The Little-Known History of Our Schools Still Enrages Me

Dear Reader, 

It still sends shivers up my spine. 

He was the wealthiest human to ever live in modern history, adjusted for inflation, when he said it… 

“I don’t want a nation of thinkers. I want a nation of workers.”

And so in 1902, the American oil magnate Robber Baron John D. Rockefeller founded the General Education Board. It appears that he created the board to take over the education system of the United States.

The scary thing is, he probably succeeded. The Board was instrumental in creating educational institutions in much of the country. It sounds great.

Until you realize that they were built by Rockefeller and his exploitative buddies, who only wanted “workers,” not “thinkers.” 

I’ve often thought that this may be why our schools don’t teach financial education. Rockefeller needed employees so he created a machine to mass-produce employees for him. It’s no mistake that financial education is not taught in schools.

It seems to me, the reason why capitalists like John D. Rockefeller, JPMorgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Washington Duke, and Leland Stanford took over education to watch for the best and brightest children of the poor and middle-class families. 

They’d teach them, then hire them as management employees to run their corporations. These Robber Barons didn’t want students to know much about money, lest they inspire a generation of entrepreneurs versus the steady stream of employees that the Robber Barons needed as employees and managers.

Hijacking the School System

John Taylor Gatto, one of the more outspoken and controversial critics of the education system. Mr. Gatto was named New York State Teacher of the Year on three occasions. 

Then, suddenly, he quit the system — while still New York State Teacher of the Year — claiming that he was no longer willing to hurt children. He made his announcement in the Wall Street Journal in 1991. 

Needless to say, he rattled a few remaining believers in the educational system, the few who believed that schools were doing a good job and kids were getting a great education. 

Here’s how Gatto summed up the root of the problem:

Between 1906 and 1920 a handful of world-famous industrialists and financiers, together with their private foundations, hand-picked University administrators and house politicians, and spent more attention and money toward forced schooling than the national government did. Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller alone spent more money than the government did between 1900 and 1920. In this fashion, the system of modern schooling was constructed outside the public eye and outside the public’s representatives.

From the very first report issued by John D. Rockefeller’s General Education Board — this is their first mission statement: 

In our dreams, people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present conventions of intellectual and character education fade from their minds and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into men of learning or philosophers, or men of science. We have not to raise up from them authors, educators, poets or men of letters, great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, (he’s really covering the whole gamut of employment isn’t he?) statesmen, politicians, creatures of whom we have ample supply (whoever the pronoun we is meant to stand for there). The task is simple. We will organize children and teach them in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way.

In other words, between 1906 and 1920, the rich and powerful hijacked the educational system without the public knowing about it. The rich and powerful decided to mold the minds of young people. 

In fact, in another speech, John Taylor Gatto states that the Western system of education comes from Prussia and the purpose of Prussian education was not to create people who could think, but rather create people who would follow orders and become good employees and soldiers.

$1 Trillion, Down the Drain

When I was young, my poor dad always told me the best path to success was to go to school. He felt that was the best way to get a good job. After all, it was the path he’d taken. He had multiple advanced degrees and was the superintendent of the Hawaii school system.

The problem was that even though my poor dad was one of the most educated people I knew, he was always complaining about money and how unhappy he was with his work.

My rich dad, on the other hand, did not have a college degree. He had to drop out of school to help run his family business, which started as a local store. 

Yet he was very rich and successful, eventually building a real estate empire to compete with a hotel on the beach.

Rich dad said, “School teaches you to be an employee. If you want to be rich, don’t count on school.”

I took my rich dad’s advice, and from a very young age, I learned that the promise of higher education — going to a good school for success — was one of the biggest scams around. Indeed, my research on this and reality itself, reflect the truth that the need for higher education is a dangerous lie.

The point, of course, isn’t that going to a good school prevents you from being successful. That’s clearly not true as well. Many people became successful after going to good schools. The point is that you don’t need a good school to be successful.

As USA Today reports, “It was big news when outstanding student loan debt surpassed credit card debt and then later exceeded $1 trillion for the first time. That shocking statistic keeps climbing, with no sign of slowing down: Americans now have more than $1.4 trillion in unpaid education debt, according to the Federal Reserve.”

The average student debt burden today? $32,731.

And many graduates don’t think their degree was worth the debt. What’s worse, this debt forces students to stay trapped in their unfulfilling jobs.

Does College Equal Success? 

It depends on how you define success. 

In my view, there are four worlds in the world of money. You can see this when looking at the CASHFLOW Quadrant. 

CASHFLOW Quadrant. 

Traditional education — high school, trade schools, colleges, and graduate schools — prepare students for the E (employee) and S (self-employed) side of the quadrant…  my poor dad’s side. 

Those on the left side of the quadrant work for money. Traditional education does not prepare students for the B (business owner) and I (investor) quadrants, my rich dad’s side where people work to acquire assets and cash flow.

When Kim and I set off on our journey, our leap of faith in 1984, all we had was our faith in ourselves and faith that if we did the right things, things would work out. One facet of our faith was that we would get smarter along the way. We had faith that our intelligence would grow, even though neither Kim nor I were rocket scientists in school. We both have our college degrees, but what we learned along the way we didn’t learn in school.

It’s high time we all take our education into our own hands. 

Play it smart,

Robert Kiyosaki

Robert Kiyosaki
Editor, Rich Dad Poor Dad Daily

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I don’t let fear hold me back from personal achievement. But I am fearful for our country. The attitude that “the government should take care of me” is becoming more pervasive in our culture. Financial education gives us the power to solve our own financial problems rather than expect the government to solve our problems for us. Stop all the bailouts and handouts. It’s time we set people free...

Robert Kiyosaki

Robert Kiyosaki, author of bestseller Rich Dad Poor Dad as well as 25 others financial guide books, has spent his career working as a financial educator, entrepreneur, successful investor, real estate mogul, and motivational speaker, all while running the Rich Dad Company.

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