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Education Reporter

American Education: Beyond Frankfurt and Dewey

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By William A. Borst

Next year marks the 90th anniversary of the devastating flu epidemic of 1918-19, which killed several million people in Europe, India and the United States. It was called the Spanish flu because it was first discovered in Spain. Many called it the "Plague of the Spanish Lady," a veiled reference to an 18th-century Irish ballad. A Spanish Lady was considered a woman of dubious virtue. To "dance with the Spanish Lady" was to catch the flu and maybe die. Oddly, this flu struck a disproportionate number of young adults.

Little Animals
Like the Spanish flu, deadly ideas can also spread their virulent effects across oceans. The 19th century was a boiling cauldron of nefarious ideas that went under a host of different names, including Darwinism, Positivism, and Pragmatism. Their common denominator was the dehumanization of man and the denial of transcendent truth.

Most of the discussion of alien intellectual forces that have impacted American culture has focused on the cultural Marxism of the Frankfurt School. According to historian Dr. Dennis Cuddy, the Leipzig School, its older German sister, is equally important. As an incubator for some of the most harmful educational ideas in the history of American education, the Leipzig School would do to the American school system what the Frankfurt sibling would do to American morality. To dance with the German Lady from Leipzig was to be infected with a deadly flu of intellectual bacilli that would prove to be as lethal to young people as was her Spanish kinsman.

In 1879 the Leipzig School's leading scientist, Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920), established his experimental laboratory at Leipzig University. Wundt's iconoclastic approach to science transferred psychology from the domain of philosophy to that of the natural sciences. As the Father of Social and Experimental Psychology, he applied Charles Darwin's godless science to the schools.

Wundt believed that man was an animal who could be put under a microscope and reprogrammed for the good of society. Relationships were no longer based on mutual respect for a fellow-child of God but on pragmatic exploitation. Children were mere "little animals," who needed to be conditioned into good workers for the state. Along with Darwin and later Kinsey, Wundt reduced man to the status of a lab rodent.

Wundt's first prodigy was Granville Stanley Hall (1844-1924). Hall was a former preacher, but Darwinian psychology became his new religion. His interests in child development invariably led him to educational issues and child psychology. He taught at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University where his most apt pupil was John Dewey.

The American Future
In 1884 the Vermont-born Dewey (1859-1952), destined to become the Father of Progressive Education, received his doctorate from Johns Hopkins. He went on to teach and do research first at the University of Chicago and later at the Columbia Teachers College. At Columbia his influence was unparalleled in the history of American education. By the early 1950s Columbia was producing a third of the nation's largest school systems' principals and superintendents.

A confirmed socialist, Dewey experienced the Soviet future during the 1920s. He was mesmerized by the Soviet ideal of a world without capitalists, traditional families, or religion. In 1933 his Russian sojourn inspired him to contribute to the Humanist Manifesto which promised to do to society what the Communist Manifesto had done to economics. Dewey's Manifesto called for a New World religion that would be "a synthesizing and dynamic force for today that must be shaped for the needs of this age."

Dewey's thinking was an eclectic blend of Plato, Rousseau, and Darwin. He rejected the concept of God and denied the existence of all immutable truth, especially fixed moral laws. Man was a mere biological organism, devoid of a human soul. Individual freedom reduced a person's meaningful contributions to society.

Dewey had set the stage for the decline of traditional education as early as 1897 with his book My Pedagogic Creed. In the book he opined that "we violate the child's nature and render difficult the best ethical results by introducing the child too abruptly to a number of special studies, of reading, writing, geography, etc." Personal experience, the key to all learning, replaced rote memory in Dewey's hierarchy of educational values. His reformist ideas created several generations of feelers - not thinkers given to analytical thought and moral understanding. All activities were to be evaluated only according to their contributions to society. Dewey's education philosophy advanced the progressive education movement and fostered a swarm of experimental education programs.

Alice in Wonderland
Progressive education's early history in the United States promised to educate the "whole child." In doing so, progressive educators developed a student-based system that stifled bright students and favored slower-minded children. Its legacy includes such unfeasible principles of pedagogy as open classrooms, cooperative learning, whole language, and alternate schooling, such as non-graded classrooms and schools without walls. Failure was unacceptable because of its long-term damage to the student's self-esteem. Social promotions became the rule of the day. Moral absolutes disappeared in favor of moral relativism, values clarification, and situation ethics.

Dewey did much to adapt progressive education to what he had learned from Hall and experienced in Soviet Russia. According to the reliable educator Dr. Samuel L. Blumenfield, Dewey was the first to shift the emphasis from language-based learning "to a hands-on basket-weaving curriculum of progressive education." In his book, The Marketing of Evil, internet editor David Kupelian warns that the public school system "has been cultivated to indoctrinate, to mold, and to socialize children."

The public schools have become the new Marxist laboratories for social engineering. The average public school is mired in a sociological swamp of pornographic sex education, declining test scores, violence, and speech codes. They have created what Kupelian calls an "Alice in Wonderland environment," where small boys are dosed with Ritalin to contain their natural restlessness while others are suspended for playing Cowboys and Indians.

One of the great casualties of progressive education has been literacy. The progressives abandoned traditional phonics, the sounding out of phonetically structured words, for "whole language," which necessitates the memorization of each individual word. Using this method, according to Rudolf Flesch's 1955 seminal study Why Johnny Can't Read, is akin to teaching the Chinese language, which does not have an alphabet and must rely on the memorization of individual ideographs or word pictures. Whole language is a tool designed to make students intellectually dysfunctional. An illiterate society cannot recognize nor defend itself against an intrusive government.

With a Capital T
One of the leading spokesmen for an updated version of Dewey's socialistic pedagogy has been Marc Tucker, a former education apparatchik during the George H. W. Bush administration in the early 1990s. In his celebrated Dear Hillary letter of November 11, 1992, Tucker outlined his plan for the federal take-over of all public schools. As he wrote the First Lady-elect, "What is essential is that we create a seamless web of opportunities to develop one's skills that literally extend from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone."

Noted authority Samuel Blumenfield accurately described Tucker's letter as a plan for "the take-over of American public schools by behavioral scientists and psychologists." Tucker wants to eliminate the traditional education model, root and branch. To accomplish this will require a disastrous change in the prevailing American culture. He wants to put all 4-year-olds and 3-year-olds into universal public preschool, operated by independent contractors and run by teachers. Tucker wants the Federal Government to create regional economic development authorities that would develop goals and strategies for their regions. Tucker is also a strong advocate of systems education, known by many names, most notably outcome-based education. In place of educating independent thinking students, Tucker wants the government to direct students to the needs of the state.

Political science professor Allen Quist has been monitoring Tucker's career for many years. In the January 2007 issue of the Education Reporter he warned that there is a sinister agenda, hidden behind the exaggerated promises detailed in Tucker's 2006 education initiative Tough Choices or Tough Times. Tucker boasts that if the U.S. adopts his plans, "no one will fail and we can send almost everyone to college." This utopian fantasy might seal the fate of the American public school system.

Tucker's philosophy lay the basis for the Goals 2000 and the School-To-Work Acts passed by Congress in 1994. This legislation effectively usurped decision-making away from the local school board, damaging its local control. Tucker's contagious ideas provided the drive for the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act, which has prompted most teachers to just teach to the tests, leaving little time for education.

It is quite possible Tucker is pinning his hopes on Senator Clinton's chances for the presidency in 2008. Choosing Tucker to run her Department of Education where he can implement his dangerous plans for America's school children would be entirely consistent with Mrs. Clinton's views on education.

A Lifelong Epidemic
Mark Tucker wants to take the plague of Dewey's ideas globally. He has reapplied Dewey's ideas to the ephemeral world of global capitalism. His ambitious program includes "lifelong education," where all facets of human life - school, work, health, leisure and religion will be monitored from cradle to grave through a comprehensive system. To effect the global village, he plans to use UNESCO, the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization.

According to Tucker, in order to compete in the world economy, the United States "must adopt internationally benchmarked standards for education and its students and workers." UNESCO would establish these educational standards to be used around the world. It would determine what is taught in all schools, not just those in the United States. Tucker holds that all education should be vocational. That means he plans to adapt his outcome-based education to the global economy. All around the world, students will have to pass a national standards test, established by the UN, that would determine their future. The tests, taken in the 10th grade, will be based on the UN's secular humanist worldview.

Reprinted from Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation May 2007 Vol. XLIX-No.5 Mindszenty Report

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