I have a few questions for you. 1. Do you believe the school system in the US has a socialist agenda? 2. Is this agenda by the president unprecedented? 3. Because the schools all receive money/laws/guidance/leadership from the federal government, and the fed govt [sic] is run by the current administration, is it wrong for the current admin to "fulfill" this leadership by "leading" the students regardless of what some of the parents want?Thanks for your thoughts!
I like these questions! They’re much better than the questions on Obama’s original Department of Education lesson plan. Your questions get down to the foundational/worldview level of this issue, which I had been meaning to address. Thanks for the exegesis. Now to your questions.
1. Do you believe the school system in the U.S. has a socialist agenda?
Are you trying to get me in trouble? I have friends and family members who are public school teachers. This is going to be the longest of the three responses to Rachel’s questions, so buckle up.
I believe that American public schools have a mission-statement agenda originating from its governing bodies (the National Education Association/Department of Education). I don’t know if this agenda is “socialist” by definition, or even that this agenda is felt as heavily (if at all) in certain school districts/individual schools. A good friend of mine teaches at a high school in Colorado Springs, Colo., which is the home of Focus on the Family. His district is staunchly “Republican”/non-socialist, which is a huge contrast to, say, the Washington, D.C., or San Francisco school districts.
Even within more “socialistic” districts, or districts that actively push a statist agenda, teachers still have a certain level of freedom in which to operate. Again, this varies by district. A Colorado middle school teacher held a mock trial to determine whether humans are the cause of climate change. Such teaching tools are innovative, clever, and definitely void of any “socialist” agenda.
Examining the level of “agenda setting” on a case-by-case basis is fascinating and insightful, but doesn’t fully answer the question. I think it is fairly plain to see that the public school system over the last 80 years has been operating on a politically and theologically left-leaning axis. Evolution is the only “scientific” theory taught in the text books. Prayer and Bible reading were banned in the early 1960s. Intolerance of the homosexual lifestyle is not tolerated. In practically every respect and subject of learning, the worldview being taught is decidedly antagonistic towards Christian principles and a Judeo-Christian life system of limited government, faith in God and personal responsibility.
If there is any agenda coursing through the public school system, it is one steeped in materialistic naturalism and experiential relativism. For this, we can thank John Dewey, the man unanimously regarded as the architect of our modern education system. His thoughts and theories on education have impacted the U.S. education system (and thus our entire civilization) through and through.
For a good understanding of where Dewey was coming from intellectually, his summary of his religious beliefs is a good starting point. He believed that “. . . faith in the prayer-hearing God is an unproved and outmoded faith. There is no God and there is no soul. Hence, there are no needs for the props of traditional religion. With dogma and creed excluded, then immutable truth is also dead and buried. There is no room for fixed, natural law or moral absolutes.”
Dewey was an avowed Darwinian naturalist and one of the leading pragmatists of his day, along with William James and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. His pragmatic humanism determined his outlook and behavior toward every facet of life. More than just a philosopher, Dewey was a pioneer in behavioral psychology, and his work in this field is a critical component to his education philosophy.
His approach toward educational philosophy was driven by his belief that the “props of traditional religion” are bogus – and that experience is the driving force behind the construction of reality. So he developed a learning methodology that reflected the paradigm that everything – the physical world, animal species, and even the mind – is the product of millions of years of evolution. If everything is matter, and if man is simply “a biological organism subject to the changes and adaptations required by his environment,” then the mind is material as well. Thus, beliefs, convictions, and ideas are ever-evolving survival tools – like teeth, claws, feathers, etc. If an idea works, we can call it “true.” Indeed, “immutable truth is . . . dead and buried. There is no room for . . . moral absolutes.”
What does an education system based on this worldview look like? To Dewey, it was all about the “group.”
As Lewis Alesen wrote in his 1958 work Mental Robots, Dewey believed that since “there is no absolute truth . . . or moral law, the progressive educator sees no use in wasting the students’ time in studying history, because, of course, what other men have done and thought in the past is not of any particular value, as the circumstances under which they lived were entirely different from those facing the student and citizen today.” (This is called moral relativism. “Truth” evolves just like monkeys evolve into humans.)
Instead, the progressive educator seeks to impress upon the students’ minds that the good of the whole or group should come before the development of the individual. As Dewey wrote in 1916 in Democracy and Education:
There is always the danger that increased personal independence will decrease the social capacity of an individual. In making him more self-reliant, it may make him more self-sufficient. . . . It often makes an individual so insensitive in his relations to others as to develop an illusion of being really able to stand and act alone – an unnamed form of insanity which is responsible for a large part of the remedial suffering of the world.In My Pedagogic Creed, written in 1897, Dewey stated:
The only true education comes through the stimulation of the child’s powers by the demands of the social institution in which he finds himself. Through these demands, he is stimulated to act as a member of a unity, to emerge from his original narrowness of action and feeling, and to conceive of himself from the standpoint of the welfare of the group to which he belongs.The success and health of the at-large “group” (a collective population under a massive, government body) is paramount even to traditional courses of study. Dewey went so far as to say that “introducing the child too abruptly to a number of special studies [including] reading, writing, geography, etc.” results in the “sustaining force behind individualism.”
Translation: it is more important for students to assimilate to the group, thus ensuring a better adaptation (behavioral psych, anyone?) to their environment, than for them to learn life skills. Why? Because then the students are dependent upon the institution (“the group”) for their happiness – the chief aim in a life that is only composed of matter and lacking any transcendent truth. And in a world where there is no Higher Being to look to for purpose and value, the State becomes that force of divinity and higher calling. The goal of Dewey’s education model was to create entire generations of mind-numb citizens dependent on a system of government/bureaucracies that manage every aspect of their lives.
If any of this sounds socialistic/statist in nature, we’re getting close to answering question #1. But fellow Humanist Charles F. Potter clarifies how high/how important the stakes are in education: “Education is thus a most power ally of humanism, and every public school is a school of humanism. What can the theistic Sunday school, meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teachings?”
Dr. Chester Pierce, speaking at the Childhood International Education Seminar in 1973, called every five-year old child “insane” because “he comes to school with certain allegiances to our Founding Fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, and toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity.”
What do you do with insane (read: sick) students? You heal them. Pierce’s remedy: public education. “It’s up to you as teachers to make all these sick children well – by creating the international child of the future.”
These “international children” are necessary for what Dewey called the “larger social evolution.” Individualism (insanity) kills all evolutionary progress.
In 1932, Dewey became the honorary president of the NEA. In 1933, he helped write the first Humanist Manifesto. The rest, as they say, is history. Today, the NEA is the leading lobbying group for teachers and the elite, professional educational community. Suffice it to say, they haven’t deviated from Dewey’s course.
2. Is this agenda by the president unprecedented?
Hard to say. There wasn’t much of an “agenda” in the President Obama’s speech. There was an agenda in the first draft of the “lesson plans” that sought to positively reinforce the students’ image and grandeur of Obama. Talk about behavioral psychology. But, no, the President’s speech was generic, positive platitudes about working hard and doing well in school. Fine. That’s great. But knowing what we know now about the original goals of public education, is it really so great that the President pushes a dependency on the public school system and excelling in that arena?
3. Because the schools all receive money/laws/guidance/leadership from the federal government, and the fed govt [sic] is run by the current administration, is it wrong for the current admin to "fulfill" this leadership by "leading" the students regardless of what some of the parents want?
It’s permissible and that’s where the problem lies. Can someone please explain to me why the President of the United States (ANY President at ANY time) should be “leading” the students in the public school system? Shouldn’t be his job, shouldn’t be on his radar. Yet since the public schools are government-owned indoctrination centers, you’re correct in stating that Obama’s actions are merely a logical follow-through of his leadership over the entire education system. That’s a frightening thought.
The biggest issue I have with the public school system is the lack of local/parental control on the curriculum and programs being taught. Like I said earlier, though, the “agenda” isn’t pervasive. Location, demographics and size of school/school district have a lot to do with what is taught and how it’s taught.
Again, teachers still have some freedom as to how they prepare and present information. Parents still (depending on district location/size) have a say as to what is being taught. The VP of the ad agency I work at signed his kids out of the classes they would have been in during Obama’s speech. A couple of the private schools in Fort Collins didn’t even show the speech. It seems undeniable, though, that this local/parental control has been gradually slipping away over the last few decades.
But do you think Dewey cared what the parents want? According to Pierce, young students are “insane” because they have been reared and have received values from their parents. Someone with Obama’s background – “community” organizer, a statist in a populist’s clothing – buys into the “good of the group” mentality. Why else does he keep calling for us to be “our brother’s keeper”?
I should note that the John Deweys of the world have failed to create the “international child” – on a massive scale, anyway. In 1918, the British sociologist Benjamin Kidd wrote, “Give us the Young and we will create a new mind and new earth in a single generation.” I believe our country (and most of the Western world) has been feeling the effects of Dewey’s vision over the last few decades, but it has definitely taken them much longer than they originally hoped. And certainly individualism is still the norm in American life, and not the exception. In Europe, however, it’s a different story.
Dewey and the other progressive humanists underestimated the will of the American mind. Once a people get a taste of individual liberty and responsibility, and the fruits of that freedom, they don’t like it when those freedoms are taken away. That, in my mind, is why the health insurance "reform" battle is so critical. The dependence and assimilation that Dewey wanted to imprint on students’ minds is finally making good on the trademark issue of socialism and abdication to the State: government-run health care.
Globalism has in its roots humanistic/statist elements because it de-emphasizes the individual. From “universal health care”, to a global currency and trans-national governing bodies like the U.N., the goal is to strip away local responsibility and individual freedom. How do you work to herd the masses into these constricting, authoritarian states? How do you breed the “international child”? I think Potter had the best answer, with “a five-day (per week) program of humanistic teachings”.
I would be more than remise if I didn’t close with recognizing the people who have stood their ground to fight the naturalistic relativism and state-glorifying humanism. The thousands of Christians who teach in public schools deserve our never-ending gratitude. So do the thousands of Christian parents who continue to instruct their children and take an active role in their education. From a biblical viewpoint, parents are ultimately responsible for the education of their children. But together, God-fearing parents and teachers have fought for Truth in a truth-less world, preserving the Gospel and individual freedoms for past generations and even the generations to come.
Anyway, if you haven't clicked-out or fallen asleep yet, I hope this whole thing made sense. Thanks for being here.