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The End of Education

The 19th century legacy of Horace Mann and his influence on public school education is still being debated. His intentions were noble and his argument for civics and citizen-making as a function of democratic schooling had much to recommend it. But opening the public schools to government control has proven to be a Pandora’s Box of incurable ills. There can be little doubt that its latest manifestation, Common Core, is nothing short of a recipe for the uniform and partisan dumbing down of the current generation.

A figure no less significant and undeniably harmful in his widespread influence on public education is the Leftist social thinker John Dewey, especially in Democracy and Education. It has taken a hundred years to ruin American education, dating from Dewey’s so-called child-centered and “progressive” revolution in American public pedagogy in the early 1920s, through the turbulent 1960s during which empowered student radicals took over the universities, on to the self-esteem movement that flattered the student into believing that self-love was more crucial than self-improvement, to the present moment in which both public and university education has traded honest teaching, academic rigor and merit-based instruction for social justice, politically correct groupthink, anti-white and anti-Western passions, feminist madness and left-wing partisanship.

In The End of Education, published some twenty years ago, Neil Postman mounts a multi-pronged attack on the failures of the education machine, dethroning the idols of “Economic Utility, Consumership, and Technology.” One may or may not agree with his argument, which appears somewhat dated in the present environment. But he is certainly on target in exploding the fetish of “Tribalism and Separatism” as gods in the pantheon of Multiculturalism. He cites Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s 1991 tour de force The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society (a must-read), which partially skewers “our reversion to undiluted tribalism” and the ulcer of identity politics. Following Mann, Postman’s main point is that teachers and students need “a narrative to provide profound meaning to their lessons.” Unfortunately, the narrative currently in play is “a terrible story” advancing the “frightening” thesis that “evil inheres in white people … of European origin [and] Goodness inheres in nonwhites,” among many other reductions of our Judeo-Christian heritage. What is called “emancipatory knowledge” -- an alias for Social Justice gospel -- must replace “Eurocentric knowledge.”

A representative sample of high school teaching and curricula will serve to underscore the dilemma. In a forceful article for PJ Media, Megan Fox points out that, far from learning anything useful, students are likely to be subjected to ideologically driven praxis (a term teachers are fond of), including “gender-neutral pronouns, discussions of sexuality, and anti-white propaganda.”

We might say that students have been thrown under the syllabus, which stresses the factoid that white people, men, heterosexuals, Christians, natural born citizens and English speakers are targeting other races, females, LGBT folks, non-Christians, immigrants and non-native speakers. Students are separated “into tribal groups pitted against one another for chief victim status.” The crowning indignity is that students are asked to take a confidentiality oath, in other words, they are urged not to let their parents know what is taking place in this pestilential environment. Such lessons in perfidy should “not be shared outside the group.”