You can’t know what you don’t know, but you can know that you don’t know. Knowing the difference is wisdom. Realizing that knowledge is the cure for ignorance should be the inspiration for education.
If you want to change the future change the children. It seems like every tin-pot dictator and every megalomaniac destroyer of worlds knows this. The Progressives figured this out and they’ve been concentrating on it for generations. The educational guru of the Left, John Dewey may not have coined the term Progressive Education but he has come to be recognized as its earliest and foremost exponent.
In 1889, in his book School and Society he said, “Democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife.” Dewey, a member of the first teacher's union in New York City, and a founder of the American Association of University Professors was an early leader and advocate for these unions which have served America well as academic elevator operators in the descent into our 21st Century Blackboard Jungle.
The importance of education and the power it has to shape the future was a lesson Conservative Academics overlooked in their effort to allow all voices to be heard. Remember, it was the Conservative educational leaders assailed in the 60s and 70s for being too rigid who hired the Liberals who now so often forbid the hiring of Conservatives. The idea that in the marketplace of ideas all voices should be heard providing the opportunity for everyone to make informed decisions was one of the founding ideas of America, enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution.
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Conservatives didn’t realize the Left made a conscious effort to capture American education as a way of shaping America’s future. The Frankfurt School, a group of Marxists educators who escaped Hitler’s Germany and worshipped Stalin’s Russia came to America intent on transforming this great nation from the bastion of freedom into the pyre of Western Civilization. From their original lair at Columbia University they’ve inserted themselves throughout the colleges and universities of America spreading their cult of Political Correctness along the way.
Spreading like a cancer through the body politic, metastasizing from one area to another, Political Correctness strangles the life from our society. Freedom of speech is slipping from our hands as words are eliminated and meanings are changed. In our current culture war one position seen as a litmus test by both sides of the aisle is the elimination of the Department of Education.
This bureaucratic puzzle factory was birthed during Jimmy Carter’s failed presidency and it has grown larger and more pervasive ever since. Today its tentacles reach from inside the beltway to inside the minds of millions. Our government’s No Bureaucrat Left Behind strategy enforces a politically-correct homogenous drivel wherein teaching to the test has fostered a generation that can forget as quickly as they memorize and critical thinking is one component no one thought to include.
This systematic seizure of education by the central government has turned the premier educational establishment in the world into a system where an emphasis on self-esteem produces graduates who feel great about themselves but can’t read their diplomas. Not surprisingly there are few jobs for people from schools where everyone gets a trophy and everyone passes.
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Here’s the Progressive’s answer to this dilemma: let’s add mandatory service to mandatory education and maybe that will give us mandatory mediocrity. Perhaps an army of paid volunteers all marching in lock-step to the drumbeat from Washington will lead us to utopia. Current member of President Obama’s economic team, former head of the Service Employee Union (SEIU) and former leader of Students for a Democratic Society Andy Stern has proposed that the Federal Government combat the effects of the centrally planned Great Recession by creating a youth work program.
This man who drove the SEIU pension plan into insolvency figures that, “Assuming an average annual cost of $15,000 per person, for just $46.5 billion we could offer every 16 to 24 year old who wanted a job a national service opportunity.” After twelve years of memorizing the inconvenient absurdities of Al Gore, Michael Moore, and the rest of the politically-correct wisdom from Mount Olympus this stint in a renamed Civilian National Security Force should help round out just the kind of citizens the regime needs.
The take-over of higher education through the direct loan program and its top down restructuring will eventually decide who gets loans and who has to repay them. Surprisingly, the who gets and the who pays may not end up being the same who.
In addition, the “let’s get everyone in college so they aren’t counted as unemployed” program is turning the halls of Academe into a post-secondary version of the dysfunctional high schools the Progressive teachers’ unions and political correctness have birthed from inner city to the heartland. Criminal Justice programs filled with criminals, political science classes filled with people who don’t vote, discipline problems, and gangs make one hope the home-schooling college of online education will turn out some scholars for the future.
So what’s the answer to America’s educational problems? First of all close down the Department of Education and get the Federal government out of the people programming business. Reassert local control. Adopt school voucher programs that actually transfer the money so the schools doing the best job get the most resources. End tenure, seniority, and anything else that protects ineffective teachers.
What we don’t need is more central planning, more federal control, or one more brick in the wall.
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion. Get the latest dispatches from the History of the Future and find books by Dr. Owens @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2010 Robert R. Owens [email protected] Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook.