The Real Battle Over Education
When Democrat Terry McAuliffe said he didn’t want parents to have influence over their children’s education, it wasn’t a gaffe; he meant it.
The new totalitarians cannot abide by freedom, especially freedom of education which ensures parents have influence over their children’s education and, therefore, future. The allies of the new totalitarians, however, agree with McAuliffe and other Bolsheviks.
The real reason is that education shapes and molds people; if the educational juggernaut has complete control over education, they have complete control over the next generation, and, therefore, complete control over the future of American society.
Education, as envisioned by leftists, is about control. It’s about power. It’s about propaganda. It’s about ensuring their vision of remaking society is safe and secure.
There are two competing strands of education. The public school system and elite aristocratic control of prestigious institutions like my alma mater Yale are about indoctrinating the next generation into what to properly believe and how to properly act on those beliefs. There is no free inquiry of the mind or soul. Education is put to the service of the politics of activism and reform, the politics of remaking society, and knowing what to remake because of one’s education.
The other strand of education goes back to Christianity with antecedent roots in Greece and Rome. We call this humanistic education. It came into its mature form in the Late Renaissance, emerged in its highest form in Protestant England (Cambridge and Oxford, when they were good schools to attend), and was brought to America with the arrival of the Puritans and their establishment of Harvard and Yale (when they were good schools).
The impetus of humanistic education is about becoming a better human being, a soul sharpened by the skills of critical inquiry and exposure to the best writing, rhetoric, and scholarship to help one navigate the “big questions” of life. The goal of a humanistic education, or a liberal arts education, is about a true exposure to diverse intellectual issues to help you be a better, more well-rounded, human being. The ultimate end of this ideal of education is self-sufficient and autonomous individuals, not a collectivized frenzied mob marching down streets shouting the same slogan ad nauseum with the same signs repeating the same phrases.
Moreover, the humanistic ideal of education extends beyond the classroom. One should continue one's love of learning in the company of family and friends, thereby forming a community of learning rooted in love. For love builds up all things and leads to gratitude.
Totalitarians cannot abide by an educational philosophy that aims at instilling love, for one doesn’t destroy what one loves.
Thus, the totalitarians who wish to control the next generation from preschool to collegiate graduation want to instill a philosophy of hatred and resentment into students. Resentment for what we have and hatred toward what we’ve done. This spirit of hatred and resentment is meant to motivate students, as they take their place in society, to destroy and remake all that they resent and hate into what they’ve been told for 20 years to believe in: the communist Utopia, even if not all have been explicitly told that’s the goal.
What unites the totalitarians is not a love of learning but hatred and resentment. But this is no way to form a strong society. Hatred and resentment are always shifting, always demanding a scapegoat, an other, to be the target of said hatred and resentment that only temporarily unites people.
There is an irony, of course, in a movement that speaks of inclusion and love and ending “otherizing” while their entire life philosophy is predicated on exclusive otherizing and hatred toward the irredeemable other.
Since hatred and resentment cannot build but only destroy, we have seen over the past two years their manifestation of the totalitarian dream in action. While cities burned and fellow Americans were killed in criminal violence, the media was saying this was “mostly peaceful.” When these protests of hate and resentment dissipated, they left burned buildings, businesses, and battered communities in their wake.
This, though, is the goal: To destroy what is evil, oppressive, and the cause of our national sins (white filial suburbia).
As we enter a new year, a new semester, and a new election cycle, it is imperative for all Americans, especially those with children in education, to understand the real crisis of education and what the battle over its future entails.
We have before us two roads. Love of learning and exposure to the great beauty of our cultural patrimony, which is meant to be shared with all, or hatred and resentment of that cultural patrimony to induce division and bring destruction in its wake. Families should do everything in their capacity to ensure that love is what guides their children as they grow and graduate instead of the pernicious spirit of hatred and resentment.
This, of course, means parents need to be aware of what their children are learning. And if they object to it, parents should have every right to seek emendation (through school board elections, especially) or the freedom to decide where their children go for education (religious or private or an untainted public school). It also means that parents have responsibilities outside of the classroom too; to ensure that they counter the spirit of hatred and resentment that their children may (and often are) be exposed to and to counter that with a spirit of love, awe, and wonder for the lives we have and hope to build.
Paul Krause is the editor of VoegelinView. He is the author of The Odyssey of Love: A Christian Guide to the Great Books, The Politics of Plato, and contributed to The College Lecture Today and the forthcoming book Diseases, Disasters, and Political Theory.