If you are a Progressive in the political sense of the word, here is the philosophy to which you subscribe. If you think about public education, you think like John Dewey, the father of a progressive educational system.
We’d like to thank Joseph Mendola for this Op-Ed. If you have an Op-Ed or LTE
you would like us to consider please submit it to Skip@GraniteGrok or Steve@GraniteGrok.com.
Americans have allowed Dewey’s philosophy to replace the philosophy of Horace Mann, the father of our public school education system. Dewey believed the American experiment had failed and that our society must be restructured away from individual rights and into a collective society.
Horace Mann believed it was important for all children to get an education so that they can be responsible citizens, free and appreciate the value of living in a democracy where an individual’s rights are protected.
John Dewey believed that children’s’ minds needed to be molded to appreciate a collectivist society and denounce our inalienable rights as citizens in a free society.
Dewey’s extensive writings can be boiled down to five main points. They are:
1. God does not exist. Therefore, we have no inalienable rights.
2. Man does not possess inherent rights outside of what the government gives us.
3. Nothing is absolute; truth is relative. Absolutes must be eliminated, including natural rights and natural laws if a collective social order can be achieved.
4. Capitalism is unacceptable. Production and consumption should be controlled by a powerful central state.
5. People must be educated to the recognition of the importance of finding experts and entrusting administration to them.
A century after the Progressive movement began in America, these methods are ingrained in our education system and will continue to instill collective or “progressive” assumptions and beliefs in the minds of our students until they are recognized for what they are and reversed.
In 1928, Dewey visited Soviet Russia where he studied and applauded the education system of one of the most ruthless dictators of modern times, Joseph Stalin. Stalin realized that, if he was going to build a complete Communist society, he had to indoctrinate the individual minds of each child to reject individual rights and embrace a collectivist mentality. Dewey agreed that by reprogramming the individual’s mind, a collectivist society can be achieved in America. Dewey believed that the traditional family can be “hostile to a truly communal life.” These thoughts of Dewey are contained in Dewey’s book Impressions of Soviet Russia.
In speaking with Soviet educators, Dewey learned that the influences of the family, church, and parochial interests stood in the way of developing a child’s mind conducive to building a collectivist society. Dewey praised the Soviet techniques used to undermine the importance of family life.
In order to achieve his goals of creating a collectivist society, progressives established a national narrative based on progressive assumptions and methods of education. This narrative became a part of the education in teachers’ colleges with his disciples who believed in his progressive agenda. Progressives also utilized the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers where progressive ideas were embraced. These collectivist ideas blocked competitive views for educational practices. From these associations, at the recommendations of the NEA, in 1918, the Bureau of Education published a bulletin called Cardinal Principals of Secondary Education.
A commission was formed from these principles that would destroy our constitutional structure. Schools would no longer prepare students for active citizenship, as envisioned by Horace Mann, but would instead prepare students for a new order of collectivism that would be an expert managed society. This committee advanced a key goal of progressivism to change our American political system. The Cardinal Principles discouraged a curriculum built on academic subjects and advised a curriculum centered on activities of a student’s life. In that idea, Cardinal principles followed the progressive formulation of democracy as a collectivist society.
Does this sound like Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)? These curricula have moved away from teaching content, a part of our traditional education system, to “practices” which is a technique of activities and inquiry learning that Dewey developed and was encouraged in the Cardinal Principles. The study of American History has been replaced by Social Studies.
Fast forward to today. With the growing number of both parents working outside the home, a stage has been set for the schools to take on more of the roles of, not just teaching, but also instilling a value system in our children after school hours.
In 2015 President Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, advocating for such a system stating that schools should not be just a place for learning but rather “community centers open 12, 13, 14 hours a day with a wide variety of after school programming.”
Today, progressive teaching methods are the same as they were by early progressives. The purpose of these methods today is the social indoctrination of students into a collectivist economic system. In his article “Progressivism, Schools, and School of Education” Dr. David Labaree states that the progressive technique of learning is “child-centered instruction” or “discovery learning.” We need to engage our children in the traditional education process which is teacher-centered learning where our children can learn the content to make informed decisions about life.
What is the solution to reinstating education in the traditional framework and abandon this process of indoctrination? The American people have to take responsibility for educating our children. We can no longer believe the line of the educational bureaucracy that parents are not smart enough to know the best way to educate their own children. They are. Parents and grandparents need to hold school boards accountable to explain what is being thought in the classroom and why. We need to demand to have our teachers return to content-based education and abandon this “child-centered” learning philosophy. We need to attend school board meetings and let our elected officials know the kind of education we want for our children. Only by getting involved in this education process, can we return our government to a government of the people, by the people and for the people as President Lincoln wanted for us. It has been said that when the people lead, the leaders will follow. Parents and grandparents need to lead now.
In his farewell address, President Reagan said “we’ve got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs protection.” Our democratic republic is the only system in the world that gives people the tools to destroy or protect its freedoms. Let’s choose to fight for protection.
Joseph Mendola is a member of the School District Governance Association of New Hampshire and a former member of the Kearsarge Regional School Board. He lives in Warner. First published in the Concord Monitor.