The Successful Humanist Subversion of Public Schooling
Virtually everyone today realizes that government schools are less than ideal for children, with polls indicating that the vast majority would prefer an alternative. The fruit is obvious enough. According to 2019 data compiled under the federal government’s own National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as “America’s Report Card,” two-thirds of eighth graders are not proficient in any core subject. According to a 2020 Gallup study, fewer than half of U.S. adults read at a sixth-grade level.1
Meanwhile, polls show that some 70 percent of millennials would likely vote for a socialist—a total rejection of the principles on which the nation was founded. Data produced in 2021 by Barna Research in conjunction with the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University and Foundations of Freedom showed that 30 percent of millennials and almost 40 percent of Gen Z (18–24) identify as LGBTQ.2 Hundreds of thousands of youngsters now identify as “furries,” with news reports indicating that some are coming to school dressed up as animals while meowing or barking.3
On the religious front, millennials are the first generation in American history among whom Christians are in the minority. California only backed down from forcing children to chant to pagan Aztec deities of cannibalism and human sacrifice after a lawsuit.4 And rituals and practices from non-Christian religions are now a staple in some school classrooms. All this in a country where, only a few decades ago, upwards of 90 percent of Americans described themselves as Christians. Even among those who still identify as Christian, those with a biblical worldview are a steadily declining minority.
And the trends are accelerating, with data showing that the overwhelming majority of Christian children who attend public school will leave the faith. The Christian Post, citing the Nehemiah Institute, reported that 80 to 85 percent of public-school students from Christian homes have a secular humanist worldview at odds with Christianity.5
But the mantra heard so often that public education is merely “broken” or was “hijacked” at some undetermined point in the past is false. The truth is, the schools are performing exactly as intended. It was all by design, though not the design of the workaday schoolteacher or principal.
Tyrants have understood for at least a century that indoctrinating children through universal public education would help them cement their power. Karl Marx was an early advocate of government “education” for all children, and from Adolf Hitler’s National Socialism to Lenin’s and Stalin’s Socialist Soviet Union, mandatory, state-controlled education has been a critical component of tyranny. That self-styled progressives today would use the same system to indoctrinate children in America shouldn’t be surprising. Indeed, many of them boast of what they are doing. Just last year, amid unprecedented parental uproar surrounding Critical Race Theory in schools, the National Education Association (NEA) passed resolutions declaring that they would continue pushing the Marxist ideology masquerading as a remedy for racism anyway.
The United Nations has also been transparent about its agenda to use public education to shift values, attitudes, and beliefs. “Both formal and non-formal education are indispensable to changing people’s attitudes,” reads chapter 36 of UN Agenda 21, a controversial global agreement adopted by the consensus of UN member states in 1992. “It is also critical for achieving environmental and ethical awareness, values and attitudes, skills and behaviour consistent with sustainable development.” This can include “spiritual” development.
Politicized subversion via education is not new. From the beginning, key individuals behind the establishment of government education in the United States were open about their plans. The goal, in brief, was a total transformation of the United States—away from its Christian heritage of individual liberty, God-given rights, and limited government and toward a collectivist utopia.
This is documented in the writings of John Dewey (1859–1952), who is universally regarded as the father of the “progressive education” that reigns in government schools today. Unlike many of his contemporary associates, Dewey was transparent about his desire to subvert the existing order. His vision came from an 1888 novel by utopian author Edward Bellamy, called Looking Backward, in which private property would be seized by the government. So enamored was Dewey with this collectivist vision that he became an honorary member of the Edward Bellamy Association, which was created to promote the agenda.
Another key inspiration for Dewey was the then-nascent Soviet Union, which even in its early years was savaged by mass murder, political and religious persecution, and economic horror. Dewey traveled to the Soviet Union and wrote a series of glowing reports for The New Republic about the collectivist system, and especially its instilling of a “collectivist mentality” in children through public education.
Despite couching his ambitions with the label of “democracy” (much like socialists today), Dewey’s socialistic leanings were hardly a secret to anyone who cared to look. In his book Liberalism and Social Action, he openly called for government control of the means of production. “The only form of enduring social organization that is now possible is one in which the new forces of productivity are cooperatively controlled,” he wrote. “Organized social planning . . . is now the sole method of social action by which liberalism can realize its professed aims.”
Dewey’s disciples today say he was not a Marxist, but Dewey’s chief difference with other communists of his day was that they generally favored violent revolution to achieve their vision, while Dewey favored a gradual approach using education and “democratic means” to bring about the same ends.
EVERY SCHOOL a SCHOOL of HUMANISM
Dewey’s religious views, if communistic godlessness can be so called, were also on full display for anyone who bothered to look, as he was an author and signer of the Humanist Manifesto (1933). The first plank stated, “Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created,” an outlook antithetical to America’s founding premise, expressed in the Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”
To America’s Founding Fathers, God and Creation were self-evident truths, and God was the source of human rights. In humanism, there is no God, and therefore no God-given rights. Dewey’s vision is therefore a total repudiation of America’s Judeo-Christian founding. The two visions cannot coexist.
Dewey’s “religion” was also openly communistic. “The humanists are firmly convinced that existing acquisitive and profit-motivated society has shown itself to be inadequate and that a radical change in methods, controls, and motives must be instituted,” the 14th plank explains. “A socialized and cooperative economic order must be established.”
Dewey was not alone. Another early humanist, Charles Francis Potter, explained in his 1930 book Humanism, A New Religion that public schooling would be the primary transmission system for this new religion. “Education is thus a most powerful ally of humanism, and every American public school is a school of humanism,” he wrote. “What can the theistic Sunday schools, meeting for an hour once a week, teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching?”
Long before Dewey, state schooling was seen as an instrument of totalitarianism. The first known advocate of government education and rearing of children was not Karl Marx, but Plato, a proto–totalitarian who believed humanity should be ruled by an elite class of “philosopher kings” for their own good. He believed that children should be educated by the state, for the benefit of the state. A handful of ancient Greek jurisdictions experimented with the idea, with terrible results (think fascist Sparta).
In 1837, another anti-Christian utopian, Horace Mann, was installed as the first Secretary of Education for Massachusetts, the first state to have such a position. Inspired by the Prussian system, Mann launched the establishment of full-blown government schooling, complete with government-controlled teacher training. He, too, rejected the Bible and wanted it out of education, suggesting that it fueled “sectarianism.” Believing that public education would “equalize all men” and cure countless societal ills, he adamantly opposed home education and private schools. After achieving his goals in Massachusetts, he traveled America preaching the good news of public education to any legislature that would listen.
Under Mann’s leadership, quackery infected education. Mann regarded phrenology, the debunked idea that skull measurements could predict personality traits, as the greatest discovery of the era, and he quickly imposed its “insights” on the school system.
More tragically, Mann introduced the “whole word” method of teaching reading in the schools he oversaw. Originally created to help deaf children learn how to read, and sometimes referred to as the “look-say” or “sight words” method, it involves memorizing entire words as if they were symbols. For deaf children, it represented a great advance, allowing them access to the written word, if imperfectly. But when taught to non-deaf children, it was debilitating. “Such a change, as that proposed by Mr. Mann and others, is neither called for, nor sustained by sound reasoning,” wrote Samuel Stillman Greene on behalf of the Association of Boston Masters in a devastating critique that practically ended the practice for 50 years.
Mann may have genuinely believed that the whole word method would be helpful, but when Dewey resurrected it half a century later, he had no such excuse. While he stood on the shoulders of earlier collectivists, Dewey was by far the most transparent about the need to dumb down the population before Americans would give up their individualism and Christianity. In an 1898 jeremiad headlined The Primary Education Fetich (sic), he argued that schools shouldn’t be focusing so much effort on teaching young children how to read. Instead, he saw the education system as part of “an organism of social forces [that should be retooled] to meet the needs of the present hour.”
He knew his ideas would not go over well with the public. “Change must come gradually,” he wrote. “To force it unduly would compromise its final success by favoring a violent reaction.” And indeed, it would have.
In 1894, Dewey set up an experimental school at the University of Chicago, funded by Rockefeller money. The Laboratory School resurrected the debunked whole-word method to teach reading, resulting in graduates who could not read or write properly. Despite having been exposed as harmful for 150 years, this method remains firmly entrenched in some schools today under the national “Common Core” standards. Dewey eventually moved on to Teachers College at Columbia University, the most influential college of education in America, and from there his ideas spread throughout U.S. public education.
FROM LITERACY to MEDIOCRITY
Contrary to this statist inclination, education throughout Christian history has been seen as primarily the domain of parents, for the Bible clearly places responsibility for the education, discipling, and training of children on their parents, with the church playing a supplemental role. Following the Protestant Reformation, formal education became more widely diffused, but it was primarily a function of the church, not the state.
It is hard for anyone to grasp the magnitude of educational decline that has taken place in the U.S. without first knowing how well-educated and highly literate Americans once were. From the very start, settlers placed enormous value on ensuring universal literacy. Early Massachusetts pioneers were so determined to make sure that every child was literate that they passed a law in 1642 requiring parents to ensure their children could read and write.
Near-universal literacy was not limited to Massachusetts. John Adams wrote to a friend that “a native of America who cannot read or write is as rare an appearance . . . as a Comet or an Earthquake.” P. S. du Pont de Nemours, in his 1812 study, National Education in the United States of America, concluded that virtually everyone could read at a young age. “Most young Americans, therefore, can read, write and cipher,” he said. “Not more than four in a thousand are unable to write legibly—even neatly.”
And it was not just reading. French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville, who traveled in America before Mann’s establishment of state schooling, wrote of his astonishment at the level of education found in America on everything from religion and history to the U.S. Constitution. This was all the result of a “non-system” consisting primarily of homeschooling and church-based education, with some Christian colleges taking care of more advanced levels.
But by the latter half of the twentieth century, the situation had become scandalous. “The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people,” concluded the authors of A Nation at Risk, the report of President Ronald Reagan’s National Commission on Excellence in Education, in 1983. “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.” The situation is only more acute today.
A TURNING TIDE?
Multiple generations of Americans have been dumbed down and indoctrinated with godless, collectivist ideologies that threaten to destroy the nation and its citizens’ civil liberties. It remains to be seen if this tide can be turned, but any solution to the decline in America must address the crisis in education.
There is good news, though. All across the country, families are fleeing public schools by the millions. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, amid the covid shutdown, the number of homeschooling families doubled in just one year. And early data suggests that most of them will not go back to public schools.
In fact, this mass exodus may be only beginning, as frustrated parents are ignored and mocked and even persecuted by the educational establishment for speaking out against abuses. Better late than never. It is past time for churches and parents to reclaim their rightful role from the state. The future of America literally depends on it.
s an international journalist, educator, speaker, homeschool father, and consultant. He is coauthor of Crimes of the Educators and executive director of Public School Exit, a ministry dedicated to rescuing children from government education.Get Salvo in your inbox! This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #62, Fall 2022 Copyright © 2023 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo62/stealth-education