toward the federal government?
The primary source is the state schooling system.
The reason that the state in every country demands
control over the education of a nation's children is
precisely to inculcate this sense of reverence and
deference for the government. The idea is that if the
state has power over a child for six or seven hours
every day, 5 days a week, for 12 years, the state will
have ample opportunity to mold and shape the child's
mind into one of conformity, obedience, respect for
state authority, and unconditional trust in official
pronouncements of the state.
As Sheldon Richman explained back in an op-ed
entitled "Horrors! Maybe the Schools Are Working Just
The modern public school curriculum comes right
out of the Prussian system. Gatto says the American
educationists imported three major ideas from
Prussia. The first was that the purpose of state
schooling was not intellectual training but the
conditioning of children "to obedience,
subordination and collective life." Second, whole
ideas were broken into fragmented "subjects," and
school days were divided into fixed periods "so that
self-motivation to learn would be muted by ceaseless
interruptions." Third, the state was posited as the
true parent of the children.
Pointing to the importance of state schooling in
Germany, Hitler told Germans who were resisting his
regime that they were irrelevant given that the state
had control over their children's education. Hitler
knew that after several years, the adults would be
gone and the nation would be left with good, little
citizens who deferred to the authority of the state
and supported National Socialism.
Even in Nazi Germany, however, where the state
carefully molded the mindsets of German children in
public schools, there were young people who were able
to break free of the indoctrination and the
mind-molding. A good example was the students in the
White Rose organization, such as Hans and Sophie
Scholl, about whom I wrote an article many years ago
entitled "The White Rose: A Lesson in Dissent."
If you haven't seen the movie "Sophie Scholl: The
Final Days" I highly recommend it. It is great! A
fascinating part of the movie is when the chief judge
of Hitler's People's Court, a court created by Hitler
to try terrorists, dissidents, traitors, and
government critics — berated the Scholl siblings. When
you see the movie, watch for the similarities between
the pro-state mindset of Judge Freisler and that of
the statists who are today berating Assange for his
lack of respect for government authority.
Of course, here in the United States, there are
people who somehow have broken free of the conformist
mindset that the state desires in all its citizens.
Most of them are libertarians but there are also a few
liberals, such as Glenn Greenwald.
There are also young people within the state
schooling system who resist the regimentation, the
conformity, the group-think, and the reverence for the
state that is inculcated within the students. Needless
to say, those are the students who are diagnosed as
psychologically handicapped and put on such drugs as
Ritalin or Adderall, with the intent of softening
their minds so that the state can overcome their
resistance and make them part of the group.
It is the independent, critical thinkers, not the
"My government, my god" crowd that historically has
propelled mankind forward, especially in terms of
liberty and mental and psychological development.
Consider, for example, Henry David Thoreau, one of the
greatest individualists of all time, who continues to
inspire people of all ages today. Of course, if he
were living today, the conformist crowd would
undoubtedly be castigating and berating him, just like
they're doing to Assange.
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The
Future of Freedom Foundation.