Written by Bruce Deitrick Price
Asked why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton famously replied: “Because that’s where the money is!”
Similarly, if asked why they dumb down the schools, our top education officials would have to reply, if they are honest: “Because that’s where the kids are!”
Years ago, John Dewey introduced a counterintuitive idea, that schools are not for schooling--that is, teaching, learning, thinking, all that scholarly stuff.
Forget about it, John Dewey said. Schools are for socializing children.
An interesting sleight-of-hand occurs here. Picture in your mind a large building with one, two or three floors, a big parking lot, lawns, and playing fields. Perhaps a gymnasium and a science lab...Ah, you think, a school!
Well, yes and no.
Everything physical about this place is consistent with what we used to call a school. The visible attributes are there. But everything that goes on inside the school, the emotional, mental, and spiritual attributes, let us call them, are completely altered.
Imagine a friend of yours was possessed by an evil spirit. By all appearances you’re talking to your friend. But something is wrong. The malevolent look in the eyes is not what you remember; the voice is off. It’s your friend, in other words, but it’s not your friend. In fact, this apparition may be your enemy, plotting how to kill you. But your brain keeps telling you: this looks just like my friend. Shouldn’t I try to be friendly?
Appropriately, you feel a lot of confusion, schizophrenia, cognitive dissonance, and fear.
These are the feelings that many Americans have about their public schools. These places seem to have been possessed by a hostile spirit. Even though the schools look much the same as that used to, they are not operated according to the same spirit and goals.
The typical American screams silently: But I liked the schools the way they were. What happened to those schools? What is this new thing just down the street from my house. I see some malevolence in the eyes. Something is wrong.
But nothing whatsoever is wrong if you trust the opinions of the education officials. Following John Dewey’s prescription to a fault, they have converted the interior intellectual machinery of the school so that it serves a different goal and strives for a different victory. They put all the emphasis on the social life of the child. Unfortunately, they’re not talking about singing around the campfire and learning to enjoy team sports. They’re talking very specifically about an early childhood education whose chief function is to prepare children for a collectivized society. Everything is focused on how children work and play together. If they are functioning as a happy, enthusiastic GROUP -- and we should keep repeating that word because that’s what Dewey was mainly interested in -- then you have a good school.
All else is secondary. The intellectual part is secondary.
The essence of the con was to make everything appear to be the same, even as heart and soul were ripped out and replaced. So we still have teachers, desks, textbooks, bookbags, homework, and blackboards. You’d almost swear it’s a school. But it’s not. It’s an odd sort of kindergarten from K to 12.
What a breathtaking concept. You treat little children as if they are little children. When they get older, you treat them as if they are little children. And when they’re about to graduate from high school, you still treat them as if they are little children--unable to grasp difficult subjects, unable to memorize anything, unable to know the history of their country, unable to do arithmetic, unable to read beyond a primitive level.
It’s always important to remember, I think, that voters never voted for this. Legislators passed no new laws. There were no editorials in the press, no speeches given at City Hall. no plank in a political campaign. So perhaps you’re asking, how did all this change come about? Because John Dewey and another hundred people like him agreed that a transformation was required. They operated covertly; they were a cult, and I think the commonsense word is a conspiracy. They thought that socialism was inevitable. It was just a question of getting ready for the new dawn.
John Dewey and his cohorts were steady and opportunistic. They knew socialism was coming, in just the way that similar cults believe in cap and trade, global warming, the new world order, or whatever. The big-league social planners decided we needed a new set of plans.
That’s Dewey’s great sin. He didn’t care about individual students. He didn’t care about the society that most Americans loved and wanted to preserve. He was a wrecking ball for a different sort of society. He cared very deeply about that.
Solution: first, know how the other side thinks; second, ignore their disingenuous theories and methods; third, return to an education that is cognitive, intellectual, and knowledge-based.
Stop using the school as an indoctrination center, that’s really the solution.
(“56: Top 10 Worst Ideas in Education” shows where Dewey-think led us. On the writer’s site Improve-Education.org.)..
Bruce Deitrick Price writes about education, culture, and language on Improve-Education.org.