NOTE FROM EDITOR:
This article was published August 8th, 1994. It demostrates the ability of Dr. Blumenfeld to predict where progressive educators were taking the American people – down the road to a dumb, ignorant electrate.
The story of how American education has become the awful mess it is today is a long one, with many important characters implementing crucial changes in pedagogical theory, ideologies, and worldviews. But if one wanted to reduce the story to a simple summation, one could say that the history of American education is really the history of a war between those who believe in traditional biblically based values, and those who don’t.
From Faith to Faithlessness
This ongoing war, which is being more intensely waged today than ever before, can be divided into three periods. The first — from America’s colonial times to the 1840s — saw the dominance of the biblical worldview as seen through a Calvinist perspective: God’s sovereignty was the central reality of man’s existence, and the purpose of man’s life was to glorify God. Biblical literacy was considered the overriding spiritual and moral function of education, for man was considered sinful and in need of God’s law as the guide to a long, healthful, and productive life. Latin, Greek, and Hebrew were studied because they were the original languages of the Bible and of theological literature. This period was characterized by a high standard of literacy. It was also the period which birthed our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.
The second period, lasting from the 1840s until about World War I, was dominated by the statist-idealist philosophy of Germany’s G.F. Hegel, a philosophy which spread throughout the Western world like a malignant spiritual disease, undermining Calvinist foundations. It was largely brought to this country by the Unitarian professors at Harvard who had studied in Germany and admired this new worldview. In Hegel’s pantheistic scheme the purpose of life was to glorify man, and the instrument through which man’s collective power could be exercised was the state. Hegel wrote, “The State is the divine idea as it exists on earth.” To this the Unitarians who predominated at Harvard added their own ideas about the perfectible nature of man.
This was the period of Horace Mann, the consolidation of the public school movement, the centralization of control by a state education bureaucracy, the institution of compulsory school attendance, and the founding of the National Education Association in 1857. In the aftermath of the War Between the States, the interpretation of the Constitution shifted to reflect the new power of the federal government over the states.
During this Unitarian-Hegelian period in America, the state replaced God as sovereign over the people and the schools became increasingly secularized. But since Hegel considered man’s mind to be the highest manifestation of God on earth, discipline, high academic standards, and achievement were the hallmarks of the public schools.
The third period, which began around World War I and has continued to the present, saw the rise of the progressives, members of the Protestant academic elite who no longer believed in the religion of their fathers. They put their new faith in science, evolution, and psychology. Science explained the material world, evolution explained the origin of living matter, and psychology offered the scientific means to study man’s nature and to control his behavior.
These elites were also socialists. Why? Because they had to deal with the problem of evil. They had to answer the question of why men do the horrible things they do. Why do they rob, rape, and murder? They rejected the biblical view of man as innately depraved and sinful, deciding instead that the causes of evil were ignorance, poverty, and social injustice. And what was the chief cause of social injustice? It was this horrible capitalistic system with its selfish individualism and superstitious religion. Their solution: get rid of capitalism, individualism, and religion and replace them with socialism, collectivism, and humanism. Socialism had to be brought about if they were to prove that they were right and traditional biblical values were wrong. For if it turned out that the Bible was right and they were wrong, they knew where they’d spend the rest of eternity. Therefore, they were quite confident that socialism was the answer.
But how was this socialism to be brought about? The only way was by the slow permeation method adopted by the Fabians in Britain and by a gradual takeover of the education system, through which children would be educated to become socialists.
It was during the first two decades of this century that the progressive education establishment took shape. John Dewey emerged as the progressives’ chief ideologue, with Charles Judd of the University of Chicago engineering “a detailed reorganization of the materials of instruction in schools of all grades.” Judd’s protégé, William Scott Gray, produced the “Dick and Jane” reading program, and organized the International Reading Association to control the teachers of reading.
Several occurrences in the early days of the progressive movement helped to establish the direction of American education: l) educational research and pedagogy were co-opted by behavioral psychologists; 2) graduate schools of education were established for the indoctrination of teachers and the creation of doctors of education; 3) the National Education Association was transformed into a teacher membership organization for the purpose of controlling the classroom teacher and organizing teacher political activity; and 4) large philanthropic foundations such as Rockefeller and Carnegie were taken over by progressives, who proceeded to fund progressive education programs.
The 1920s and ’30s were devoted to a transfonnation of the public school curriculum. Charles Judd told a meeting of the American Political Science Association in 1931 that the entire organized profession was now engaged in the process of promoting “a movement to bring to full realization the project of socializing the whole body of instructional material in schools and colleges.”
The work, in fact, was being done so vigorously that a reporter attending the 1932 meeting of the NEA’s school superintendents department — held in Washington, DC and attended by John Dewey, Charles Judd, and other progressives — wrote: “Here, in the very citadel of capitalism this group of outstanding spokesmen of American education talked a remarkably strong brand of socialism.”
Even the American Historical Association got into the act of preparing America for socialism. In 1934, financed by the Carnegie Foundation, its Commission on the Social Studies reported:
… two social philosophies are now struggling for supremacy: individualism, with its attending capitalism and classism, and collectivism, with planned economy and mass rights. Believing that present trends indicate the victory of the latter the Commission on the Social Studies offers a comprehensive blueprint by which education may prepare to meet the demands of a collectivist social order without submerging the individual as a helpless victim of bureaucratic control.
During the 1930s many refugees from Hitler’s Germany came to America. One of them was social psychologist Kurt Lewin, whose work was to have a profound effect on American education. Lewin founded the Research Center for Group Dynamics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (it later moved to the University of Michigan). Lewin is credited with inventing sensitivity training, which became the inspiration for the encounter movement. Shortly before his death in 1947, Lewin established the National Training Laboratory at Bethel, Maine, under the sponsorship of the National Education Association.
Lewin’s work in group dynamics spurred the development of Third Force psychology by humanists Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Sidney Simon, and others who attempted to interject an emotional and spiritual component in behavioral psychology. Since the goal of education had now been reidentified as “self-actualization,” the emphasis was now on the development of the affective domain through such programs as values clarification, sensitivity training, situational ethics, multiculturalism, pluralism, and human sexuality.
Another theme promoted in public education since the end of World War II has been that of world government. In December 1942, NEA Journal editor Joy Elmer Morgan wrote an editorial entitled “The United Peoples of the World,” announcing the NEA’s support for world government:
World organization may well have four branches which in practice have proved indispensable: The legislature, the judicial, the executive, and the educational. In addition to the framework of government the world needs certain tools of cooperation: A world system of money and credit; a uniform system of weights and measures; a revised calendar; and a basic language.
Morgan also called for a world police force and a world board of education (which came in 1945 as UNESCO). For the NEA, the United Nations became the hope of the world. In January 1946, Morgan wrote in the NEA Journal.”
In the struggle to establish an adequate world government, the teacher has many parts to play. He must begin with his own attitude and knowledge and purpose. He can do much to prepare the hearts and minds of children for global understanding and cooperation....At the very top of all the agencies which will assure the coming of world government must stand the school, the teacher, and the organized profession.
A New Enemy
Of course, as anyone can see, there is no place for traditional biblical faith in such an educational scheme. In fact, the war against God in the public schools still rages for one very unforeseen reason: the resurgence of Judeo-Christian faith in millions of Americans. And therefore the new enemy of the NEA is the “religious right.” Hardly an issue of NEA Today is published without an article about the war against “religious extremism.” And every day more and more Christians are removing their children from the public schools and educating them at home or enrolling them in private schools.
At present, public education is in its final stage of eliminating every vestige of traditional education from its system. With outcome-based education using Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives as its guide, the public schools have become for all practical purposes Unitarian parochial schools. And with the widespread use of whole language in the primary schools, the process of dumbing down Americans now has the complete backing of the federal and state governments.
If the United States is to survive as a free country, under a Constitution that guarantees the protection of the citizens’ unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the American people must recognize the threat that government-controlled education poses to their future as a free, independent people. Americans must wake up and recognize the progressive-socialist agenda for what it is, and reject it entirely. As long as America’s education is controlled by the present psych-socialist mafia, there is no possibility that it can be reformed to resemble anything that sane Americans consider acceptable.
Mr. Blumenfeld was a contributor to The New American and author of NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education, Is Public Education Necessary?, and many other books. He published the monthly Blumenfeld Education Letter, and lectured on education to audiences nationwide. Use by Permission The New American, August 8, 1994.