The View From 1776

Educational Vandalism

Historically education preserved and transmitted to each generation the traditions of society.  Educators in the 19th and 20th centuries began to view the aim of education as destroying the American way of life.

(This essay is scheduled for posting on the upcoming edition of the Republican Voices Newsletter)

All of today’s educational problems stem from the philosophical views that spread throughout Europe and into the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries. 

For most of three hundred years, education first in the colonies, and then the United States, was aimed at teaching students to read, write, master basic mathematics, learn something about American history, absorb as much as they could about science, and especially at imparting Judeo-Christian morality via reading the Bible and the best literature of Western civilization.  In addition to being a means to prepare students for making their way in the world, education was a means to preserve and transmit the culture that was the unwritten constitution of the people, the glue that held society together, the shared understandings that made people Americans.

Despite some educators’ efforts to redirect this emphasis, such was the basic thrust of American education until the mid-1960s.  People were proud to be Americans and optimistic about our nation’s future.

It is, of course, obvious to everyone that such is no longer the case.  Society is split down the middle over issues of morality and the role of the Federal government, while educational proficiency slides inexorably toward the lower depths.

What happened?

In the United States after the Civil War, beginning around 1865, increasing numbers of educators swung to the view that the advent of industrialization and large corporations made true freedom for the average person an illusion.  Influenced by French and Marxian socialism, they theorized that the customs, traditions, laws, and religions of society had all been fabricated by the rich and powerful in order to exploit the workers.  As Marx described it, religion was the opium of the masses, intended to keep them from full awareness of the nature of their wretched conditions and prevent them from uniting to overthrow their oppressors.

Taking their cue from European Marxists and English socialists, these dissident educators believed that only by restructuring society to break the power of the undeserving rich, by eliminating private property, could true freedom be established.  The aim was a socialistic society in which decisions about production and distribution of goods and services would be made by workers’ councils.

Hence the about-face in educational theory that began in the increasingly liberal Eastern Establishment and spread to the upper Midwest, which had long been a redoubt of socialist believers.  Education was no longer simply to teach subject matter.  It was to inculcate new attitudes that would ultimately change all of the rules and customs of society.  Education was no longer to be just a transmission medium; it was to become the driving force to restructure society.

Various schools of educational theory came into being, all of them preoccupied with effecting change in society to comport with intellectuals’ ideas of social justice. 

Social justice, however, had nothing to do with traditional ideas of justice, such as reward in proportion to hard work and skill, or punishment befitting the crime.  It was a “justice” dealing only with the material conditions of everyday life, a “justice” that applied to all members of a social class, a “justice” that aimed to reduce everyone to the same level of economic and social condition. 

Social justice was, in the famous Marxian phrase, “from each according to ability, to each according to need,” without regard to effort, skill, or desert. 

Students no longer were modestly to respect their elders and to strive to be good citizens.  Educators were to graduate students fired with the exhortation to “go out and change the world.”

A major educational splinter movement resulted from John Dewey’s incorporation of pragmatic philosophy to produce progressive education. Dewey was a heart-and-soul socialist, but he leaned to the English Fabian version that preferred gradualism to the revolutionary offshoot of Marxism developed by V. I. Lenin in the Soviet Union.  Dewey admired the Soviet educational system, but wanted to get there gradually, by peaceful means.

Some of his acolytes were more impatient and preached a more vigorous and forceful assault on tradition.  They formed what came to be called the reconstructionism movement.  They intended to change society then and there.

Both progressive education and reconstructionism adopted the philosophy of pragmatism.  Both focused upon imparting attitudes that would be conducive to socialism, which Dewey and his intellectual cohort believed to be inevitable. 

The first task was to supplant Judeo-Christian morality with pragmatism’s moral relativism.  Marx had taught that society’s moral and religious traditions stood in the way of social justice.  The educator’s role was to discredit Judeo-Christian morality and to infuse students’ minds with a fairy-land picture of life under a good socialist society.  In George Orwell’s description of that utopia, “The abolition of private property, [Oscar Wilde] says, will make possible the full development of the individual and set us free from “the sordid necessity of living for others”. In the Socialist future there will not only be no want and no insecurity, there will also be no drudgery, no disease, no ugliness, no wastage of the human spirit in futile enmities and rivalries.” 

Readers will recognize in this the source of the “sensitivity” that leads Senators John Kerry and Teddy Kennedy to advocate turning America’s national defense over to the UN and leads liberals, in the wake of the the Hurricane Katrina fiasco in New Orleans, to call for reverting full-bore to the Great Society welfare-entitlements system to “eliminate poverty.”

Readers also will recognize that, if educators conceive their principal task to be undermining Judeo-Christian morality and what may be loosely called capitalism, then they can’t spend time on counter-productive matters like teaching students reading, writing, and mathematics, along with American history and traditions.  These are, in the Marxian formulation, the very things that keep people blindly mired in the system created by the rich and powerful to prevent them from organizing to seize power and bring socialism’s earthly heaven into being.

The result is multi-culturalism and political correctness.

Students must be taught to disparage their elders’ traditional values.  To impart moral relativism, for example, they are instructed on how to use condoms and how to engage in sexual promiscuity.  They are told not to heed their parents’ moral beliefs, but to make their own decisions (with no foundation of experience) about right and wrong.  Moral relativism preaches that you make it up as you go along; the only criterion is whether you get what you want.  This is what is known as “teaching students to think.”

Darwinian evolution teaches them that there is no God, that the minds of intellectuals are the only legitimate source of social-justice morality and political rule.  Judeo-Christian morality is dismissed as ignorance.

Nonetheless, despite the pretensions of socialism to reconstruct human nature along one-dimensional, rational lines, people still seek a metaphysical explanation for the meaning of their existence, the answer most perfectly revealed, in my personal faith, by Christianity.  In place of Judeo-Christian morality, contemporary education reverts to crude, ancient paganisms having more in common with prehistoric Druidism than with modern science: feminism, environmentalism, animal rights, black cultism, and worship of homosexuality.  There is nothing wrong with any of these, of course, so long as each is kept in perspective and not elevated as an object of veneration.

Multi-culturalism tells students that our American traditions are no better than any others, that we should strive to create a society with no common traditions (which amounts to anarchy). Students are given “experiences” with plays, projects, and field trips calculated to infuse a communal attitude that will equip them to live happily in a socialist world.  They are taught that the United States was settled by criminals who stole land from American Indians, who lived in societies of perfect benevolence in which strife was unknown.  They are taught that the United States is an imperialistic oppressor of the world’s peoples.

Diversions like setting standards and “teaching to test” in order to master academic subject matter must not interfere with multi-culturalism’s and political-correctness’s goal of making all students into amoral Blue-State voters.

Visit MoveOff Network Members