The View From 1776

Withered Fruit Of Progressive Education

While liberal-progressive educators preen themselves about teaching students “to think,” knowledge gained in public schools has declined dangerously since student activist days in the 1960s.  Along with the diminished breadth and depth of subject knowledge has come a reduced ability to reason systematically and to understand the nature of the degradation of society wrought by liberal-progressivism.

Declining educational quality in our public schools is egregious in two aspects: what is taught and shrunken vocabularies.  Today’s textbooks present falsified versions of history, economics, and political science.  Students read too little and thus acquire inadequate vocabularies.  Words are the essential tools of the mind for understanding and analyzing concepts and processes.

E. D. Hirsch, Jr. analyzes the vocabulary problem on the City Journal website.  Read A Wealth of Words: The key to increasing upward mobility is expanding vocabulary.

I haves written extensively in The Liberal Jihad - The Hundred-Year War Against the Constitution about what is taught as opposed to teaching methodology.

If students don’t know the facts of American history and don’t understand the complex political, philosophical, and religious issues that produced that history, it is absolutely impossible for them to form meaningful judgments about the politically-correct, multi-cultural doctrine they are given in the classroom.

Even Derek Bok, a vigorous defender of social-justice touchstones such as affirmative action and multi-cultural, PC education, has been compelled to confront the shortcomings of “learning how to think.” Fomerly president of Harvard University, Mr. Bok was called back to that post after Lawrence Summers was forced out in 2006 for offending feminists.

Mr. Bok wrote: “Many seniors graduate without being able to write well enough to satisfy their employers. Many cannot reason clearly or perform competently in analyzing complex, non-technical problems, even though faculties rank critical thinking as the primary goal of a college education. Few undergraduates receiving a degree are able to speak or read a foreign language. Most have never taken a course in quantitative reasoning or acquired the knowledge needed to be a reasonably informed citizen in a democracy. And those are only some of the problems.”

John Dewey, during the first half of the 20th century, was the single most influential voice in corrupting American education. His philosophical pragmatism used Darwinian evolution as a pseudo-intellectual rationalization that everything is in constant flux, so there could be no such thing as timeless and universal principles of morality. In Dewey’s pragmatism, there are only actions that work or do not work; there is no right or wrong; the end justifies the means.

An earlier version of Dewey’s pragmatic sophistry, according to Thucydides, Plato, and Aristotle, corrupted public morality and led to the political and economic downfall of Periclean Athens in the BC 5th century Peloponnesian War.

Much has been written about the disintegration of American education. Among the many are three that you should make a point to read: Thomas Sowell’s Inside American Education: The Decline, The Deception, The Dogmas; Alan Charles Kors’s and Harvey A. Silverglate’s The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses and Diane Ravitch’s Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms.

Professor Ravitch catalogs the ideologies that began to take over American education around 1910. Professor Sowell describes the effects of those ideologies on present-day school curricula. And Professor Kors, collaborating with ACLU attorney Silverglate, describes the Big Brother enforcement methods of liberal-progressive-socialists to foreclose all classroom or campus dissent against the radical socialism that is taught as the uniquely scientific truth.

Today in the United States education is a cross between trade school and Socialist Youth indoctrination. The end product is a confused mush of “self esteem” with little solid content, coupled with a rabid desire to punish the United States for it purported crimes against humanity.