The slow school bus to academic servitude
Last week, Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat candidate for Governor of Virginia, expressed his discontent with parents who want to have a say in the education of their children. In his second debate with Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, McAuliffe said, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
McAuliffe at the second debate (YouTube screengrab)
His angst over parental involvement seems to have struck some as new and unusual. The historic roots of US public education and the public (i.e, government) school system in the US is well documented, so let’s review.
The name John Dewey is recognizable in the list of public education crafters in the US. While his contributions spanned the late 1800’s through the first few decades of the 20th century, he was a late-comer. The system for the design of our public schools preceded him by over 50 years. Horace Mann, another well-known name in public school circles, began his work in the 1830s when he adopted the Prussian model of free and compulsory education for Massachusetts, where he later became the head of the State Board of Education. This model was based on the Prussian Emperor’s goal of eliminating free thought so that his underlings would be obedient and unquestioning. From age 6 to mid-teens, the message to the students was “compliance.” Once the underlying message of equality (free school is equal for everyone) was sold and accepted, Massachusetts gobbled it up and public schools spread across the nation, replacing the “free to learn” community-based systems that existed since the first days of American independence.
The product of this system was, predictably, a nation of teachers, a generation or two later, whose dedication to compliance became the wooden ruler that they brandished to secure the next generation’s classroom conformity. This was seen as a necessity. Individuals who were educated outside of this system could not be reliably trusted to adhere to government edicts. Isn’t it ironic that Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto, in 1848, called for “free education for all children in public schools.” (As a point of interest, public education and public school are not synonymous even though today the two are seen as one by most people. Public education means taxes pay the bills whereas public school is a government-owned system staffed by government employees.)
This public school system was such a sparkling success that Irish immigrants, coming to the US in droves because of the potato famine, were so disgusted by the compliance mentality and the void of real learning, that they abandoned the Prussian model school system. The Irish in New York City turned to the Catholic Church to initiate an alternative, and so was born the Catholic School system, a system that still exists today, and succeeds. Education at these schools wasn’t free, but the Irish felt that the price was worth paying.
One product of the public schools was, and according to ardent Democrats still is, a belief in the unchallenged nobility of the system. Questioning the teaching methods employed or the academic results obtained is decried in this model as a form of intellectual heresy. Foundational to this belief is the irrefutable idea that no one, particularly us parents, locked out of the public school classroom, are as smart as those who teach. This system of public education, deeply rooted in modern classrooms coast to coast today, is the pot of gold at the end of the Marxist, and by no accident, the McAuliffe, rainbow. It has taken nearly 200 years for the goals of Mann, Marx and their loyal subjects to finally be realized as the normative baseline in public education. If the American public doesn’t see through the socialist fog of deception in public schools today and act quickly, the next generation or two and the United States as a nation of God-given liberties will be lost.
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