WARNING: This is a long post, but, as with all my posts that rest upon an in-depth knowledge of history, it has to be. HOWEVER, if you have any interest in what went wrong with your public schools and how it happened, you will want to read all of this post.
“I do not see how any honest educational reformer in western countries can deny that the greatest practical obstacle in the way of introducing into schools that connection with social life which he regards as desirable is the great part played by personal competition and desire for private profit in our economic life. This fact almost makes it necessary that in important respects school activities should be protected from social contacts and connections, instead of being organized to create them. The Russian educational situation is enough to convert one to the idea that only in a society based upon the cooperative principle can the ideals of educational reformers be adequately carried into operation.”
It has been brought to my attention that I may have been a little dismissive in an exchange I had with an RNL reader about John Dewey and the modern American education system. If that person reads this, I apologize. Should you wish to discuss Dewey with me directly, you’re more than welcome to do so. My email address is in the contact information in the far right margin of this page. Just scroll down until you find it. In the mean time, I thought I might explain my problems with John Dewey in greater detail.
It starts with the fact that I happen to know that John Dewey was a founding father of the American Progressive movement and a card-carrying member of the American Communist Party. For all practical purposes, the American Progressives were Communists without the revolution. Rather than bring about their socialist workers’ utopia through revolution, the Progressives believed it was best to implement smaller changes, gradually, over time. Hence the term “progress:” progress toward the workers’ utopia. But this is not how they sold it to America. You see, Wilson, another founding father of the Progressive movement, openly stated that he thought the Communist model was better for this nation than the one our founders left us, but that Americans were too attached to the traditions of this nation to accept it unless it was fed to them in another form. Since Americans are also enamored with the idea of “progress” – progress in the sense of building the nation’s economy and a better life for the individual – Wilson chose to sell the idea of Progressivism as a form of “progress:” social progress, based in “science.” Thus, from the start, the Progressives used a duality in their language – and so it is with Dewey. Once you understand that Dewey is writing to other Progressives, but conscious that he must do so in terms that will seem innocent and “American” to a general audience; and after you acknowledge that Dewey is confident in his assumption that his true audience – other Progressives – are as well versed in the works of Marx and his followers as he was, then Dewey’s writings take on the sinister context that so many who have taken time to learn this history understand it to truly be. The following is just a short list of this duality.
To start, Dewey hated tradition: not because it interferes with learning as he claimed, but because tradition is what binds one to his family, community, State and nation. Tradition is the source of patriotism; it is the stuff that inoculates the individual against the very agenda Dewey had in mind. Among these traditions was the learning of American history – our real history. Another was the proper understanding of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and that the latter was an extension of the former. Religion was another “tradition” that Dewey despised, and not only because Dewey was a humanist who believed all things are material and, thus, explainable by “science;” but also because religion makes one answerable to a higher authority than society and/or the State. All of this is reflected in the words of the leading Communists of the time – and his ideological father:
Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
Destroy the family, you destroy the country.
Our program necessarily includes the propaganda of atheism.
The aim of socialism is not only to abolish the present division of mankind into small states and all-national isolation, not only to bring the nations closer to each other, but also to merge them.
One of the surest ways to affect the changes Dewey sought was to teach it to the children. This way, while Dewey and his fellow Progressives might not be able to change their parents’ sentiments about the Progressive agenda, they would be assured that their children would not only accept it, but embrace it. Consequently, the reader would be wise to hold out the possibility that when Dewey uses the word “education,” he really means indoctrination. This is also why Dewey started the Kindergarten movement in this nation (something many people do not know). It was not to “give kids a head start” as Dewey and his followers claimed, it was to get to the children as early as possible – so the State indoctrination could begin as early as possible. Once again, Dewey is merely echoing the policies of Communist Russia, a system he openly admired and advocated for America:
The education of all children, from the moment that they can get along without a mother’s care, shall be in state institutions at state expense.
Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.
I do not hesitate to point out that Bush, 43, and Obama have both picked up where this process left off with their head start and even earlier programs. Once again, the idea is not to “give the children a head start,” the idea is that, if the State can get to the children early enough, and keep them for enough time each day that their parents barely have time to feed, bathe and put them to bed, the State can “inoculate” the children against their parents. That this is what Dewey wanted to do – indoctrinate our children into the Communist model – is evidenced throughout his writing, but you have to actually read Dewey while understanding the historic background and his political ideology to make the connections. Why do you think the Progressives passed laws to force public schooling? That was something not even Marx or Lenin advocated.
But what better way to kill the American spirit of individualism and institute a collective mentality than through forced public schooling? Here, read these three quotes. One is Lenin, another Marx and the third is Dewey. Can you tell who said what? Can you find the common theme?
The meaning of peace is the absence of opposition to Socialism.
Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society which is coming where everyone is interdependent.
All our lives we fought against exalting the individual, against the elevation of the single person, and long ago we were over and done with the business of a hero, and here it comes up again: the glorification of one personality. This is not good at all.
The first was Marx, the second, Dewey, and the third, Lenin. If you will notice, they are all talking about the need for people to identify themselves not as an individual, but as part of society as a whole: the collective. The problem then is simple: how does society teach the child to think as a part of society and not an individual? Well, Dewey believed the answer was “education” (i.e. indoctrination) guided by “science” (at this point, the reader must remember that, at this point in history, “science” was thought to have “proven” that minority races are biologically inferior to Caucasians).
Since changes are going on anyway, the great thing is to learn enough about them so that we will be able to lay hold of them and turn them in the direction of our desires. Conditions and events are neither to be fled from nor passively acquiesced in; they are to be utilized and directed.
- John Dewey
If you know the history of the Progressive movement, then you know they were born of the Fabian Socialist movement in England – as was Lenin and the Communist movement. And if you know the Fabian Socialists, then you know their motto, “Remold it Nearer to the Heart’s Desire.” Now, how closely does the Fabian Socialist motto match Dewey’s words in that last quote? The only thing different is that – fancying himself a “scientist’ – Dewey has assumed that the evolution of human society can be purposely directed through “learning,” or “science.” And that, in a nut shell, is the essence of the Progressive movements PR campaign to the American people in the early part of the 20th Century – but it is not what they actually meant or intended. Here, I offer you more evidence to support my claim – and from Dewey’s pen, no less:
The conception of education as a social process and function has no definite meaning until we define the kind of society we have in mind.
Democracy and Education, 1916; MW 9: 103
If you still doubt me, then read this:
“Education is a regulation of the process of coming to share in the social consciousness; and that the adjustment of individual activity on the basis of this social consciousness is the only sure method of social reconstruction.”
Now, ask yourself these questions: how does one define the society one wants and then regulate the education process to direct the student in that direction – to the point of “adjusting individual activity to conform to that “social consciousness” – without coercion? And what is coercion when it is initiated by the State in public schools that the State forces all children to attend if not indoctrination?
Definition of INDOCTRINATE
1: to instruct especially in fundamentals or rudiments : teach
2: to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle
Now, the immediate objection by Dewey and his disciples would be that to continue traditional education is no different, but they are wrong. You see, the traditional education Dewey sought to and largely succeeded in eliminating was under parental, and thus, democratic control. But Dewey and his disciples have pushed the control of our schools ever upward, toward federal centralization and, thus, away from parental and democratic control. In other words, Dewey and his disciples use their assumed authority as “educational experts” to dictate to the parents what and how their children will be taught. So, again, I am telling you that, when Dewey says this, he is not talking about anything that our founders would recognize, but about a process that is entirely socialist/communist in nature:
“I believe that the community’s duty to education is, therefore, its paramount moral duty. By law and punishment, by social agitation and discussion, society can regulate and form itself in a more or less haphazard and chance way. But through education society can formulate its own purposes, can organize its own means and resources, and thus shape itself with definiteness and economy in the direction in which it wishes to move.”
You see, Dewey is a Marxist in every sense of the word, but he is also interested in education, so he has merely re-framed the Marxist agenda through his own perspective of the world. Because he fancies himself an “educator,” he thinks “education” is the solution whereas Marx thought it was revolution and Wilson thought it was “administration.” No matter what the flavor, it is all the same socialist, collectivist poison.
Now, did you notice that Dewey admitted something I have always told you about Progressives? That they believe they have a moral imperative to “save” us from ourselves? Here, read this part again:
“I believe that the community’s duty to education is, therefore, its paramount moral duty. By law and punishment, by social agitation and discussion,…”
Now read this: again, from Dewey’s own pen:
“The end justifies the means only when the means used are such as actually bring about the desired and desirable end.”
In other words, indoctrinating your children against you will is morally justified so long as it brings about the socialist utopia Dewey envisions. And just in case you still do not agree with me, I leave you with a few more thoughts from one of Dewey’s greatest works, “My Pedagogic Creed:”
“I believe that the school is primarily a social institution. Education being a social process, the school is simply that form of community life in which all those agencies are concentrated that will be most effective in bringing the child to share in the inherited resources of the race, and to use his own powers for social ends. I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.”
“I believe that the teacher’s place and work in the school is to be interpreted from this same basis. The teacher is not in the school to impose certain ideas or to form certain habits in the child, but is there as a member of the community to select the influences which shall affect the child and to assist him in properly responding to these influences.”
The teacher is engaged not simply in the training of individuals, but in the formation of the proper social life…. In this way, the teacher always is the prophet of the true God and the usherer-in of the true Kingdom of God.
FYI: Dewey was a secular humanist. He believed man was god (small g). Therefore, he saw teachers as the prophets who would usher in the new god of mankind – mankind perfected by his self-directed hand.
And that is only the start of why I object to Dewey and the modern American school system.
[NOTE: I could keep going, as this only touches the surface of how badly Dewey harmed this nation. In short, Dewey led the way in losing the chords that once anchored us to our founding. As a result, America is now hopelessly adrift in moral relativism. And without an understanding and appreciation for our history, heritage, traditions and culture, we have no compass with which to find our way back.]