The Education Issue for 2020: Get Off the Path of Least Resistance
That old cliché holds here: "I can't say I have all the answers." My musings today may sound critical of others. They are. But they apply to myself, too. At any rate, we must face reality: conservatives cannot keep doing what we have been doing for the last thirty years.
I offer this critique having been through two months of intense political experience.
On September 28, I left for El Salvador. On October 19, I went to Los Angeles for Politicon, where I represented Urban Game Changers Texas in six presentations. On October 27, I led a conference in Killeen, Texas.
On November 5, four colleagues and I launched our website announcing a conference in Oklahoma for next February, called "God's Voice: A Biblical Response to the Queering of the Church." It provoked a strong reaction.
On November 6, the midterm elections took place. On November 8, I flew to Washington for a summit of faith leaders in education, organized by the White House and conducted at the Department of Education.
I felt confirmed in my conservative beliefs. But I am also more skeptical of the conservative movement's strategies.
What the Conservative Movement Looks Like
We conservatives tend to neglect our strongest points and try to win based on our weakest points. We have hoped that Trump's economic progress would carry us through the midterms and position us well for 2020. This bodes disaster for us. Economic fundamentals rise and fall. Trump's economy will eventually slow down and contract. Our free-market values can promise prosperity, but only for a season.
Moral values paint a different picture. Civilization provides a long history of success for nations with conservative values. While economic fortunes rise and fall, cultural transformations can be irreversible. When you lose a value like chastity or godliness, it is entirely possible never to regain it. Your nation may unravel and become defunct in its decadent state.
On moral issues, our values and the left's values show a starker contrast.
Our values could resonate powerfully, if we worked hard to proclaim them and to denounce the false values of the left. We don't do that, as you can see by looking at how conservatives deal with the all-important issue of education.
Education Is the Biggest Issue for 2020
To save America, conservatives need to dismantle the enormous social machineries the left has set up, especially in our schools and churches. Time and again, our side avoids attacking the left's strongholds, opting for evasive arguments that focus on "liberty," "freedom of conscience," "local control," "deregulation," and "small government."
All these catchwords are good ideas, but they are amoral in and of themselves. Unless we supplement these ideologies with strong advocacy for our specific ideals – responsibility, faith, chastity, obedience to God, decency, family integrity, and the Western tradition – the conservative case for "liberty" merely advances relativism and thereby allows the liberals to pervert us with their falsehoods and distorted values.
We must also publicly repudiate the left's false pretenses of tolerance, equality, utopian sexual license, etc. But this entails denouncing the left on specifics, not objecting to the left's mismanagement of due process (i.e., proving the left immoral, not complaining that the left will not let us talk).
Liberty arguments presume an underlying relativism. In the world of education, this is catastrophic. While the left has placed its moral advocates in power in every educational institution in America, including private Christian schools, so-called "conservative" colleges like Grove City College, and every public school in America, American conservatives have collectively refused to embattle educators who advance godless and perverted liberal ideology.
At the summit on November 9, the depth and resilience of the swamp shocked me. After almost two years of a Trump presidency, education officials have doubled down on the alternatives that have failed conservatives since the Reagan Era. The Department will take no position on curriculum, quality of research, content, ethics, or appropriateness of things like sex education or trans policies. Kenneth Marcus, the head of the office of civil rights for the department, stated explicitly that his office will deal with racial and sexual discrimination but will do nothing about discrimination against people based on religious beliefs.
I presume that conservatives agree with Marcus's approach because they think this will protect Christian schools from lawsuits. Such a calculation becomes quicksand. Christian schools get infiltrated and turn into fraud engines. People will see easy money in charging Christian parents for an education that ends up involving all the filth and perversion that takes place in public schools (look at how Catholic schools have devolved). In the meantime, the massive numbers of Christians in federally funded schools can get no relief from the increasing repressiveness of LGBT, feminist, and other liberal curricula.
Oldies but Goodies: Greatest Hits from Our Losing Playbook
We need a revolution. This is basically too much work, too costly, and too shocking for conservatives, so instead, the right wing returns to its vomit like the dog of Proverbs. One conservative panacea is to issue vouchers, which will prove fruitless due to the pervasiveness of the left's moral rot in all schools. Parents will take their children out of an urban school full of sexual perversion and place them into a suburban school full of sexual perversion where classmates have more money to spend on drugs and lax parents are more approving of social decadence. School "choice" presents the same conundrum.
Homeschooling comes up as the constant refrain. This would be a great conservative alternative for individual families, if there were not a widespread rot in popular culture brought on by the homeschoolers' peers enrolled in schools run by depraved liberals. Like Lot homeschooling his daughters in Sodom, this delays the inevitable collision with the cultural decadence promoted in public schools.
Homeschooling provides a pleasant experience for some individuals, assuming they do not turn into the odious Kathryn Brightbill. But the vast majority of Christian conservatives cannot afford to homeschool, and our movement's avoidance and refusal when it comes to fighting to dismantle the educational establishment leaves those conservatives in a worse position.
At the college level, the conservative answers suffer from similar myopia. One "solution" has been to avoid fighting with secular liberal colleges and to create a bubble of our own institutions. We congregate in alternative colleges like Wheaton or Pepperdine, only to see them become another liberal abyss as liberals infiltrate them the way the LGBTs have infiltrated Azusa Pacific. I've had awful run-ins with graduates of Hillsdale, Liberty, and Baylor. Let's not even talk about Catholic colleges.
Another "solution" is to harp on free speech and beg for a chance to bring conservative speakers to campus. This becomes, first of all, a money-making scam for self-promoting raconteurs (remember Milo's whirlwind tour of campuses?).
The campus brushfires caused by the Ben Shapiros, Jordan Petersons, and Christina Hoff Sommerses do nothing to diversify the university faculty. Most college students neither participate in extracurricular activities like a conservative club nor go to hear guest lecturers talk. The colleges' main influence consists of the thousands of hours youths spend listening to professors teach in the classroom – and this gets more and more biased, even as the Ben Shapiro cottage industry grows in fame and fortune. To reverse the bias on the faculty, conservatives would have to use government to coerce university administrations and committees to drop their current criteria of teaching, publications, and service. Conservatives will not do this because it sounds like interfering with local control (which it is and should be!).
Many times, these "conservative" speakers do not share our social values but oppose socialism, political correctness, and rules against Halloween costumes. They may or may not describe themselves as libertarian. At Politicon I saw that calling someone a "socialist" does not instill alarm in anyone under the age of forty. It is a word that shocks people at Heritage and means nothing to the people we hope to turn Republican.
The emphasis on conservative guest speakers backfires. After these firebrands leave campus, the faculty become more ferocious against conservative colleagues (wherever they may hide). The whole affair swells the already outrageous student activities budgets with the high price of honoraria and security. We need to force colleges to strip away their godless involvement in people's social lives, political engagement, and cultural development, not add a frivolous layer of conservative expenses to make the bloat worse.
Conservative intellectuals, to the extent such a small constituency exists, do not want schools' structures to change. This leads to the advice from ostensible sages like Robert George, who tell young conservatives on campus to work from within, navigate through the Ph.D., and delay change until they have tenure. This never happens. Even when you do get tenure, your story ends the way mine did in 2016.
After 20 years in higher education, I know that colleges will not change if you sue them, embarrass them, or protest them. They will change only if you cut off their money.
At one panel at Education, a speaker revealed that 40% of higher education spending comes from the federal government. Why don't we just threaten to cut off all their money? Lobby Trump's people to force DeVos and her people to issue policy guidance the way they just did regarding Title IX. Lobby Trump to fire DeVos if she won't do it. And let's find revolutionary people to run for Congress who will bring this scenario to the public arena, proposing legislation even if we know that it will fail many times before passing.
Read this old gem for a playbook of how. Lay down eligibility requirements for tax exemptions, student loan funding, and grants or other outlays that would force them to offer job training programs, eliminate tenure, abolish non-instructional spending, and cut out bad curricula like gender studies. (By the way, Hungary did this!)
Conservative platitudes about local control, staying out of colleges' business, not seeking to police ideas, and leaving curricula to the experts are insane! The left has no scruples about micromanaging content, values, and ideas. At some point, we do have to crush the left if we want to save our country.
The Churches Are Just as Bad, but That's a Different Article.
Two massive institutions – the schools and the churches – are entirely controlled by the left now. They militate against conservatives and mobilize for elections. The Democrats will have an unbeatable and renewable army that will overwhelm the right. The conservatives' answers all involve leaving the left alone on details and instead asking that people have the freedom to disagree with them. This will never work because the "details" of the left involve taking over every part of society and forcing total compliance on everyone.
Conservatives have to destroy the left's social machine, which means two Herculean labors. First, they must crush the teachers' unions and dismantle education as we know it by taking over the federal government and using its powers. Second, they must carry out a massive Christian reformation by staging aggressive takeovers of the major denominations and using the central denominations' power to purge churches of unorthodox teaching.
In an ideal world, we could hold on to our discreet small-government ideals and stay above the fray, claiming we do not want to interfere with others. But remember what Paul said in Ephesians:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Think of the tasks that faced kings like Hezekiah and Josiah.
One task is an electoral one, and the other an ecclesiastical one. They both require a frightening amount of work, steel nerves, and unflinching discernment in the wake of massive propaganda. The churches are a more tragic case but just as much of a problem for conservatives. More on that another day.
In the meantime, let's get to our war rooms.
Robert Oscar Lopez can be followed at English Manif.