The Strategic Concentration of Modern Children

Back in the good old days, when a few million humans were evenly distributed across the planet, every young man was a rampage killer.  In the dawn raid, the idea was to kill all the men in the neighboring village and grab a few women.  Remember the Sabine women?  It was rape and pillage, and a jolly good time was had by all the rampagers.

A mere thousand years ago, the Vikings liked nothing better in the autumn than to rampage up the rivers of southern England, killing the men, grabbing the grain, and selling the women and children in Dublin, the main slave market in NW Europe.

Now we have the modern rampage killer, who, with benefit of modern technology, can kill a whole classroom of children on his own, without benefit of a band of brothers.

Are things getting better, or worse?  According to Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature, things are getting better, because the annual death by violence back in the hunter-gatherer age was 500 deaths per 100,000 per year.  In the agricultural age, it was 50 deaths per 100,000.  And today, it is one to five deaths per 100,000 per year.

Well, you say, we are more civilized today, and that is true.  Today we humans are concentrated in cities in a way unthinkable two hundred years ago.  But that also makes us much more vulnerable.

Remember who invented the concentration camp?  No, it wasn't the Nazis or the Soviets.  It was the Brits during the Boer War.  They concentrated the women and children of the rebellious Boers in camps.  They wanted to have them under control.

Commerce seems to require concentration: think Champagne fairs, Hanseatic ports, Manchester, Pittsburgh, Wall Street, Detroit, Silicon Valley, "ideopolises." 

Industry likes concentration: think slave plantations and mass-production factories.

Ruling classes like concentration: think collective farms and planned cities, one-size-fits-all social programs.

But why do we need to concentrate our children in government factory schools?  OK, we know.  The Jesuits did it because if you gave them the boy, they could give you the man.  So the Enlightenment's "sophists, economists, and calculators" could hardly do less.  The French wanted to get children away from the Jesuits, the Germans wanted to train up soldiers and thinkers to beat the French, and the Harvard Unitarians in Boston wanted to get the children away from the Puritans.

What any ruling class wants is to get children away from the influence of their parents.  And what better way could there be to concentrate and homogenize children than in government child custodial facilities?

It is curious that the modern rampage shootings started around the time that the best and brightest decided that the big youth problem was the education of girls -- even though it stands to reason that boys are the ones who need to be socialized away from their dawn-raid instincts, and always will.

It is also curious that the very people who argue for saving the planet by preserving species diversity, and who want a neo-pastoral culture in which people eat and work and live locally, are also the people who insist on the concentration of everyone in government schools, government health care, government pensions, and government-planned cities.

On the one hand, these people want to unwind the remarkable human mobilization of the last two centuries, the strategic concentration of humans into cities which in the last decade was moving 10 million Chinese per year from the countryside into the cities.  On the other hand, they want people mobilized into virtual armies in schools, factories, office parks, social programs -- for what?

We modern conservatives talk a pretty good line about freedom, and our liberal friends talk a pretty good line about liberation.  But how can you call a people free or liberated when its members spend their entire childhood confined in government schools and then spend their adulthood in offices staring at computer screens?  What is the goal of all this strategic concentration?

Army generals have always known that strategic concentration is a tricky business.  When you concentrate your forces, things can go very wrong.  When you have achieved strategic concentration, you had better fight a battle and win it real soon, before you run out of food, or succumb to disease, or find that your army is in the wrong place.  We in the West have been strategically concentrating ourselves for two hundred years.  For what?  For Obama's War on Inequality?

There is probably no more mindless concentration today than the concentration of children in government schools, according to a plan that was already old in 1850.

My guess is that in the next few years, from bitter experience, we will increasingly come to judge this strategic concentration of children as utter folly

Christopher Chantrill (mailto:chrischantrill@gmail.com) is a frequent contributor to American Thinker.  See his usgovernmentspending.com and also usgovernmentdebt.us.  At americanmanifesto.org he is blogging and writing An American Manifesto: Life After Liberalism.

Back in the good old days, when a few million humans were evenly distributed across the planet, every young man was a rampage killer.  In the dawn raid, the idea was to kill all the men in the neighboring village and grab a few women.  Remember the Sabine women?  It was rape and pillage, and a jolly good time was had by all the rampagers.

A mere thousand years ago, the Vikings liked nothing better in the autumn than to rampage up the rivers of southern England, killing the men, grabbing the grain, and selling the women and children in Dublin, the main slave market in NW Europe.

Now we have the modern rampage killer, who, with benefit of modern technology, can kill a whole classroom of children on his own, without benefit of a band of brothers.

Are things getting better, or worse?  According to Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature, things are getting better, because the annual death by violence back in the hunter-gatherer age was 500 deaths per 100,000 per year.  In the agricultural age, it was 50 deaths per 100,000.  And today, it is one to five deaths per 100,000 per year.

Well, you say, we are more civilized today, and that is true.  Today we humans are concentrated in cities in a way unthinkable two hundred years ago.  But that also makes us much more vulnerable.

Remember who invented the concentration camp?  No, it wasn't the Nazis or the Soviets.  It was the Brits during the Boer War.  They concentrated the women and children of the rebellious Boers in camps.  They wanted to have them under control.

Commerce seems to require concentration: think Champagne fairs, Hanseatic ports, Manchester, Pittsburgh, Wall Street, Detroit, Silicon Valley, "ideopolises." 

Industry likes concentration: think slave plantations and mass-production factories.

Ruling classes like concentration: think collective farms and planned cities, one-size-fits-all social programs.

But why do we need to concentrate our children in government factory schools?  OK, we know.  The Jesuits did it because if you gave them the boy, they could give you the man.  So the Enlightenment's "sophists, economists, and calculators" could hardly do less.  The French wanted to get children away from the Jesuits, the Germans wanted to train up soldiers and thinkers to beat the French, and the Harvard Unitarians in Boston wanted to get the children away from the Puritans.

What any ruling class wants is to get children away from the influence of their parents.  And what better way could there be to concentrate and homogenize children than in government child custodial facilities?

It is curious that the modern rampage shootings started around the time that the best and brightest decided that the big youth problem was the education of girls -- even though it stands to reason that boys are the ones who need to be socialized away from their dawn-raid instincts, and always will.

It is also curious that the very people who argue for saving the planet by preserving species diversity, and who want a neo-pastoral culture in which people eat and work and live locally, are also the people who insist on the concentration of everyone in government schools, government health care, government pensions, and government-planned cities.

On the one hand, these people want to unwind the remarkable human mobilization of the last two centuries, the strategic concentration of humans into cities which in the last decade was moving 10 million Chinese per year from the countryside into the cities.  On the other hand, they want people mobilized into virtual armies in schools, factories, office parks, social programs -- for what?

We modern conservatives talk a pretty good line about freedom, and our liberal friends talk a pretty good line about liberation.  But how can you call a people free or liberated when its members spend their entire childhood confined in government schools and then spend their adulthood in offices staring at computer screens?  What is the goal of all this strategic concentration?

Army generals have always known that strategic concentration is a tricky business.  When you concentrate your forces, things can go very wrong.  When you have achieved strategic concentration, you had better fight a battle and win it real soon, before you run out of food, or succumb to disease, or find that your army is in the wrong place.  We in the West have been strategically concentrating ourselves for two hundred years.  For what?  For Obama's War on Inequality?

There is probably no more mindless concentration today than the concentration of children in government schools, according to a plan that was already old in 1850.

My guess is that in the next few years, from bitter experience, we will increasingly come to judge this strategic concentration of children as utter folly

Christopher Chantrill (mailto:chrischantrill@gmail.com) is a frequent contributor to American Thinker.  See his usgovernmentspending.com and also usgovernmentdebt.us.  At americanmanifesto.org he is blogging and writing An American Manifesto: Life After Liberalism.