The Inherent Flaws of the ‘Prussian’ Education System

At the beginning of the 19th century, the idea that the Prussian government would provide education to all children probably sounded very nice to many people. Everybody would be included, and nobody would be left behind. Government would fund education. Seminaries would prepare professional teachers.

Not only Prussia but also many other European countries adopted similar education systems in the 19th century. Even countries outside of Europe (e.g., the United States) adopted such systems. After a casual examination of these changes in education, one might have expected an enormous improvement in the quality of life once these educational systems had time to influence the society. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Instead, the world saw the rise of despotic movements, the two most devastating wars in world history, and many people under despotic governments that were making nice promises but were not delivering on those promises. The Age of Enlightenment and Reason ended.

The Prussian education system that the United States has adopted is a government takeover of a highly important industry. It destroys most private schools as parents are forced to pay through taxes for public schools whether their children go to those schools or not. Affluent families can still afford to send their children to private schools, but many others cannot. This system that promises equality delivers the opposite. It reduces opportunities for most children, especially poor children, and creates a small class of elites who can afford good private education for their children.

Those who have political power often strive to control information. Controlling education is a major step towards controlling information. Lying—including lying by omission—can be very effective when there is no real freedom of information. The government takeover of education has been harmful from the beginning. And, as government schools have poor incentive systems (as is the case with all government bureaucracies), the situation has continued to deteriorate over time.

If people would have remembered that the so-called Prussian education system could be more precisely called the education system of people whose ancestors committed the genocide of Prussian people, they might have been more reluctant to adopt it. Using precise terms is important if we want to learn from history. Killing Prussians does not give people a moral right to call themselves Prussian. Such naming is misleading.

Prussians were one segment of the Baltic people who wanted to protect their culture and religion. There is much talk about sensitivity these days. So, we should show some sensitivity and respect to these people and stop calling this education system Prussian. If we start calling the system what it is—the education system of people whose ancestors committed the genocide of Prussian people and who continued oppressing Baltic people—our politicians will find it harder to sell it to the public. We also will find it easier to understand why this education system causes so many problems.

The downside of the government education system is not only that this system does a poor job at teaching reading, writing, and math. Perhaps most detrimental is the fact that this education system does not teach students to think on their own or to understand issues before acting. Rather, it teaches students to obey their teachers.

On the surface, it seems that the term “the obedient generation” does not describe America’s youth. They go to demonstrations on streets displaying communist symbols and engage in abuse and violence for the causes they believe in. However, it is important to recognize that they are just doing what their teachers tell them to do. They do not bother to check if what they are told is true or whose symbols they are adopting. Unfortunately, the obedient generation is one of the descriptions of the current generation. Obedience rather than prosperity of people is one of the goals of the creators of this education system.

Dalia Marciukaityte

Dr. Marciukaityte previously she served as Humana/Mike McAlister Endowed Professor at Louisiana Tech University. Her business experience is with Strategic Management Group and Merrill Lynch.

She was born and raised in Lithuania, when it was still part of the Soviet Union. Her B.S. and M.S. degrees in management are from Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania. She moved to the United States to study at Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania. Her Ph.D. in finance with a minor in economics is from Drexel University.

Dr. Marciukaityte has published articles in Financial Management, the Journal of Corporate Finance, the Journal of Financial Research, the Financial Analysts Journal, the Financial Review, the Journal of Business Research, the Journal of Behavioral Finance, and other journals. Her research interests are in government regulations, market competition, corporate finance, and behavioral finance. She has taught Financial Management, Financial Markets, International Finance, and Financial Econometrics, working with undergraduate, masters, and doctoral students.