Marxism and Education
At Columbia University's Teachers College, in the early years of the 20th century, a handful of men inspired by "laws of social evolution" gathered to presume a "science" of education linked with a "science" of human behavior. They were no mere researchers. Their sights were on nothing less than the establishment of a new social order.
Laws? Science? The scientific method bends out of shape over things like the will. Love, hate, loyalty, treachery, humility, arrogance, and many other common items of human experience melt science down to its core. And the study of humans by humans is – well, circular, is it not?
The intellectual arrogance, not to say quackery, of men like John Dewey may be forgiven as a human weakness. But lording over one's fellows by presuming to make of them a better breed smells not only of conceit, but of treachery. In this plot – a good one for mad scientist movies – parent and pastor were to take a back seat while behavioral "experts" rewired the strands of human behavior, using schoolchildren as experimental subjects. Their motive? A new age was dawning. It was a matter of when, not if, collectivism and socialism would come to America. Was it not the task of the public educator to prepare its subjects for the new order? Was it not the job of the public teacher to change basic perceptions, attitudes, social relations?
That such high horsing violates democratic basics meant nothing to these "progressives." To them, democracy was less a form of government than a means for "reforming" society. Today's "liberals" still believe that. For them, "majority" meant a body to be molded.
The founders of our republic labored diligently to ensure a level political playing field for themselves and for posterity. But reformist heavyweights of the early 20th century saw fit to tilt the field their way or risk failing in their mission to groom American society for a collectivist future.
Their methodology was and remains to indoctrinate the public through school, media, and church, under the rubrics of "science" and "experts" and "studies" and – most conniving of all – "the changing times." Individuals who think for themselves and express unorthodox views must be marginalized and denied equal access to media, market, and due process. Collectivist agenda operatives are still as anxious as ever to ram their great ideas down the public throat. If it means becoming "journalists," political activists, "social justice" mercenaries, or "pastors," lying and deceiving are not a problem.
How can any majority weed out bad ideas when ideas don't circulate freely and compete in an open market? When journalists spread political narratives instead of reporting the news? When the curiosity of the child, who asks why-why-why, is dulled or washed out by graduation time? When church and school become conduits of propaganda instead of places for reflection and learning?
It was from the early-twentieth-century Pandora's box of questionable theory and Marxist fever that the missionaries for educational reform issued. The minds of the young in this country – particularly those who as teachers and leaders were to transmit the gospel of a new social order – were subverted by Marxist activists a long time ago.
Do you wonder why you never got this in history?
Reorienting the mind
I thought it silly, while in school in 1946, to let kids do what they wanted to do in school. For me, and for a school pal, the "Progressive" experiment was great fun. My friend Bob and I were permitted to cut classes we didn't care for in favor of painting murals on the walls of Brooklyn's Halsey Junior High School. That we both succeeded academically proves not the wisdom of Dewey's theories but that diligent students manage to transcend obstacles to their progress.
Progressive educators now wire young minds via satellite, assuming an unfounded desirability of forming a global community of similar (washed) minds. What's wrong with globalist thinking is a subject for a library. But the right to be different and to associate with those of like kind and mind continues to shelve the one-world notion of human association under "Fiction."
Quality of life faded after "group" trumped individual, a side-effect of progressive leveling. The pressure to conform replaced the incentive to rise. Group orientation made it easier to alienate youth from family and tradition, a precondition for forming a collective social order. This is a society that links generation with generation in shared values and cultural ties interferes with establishing a collective society under totalitarian rule.
New-age honchos like to operate behind the scenes, à la the Wizard of Oz, pulling levers of screen, magazine, lyrics, and stage to alter society by filling budding minds with "politically correct" images and ideas, playing on youth's innocence and natural idealism, stirring passions untempered by reflection. The result of a long plague of such brainwashing and indoctrination is a base of voters with moral and intellectual disability and an abiding aversion to family, country, God, and truth.
The mental holiday declared by early progressive educators spawned a most dangerous social myth, that of value-neutral ethics. A value-neutral society is for all purposes a valueless society. Freed of timeless standards of ethical behavior, people act as though anything-goes is normal and right, unaware that they have become valueless selves that no therapy or "self-esteem" program can prop up with real confidence or sinless theology fill with lasting hope.
The original goals and tactics have been forgotten. Today's public-school educators are unaware of their own history and why they think and teach as they do. But though the memory is lost, the desire for bringing forth a "new social order" remains imbedded in their consciousness.
Sadly, the world caves in on minds when they actually face the reality that the only possible reform is self-reform, when better communities and a "better world" can be had only with better selves, so crucial in a democratic form of government.
The "education problem" in America is not one of inadequate funding or management. It is one of defective educational philosophy. The legacy of early Marxists on their way to a "global" future under some species of collectivism has been the worst possible foundation for a sound education system. Established educational philosophy is mired in misconceptions regarding both the nature and the business of education. Public-school
teachers are victims of teacher education that emphasizes ideology over substance, relativism over enduring values.
Fundamentals that must be restored include the following: school authority is subservient to parental authority. The school has no business vilifying tradition, slurring religion, or disallowing individual accountability. In short, it has no mandate to alter society.
And so sparks will continue to fly between those who want parents to be in control of the education of their children, in an atmosphere where multiple points of view may compete fairly, and those who insist on dragging the outdated baggage of their Marxist ancestors to its ultimate destination: the dustbin of history.
Anthony J. DeBlasi is a graduate of Brooklyn College, 1953.