Compulsory Schools, Competitive Sports and the State

The above two extremely wry, witty and acerbic lecture presentations by the late Doctor Eugen Weber demonstrate the intimate connection between the rise of compulsory schools and competitive sports as props in the enhancement of the power of the modern welfare-warfare State. I have always viewed the modern State’s promotion of competitive sports (such as footballtennis, cricket, baseball, basketball, or soccer) as an insidious reintroduction of the ancient Roman concept of “bread and circuses,” a diversionary endeavor to manipulate the masses by enhancing their primal aggressive instincts with false loyalties or allegiances to manufactured idols and tribal teams.

This is the theme of the classic film, Rollerball, one of my favorites. That the introduction and promotion of such sports is contemporaneous with the introduction of mass compulsory government schooling is not incidental or accidental. Elite English public schools such as Eton, Rugby, Harrow, Charterhouse, Shrewsbury, Westminster and Winchester, etc. which engaged in training the future leadership cadre of the British Empire, recognized the value of instilling certain cultural norms regarding oligarchical domination and coercion via sports. This ethos was picked up by their trans-Atlantic anglophile brethren at Groton, Phillips Exeter, Phillips Andover, St. Paul’s, etc.and passed onto their Ivy League institutions attended upon completing their larval exercises in rigor, mastery and self-control. Professor Weber aptly illustrates how spectator sports became the establishment’s release valve or recreational outlet for the masses to both project their aggressive instincts away from rebellious or seditious behaviors, and to instill an artificial sense of camaraderie and loyalty to their rival tribal teams which act as surrogates for the State.