The Four Horsemen of the Education Apocalypse

America watches in horror as ravaging mobs of young, mostly black, people tear through American towns burning cars and businesses, looting and vandalizing, screaming obscenities and mindless chants. Our president blames slavery -- gone now for over 150 years, blacks blame the cops, journalists blame poverty, but so far no one has blamed the educational system.

If you spend between 12 and 16 years telling kids:

  • that they are victims of gross unfairness,
  • that they have no hope unless somebody else fixes things for them,
  • that the system is rigged against them,

then you shouldn’t be astounded when they blow up. This is a fuse that’s been burning for a long time and for the last few decades the left has been vigorously fanning that flame, so KABOOM!

Just as the blacks have been fed a diet of self-defeating victimization, so the white youth of this country have been served up a dozen years of unrelenting guilt that has withered their souls. We fuss about the Michelle lunches, but let’s look at what they’re being served in the classroom. It’s no more appetizing and nutritious than the limp, beige fare in the cafeteria. Much of what’s gone wrong in American education can be organized into 4 main categories, 4 horsemen that have caused this social apocalypse.

1.) The first Horseman is called Neutrality. He isn’t neutral; educators just use that term because the schools are supposed to be impartial in regard to both politics and religion. This so-called "fairness" is closely associated with and bolstered by the misunderstood and mythological “separation of church and state.” True, we don’t want the public schools teaching church doctrine, but what happens to a child’s view of the world if he attends a school (where he’s supposed to be learning really important things) that never mentions God and even actively teaches against His existence? Look at science or health curricula today to see what I mean. Those classes are not neutral.

If a child is lucky enough to have parents who teach him about the Creator and have done a good job of it, the child can come out of public education without a lot of obvious damage, but those parents are rare and research done by the Barna Group shows that 70% of students raised in Christian homes come away from their education years seriously doubting what they learned in their churches and homes. That alone is a clear demonstration that schools are anything but neutral on religious issues.

Nor are they neutral on political issues. The last survey I read showed that over 80% of the members of the teachers’ unions were registered Democrats. Nothing shocked my students more than to discover that I was a conservative. I had the reputation of being one of the truly intellectual teachers on campus and I also taught modern dance, so how in the world could I be a registered Republican? They all knew those people were stuffy and stupid and racist. The biases they’d been taught in other classrooms was obvious.

In reality, there is no neutral. One may be able to hold onto pure objectivity for the short duration of a jury trial, but for an entire career? No human being can do that. It quickly becomes unnatural and some of us teach in areas where it’s just impossible: history, science, health, all the soft sciences, economics, and my discipline, language arts. How do you teach any classic literature and not find biblical references everywhere? How do you avoid the traditional classics and still give students an accurate idea of their culture? How do you allow them to discuss their own perceptions and maintain that pure, don’t-talk-about-God mandate? Can’t be done.

Another main problem with neutrality is that it belies the concept of absolute truth. If we teach kids, and believe me, we do, that there is no such thing as absolute truth then we’ve undermined the main point of education. A truly well educated person is one who has spent his life trying to find that truth. An educated person is not just a human being who has been trained to do a job – though that is the view of the state.

How can we expect kids to work hard learning if nothing we teach them is true? And -- to get back to our riots -- how can we then expect that they’ll care about the facts, the truth of an event. They’ve been taught and taught and taught again that they have a right to their own truth, that there are no objective facts, that everyone is biased. If they want to believe in “hands up; don’t shoot” then they can, regardless of the truth.

2.) The next Horseman is called Political Correctness and is also known as Multiculturalism. This idea is very tempting to a school. It’s a shortcut to teaching true human decency and respect. Merely insist, mindlessly, on the eradication of certain taboo words and that will create the illusion of mutual admiration and esteem. It’s a get-out-of-jail-free card. Go past go and collect your $200. You get your Girl Scout Kindness badge just for abstaining from derogatory terms, intentional or unintentional. I was once castigated by the director of the school’s Second Language program for referring to her students as “Hispanic.” I hadn’t read the latest PC dictum -- they were to be called “Latino” -- or “Latina.” Somewhere along the line “Hispanic” had become a pejorative term.

This rider, too, chips away at the concept of truth. We’ve recently seen that on the news. We are no longer to refer to the roving gangs of marauders as “thugs.” No mention of the term’s Hindu origins, to its original reference to the murdering gangs of India know as the “Thugs” (pronounced “toogs”). Now it’s taken its place in the halls of negative ways to refer to people of color. And this was done by fiat from the all-powerful media, so be sure the schools will enforce it.

3.) Our third Horseman is closely related to the second and is known as Tolerance. This horseman also masquerades as a loving, accepting, lenient, warm and fuzzy person. But here again, truth takes a beating and so does Christianity. This guy demands tolerance even of things and behaviors that should not in any polite society be tolerated. The Baltimore mayor applied tolerance to the behavior of the rioters in her city -- at the expense of over 200 businesses that were in no way responsible for the outrage of the demonstrators. “Allow them room to destroy,” she said. Tolerate this behavior. It’s easier than judging that behavior, easier than calling them on their adult tantrums. Just shut down thought and put up with whatever.

This attitude also undermines education. Half the fun of reaching outside of your self to learn is the discovery of behaviors and events and occurrences that are outrageous. How horrible it is that Eskimo tribes would set their unwanted babies and their elderly on ice flows and leave them to drift off into their cold and lonely destiny. But today that would be presented to students as entirely acceptable behavior because we are being tolerant. (And it’s not that much different than a late term abortion or a convenient euthanasia.) That tolerance renders a great deal of education boring. If we don’t have to guard against negative behavior, or try to fix it, why know about it? What’s the point?

4.) The last horseman we call Self-Esteem. We call him Self for short. Because that is what we’ve done -- made the student the center of the curriculum and made his feelings about himself of paramount importance. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating returning to the Dickensian approach of numbering students and humiliating them whenever possible. But does all the literature they read have to be set in this century and sport main characters no older than the students? Do we have to give out awards for everything? Long ago I quit attending awards night at our school; it was such a farce.

We’ve given our children the idea that they can do nothing wrong. After all, nothing is really right or wrong -- see Horseman #1 -- and we’re to be tolerant, aren’t we – see Horseman #3 -- and it wouldn’t be PC to call the students out for being lazy, good-for-little, nincompoops even if they are, in fact, behaving that way. And look at what that’s given us – towns full of people who think the world should bow before them just because they are there. And we have been rendered powerless because we cannot 1) demand truth, or 2) call it as we see it, or 3) let it be known that we will not tolerate this disrespect, or 4) in any way demean their poor sensitivities.

Can we not just snap our fingers the way a hypnotist does and yank our young out of the trance we’ve put them in? Do we really have to live with this? And worse yet, double down on what we’ve done? We could make quite a noise if we all snapped our fingers together. Or are we just going to send our children off to keep riding with the Four Horsemen?

Deana Chadwell blogs at She teaches writing and public speaking at Pacific Bible College in southern Oregon.