From Prussia with Love:
A History of the Factory Model of U.S. Education
Public education in the U.S. is modeled after the 18th century Prussian factory style system of education which hinders creativity and ultimate academic success.
To understand the roots of modern mass education, one must begin in Prussia. In 1806, the nation- state suffered a huge military blow and Napoleon’s army conquered much of its territory. The Prussian government decided that the way to overcome their loss and create a stronger, unified state was through education, and whether or not as a result of this idea, Napoleon’s army was eradicated in the War of Liberation of 1813-1815 (Cubberly 456). The beginnings of Prussia’s tradition of systematic education however were much earlier. The Prussian King, Frederick William I, the father of Frederick the Great, created the first system of compulsory public education in 1717 with the issuance of a compulsory attendance law from the ages of five to twelve (Alexander 9). In 1763, Frederick the Great issued the first regulatory school code, called the General Regulations for Elementary Schools and Teachers in Prussia. The code established principal rules for how schools were to be run across the nation-state, many of them reminiscent of rules in American school codes today. Some of the points addressed in the regulations included compulsory attendance, graduation requirements, school hours, school census and records, teacher’s requisites and licenses, uniform textbooks, and annual inspection (Cubberly 458-466).
The highly standardized Prussian schools were meant to standardize the population into compliance with the government. In his doctoral dissertation, Thomas Alexander describes the Prussian method as a system that “has produced a people that moves as one man at the command of its king” (Alexander vi). The objective of the system was to create an ideal population in terms of efficiency and compliance. Efficiency was especially important to Prussia, as a world power much smaller than its peer nations. An efficient population would consist of obedient soldiers, laborers, and civil servants, who knew their place in the cogs of the nation’s machine. Centralized schooling and moral education would also create compliant citizens and constructed “national uniformity in thought, word, and deed” (Odysseus Group). An educational journal describes early projects in mass education as “new institutional frames to include individual
members of society as essential components –loci of sovereignty and loyalty, production and consumption, faith and obedience” (Boli et al. 156). By standardizing the way the nation thought, Prussian education effectively stifled creativity.
The schools created an obedient population by teaching them from an early age how to respond to authority. Children had to bow or curtsy to a teacher when they wished to speak to them and when a teacher entered the room, they had to rise and stand with their hands...