The power to educate is the power to indoctrinate. When governments instead of teachers and parents take over an educational system, they start with the money. Once they get the district and local school systems used to feeding on Federal money, they start to feed curriculum down the food chain, as well, dictating what should be taught to children as a condition for receiving that Federal money.
There is method in this madness. The Nazis understood it well, as did the Soviets. There is a saying, “The child is father to the man.” Its meaning is clear. A child’s mind is keenly receptive to what he (or she) is taught. It is a learning mechanism instilled by nature to enable a child with no life experience to trust completely and to believe what is told to them by those who guide him, i.e., the authority figures in his life.
Usually, the first of these authority figures are the child’s parents. It is their job is to instill in the child basic values of right and wrong, good and bad. The presence and competence of parents is a crucial factor in a child’s upbringing and the absence of these affect the very basic issues of a child’s life at the early stages.
When a child is well fed, well protected and well taught the basics of right and wrong, good and bad, by proper example, he learns these basic values and they become guiding norms which will carry him through life, at least into adulthood.
When the child is not properly fed or protected, or when examples are not properly set, the norms are skewed and the values the child develops will be skewed, as well. The variations of this basic set of facts (single parent households, orphaning through war, plague, etc.) bring up a whole new set of topics for discussion, which cannot be addressed within the scope of this essay and are sidelines to the core issue.
After a child’s parents, come the child’s teachers, who should continue leading that child gradually toward enlightenment through education. From the first day a child is taught his first school lesson, until he is an adult, a child is supposed to be given the tools, skills and perception, i.e., the standards, to lead a life which will eventually be independent of parents and school teachers. At that point the child must be fully equipped to see truth and reality and to be able to make decisions based on the broadest possible understanding of the issues underlining those decisions. Life and survival depend on this ability. In an ideal or near-ideal world, the education of every child works perfectly toward that end.
But when government is allowed to dictate content of subject matter, that subject matter is corrupted. For example, in teaching history, many figures, who were once revered, are now either ignored or harshly treated. Instead of their accomplishments in the founding of the United States, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are instead criticized for owning slaves, while figures like Fidel Castro and Mao Tse Tung are treated temperately, as founders of their own republics. Notwithstanding the fact of slave ownership, neither Washington nor Jefferson were responsible for the wholesale slaughter of their opposition as were Castro and Mao.
In one piece of teaching material it was recently uncovered that children in classrooms were taught that the government is supposed to be obeyed. Note, it does not say that laws are to be obeyed or that, as Thoreau once insisted, when a law is unjust, it should be broken, but the consequence paid by the breaker. In this way, the infusion of deliberately misleading messages fed to students as fact, corrupt students’ ability to discern truth from propaganda. Likewise, if students are encouraged to believe that government can and must provide all opportunities and benefits for the duration of their lives, those students may well adopt a mindset that guarantees the suppression of the necessary will to educate themselves, to deny their own independent thinking because it is not developed, and instead to accept and expect government to provide their survival and success. This kind of message is designed to foster generational voting patterns and not to educate anyone.
There is an ongoing attempt by government to separate students’ education from the authority of parents and even from teachers by dictating content in the classroom. This has been done many times in history by totalitarian regimes because it works remarkably well. The classroom is like a fertile field in which to plant the seeds of political and civic conviction for every child who sits in one and is taught by a dedicated teacher. Even more than parents, the classroom gives the opportunity to mold a child to a way of thinking which will become ingrained in his nature and will form the basis for everything he learns or thinks or does for years and years to come, in almost every case, until that child is a full grown, fully developed adult, or even beyond. This is why the fertile ground of the classroom, especially in the early grades, is a target of liberals, a battleground they wish to seize and occupy so that free thinking people are no longer able to exercise their will. They know, as does everyone, that what is taught and learned by students is what will ultimately shape society. And generations of such exposure will engender that shape for generations to come. Governments know this. Parents need to realize it.
Spokesmen for government involvement in education claim that the need to teach what they call “older” or “outmoded” values in favor of newer, technological subject matter, give as their excuse, the need for greater numbers of technical specialists in industry and science. But emphasis on equipping a student technologically, while ignoring the requisite preparation of a philosophic comprehension of the deeper, more fundamental values may result in a better trained society, but not in a better educated or freer one.
The Soviet Union placed great emphasis on science, too, but their society eventually corroded from within out of sheer repression of the free expression of ideas. Teaching a child to be technologically proficient may have its advantages in certain areas, such as in the job market, but this set of values must always be taught in the greater context of the eternal norms of honesty, truth, goodness and beauty. As naïve as this may sound to some people – indeed to many people in an age of financial insecurity – society cannot continue to sustain itself without a high degree of individual freedom, because it is this freedom which allows and endorses enterprise. The dislocation of focus on the core of human industry, namely, truth, objectivity and honesty, enables government to step in and dictate the missing core values. And when it does so, it always encourages core principles that favor government control of life instead of the proper core values that teach and encourage individual freedoms. Government never encourages the freedom of individuals because government’s interests lie in the propagation of its own power, and those interests are collectivist in nature.
When government establishes itself as the dictator of core values, it enforces those core values in various ways. Currently, the principle agent and tool used in social-liberal curricula, encouraged by a social-liberal government, is political correctness, a pernicious tool of intimidation designed and intended to repress free speech and the free examination of ideas, in order to control teachers, administrators and students. Among other things, political correctness is used to discourage competitiveness in academics and in sports.
There are examples that baffle anyone with common sense. A trophy cannot be given to the best performer on a baseball team on the principle that those who performed less well will be discouraged. In one school system, teachers are forbidden to give any grade lower than 50%, presumably because students’ self-esteem will diminish if they get poor grades. Of course in both these cases, initiative to perform well is automatically dealt a death blow. In other cases, a teacher is not allowed to tell students to be quiet because it might hamper their sense of freedom, disregarding the fact that lessons cannot go on with the breakdown of classroom etiquette.
This anti-competitive attitude bleeds over to parents who are provided with mechanisms to enforce political correctness on behalf of their children. Some parents carry this principle far beyond reason, invoking threats of litigation if high grades, earned or unearned, are not awarded to their child. They use mechanisms provided to them, which may be initially intended to help children with disabilities, but which have been so widened in definition that they become burdensome to the teaching and learning process. Many parents now claim “learning disabilities” that are no longer legitimate, such as one case in which a parent claimed their child was not smart enough to learn in regular classes and should, therefore, be held to a lower standard, in a regular classroom. These gradually corrupt the purpose of learning which should be to teach students how to think clearly and discern reality, not to acquiesce in the parents’ demands for the sake of political correctness. From this, it is logical to conclude that government should always be excluded from the classroom. When ignored by parents and teachers, this fact can be destructive to society as a whole and the death blow to true education.
There are and should be limits to competitiveness. Society could not function if pure competitiveness, i.e., purely cutthroat action, were the highest norm. Indeed, the corruption of the fundamental norms or their subversion to the value of beating someone at something causes many of the ills we experience in some sectors of today’s society, even in the relative freedom we experience in America. However, the discouragement of all competitiveness is destructive of initiative and causes weakening of the resolve needed to survive in life.
What used to be called a “liberal education” was a general exposure for each child to a set of values that were open and free, thus to enable the child as an adult to make decisions and to shape his own mindset based on truth, reality and goodness. Alas, now, the term “liberal” has been corrupted to mean anything but true freedom. Notwithstanding the bad press teachers get these days, the only hope for returning the educational process to its purest roots resides with teachers, who, when working with sincere parents whose intentions are rationally in favor of providing real education that enables their children to make life decisions unfiltered and unadulterated by propaganda. A return to the old fashioned concept of the PTA would be a good first step in this urgently needed direction.
FJ Rocca is an independent, conservative writer/blogger of fiction and non-fiction, most interested in the philosophy of American conservatism. Clarity is more important than eloquence, but truth is vital to human discourse.