by Tim Dunkin
Most reasonable people in this country agree that the American education system leaves a lot to be desired. The most recent piece of evidence for this came in the form of a report out of New York City that 80% of the city high school graduates who are headed to CUNY (City University – New York) next fall do not have sufficient reading, writing, and math skills to be able to handle the college courses they will be expected to take, and have to “catch up” via remedial courses. Think about that – this is the going rate in NYC for college-bound kids. Where are the kids who aren’t going to college placing? Do we even want to know?
The kids can’t read or write, but I’m sure they can tell you all about global warming, if you were to ask them.
It is widely recognized that this is not an isolated problem. All across America, many school districts are churning out graduates who don’t possess even basic academic skills that will allow them to enter college or a skilled trade, or later in life to be able to get and keep a job (of any sort), manage a household, wisely govern their finances, or many other skills that will help to determine whether a person is a success or a failure in their earthly life. One of the most widely quoted bits of conventional wisdom about American schools is that our kids can’t even measure up in math and science to kids in second- and third-tier developed countries like Hungary or South Korea, much less with kids in countries like Germany or Canada. While I think this statistic is somewhat overstated – often what is being compared are all of our kids as an average versus the top-tier kids in the school systems of these other nations – there is still enough truth content to it to be troubling for thoughtful members of our society.
So why does the American public school system – as a model – seem to be failing?
I believe a lot of the answer to this question has to do with the fact that those who govern it have no interest in actually fixing it so that it would do what it advertises itself as doing, which is educating our children. Instead, the reason the status quo remains in place is specifically because the status quo is ideologically preferred by the leftists who generally make up what may be called “the education establishment” in America.
What we need to understand from the start is that the two different ideological camps in America look at the education of our children in completely different ways; they view it as existing for entirely different purposes.
Conservatives and liberty lovers, those whom we might broadly refer to as “the Right,” think of education primarily in terms of social preparation – schooling is about preparing children to be contributing individual members of society. They recognize that education is two-fold: to produce children with the epistemic (knowledge-base) capacity to function as rational and contributing economic actors (i.e. who can get and keep a job, start a business, etc.), and to prepare children morally for perpetuating civil society (i.e. teaching patriotism, morality, fair play, and so forth). Those of us on the Right expect that schools will teach kids both how to read, write, and do math, but also to understand the rationale for our civil and social systems and to perpetuate them as the best examples of freedom-providing order in the world.
Those on the Left do not view education this way, however. Leftists view education primarily in terms of social “justice” (as they define it). For those on the Left, objective knowledge (science, math, simple facts about history, etc.) is of secondary, if any, importance. Indeed, many on the post-modern deconstructionist Left don’t even view these areas as containing “objective” knowledge (that’s why they think there is such a thing as “feminist mathematics” or “gay history”). For them, education is about propagandizing children toward the adoption of leftist social, moral, and political mandates. This was one of the goals of the Gramscian emphasis on taking over the schools as part of the “long march through the institutions.” To the hard core of the Left, that kids are accepting of homosexuality as a lifestyle choice, believe in global warming, are conditioned by “sex education” towards promiscuity and experimentation (pioneered by Georg Lukacs in Hungary after World War I), implicitly accept radical environmentalism as the default view of the world, and believe that far from being a beacon of freedom, America is a horrible example of racism, sexism, and homophobia – these are the desired goals of “education.”
Looked at this way, many in the left-wing educational establishment really don’t care whether our kids can read, write, reckon, or remember the good things that the Founding Fathers did, so long as they know that gay marriage is good, burning fossil fuels is bad, and putting condoms on bananas is valuable training for the future.
As such, when conservatives – such as North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory - make noise about reforming education, the Left goes into howling mode, loudly screaming that these right-wing ruffians want to “destroy” education. For instance, McCrory’s recent comments about shifting emphasis towards STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields in North Carolina’s university system and away from some of the more superfluous areas of the humanities (he specifically mentioned “gender studies” as an example of what he was talking about) was met with shouts of horror from the state’s local Left. To listen to the hyperbolic hysteria, one would think that McCrory had proposed abolishing the university system entirely, and returning to witchdoctory. Yet, contrary to (leftist) popular opinion, McCrory doesn’t want to abolish the liberal arts – but he does want to reform the system so that it better does what it’s supposed to, which is educate kids to be productive members of society after they graduate. The Left, however, was incensed that he would even dare propose axing courses of study that exist solely for the purpose of generating more professional activist members of the left-wing grievance committee.
As I said above, the Left doesn’t want to “fix” the system because they don’t think it’s broken. Indeed, from their perspective, public education at all levels is working just fine because it is doing exactly what they intend for it to do, which is to propagandize impressionable young minds toward accepting emotionalistic propositions and politics that the Left would otherwise be unable to convince significant numbers of people about, if they had to rely on rational argumentation alone. The Left does not want for people to be able to think rationally. Reason is anathema to them. If kids were actually taught how to think (rather than what to think), the Left would be dead in the water.
Indeed, the hard-core leftists who generally control the public education system in America in many ways have engineered the educational system to reflect a three-tiered, Marxist-derived class system.
The first group of students are those in tony, high-end school districts typically found on the West Coast or the Northeast. Typically, these exist in urban, heavily Blue communities where the community values already reflect what the public schools teach anywise. These schools are where the vanguard of the revolution for the next generation will be drawn from, and these kids are more often than not being groomed to fulfill Gramscian/Alinskian roles in politics, education, law, and “community activism.” They are intended to be the leaders of the proletariat, the ones who mobilize and energize the continuing class warfare against the bourgeoisie. These kids will form the “Inner Party” of the up-and-coming generation.
The second group of students are the proletarian students, the ones who are currently served the worst by the present system, from a strict knowledge and skills viewpoint. These kids don’t generally need to learn too much, since if they learn too much, they might end up escaping from the underclass into the middle class, thereby becoming class enemies who will only make the Marxist subversion of the nation that much more difficult. As a result, the radical Left isn’t too exercised about these kids failing – they are intended to fail, not just in school, but in life as well. They don’t “need” schooling, since they “should” only be in low-wage dead end jobs or on welfare and other government “assistance.” As such, they are intended to grow up and form an easily-malleable class who can be manipulated to vote (or riot) in whichever direction the radical Left wants them to. Schools, for them, are merely holding pins until they turn eighteen and become “adults.”
The third group of students is the most numerous, and their parents the most troublesome. These are the kids coming from middle class homes, everything from the blue collar workers up to what is typically called “the upper middle class” made up of professionals and small business owners. These are the kids who have to be broken of their bourgeoisie notions about just about everything – hence it is to them that the propagandization is most heavily directed, and it is in their suburban, exurban, and rural school districts that the radical Left makes its greatest efforts. It is in these schools that “sex education” is pushed the heaviest; it is in these schools that kids who accidentally bite their Pop-Tarts in such a way as to somewhat resemble a gun are punished, so as to plant the fear-based meme that “guns are bad, and cause bad things to happen to me;” it is in these schools that global warming and other spurious environmentalist myths are taught as religious devotions. This group of students is why the Left is so adamant about changing anything about the education system, other than to throw more money at it – the system is doing exactly what they want it to do, regardless of the wishes of these kids’ parents.
So, what do we do about it?
Well, the first and most obvious thing that needs to be done is that public schools need to be turned into “liberal free zones,” for the sake of the children, you know.
Frankly, we’re at a point in this country where conservatives and liberty-lovers have to stop being “nice guys.” It’s time to start playing hardball with the Left. In the context of education, this means that whenever and wherever we come to power in any state and locality, we have to make every effort to purge those on the ideological Left from positions within the education establishment – from teachers to principals to administrators, every level of the educratic hierarchy. This will necessitate breaking the power of the teachers’ unions and abolishing automatic teacher tenure. The education system will never truly begin to be fixed until the sand that is grinding the gears is removed. We have to work to break the Left’s hold on education, and then decentralize the system to such an extent that they never possibly can regain control over it all, or even over a significant portion of the system.
One way to improve education would be to actively and aggressively promote alternatives to the public school system – homeschooling, private schools, and religious schools, among others. When you introduce true competition, the competitors are incentivized to start making their product better. There’s no reason why it can’t work the same way in education – in fact, where greater freedom has been introduced into education already, we’ve seen that education as a whole tends to improve. Capitalize on that fact, and apply it more broadly. Allow parents and private educators to be creative in tailoring education to individual children, instead of sticking them in a government-run holding pen that tries to force every child into a one-size-fits-all box.
Indeed, even before the Left took over education in this country, that very problem – the one-size-fits-all mentality – was a problem for American education. This isn’t surprising – the present public school model used in this country originated from 19th century Prussian models that were intended to produce obedient but non-thinking soldiers for the Kaiser’s armies. That’s what it has been doing to our kids as well, even apart from the leftist indoctrination. As the Left took hold of education, the problem has gotten even worse because of the Left’s overbearing and anti-freedom attitude toward parental rights – as in, when your kids are in public schools, you as parents have no rights. If the school thinks your kid needs to be on Ritalin, they will put him on it, and if you object, they may well call in child services because you’re being “abusive” to your children by not going along with what the educrats think is best. One example would be this story of one woman and her husband who had to repeatedly fight non-thinking and abusive educational bureaucrats to get them to do right by their kids, educrats who wanted to put her gifted son into remedial classes, all because the kid actually understood the material better than the teacher, and told the teacher so. If we’re to continue to have public schools – and we will always have to, at least to some extent – these schools need to be forced to be parent friendly.
While many conservatives are enamored with the idea of vouchers, I don’t really like them because they still introduce a measure of government control into private education that I feel is inappropriate. I understand that at present, many educational alternatives have expenses that can be prohibitive to those who would like to avail themselves of the opportunity to take their kids out of public education. Perhaps, as a transitional measure, vouchers can play a role. But ultimately, to the greatest extent possible, the goal should be separation of school and state. To that extent, ways need to be found to make alternative educational methods less expensive – and that generally will happen by making them more broadly accepted and demanded by parents. Smart businessmen seek to provide goods and services to meet growing demand for a product, which brings down costs. Automobiles, central heating, and running water are no longer the province of the rich only, are they? Obviously not – and there’s no intrinsic reason why private or religious education would have to be, either. Let the ingenuity and innovation of the free market be applied to education, instead of stifling it with a command-and-control public education system such as we have now, where educrats lobby legislators at every turn to stamp out the competition and throw as many roadblocks as possible into its way.
Obviously, even if all this were to happen, there will still be some who cannot afford educational alternatives and who are not able, for whatever reason, to home school their kids themselves. In such cases, the public schools will be the only realistic option, and therefore the public schools will still need to be streamlined and improved to give these kids the opportunity to excel in their futures as well. How to do that? In place of the leftists who would be removed, as I said above, we need to seek out and hire qualified people whose first interest will be in educating kids to be productive and good citizens, rather than propagandizing along a Gramscian party line. Entice these folks out of the private sector by means of alternative qualification models – it doesn’t make any sense to say, for instance, that a graduate from a teaching program at a university who has a teaching certificate, but who doesn’t really have any more than a basic knowledge of chemistry or geometry or biology, is more qualified to teach these fields than somebody whose degree and years of experience are specifically in one of those fields. Make compensation competitive with the private sector by cutting out the fat from the education system. Eliminate things like “sex education” classes that the kids’ parents ought to be handling anywise. Streamline spending and cut out the waste introduced by the fat cat teachers’ unions, and you’ll have the money needed to bring in good teachers to replace the leftists who got the axe, while retaining the good teachers already there. After all, when left-wingers talk about “more money for education,” what they really mean is “more money for teacher union bureaucracies.” Eliminate that bureaucracy and introduce some good old-fashioned free market competition into teacher hiring and retention, and you’ll have all the money you need.
Now, one last issue that I want to address in education is the culture of “anti-learning” that exists especially in our inner city and “minority-majority” schools. This is the culture that says that it is “uncool,” or even makes it a beating offense, for kids to want to learn and excel. Doing so is often said to be “acting white” and makes someone an “oreo” or a “coconut” (you know, black or brown on the outside, but white on the inside). A lot of times, educators want to ignore this problem, because addressing it, or even acknowledging that it exists, could incite charges of “racism.” “How dare you say that black and Hispanic kids actively attempt to discourage each other from learning!” even though everyone knows – demotically - that it happens all the time.
While it may be true that tightening up on discipline in our rougher schools would help some, ultimately, what needs to change for these kids and these schools is not the external circumstances of their in-school existence, but the cultural attitudes toward education that exist in their hearts. Excuses cannot be made for them, and they need to be taught and trained to understand that success in life will ultimately coming from getting education, not selling drugs or becoming the next big-name rapper. The attitude of racial solidarity that drives this (i.e. the “acting white” criticism when a kid in these schools does try to take education seriously) is a corrosive force. It should not be tolerated at all. If we would criticize whites for notions of “white solidarity” and saying “you need to act white,” then why is it acceptable for black or Hispanic kids to do the same regarding their races? Kids need to understand that education is a not a “color” issue, but an issue of whether you’re going to live in the slums on welfare all your life or be able to get a good job and a better life for yourself and your posterity. The process suggested above of removing left-wingers from the education establishment and replacing them with people who actually want to teach kids to excel in life instead of turning them into slogan-spewing robots would be a good first step to achieving these goals.
Some of what I’ve said above will surely sound “radical” to many readers. Certainly, they would be hard to implement – at first. Overcoming the resistance of the low-information voters and their left-wing educrat handlers will be a job that requires perseverance and hard work. But in the end, it will be worth it to rescue our kids, and our nation, from those who seek to destroy it and them.