Even researchers who are familiar with the destruction of education in America and globally, including the major players who have brought about its demise, will learn something new from Alex Newman’s latest work. And to the casual observer as well as the “educational expert,” much of this shadowy story is barely known.
Newman is perhaps uniquely qualified to write such a history. A fan and admirer of the late educator, author, and historical researcher, Sam Blumenfeld, Newman co-authored one of Blumenfeld’s last books Crimes of the Educators: How Utopians Are Using Government Schools to Destroy America’s Children, and is a researcher and educator in his own right.
His latest book points out that public education actually began, not with Horace Mann or John Dewey, although these “socialist luminaries” certainly carried out their radical plans for the government takeover of education, but with an obscure individual named Robert Owen in 1820. Owen started a communist commune in Indiana called “New Harmony,” that rejected Christianity and private property. A Welsh utopian, Owen wanted to “show the world that collectivism was actually superior to individualism.”
Owen rejected the prevailing views of the day that man is innately wicked, believing that “the reason men were evil, selfish, individualistic, and violent was the result of their upbringing, not their nature.” He held that human nature is essentially good, “and that a collectivist education would help create what would later come to be known as the ‘New Soviet Man.’”
But Owen’s experiment failed miserably within two years. Newman notes that New Harmony preceded Karl Marx’s “The Communist Manifesto” by about two decades, but that its failure did not dissuade collectivism’s disciples. Rather, the prevailing wisdom “was that the commune failed not because of anything wrong with communism or collectivism, but because the people living there had not been properly socialized and ‘educated’ to be collectivists from childhood.”
Newman writes: “Just like Marx and Engels would claim decades later, the Owenites believed that what was needed were government schools that would take over child rearing from the earliest possible ages. And so that became their sole focus.” An interesting note is that Owen’s collectivist ideas on education, which he codified in a series of essays in 1813, became the basis for the oft-cited “Prussian Model” of collectivist education— “schooling of the state, by the state, and for the state”—which essentially prevails today throughout the world.
Indoctrinating Our Children details the progress of government schooling through the Horace Mann years, before which America’s thriving education system, dominated by homeschooling, church-run schools, entrepreneurs, and tutors, produced the best-educated people on the planet. As Newman notes: “Literacy data and vast amounts of anecdotal evidence from that era show that literacy levels were significantly higher in the mid-to-late 1700s than they are today. Modern studies on the subject confirm that.”
Along with Mann’s push to radically transform education from “the process of giving children intellectual tools and moral instruction,” to using tools for the purpose of “re-shaping human nature and society to achieve a heaven-on-earth ideal,” was the introduction of the “whole word method of teaching reading.” This was to replace the phonics method that had been in use for thousands of years. As readers of Education Reporter know, the failure to teach children to read by phonics has dogged the education establishment since Mann’s time, and which Phyllis Schlafly, among many others, warned about for decades.
Newman contends that the education establishment under Dewey and post-Mann established a “national religion” of Humanism. Charles F. Potter, a signer of the “Humanist Manifesto, “spelled out explicitly what few Americans were willing to see or understand at the time when he wrote in 1930: “Education is thus a most powerful ally of humanism, and every public school is a school of humanism.” A few decades later, this view was formalized by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that, as Newman describes, “after centuries of being at the center of American education, the Bible and prayer in schools, as mandated by state and local authorities from the time public education came into being, were suddenly found to be ‘unconstitutional.’”
In dissent, Justice Potter Stewart wrote what an educated public should have seen from the announcement of the decision: “Refusal to permit religious exercises thus is seen, not as the realization of state neutrality, but rather as the establishment of a religion of secularism,” or what Dewey and his cohorts would have referred to as humanism. In short, while pretending to uphold the Constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court “did the very thing the Constitution was supposed to prevent Congress from doing. It established a national religion and compelled Americans to support it with their taxes, and more significantly, with their children.”
Indoctrinating Our Children is packed with information; so much so that it’s difficult to summarize. For example, on the topic of illiteracy, the author observes at one point: “Incredibly, some especially unhinged ‘educators’ argued that teaching children to read properly was all part of a vast ‘right-wing’ conspiracy. Now, brain scans performed with new technology have actually shown the damage being done to the physical brains of children victimized by the quackery … The education establishment pretended not to notice.”
“The fact that this giant ‘mistake’ continues to be supported by the education establishment to this day,” he continues—”and that it always seems to be socialists, communists, and collectivists pushing it — suggests that there is a much more nefarious agenda at work.”
From the Frankfurt School to the anti-American influences of the big foundations, notably the Rockefeller Foundation, to the NEA’s involvement with Soviet Russia to the nationalization of American education through the U.S. Department of Education, Newman leaves no stone unturned. He devotes a number of chapters to more recent developments in education, from the implementation of the Common Core Standards during the Obama Administration, to Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and its many tentacles, to the extensive data-mining and digital monitoring of children, documenting its pervasiveness and sinister intentions.
He alludes to the oft-repeated conservative contention that the education department needs to be abolished, but notes that “getting the feds out, by itself, won’t solve the systemic problems plaguing education in the United States today.” He believes that abandonment of the government schools on a large scale in favor of homeschooling or the selection of a good private or religious school is the only answer for the preservation of children and the nuclear family.
“The time has come to treat this situation like the deadly threat that it is,” he writes. “If you still have children in a public school, or if you know anyone with children trapped inside, act like the building is on fire—because it is.”
This reviewer highly recommends Newman’s comprehensive and informative read on how U.S. education arrived at such a critical juncture, and the bleak outlook for reform, despite increased pushback from American parents, legislators, and concerned citizens. Whether or not public education is completely irredeemable is anyone’s guess, but Newman, for one, believes it is.
To read the entire book, go to Amazon.com to order!
Published by Phyllis Schlafly Eagles’ Education Reporter.
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