How Ideology Is Killing Education (and So Much Else)
A teacher in Florida called me up to rant about the educational situation in her state. "There is an obsession," she said, "with the worse-off students."
She said the school officials there proclaim in response: "But what about the people with pathologies? They can't advance very far. It's fairer if we bring everybody along together." This kind of talk is more and more common these days.
Notice that there is no obsession with curing the pathologies, or with devising better methods to help disadvantaged kids rise above their disadvantages. No, the answer is to reduce the better students to the level of the worse students. Where does this go?
Suppose that half of the people in your city are sick. Do we best help them by making the other half sick? Yes, according to leaders in our education establishment. This is a repellent sophistry. When all are sick, who is going to solve the crisis and lead everybody back to health?
Schools cannot be in the business of trying to predict winners and losers. Nobody knows what will unfold ten or twenty years from now. Why not give each child the best possible education that human ingenuity can devise? In this way, students are better off, no matter each one's destiny. Society is better off. Quite simply, the proper goal of public education is to push every student as far as each student can go.
Unfortunately, many in the education establishment have exactly the opposite goal. They follow the Progressive (that is, Socialist) teachings of John Dewey. They believe in leveling; they are working to achieve "equality of outcomes."
Elite educators speak a great deal these days about "fairness" and "social justice." When you hear these phrases, be very afraid that millions of students will be given a shabby education on purpose.
After all, what's the easiest way to achieve equal outcomes? You educate downward. You give everybody the same inferior education. But how can this be described as "fairness" or "justice"? Only far-left ideologues think this way.
So here we come to the essential immorality. In order to serve their philosophical beliefs, some in education's top echelon are willing to dumb down children.
Pretending to care about the downtrodden but making sure everyone is down-trodden? Is this ethically defensible?
The central problem is that the Marxist goal of redistributing wealth has been jury-rigged into education, where this ideology morphs into a demand for equalizing knowledge, educational results, and, if possible, intelligence.
Anita shouldn't have more than Debbie. Everyone must know the same things. Everyone must get an A. And there is the death of education.
It's not just the ideology per se that is undermining education -- maybe a little Marxism could be helpful. But here is what is really killing us: the willingness of extremists to pursue their logic to the bitter end. When these social engineers talk about "bringing everybody along together," they mean one big herd.
What goes on in the minds of such fanatics? Can you stand to look into their dark hearts? Consider Cloward (now deceased) and Piven, two far-left professors who hatched a cruel plot for destroying the U.S. economy as a way of advancing Socialism. (Some claim that Obama has been influenced by these ideas.)
Here's one writer's summary of Cloward-Piven:
The duo taught that if you flooded the welfare rolls and bankrupted the cities and ultimately the nation, it would foster economic collapse, which would lead to political turmoil so severe that socialism would be accepted as a fix to an out-of-control set of circumstances. The idea was that if people were starving and the only way to eat was to accept government cheese, rather than starve, the masses would agree to what they would otherwise reject.
Aren't these professors some cold fish? They want to serve humanity by making everyone destitute and desperate. And what will victory look like when all are crushed? Most probably the end of civilization as we know it.
The entire society or only the schools -- it's all the same program. Overload the system -- make it unworkable until it runs off a cliff. Would such extremists shy away from dumbing down public schools, all the way to the lowest common denominator? Of course not. If they could snap their fingers and make all children the same, they would do it.
Consider Bill Ayers, one of President Obama's closest friends and confidants. Ayers said: "I get up every morning and think, today I'm going to make a difference. Today I'm going to end capitalism. Today I'm going to make a revolution."
This guy is a professor of education. He used to fight capitalism by blowing up banks. Now he wants to blow up public education. Do you suppose he would hesitate to remove any smidgen of intellect that remains in his way?
Finally, with heartless theoreticians like Cloward, Piven, and Ayers in charge, the weight of educational failure will collapse the school system, just as the weight of poverty will collapse society. That's what we see all around us. That's what these fanatics work to achieve.
And what is the answer? Point out the obvious: there's no "fairness" in making everyone illiterate and ignorant, no "social justice" in mutual poverty. These faddish phrases are rhetorical frauds.
And what is the ultimate refutation of this ideology?
The people pushing it never intend it to apply to themselves and their families. No, Ayers, Cloward, Piven, and the like will have a big office and a swell apartment wherever the nomenclatura live. You and your kids will be serfs. That's fair.
Bruce Deitrick Price is an author and education reformer. He founded Improve-Education.org in 2005; his site explains theories and methods.