K–12: Red Ed
If you want to understand the mystery of why we spend so many billions of dollars and get crummy schools, here are some options. You can read a hundred books. You can spend many years earning a Ph.D. in history. You can try to bribe the director of the CIA — or consult a psychic. Alas, you probably won't find the truth.
I suggest you spring for the lazy-man, two-word explanation: Red Ed.
Arguably, that's what we've got.
The almost comical thing about the U.S. is that most people persist in believing that the top educators are harmless, nice, pleasant, typical Americans. But the field of education has been a whirlpool or cesspool of socialist-communist-collectivist thinking for more than 120 years. Throughout that time, these subversives operated covertly but belligerently. They were the tireless termites in our basement.
At first, John Dewey wanted to call himself what he was, a socialist, but he realized that the public wasn't ready for the S-word. He urged the Socialist Party of America to change its name. Dewey ended up calling himself a Progressive, a Liberal, or a Democrat. Point is, explicating American history is difficult because the Left was always hiding and lying.
Suffice it to say that the far Left was a growing force in America by the late 1890s, years before the Communist Revolution. These "change agents" quietly wormed their way into foundations, newspapers, universities, everything not well defended. The best example of big, fat. and undefended was the public school system.
John Dewey's ideologues seized a lot of power before World War I, and the pace accelerated after the Russian Revolution. In 1921 the USSR launched the Communist International, AKA the Comintern. The plan was to seize the planet by out-tricking and out-working everyone else. There were many hundreds of front groups; only sophisticates knew they were communist. (If a group called itself a league, union, or council, it was probably the enemy. Americans tend to name their groups Lions, Optimists, and Moose.)
Indeed, there was a famous private school in Manhattan, the Little Red School House, founded in the busy year of 1921. Everybody on the Left got the joke. "Red, get it?" Somebody actually said those three words to me in the 1980s.
Here's a quick summary of the 20th century in the United States. On the surface, if one asked scholars and survey-takers, virtually everyone was an American of some ordinary stripe. The malcontents and revolutionaries were a tiny sliver of the population. But it was this fraction of 1% that was more and more shaping the country. How is that possible? By the muscular device of infiltrating the command structure of any organization you encounter. Universities. Businesses. Churches. Foundations. Political organizations. Publishers. Media. Showbiz organizations. If you see any possible political or propaganda benefit, try to take over.
Soviet defector Yuri Bezmenov has explained to American audiences how cunning the Russians were at psychological warfare, subversion, and manipulating Western society. The KGB thought they needed only about 20 years to undermine and destroy most countries.
Sometimes it seems that Russians love deception more than victory itself. They love what spies call "the game." If they could fool Americans into surrendering their country, Russia would win the biggest duel in history without firing a shot. For the rest of eternity, they could brag about how smart they are and what clueless dopes the Americans are.
A small example known as the Diamond Technique illustrates Russian ingenuity. Only four people, correctly arranged, can control a crowd. One person in front, one in back, one on the left, one on the right. People in the audience hear the same opinion coming from every direction and assume that this is the popular opinion. Russians dote on such tricks.
One small incident tells the big story. Premier Khrushchev, at the U.N. in 1960, bragged: "We will bury you." Many claimed that Khrushchev banged his shoe. In any case, he was loud and aggressive. Ask yourself, how could he be so confident in 1960 that his much weaker country would win? Because Khrushchev, more than anyone else on the planet, knew how totally his spies and apparatchiks, his front groups and agents of influence, his pseudo-educators and corrupted politicians, had penetrated every nook of this country. The USSR was running the USA as a puppeteer makes puppets dance. When today we see how ineffective the Republican Party is, we have to wonder who is really in control.
There was a period doing World War II when super-spy Alger Hiss sat almost knee to knee with President Roosevelt day after day. Influencing FDR, safe to say. And each night, Hiss sent his observations by courier to the Kremlin. Each morning, Stalin knew everything that had happened in Washington, D.C. the day before.
Relentless intrigue and redundancy — these were always the key ingredients in the Russian juggernaut. Russians had spies in the State Department; that goes without saying. They also had spies in the Treasury Department, the Agricultural Department, and all the rest. Why? Because secret files passed back and forth over every desk. Surely, there was something valuable in almost every one. Of course, the Russians had their people throughout the media, unions, and education. There's always an acrid sense of overkill. Anything remotely an obstacle had to be conquered again and again.
I Led Three Lives, a television drama in the mid-1950s, captures the hothouse atmosphere. The main character was simultaneously an ad executive, a Russian spy, and an FBI double agent. Watch even 10 minutes of any episode, and you get the whole picture.
For me, the most bizarre thing about Russian history is that starting around 1920, the Russians pretended that the Russian Revolution had ushered in a higher stage in Russian consciousness. Then I read a book about Ivan the Terrible, roughly 1550. Nothing had changed in 400 years. Everything that defines Ivan's Russia — dictatorial rule, secret police, torture, people disappearing, distinct social classes where the vast majority were serfs — was institutionalized in the USSR.
If you want to understand how all these influences flowed through our society, read Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals, and remember that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton idolized Alinsky. Consider that almost every American attended public schools created by people like these three radicals. Arrogant and manipulative — that's the type.
Why do we see so many socialists swarming over the Democratic Party and the country generally? Short answer: Red Ed.
Bruce Deitrick Price's new book is Saving K-12: What happened to our public schools? How do we fix them? He deconstructs educational theories and methods at Improve-Education.org.