Whether his intention in giving back to the country that made him super wealthy was altruistic is debatable and shall be debatable. Saint or capitalist sinner, John D. Rockefeller undoubtedly changed the face of business in America as well as its attitude toward education.
John D. Rockefeller, the storied industrial mogul and philanthropist “...appeared to the general public either as a demon of avarice and extortion...or as a high-minded philanthropist, bestowing his bounty with charitable devotion to good works” (Latham, Introduction v). It is undeniable, however, that perhaps one of the most important contributions by Rockefeller was in the area of education. Generally today we think of the State University of New York (SUNY) system as one of the finest in the country and we credit Rockefeller for its original and ongoing funding. Yet one wonders based on evidence presented whether his motives were as pure as most would like to think. Gatto’s quote of Benjamin Kidd, the British evolutionist, provides a chilling analysis of these intentions as a way for him and the “Education Trust” of the early twentieth century to “impose on the young the idea of subordination” (Chapter 2:2) – a subordination that would ultimately further the goals of capitalist endeavors by creating a malleable workforce. Rockefeller himself in the 1906 Occasional Letter Number One is quoted by Gatto: “...In our dreams...people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands” (Chapter 2: 2) Rockefeller goes on to admit his intention [and the intention of capitalist support of mass education] is not to educate great thinkers but to “organize children...and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way” (Gatto, Chapter 2:2).
Intentions aside, and Rockefeller’s view of what he was actually promoting