The Riots in Portland Started in Public School

Think of the rioting in Portland as our national Graduation Party.  The kids got permission to have an open house, and now it's all gotten out of hand.  (Except when a traditional open house get out of hand, the police still show up.)

None of this should come as a shock.  The nightly attacks on statues, on a federal courthouse, and on police are the proof of Solomon's injunction, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old[er], he will not depart from it."  Solomon wanted children taught the fear of the Lord; but the principle applies no matter what you teach.

This is the moment that America's teacher's colleges, and the public-school systems fed by them, have been working toward since the 1960s.  That's when the "education schools began conditioning teachers to peddle impossible social and economic theories to captive human sponges in K-12 classrooms," as described here by Chuck Rogér:

[T]he "evidence-free" education school theory of "social justice" alleges that minority children learn best when encouraged to embrace grievances against middle class whites.  Social justice–indoctrinated teachers instill resentment in "non-dominant" (minority) children and guilt in "dominant" (white) children.  Judging by the abundance of guilt-ridden white Americans, the tactic is working its magic well.     

It's even worse if you've been to college.

A 2017 poll suggested that a "majority of millennials would prefer to live in a socialist, communist or fascist nation rather than a capitalistic one."  That makes slightly more sense when you see that only 33% of Millennials "were able to identify the correct definition of socialism." 

Marion Smith, executive director of Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, blames this preference for totalitarian systems on the "widespread historical illiteracy in American society regarding socialism and the systemic failure of our education system to teach students about the genocide, destruction, and misery caused by communism since the Bolshevik Revolution one hundred years ago."     

Again, none of this should come as news to conservatives.  We revere history, and for decades we've been exercised by the left's ceaseless revisionist propaganda.  It's proof of leftists' success that we've seen two generations of historical illiterates.  Studies have shown that 74% of Americans over 65 could correctly answer most of ten multiple-choice questions on American history taken from the U.S. Citizenship Test, but only 19% of those under 45 could pass.  Thirty-seven percent of test-takers believed that Benjamin Franklin invented the light bulb, "[t]welve percent incorrectly thought WWII General Dwight Eisenhower led troops in the Civil War," and two percent thought the cause of the Cold War was climate change.  It helps explain why mobs think they're fighting for racial justice when they deface statues of Columbus, Lincoln, and the memorial to the 54th Massachusetts Regiment.

Progressives have so masterfully imposed their anti-history that tens of millions of Americans never question the received doctrine that Republicans are the party of slavery and Jim Crow, that the problem with American public education is a lack of money, and that Democrat policies benefit blacks and poor people. 

The media play an obvious role in this, too.  "But the genesis of the problem," says Stephen Kruiser at PJMedia, "is to be found in a public education system ... controlled by radical leftist teachers' unions."  William Haupt III at The Center Square notes how, already since 2008, "[t]wo thirds of the millennials believe America is a racist and sexist country and 40 percent think America is 'the most unequal society in the world.'"  Now a reported 3,500 classrooms across fifty states have adopted the New York Times'  own evidence-free1619 Project, so kids can learn that every accomplishment in America's history came out of slavery.  This will further ensure that kids "unable to discern fact from fiction, will be subjected to a politicized, false history of their country."

Even the less extreme classrooms have long since abandoned patriotism and Western values in favor of "woke" lesson plans that reinforce the rottenness of America and the villainy of white people.  "Most children no longer extensively read the literary classics," says Justin Haskins of The Heartland Institute.  "And when they are in history classrooms, they are often bombarded with left-wing historical revisionism that turns American heroes like George Washington into racist moral monsters."

It's damaging enough that pupils steeped in revisionist history grow up believing lies that make them hate their country and loathe themselves, but being denied access to the notable works of Western literature has unlinked generations from the past, depriving them of the common sensibilities that enabled even fierce opponents in our bloodiest struggle — like U.S. Grant and Robert E. Lee — to sit down with one another with the humility and respect proper from one broken member of Adam's fallen race to another.

Bob Dylan, in his 2017 speech to the Nobel Committee, said of his formation as a young musician that he immersed himself so deeply in the language and themes of traditional folk music that when he started writing his own songs, "the folk lingo was the only vocabulary that I knew, and I used it."

But I had something else as well. I had principles and sensibilities and an informed view of the world.  And I had had that for a while.  Learned it all in grammar school.  Don Quixote, Ivanhoe, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver's Travels, Tale of Two Cities, all the rest — typical grammar school reading that gave you a way of looking at life, an understanding of human nature, and a standard to measure things by.  I took all that with me when I started composing lyrics.  And the themes from those books worked their way into many of my songs, either knowingly or unintentionally.  I wanted to write songs unlike anything anybody ever heard, and these themes were fundamental.  

That Dylan would credit the ethical and imaginative foundation of his earliest creative work to his school days, where he "learned it all" from stories and authors esteemed, until recently, as classics of a common literary canon, is the harshest indictment of present-day public education I can imagine.  Is there any sign anywhere, in the implacable wrath of the BLM demagogues or the pitiless inquisitions of the woke, of the presence of rational principles, or a standard to measure things by, or an understanding, or even tolerance, of human nature?  

It's the total incapacity for tolerance, the ease with which they howl for the shunning, shaming, firing, and even deaths of those they perceive as their moral inferiors, all without a shred of compassion or a particle of self-awareness, that are the marks of an intellectual and moral poverty hard for members of my generation to grasp.  But bear in mind that no one is simply born with principles and rational standards and a magnanimous view of humanity: these have to be learned.  (Not that they can't be unlearned, as proved by the older generation of Democrats who have voluntarily abandoned those things.)

But at school, these younger generations were denied access to the literature and history from which they could have gradually absorbed the fundamental ideals of their own civilization.  It was denied because their teachers preferred force-feeding them banal social justice nostrums, or encouraging the hottest marginal lifestyles, or repeating appalling fables about "Western villains endlessly tying to the railroad tracks of history an equally crude roster of innocent victims 'of color.'" 

At the moment, for some racial crime or other, the Orange County Democrats are pushing to remove John Wayne's name and statue from the county airport.  John Loftus at NRO has come to the actor's defense on the basis of the traditional virtues portrayed in Wayne's roles as Ethan Edwards, Ringo Kid, and John T. Chance.  Included in those virtues is what Loftus calls the "Christian conception of mankind, which holds that we are fallen and flawed but capable of striving toward improvement and ultimately redemption." 

Is there a better description of what's missing from the souls of those unhinged women shrieking at cops in the front lines of the BLM riots, or the Orc swarms of Antifa kicking a prostrate victim?  Not only do they reject the possibility of their enemies' redemption from America's "original sin of racism," but they're insensible to their own need of redemption and mercy.  They don't know about the much graver Original Sin of Adam that starts all of us out on the wrong side of history.  None of their textbooks mentioned anything about souls.

And to think that even those moral monsters Christopher Columbus and Stonewall Jackson could have taught them that.      

T.R. Clancy looks at the world from Dearborn, Michigan.  You can email him at

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