The official use of common schooling was invented by Plato; after him the idea languished, its single torchbearer the Church. Educational offerings from the Church were intended for, though not completely limited to, those young whose parentage qualified them as a potential Guardian class. You would hardly know this from reading any standard histories of Western schooling intended for the clientele of teacher colleges.
Intense development of the Platonic ideal of comprehensive social control through schooling suddenly reappeared two-thousand years later in eighteenth-century France at the hands of a philosophical cultus known to history as philosophes, enthusiastic promoters of the bizarre idea of mass forced schooling. Most prominent among them, a self-willed man named Jean Jacques Rousseau. To add piquancy to Rousseau’s thought, you need to know that when they were born, he chose to give away his own five offspring to strangers at birth. If any man captures the essence of enlightenment transformation, it is Rousseau.
The Enlightenment “project” was conceived as a series of stages, each further leveling mankind, collectivizing ordinary humanity into a colonial organism like a volvox.
The ideal of a leveling Oriental pedagogy expressed through government schooling was promoted by Jacobin orators of the French National Convention in the early 1790s, the commencement years of our own republic. The notion of forced schooling was irresistible to French radicals, an enthusiasm whose foundation had been laid in preceding centuries by utopian writers like Harrington (Oceania), More (Utopia), Bacon (New Atlantis), Campanella (City of the Sun), and in other speculative fantasy embracing the fate of children. Cultivating a collective social organism was considered the ingredient missing from feudal society, an ingredient which would allow the West the harmony and stability of the East.
Utopian schooling (was) never about learning in the traditional sense; it’s about the transformation of human nature.