A Scheme Hidden in Plain Sight
WRITTEN BY BEVERLY K. EAKMAN
TUESDAY, 16 AUGUST 2011
Although John Dewey, the originator of “progressive education,” defied most of the cultural, moral, and economic norms of his era, his message nevertheless somehow mainstreamed its way into K-12 schools nationwide. Dewey characterized himself as a “democratic socialist.” Over the years, his writings increasingly underscored an aversion to the free-market system; an abhorrence of religion, especially Christianity; a distaste for educational basics such as reading and writing; and finally, in 1928, an admiration for Soviet schooling — for the creation of what he called a “collectivistic mentality.” Given the traditionalistic norms of the 1920s and 30s, the likelihood of his affecting a sea change in education seemed about as likely as the United States replacing the Constitution with Shariah law. Then again, strange things happen, and not usually by chance.
Throughout Dewey’s voluminous writings, two themes recur: that education and learning are interactive processes, which had some basis, and that the school itself is a social institution through which social reform can and should take place, which paved the way for political opportunists. He averred that educational institutions should not be just places to gain knowledge, but places “where one learns how to live.” Because Dewey considered God and religion fantasies, perhaps it was unsurprising that he would commandeer the prerogatives of “Sunday School” and transfer them to institutions of learning. Dewey coined the term “functional psychology” to describe the key to existence in a complex society.
Like his mentor, German socialist philosopher Wilhelm Wundt, Dewey saw psychology as a rational alternative to “supernatural religion.” Toward that end, he was among the signers of the Humanist Manifesto in 1933. The switch from knowledge-based schooling to a psycho-social, reform-based model was the juncture when everything started going wrong with education. The heretofore inconspicuous contingent of American Communists seized upon psycho-social reform, ignoring other insights that Dewey proffered — many not unreasonable, such as striking a balance between delivering knowledge while also taking into account the interests and experiences of the student. Citing Dewey, they turned the nation’s schools into a political football steeped in the behavioral sciences instead of intellectual challenge.
A naïve Dewey and his ivory tower contemporaries envisioned a benevolent (as opposed to coercive) welfare state, with schools serving as concealed-in-plain-sight “agents of change,” poised to impose, through successive waves of graduating youth, a new social order on America within a generation or two at the most. These “change agents” were to sweep away the ideals of America’s Founders under the cover of modernism and progress — thus the term “progressivism.” Today's modern dictionary assigns positive synonyms to “progressivism,” while “traditionalism,” “individualism,” and “conservatism” are depicted as backward.
Because most Americans were focused on the carnage of World War II, an emerging “mental health” cabal began speaking out, advocating a society indifferent to nationality, sovereignty, and bourgeois “morality.” Among such company, Dewey found a safe haven for his experiments, but was alarmed by what he considered the excesses of “child-centered” pedagogues who claimed to be his followers. He even argued that too much reliance on the child could be detrimental to the learning process. Using this line of reasoning, Dewey was ahead of his time in emphasizing “hands-on learning,” as opposed to teachers forever standing at the front of the room doling out information to passive pupils. He insisted that “it is impossible to procure knowledge without the use of objects which impress the mind.” That is why many credit him with the advent of Project Based Learning (PBL), which places students in the active role.
But in the hands of left-leaning opportunists, PBL wound up emphasizing learning as a strictly collective process, with individual ingenuity suddenly undesirable. When Dewey suggested that the teacher’s role should be that of “facilitator” and “guide,” the America left found its public-relations pitch. The cherry on the sundae was Dewey’s further comment that “[t]he Russian educational situation is enough to convert one to the idea that only in a society based upon the coöperative principle can the ideals of educational reformers be adequately carried into operation” (Chapter 5 in his book Impressions of Soviet Russia).
In 1935, the National Education Association became more vocal in an attempt to see how socialist rhetoric would sit with the public. At the NEA’s annual meeting, incoming NEA Secretary Willard Givens declared: “A dying laissez-faire must be completely destroyed, and all of us, including the ‘owners,’ must be subjected to a large degree of social control. ... An equitable distribution of income will be sought.”
About the same time (1933), Louis Alber, head of National Recovery Act New York, announced: “The rugged individualism of Americanism must go, because it is contrary to the purpose of the New Deal … which is remaking America.”
These pronouncements fueled the determination of leftist leaders to ensure that parental rights and religious ideals were swallowed up, the prerogatives of local communities usurped, and a “controlled collective” imposed. With the exception of racial inequality, which was in the news 24/7, war-weary Americans had no clue as to any other pivotal shifts and policy reversals that might be occurring under their noses between 1946 and 1960. For example, Canadian psychiatrist Brock Chisholm’s challenge to the World Federation of Mental Health (reprinted, 1946 in Psychiatry Magazine):
We have swallowed all manner of poisonous certainties fed us by our parents, our Sunday and day school teachers... The results are frustration, inferiority, neurosis and inability to... make the world fit to live in. … The re-interpretation and eventually eradication of the concept of right and wrong which has been the basis of child training ... these are the belated objectives of practically all effective psychotherapy....
And that was just a warm-up. By 1968, NEA president Elizabeth Koontz was alerting the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education that the teachers' union had “a multi-faceted program already directed toward the urban school problem, embracing every phase, from the Headstart Program to sensitivity training for adults — [aimed at] both teachers and parents.”
Then, a bolder move: In the early 1970s, NEA president George Fischer told the union’s annual assembly that “a good deal of work has been done to begin to bring about uniform certification controlled by the unified profession in each state.... With these new laws, we will finally realize our 113-year old dream of controlling who enters, who stays and who leaves the profession.... we can also control the teacher training institutions.”
Two years later, NEA president Catharine Barrett took an even more strident tack, declaring: “We are the biggest potential political striking force in this country, and we are determined to control the direction of education.” A year later, she called for “de-emphasizing academic basics in favor of teachers becoming philosophical ‘change agents’.”
It didn’t take long before the NEA Journal was endorsing the centerpiece of its strategy: “values clarification” — a catch-phrase coined by leftist educators as a stand-in for “affective-interactive educational psychology.” The groundwork was laid by psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg in his controversial 1963 Stages of Moral Development theory, aimed at supplanting “conventional morality.” With that, “progressive education” morphed into humanistic psychology and the “humanistic education movement” — an approach that discourages adults from transmitting the “right” values and, instead, “empowers” even small children to “develop their own valuing process.”
The 70s-era watershed book that made depravity, decadence, and self-indulgence part and parcel of the school environment was Values Clarification — A Handbook of Practical Strategies for Teachers and Students, based on the work of Louis Raths, Vera Harmon, Sidney Simon, Howard Kirschenbaum, and Leland Howe. It featured scenarios of manipulative values-changing aimed at speeding society’s transformation. Among the classroom exercises was Strategy #3: “values voting.” (Think "flash-mobs.")
From there, progressivism moved quickly into an amoral humanist-socialist mode. The Soviet text called The Scientific and Technological Revolution and the Revolution in Education was translated and imported to the United States. It helped lay the foundation for a philosophy called Outcome-based Education, promulgated in America by William Spady. A 1988 NEA Journal published “The New Social Studies,” urging that American education — especially the university departments of teacher education — be reorganized “using materials from the behavioral sciences,” planting the tenets of social psychology firmly into elementary and secondary history classes.
Meanwhile, Ernest Boyer, president of Carnegie Foundation of the Advancement of Teaching (CFAT) pronounced that schools must be treated, not as “academic centers,” but as “social service centers,” providing day-long health-care (now called school-based health clinics), day-care for preschoolers (now termed early childhood education), and other social services, such as meals. John Goodlad had already seconded the notion in his 1976 tome, A Place Called School.
It wasn’t until parents began noticing an uptick in non-education-related data collection through quasi-educational school surveys and assessments, and blatant activities aimed at social engineering and promoting world government, that they started paying attention. They found more than they bargained for: among them (click on links to see their connections to curriculum), the Education Commission of the States; the Rockefeller Foundation; the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; the Jane Fonda Center; the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS); the American Psychological Association; Global Education Associates; Greenpeace; and the American Humanist Association.
Among the most shameful was the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies, where a six-year-old orphaned refugee, Elián González — whose mother drowned in 1999 fleeing Communist Cuba — was torn from extended-family members at the point of a rifle under orders from then-U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, to be re-educated into “collective thinking” before being handed back to Castro. But by the year 2000, the agenda was so complete that most news outlets simply referred to the place as the Aspen Institute, presumably a safe haven for a confused little boy.
By 1992, the White House was publicly onboard with progressive education. First Lady Hillary Clinton colluded with Marc Tucker, director of the National Center on Education and the Economy (an agency within the Carnegie Foundation) to administer a final coup — in Tucker’s words, “breaking the current system, root and branch.” Joy G. Dryfoos’s 1994 work, Full-Service-Schools, concurred, with an endorsement from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the real force behind the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, not George W. Bush.
Thus did the “Progressive Movement” metastasize as humanistic psychology. A gullible public believed all they had to do was write their Representative and Senator to turn their schools around. They woefully underestimated. Outmaneuvered, parents either caved — school dances, sports, cheerleaders, “I only want my kids to be happy” — or they became a part of a homeschool resistance: directly in the crosshairs of a compromised and top-heavy government.
“Progressive” was now mainstream.
The Obama administration is seducing states with $500 million grants to get them to enroll kids into accredited, pre-kindergarten programs. The Early Learning Challenge (ELC) is yet another bribe under Obama’s “Race to the Top,” the $4.35 billion incarnation of an endless stream of education “reform” projects implemented since President Dwight D. Eisenhower catapulted education to national prominence in 1957 following Russia’s launch of Sputnik.
ELC is run jointly by the U.S. Departments of Education (DoE) and Health and Human Services (HHS). All grants will have been awarded by year’s end. While at least two states have already received windfalls for signing on ($700 million for New York and Florida), some 14 states’ education agencies are still dithering. They know only too well that carrots come with strings, many of them turning out to be unfunded mandates. State Departments of Education are virtual clones of the federal parent, typically referred to as a State Education Agency (SEA); they receive pass-through money from the U.S. DoE plus revenues from state taxes. Every time an SEA takes federal bait, it loses more of its autonomy through federal oversight, although at this point it’s hard to imagine how much more state and local agencies have to lose. ELC follows a textbook oversight scenario, typical of federal agencies providing grant monies to states:
The federal department grades each state’s application according to a scale. Winners then use the grant money to implement their “own” proposed reforms — which must reflect the current administration’s political agenda — and federal officials judge how well each grantee is “complying,” often by sending their department's own inspection agents to the site. This is how the U.S. Department of Justice, for example, conducts its grant inspections for everything from the Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s anti-gang initiative grants. In the case of ELC, the Education Department’s Implementation and Support Unit’s agents complete on-site program reviews of each state receiving monies.
For concerned citizens seeking a sea change in American politics overall, it is important to recognize that modern schools are the single most influential factor in a child’s development — even before parents. This is mainly due to the fact that government encourages, bribes, and even intimidates parents into handing over their youngsters to be institutionalized (e.g., early childhood programs) as soon as possible, preferably prior to the age of reason, which generally is determined by child experts and theologians alike as being around the age of 7 years. The rationale behind ever-earlier childhood programs is that most parents are ill-equipped to do the job — i.e., lacking in the required skills, psychology credits, time, and resources.
However, once a parent enters the child into the system — be it a public or private entity (exception: non-accredited neighborhood co-ops) — government oversight kicks in, monitoring the child and evaluating parents to a greater or lesser extent. If you don’t believe it, try keeping your child home from school for a week without some exceptionally good reason and see what happens.
The first thing any pre-school program does is to address the child’s socialization skills — i.e., how he relates to others, whether he makes friends, how well he cooperates. Now, for parents who are below the age of 55 — so-called “Gen-X-ers” and "Gen-Y-ers” (or “Millennials”) — which means a majority of parents at this juncture — this may seem normal. But it is, in fact, a huge departure from earlier eras.
Prior to the 1970s (and especially pre-1955), parents were considered the child’s first and most important influence, whether they actually schooled their offspring or not. They wielded authority and served as role models (as per 1950s sitcoms Ozzie and Harriet and Father Knows Best). Thus did youngsters learn the dynamics of group interaction through the relatively small setting of the family. They learned what behaviors worked and which didn’t. Discipline typically was doled out with a mixture of tough love and tenacity. Talking back, tantrums, disobedience, surliness, unresponsiveness, refusal to share workloads and belongings, not “catching on” to day-to-day routines, and frequent run-ins with neighborhood children — all these were noticed by parents and set off the appropriate alarm bells without any help from “experts.” Mothers, in particular, worked hard with youngsters who displayed any of these tendencies so that, by the time such youngsters attended school, around age 6 or 7, the lion’s share of such conduct had been brought under control, even if a child still remained, in most teachers' judgment, “a handful.” Every child was seen as an individual, each displaying certain characteristics, but “packaged” differently.
The job of the teacher, always in collaboration with the parent, was to smooth out the rough edges that every child naturally possesses, so that by Graduation Day at age 17 or 18, the pupil would be capable of making life choices that incorporated the best of his or her innate talents, goals, and tastes so that any weaknesses were less apt to hold the student back.
Today all that has changed. Early education, in particular, is intentionally built around peer pressure, so that the child learns to value his peers more than he does his parents, teachers, or other adult authority figures. This attitude carries on into the teen years, college or trade school, and adulthood. Thus does the child adapt by adopting the kind of blind conformity that borders on homogenized thinking as opposed to individuality — a situation which, at least for America’s experiment in freedom, is disastrous. A nation will not get leadership, or “thinking outside the box”; it will not get innovative ideas or engage in healthy debate on issues-of-the-day as long as children are inculcated with this type of conformity — mislabeled “compliance” and “teamwork” — because what it morphs into is conformity of thought, not merely adherence to traditional norms. To modern parents, this may seem like splitting hairs. To our Founding Fathers, as noted historian Henry M. Wriston said in a 1952 commencement speech at the University of Pennsylvania, it was the difference between self-determination and blind submission, the difference between innovation that leads to a high standard of living and a nation’s stagnation.
Today, we are rapidly losing the competitive edge and innovative spirit for which our nation was once famous. A major reason is 40 years of narcissism and psychotherapy passed off as education. It permeates our culture despite the few private schools that still attempt to invoke rigorous standards.
The typical graduate today emerges from school believing that being called a liberal Democrat is high praise. Its opposite, according to a joint National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and National Science Foundation (NSF) study, reprinted in an American Psychological Association bulletin, is to be “dogmatic,” “authoritarian,” “paternalistic,” “inflexible,” “rigid,” and possibly mentally ill. What our naïve graduate does not know is that these unsuspected Marxist leanings will summon the siren song of egalitarianism. But should he (or she) ever deviate from the Party line, that song will descend like a hammer.
Written by Beverly K. Eakman Friday, 29 July 2011 10:52
On July 27, Education Secretary Arne Duncan reiterated an earlier request for a 13.3-percent budget increase over 2011, which would bring Education Department spending to one-fifth higher than 2010 levels. Amid congressional arguments over reducing the nation’s debt and raising the debt ceiling, Duncan justified his stance by explaining: “You can’t sacrifice the future to pay for the present.”
He said the additional funding would allow the department to fund more Pell grants; to place increased emphasis on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) initiative; to continue most aspects of President George W. Bush’s decade-old No Child Left Behind law, which even liberals have admitted is a disappointment; and to push the Obama administration’s new toddler initiatives, such as the Early Learning Challenge (ELC), described earlier this week as part of the President’s “Race to the Top” boondoggle.
Race to the Top, like No Child Left Behind and its predecessors, are “reforms” that build upon their forerunners and serve as a means to re-authorize the legislative triumph that virtually federalized education in 1965: the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), passed as part of the “War on Poverty” under President Lyndon B. Johnson. Poverty continued on as usual, but America became a different nation, beginning with Head Start.
Head Start began as a pre-kindergarten summer program for low-income youngsters thought to be at risk. It morphed into one of the longest-running anti-poverty programs in U.S. history, with its own federal office run out of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Thus did schools get into the business of feeding children, which today has morphed into a demand that all school districts, poor or not, provide meals — and specific kinds of meals at that. The involvement of HHS had the side-effect of moving schools further away from academics — for pitifully little result considering Head Start’s discouraging track record. Even HHS’ own Longitudinal Study admitted to “only a few statistically significant differences in outcomes at the end of 1st grade for the sample as a whole,” and in some cases even "negative impacts."
How, then, would Obama’s Early Learning Challenge be any improvement? ELC is, once again, essentially government-subsidized day care with an emphasis on mental-health inspection, thinly disguised as education.
Part of the problem may lie in our leaders’ flawed view of what constitutes poverty. Heritage Foundation president, Ed Feulner, cited government surveys in another July 25 article, revealing that:
The average household defined as poor … has a microwave, a washer and dryer, a dishwasher, a coffee maker, and a cordless phone. Half of poor households have a computer…, two color televisions and a DVD player, along with a video-game system such as an Xbox or a PlayStation for those households with children…. Welfare expert Robert Rector [reveals] in a new study [that] “…the houses and apartments of America’s poor are quite spacious by international standards. The typical poor American has considerably more living space than does the average European.”
This may be good news for America’s so-called poor, but if the Education Department has its way, even middle-class kids will leave school believing the above circumstances equate to “grinding poverty,” with the further implication that taxes should be raised to improve matters. Given the already outrageous debt crisis, this view may spell the end of upward mobility, the beacon for millions of America’s naturalized citizens, as well as natural-born persons seeking to climb the socio-economic ladder.
In 1965, the poverty-focused ESEA had only seven titles — which grew exponentially, thanks to the federally funded Council of Chief State School Officers. Beginning in 1974, the old Office of Education under the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare gave the Chief State School Officers the task of pressuring every state education agency (which at that time had considerable autonomy) to standardize data collection and make computers systems compatible with federal ones. Once accomplished, every state agency’s autonomy virtually disappeared.
With that, a new cabinet-level agency was born, the U.S. Department of Education (DoE) in 1976. Making good on his campaign promise to the far-left National Education Association (NEA), and its smaller, but still liberal rival, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), President Jimmy Carter created the new agency — with dire consequences for America’s families.
Today, if you look at the Education Department’s organization chart, then click on the offices and bureaus at every point along the chart, and factor in the fact that the U.S. contributes heavily to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with another whole subset of U.S. offices and bureaus, you have a diagram that, even in small print, covers an 8 x 12-foot floor!
The NEA and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching co-founded UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1947, and by 1976, there was little the NEA could not get away with. Increasingly, schools implemented UNESCO-inspired curricula, their cornerstones being the UN Declaration on Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. If one doesn’t look too closely, both documents may appear to mimic the wording and framework of our own founding documents. In fact, they run counter to American interests and the U.S. Constitution.
Policymakers at the DoE know this. The late President Ronald Reagan knew it, too, which is why he tried to shut the Education Department down — and also why he failed in that attempt. Two of President Reagan’s children had already succumbed — quite publicly, while he was still Governor — to the leftist brand of indoctrination proliferating on campuses, so he no doubt knew the stakes up close and personal. The future for families less well-off than his own looked even bleaker.
By 1980, the NEA and AFT had virtually co-opted America’s education system through conscription of nearly all teachers. They could dictate to universities how professors would train future educators, telling them which disciplines to incorporate (psychology) and which they could start eliminating (classical learning). It was subtle if one was outside the system looking in, but blatant from the perspective of a teacher-in-training listening to professors mock every conservative radio -TV commentator and ridicule traditional values.
By 1982, the education behemoth had grown intolerant of all but the most left-leaning ideas and individuals. Federal policy increasingly reflected the NEA’s annual legislative agenda. Over the years, the NEA agenda items covered everything from national defense to Social Security to gay rights, but remarkably little about actual teaching.
The national organization is always flush with cash — and not all of it from teachers' dues. Today, the union is poised to double the size of its political war chest, even though its mission purports to be nonprofit and education-focused. The bulk of its money goes to state and local affiliates to ensure NEA-friendly school boards via its various state Uniserve offices, while the NEA’s tax-exempt national headquarters in Washington, D.C. continues to wield mounting influence over how teachers’ dues are disbursed — to thwart parent-friendly bills and promote radical-left initiatives that will crush the very students it pretends to serve, with plenty of dollars left over to fund smaller scale, highly targeted measures, such as proposed capital-gains and income-tax hikes in Massachusetts, through its state and local chapters.
So, when Education Secretary Arne Duncan opines that we “can’t sacrifice the future to pay for the present,” he probably knows his agency has long since compromised the future in its unholy alliance with the NEA and UNESCO. The Department has, in effect, thrown America’s children under the bus.