Obama, Freud, and the American Progressives' Guilt Trip

At the turn of the twentieth century, an early "progressive" Vermonter named John Dewey kick-started a makeover of America's education system. At the conclusion of the second of his seminal works, The School and Society and The Child and the Curriculum, Dewey offered these bits of wisdom.

But save as the teacher knows, knows wisely and thoroughly, the race-expression which is embodied in that thing we call the Curriculum, the teacher knows neither what the present power, capacity, or attitude is, nor yet how it is to be asserted, exercised, and realized.

Even in this final sentence, as in the preceding 122 pages, Dewey's words imitate concepts but depict few cogent thoughts. Yet nonsensical theorizing was the stuff of fledgling progressives' dreams. And so from The Child and the Curriculum emerged a construct that Dewey called the "psychologizing"[1] of education, and progressives would use his unsupported contentions to pervert the process by which education would be conducted over the next hundred years.

Psychologizing introduced an emotionalism to education that defocused the student from facts, knowledge, and contributing to the prosperity of society. Teachers gradually split into factions, with ruinous consequences for American society. Some teachers continued to embrace the knowledge goal, but many of them began to indoctrinate their captive young sponges in "critical thinking" -- a euphemism for rabidly questioning everything and adopting a mindset that rejects all that has gone before. Traditional American values and free-market capitalism have become primary targets of critical thinking.

Dewey-indoctrinated educators have helped to sicken American culture. On the website Minding the Campus, former State University of New York Board of Trustees member Candace de Russy lists questions found on a completed exam discovered by a colleague in an eastern American college classroom.

Question: How does the United States "steal" the resources of other (third world) [sic] countries?

Answer: We steal through exploitation. Our multinationals are aware that indigenous people in developing nations have been coaxed off their plots and forced into slums. Because it is lucrative, our multinationals offer them extremely low wage labor [sic] that cannot be turned down.

Question: Why is the U.S. on shaky moral ground when it comes to preventing illegal immigration?

Answer: Some say that it is wrong of the United States to prevent illegal immigration because the same people we are denying entry to, [sic] we have exploited for the purpose of keeping the American wheel spinning.

Question: Please briefly explain the matrix of domination.

Answer: the [sic] belief that domination has more than one dimension. For example, Males [sic] are dominant over females, whites over blacks, and affluent over impoverished.

These questions, and the answers supplied by a student and accepted by the instructor, provide a taste of the professorial moralizing that churns out mush-minded "critical thinkers." Dr. de Russy observes, "A student who matriculates in [sociology] will have nothing in the way of useful skills, but will be convinced that his country is rotten to the core, and that whites and males are evil." This is exactly what too many social studies academics want students to believe, for these academics cling to the first guiding principle of the impassioned ideologue: Agenda trumps reality.

A product of Harvard and Columbia Universities, President Barack Obama declared his desire to "fundamentally transform the United States of America." But why? An emotionally stable man in love with a woman does not wish to "fundamentally transform" her. Yet our president would have us believe that when the object of his love is his country, he has license to remake his loved one into something he'd really love -- really.

Remaking countries into faint shadows of their former selves is nothing new. Rising industrial powers China and India stress math and science skills in their young, but Dewey-loving educators have helped push America to the edge of the same socioeconomic sinkhole that sucked down the United Kingdom and much of Europe after World War II. Academic progressives are infecting yet another generation with the belief that America has been a force for evil which must be chastened by descending the evolutionary ladder to rebirth itself in the image of a Continental social democracy. Schools condition kindergarteners and graduate students alike to embrace the rants of angry dogmatists peddling "truth." Tea-partiers now echo the cries of 234 years of American souls as the stewards of their country are fed made-up ugliness.

Progressivism gained altitude in the early 1900s, when the left began to mainline poison flowing from the typewriters of elite philosophical intelligentsia. Talking trash about America became a prerequisite for enlightenment. In 1920, Sigmund Freud wrote, "The tension between the harsh super-ego and the ego that is subjected to it is called by us the sense of guilt ... Civilization obtains mastery over the individual's dangerous desire for aggression by weakening and disarming it and by setting up an agency within him to watch over it, like a garrison in a conquered city"[2]. Historian Paul Johnson points out that liberals morphing into progressives gulped this kind of psychobabble in order to sell their guilt-urge as "a sign not of vice, but of virtue"[3]. Beneath this contrived virtue hides the fragile progressive psyche.

Barack Obama, quintessential embodiment of that psyche, fears the responsibility that accompanies Freud's "aggression" -- aggression of the sort required to defend America, a country guilty of so much evil. Progressives reject actions to which their haywire minds assign evil intent, and any aggression in defense of the malevolent empire reflects evil intent. Furthermore, aggression means action, and action takes time -- time that the pseudo-intellectual needs for theorizing impossible theories. Therefore, in place of physical aggression, Obama summons guilt, softens it with manufactured feel-good platitudes, apologizes for his guilty country, and plays Ring around the Rosie with murderous Iranian and al-Qaeda thugs. In his spare time, the president invites economic ruin with policies adorned in "fairness" and sold through eloquence. Progressive shame often wears such hypnotic camouflage.

Guilt renders the virtuous progressive superior. Our naïve president is a most dangerously naïve product of educational, media, political, and cultural elitism. Purveyors of this elitism have successfully drilled generations of Americans in the "thinking" required to accept guilt where none is warranted. Those elitists' efforts have bred unhealthy social trends and economic policies sufficient to cast the future of America in a far dimmer light than traditional values and sound economics would otherwise have assured.

Damn Dewey and damn Freud, both of whom appear to have been utterly incapable of appreciating the destructiveness in what they preached. Damn today's progressives, who seem genuinely unable to grasp the ruin they call down on America, so blinded are they by their unremitting, high-minded guilt.

A physicist and former 21-year high tech executive, Chuck Rogér was a columnist for a Phoenix newspaper and now blogs at chuckroger.com. Email: swampcactus@chuckroger.com.

[1] John Dewey, The School and Society and The Child and the Curriculum, BN Publishing, 2008, p. 117.

[2] Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, 1920, pp. 70-81.

[3] Paul Johnson, Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2001, p. 11.