And this goes under the heading for that ever-bulging file, I Knew It Was Bad; I Had No Idea How Bad It Was.
One thing the author says here jibes with another datum I found some years ago. She says that seventy or eighty years ago — I cannot remember the year she cites — there were twice as many public schools as there are now. That was for one third of the population. The upshot is that each school is now SIX TIMES as large, take it all in all, as the typical school was in the past. We insist on viewing human beings as functionally interchangeable, and as no different en masse than in small and personal groups. That is a profound error, and one that only a post-industrial “culture” would make. A mansion with sixty people in it is not the same as ten homes with six people in each. My college, Princeton, was relatively small for the sort of thing it was, and there were features in it that retained something of the human intimacy of a small school; most notably, the construction of the old dormitories and the large rooms and suites in them brought small groups of people together in ways that high-rise dormitories with single cells for two roommates cannot. But if they multiplied Princeton’s enrollment by SIX, resulting in a mega-school of 25,000 undergraduates, it would be an entirely different kind of place, and would, I think, breed plenty of dysfunctions.
As I said, her datum fits with another: there used to be SEVEN TIMES as many school boards, at roughly the same time that she cites, as there are now. That means that TWENTY ONE times as many ordinary citizens were responsible for the oversight of the public schools. Parents, pillars of the community (businessmen, clergymen, the leaders of all the women’s charitable organizations, college educated persons), and former teachers would be involved, and that must have resulted in a close relationship between the school and the neighborhood. Sure, sometimes it would have grated on a teacher’s nerves, but against that we must place the feeling of belonging, of order, that everyone would have taken for granted.