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Before reading the following passage, note that I probably should retitle this post and change “government” to just about “anyone.” My children go to Catholic schools and there are piles of things they learn there that are either misinformed, plain wrong, questionable, etc. I like that they are exposed to things that I think are wrong, after all I may in fact be wrong myself, but also, how the heck can you expect people to learn if they are not seriously and regularly exposed to a cacophony of ideas? One sized fits all education is worrisome. In any case, I very much enjoyed Daniel Okrent’s Last Call, here is an early passage:

In 1886 Hunt took her caravan to Congress, which promptly passed a law requiring Scientific Temperance Instruction in the public schools … By 1901, when the population of the entire nation was still less than 80 million, compulsory temperance education was on the books of every state in the nation, and thereby in the thrice weekly lessons of twenty-two million American children and teenagers.

Before I go on, note that though a brewer myself and lover of beer and bourbon, I think we all drink too much. OK, off that high horse and onto the next:

What many of these millions received in the name of “Scientific Temperance Instruction” was somewhat different from what they three words implied. The second one was arguably accurate but what Hunt called “scientific” was purely propaganda, and what she considered “instruction” was in fact intimidation. Students were force-fed a stew of mythology (“the majority of beer drinkers die of dropsy”), remonstration (“persons should not take a stimulant before bathing”), and terror (“when alcohol passes down the throat it burns off the skin, leaving it bare and burning”). These specific insights … were not spontaneously generated; they entered the curricula of an estimated 50 percent of all American public schools in textbooks bearing the one imprimatur most valuable to any publisher: the approval of Mary Hunt.

I do not see education today as being any different. Oh, and then there’s this:

But in 1906, a few months after her death – (the WCTU) learned something distressing about Mary Hunt. For years she had maintained a bank account in the name of something she called the Scientific Temperance Association. Into this account she had deposited royalties on endorsed books published by A.S. Barnes & Company and Ginn & Company — money intended “in whole or in part for the maintenance of the work at 23 Trull Street.

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