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A famous quote by Henry Ford “I don’t believe in education; I think that education is a racket” has caused quite a bit of discussion in regards to free-labor versus public education. What did free-labor proponents believe about education? How did free-labor proponents feel about public education? Why did free-labor proponents with education beliefs oppose public education? In this article we will attempt to look at all these questions and consider what the real free-labor proponents thought about education.
Education was, and still is, a product of free-labor. Labor, that is… or at least it used to be. Before the advent of the industrial revolution, free-labor typically referred to workers in the early civilizations of Africa, such as those who built the pyramids. Free labor in early America included such notable people as Mayflower founders, as well as the men who planted the first crops for the first settlers of what would become New England. The primary purpose of early education in these societies was to produce an educated labor force, to drive the economy forward so that goods and services could be traded internationally, for gain and survival. This system, which is still in place in the developing world, is what is known today as free-labor.
Throughout history, there have been numerous attempts by free-labor groups to establish a method of educating the masses that is free from external controls. These groups tried to use education as a tool to empower people, in order to increase their independence. However, most free-labor education promoters were typically religious zealots who wanted to use education as a way to convert people of other religions to their own. This does not make them supportive of alternative forms of education. Most education promoters of the past, such as William Penn, had a strong religious belief in the importance of education. They viewed it as a way to prepare students for a life of service to God.
One of the most interesting issues regarding free-labor supporters was the concept of intellectual property rights. Intellectual property rights are, essentially, the property rights that a person owns that makes their ideas or discoveries original. Most free-labor supporters believed that education was a right that should be protected from the creation and theft of knowledge by other individuals. They felt that the creation of knowledge should be free for all so that every person could pursue knowledge and improve their lives.
There are a number of interesting problems with this explanation. First of all, if knowledge is a right then why is it protected by laws? Secondly, what did free-labor supporters believe about education being a right? If you don’t like laws than how can you support their position on free-labor education?
One of the most revealing things I came across when doing research on free-labor supporters and the origins of education is that the typical educational image that we have of an affluent black female is completely incorrect. In fact, the image of the typical black female during the time of free-labor was that of a nurse or teacher. The image of the typical black female changed dramatically after the passage of the civil rights act. It was then that black women began to pursue higher education as a means of improving their financial status. Free-labor education was one of the primary reasons that this happened.
As the history of free-labor education in America has been told many times, there were many people that didn’t support the educational system or the type of education that was being provided. These people were the minority that opposed free-labor education and wanted to restrict it for all Americans. There are many documented cases of free-labor supporters purposely sabotaging school systems in order to prevent students from having access to educational opportunities.
The fact is that free-labor education was not based on any type of generosity from the government or the people that supported it. Rather free-labor education was based on profiteering from other people’s labor. It is interesting that you will find people that use this argument when talking about free-labor programs today. Please consider all this in 2021.
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