My High School’s Drift from Excellence Reflects the Progressives’ Corruption of Public Education

The public high school in Brooklyn, New York that I attended in the late 1940s had a student population of 10% black and 90% white from families of Italian, Irish, German, Jewish, Polish, British and other ethnic origin. Attendance and graduation exceeded 90% [information from my yearbook and other records.] The principal of Bushwick High School opened assemblies with the reading of a Psalm. The music teacher played the auditorium’s pipe organ and conducted the school orchestra and chorus in very challenging music. The baseball coach hired Ebbets Field from the Brooklyn Dodgers for the school’s important games. The Metropolitan Museum of Art sent art works to the school for temporary exhibit. The Mayor of New York occasionally presented a scholarship award at City Hall to an outstanding student. The school’s yearbook won an award for excellence in a nationwide contest.

The tests we had to pass in order to advance and graduate would stump many today, I’m sure. We had a bewildering assortment of clubs including Latin, chess, reporters, religious, a club for excellence in scholarship, a rifle team, and extracurricular outreach to community for a variety of worthy projects . . . with et ceteras that today could spell trouble.

Was Bushwick High a special school in its day? I can report, having grown up in New York City, that it reflected the quality of the city’s public schools in the 1940s. 

Bushwick High School

Photocredit: Jim Henderson

Move forward . . . 

In 2004 Bushwick High School’s student population was 1% white, 26% black, and 72% Hispanic. Attendance was 56% and the graduation rate 23%. There were no new admissions and the school was about to shut down. Reasons cited for terminating the school: problems with safety, overcrowding, and poor academic achievement. A former student complained: “I went to Bushwick back in ’98 and it was bad, some of the teachers didn’t care just like the students and there was no discipline.” Praise for some teachers and programs was countered by expressions of disgust for the physical and social conditions that prevailed. Another former student emphatically would not consider Bushwick High School suitable for any member of her family. A school that was excellent in its early years was now failing.

In 2005 Audrey N. Carpio wrote an article about my alma mater entitled “Taking the Class to the Neighborhood” [page 6 of the PDF]. It begins:

From the outside, the red brick building on Irving Avenue in Brooklyn still looks like the old Bushwick High School of disrepute. In the morning the students, most of whom are Latino, go through the daily ritual of taking off their caps and durags before emptying their pockets of pens, keys, gum, cell phones, wallets, and notebooks in order to pass through the metal detector that guards the school entrance. Every afternoon, when the last bell rings, police officers stand outside the building, directing outbound traffic and making sure every last student has left the building.

Progress! [Yeah, right] . . .

Bushwick High School shut down in 2006 and its building recycled for shared occupancy by the Academy of Urban Planning, the New York Harbor School, the Academy for Environmental Leadership, and (most relevant) the Bushwick School for Social Justice. The latter’s current core beliefs (under “About Us”) are listed as “Right to Learn, A Safe Space, Mutual Respect, Right to Grow and Change.”

The important question here is not so much what happened to my alma mater but what happened to the public schools in New York City over the past seventy years?

Quick answer: early 20th century Marxist educators led by John Dewey the “father of progressive education,” dared “build a new social order.” And they succeeded.

For a broader answer, check out what John Dewey was up to and how his ideas ruined public education.

For a full history of what gave America’s public schools the mission to groom Americans for a socialist society, see the book written by President Reagan’s Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, Charlotte Iserbyt: The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America.

In the varied approaches to the history of the leftist reset of America from constitutional republic to socialist state – with varying depths of detail – these reports show that the changes have been unconstitutional and undeniably treacherous, necessarily delivered and managed slowly and with stealth. The Marxist credo that underlies the changes is insanely opposed to the freedom of every human being to flower into his or her full potential, to the benefit of society, a path to wellbeing and progress denied by the collectivist straitjacket forced upon We the People, leading to an autocracy tied to a long history of brutality and destruction, unabated to this day.

If nothing else, the contrasting before and after of a New York City school, sketched in my opening, is a clue to the freer and richer life and the opportunities that open up to every individual when our Constitution, so hated by Marxists, is faithfully observed. The failure of such observance over the past many decades, aided and abetted by a subverted system of public education, has allowed political wolves in sheep’s clothing to shred America’s law of the land.

My introductory flashback to a school of the 1940s in Brooklyn ought not be taken out of its factual context. But I believe it is a reminder and strong hint of a better way of life and path to success and wellbeing made possible when government overreach is tamed with rules of social justice and wellbeing enumerated in the Constitution of the United States, wisest secular law document ever devised.

Regarding public education, it is past due time to educate, not brainwash school children. The legitimate job of every teacher is to encourage students to rise to their best innate talents, so that they may live fruitful lives, not simply useful ones, thereby acting to uplift and enrich the life of the community. No teacher has the authority, under our Constitution, to prepare students for life in a collectivist state run by lording elites who place themselves above everybody else and twist truth and law to do their bidding and hold onto their fraudulent power.

Anthony J. DeBlasi is a veteran and lifelong defender of Western culture.

The public high school in Brooklyn, New York that I attended in the late 1940s had a student population of 10% black and 90% white from families of Italian, Irish, German, Jewish, Polish, British and other ethnic origin. Attendance and graduation exceeded 90% [information from my yearbook and other records.] The principal of Bushwick High School opened assemblies with the reading of a Psalm. The music teacher played the auditorium’s pipe organ and conducted the school orchestra and chorus in very challenging music. The baseball coach hired Ebbets Field from the Brooklyn Dodgers for the school’s important games. The Metropolitan Museum of Art sent art works to the school for temporary exhibit. The Mayor of New York occasionally presented a scholarship award at City Hall to an outstanding student. The school’s yearbook won an award for excellence in a nationwide contest.

The tests we had to pass in order to advance and graduate would stump many today, I’m sure. We had a bewildering assortment of clubs including Latin, chess, reporters, religious, a club for excellence in scholarship, a rifle team, and extracurricular outreach to community for a variety of worthy projects . . . with et ceteras that today could spell trouble.

Was Bushwick High a special school in its day? I can report, having grown up in New York City, that it reflected the quality of the city’s public schools in the 1940s. 

Bushwick High School

Photocredit: Jim Henderson

Move forward . . . 

In 2004 Bushwick High School’s student population was 1% white, 26% black, and 72% Hispanic. Attendance was 56% and the graduation rate 23%. There were no new admissions and the school was about to shut down. Reasons cited for terminating the school: problems with safety, overcrowding, and poor academic achievement. A former student complained: “I went to Bushwick back in ’98 and it was bad, some of the teachers didn’t care just like the students and there was no discipline.” Praise for some teachers and programs was countered by expressions of disgust for the physical and social conditions that prevailed. Another former student emphatically would not consider Bushwick High School suitable for any member of her family. A school that was excellent in its early years was now failing.

In 2005 Audrey N. Carpio wrote an article about my alma mater entitled “Taking the Class to the Neighborhood” [page 6 of the PDF]. It begins:

From the outside, the red brick building on Irving Avenue in Brooklyn still looks like the old Bushwick High School of disrepute. In the morning the students, most of whom are Latino, go through the daily ritual of taking off their caps and durags before emptying their pockets of pens, keys, gum, cell phones, wallets, and notebooks in order to pass through the metal detector that guards the school entrance. Every afternoon, when the last bell rings, police officers stand outside the building, directing outbound traffic and making sure every last student has left the building.

Progress! [Yeah, right] . . .

Bushwick High School shut down in 2006 and its building recycled for shared occupancy by the Academy of Urban Planning, the New York Harbor School, the Academy for Environmental Leadership, and (most relevant) the Bushwick School for Social Justice. The latter’s current core beliefs (under “About Us”) are listed as “Right to Learn, A Safe Space, Mutual Respect, Right to Grow and Change.”

The important question here is not so much what happened to my alma mater but what happened to the public schools in New York City over the past seventy years?

Quick answer: early 20th century Marxist educators led by John Dewey the “father of progressive education,” dared “build a new social order.” And they succeeded.

For a broader answer, check out what John Dewey was up to and how his ideas ruined public education.

For a full history of what gave America’s public schools the mission to groom Americans for a socialist society, see the book written by President Reagan’s Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, Charlotte Iserbyt: The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America.

In the varied approaches to the history of the leftist reset of America from constitutional republic to socialist state – with varying depths of detail – these reports show that the changes have been unconstitutional and undeniably treacherous, necessarily delivered and managed slowly and with stealth. The Marxist credo that underlies the changes is insanely opposed to the freedom of every human being to flower into his or her full potential, to the benefit of society, a path to wellbeing and progress denied by the collectivist straitjacket forced upon We the People, leading to an autocracy tied to a long history of brutality and destruction, unabated to this day.

If nothing else, the contrasting before and after of a New York City school, sketched in my opening, is a clue to the freer and richer life and the opportunities that open up to every individual when our Constitution, so hated by Marxists, is faithfully observed. The failure of such observance over the past many decades, aided and abetted by a subverted system of public education, has allowed political wolves in sheep’s clothing to shred America’s law of the land.

My introductory flashback to a school of the 1940s in Brooklyn ought not be taken out of its factual context. But I believe it is a reminder and strong hint of a better way of life and path to success and wellbeing made possible when government overreach is tamed with rules of social justice and wellbeing enumerated in the Constitution of the United States, wisest secular law document ever devised.

Regarding public education, it is past due time to educate, not brainwash school children. The legitimate job of every teacher is to encourage students to rise to their best innate talents, so that they may live fruitful lives, not simply useful ones, thereby acting to uplift and enrich the life of the community. No teacher has the authority, under our Constitution, to prepare students for life in a collectivist state run by lording elites who place themselves above everybody else and twist truth and law to do their bidding and hold onto their fraudulent power.

Anthony J. DeBlasi is a veteran and lifelong defender of Western culture.