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Analysis: America's Public Schools are 'Factories' for Critical Theory. They Must Be Decentralized.

History is the summation of all the experiences which civilizations, past and present, have endured-challenging experiences and the historical record gauge how they live in their present or did so. Theoretically, this knowledge aids in forecasting the future. But this doesn’t mean that every civilization learns from its mistakes. Societies fail, after all, whenever lessons from the past fall on deaf ears.

Like the 1960s, America today finds itself at a crossroads. Some situations are similar, although no politician has been assassinated in recent memory. But unlike 1968, America’s foundation is presently crumbling. In its wake lie the debris of nihilism caught up in a vortex of material and ontological entropy. Human ethics and morality have not adjusted accordingly for all the technological advances emanating from social media and the 24-hour cable news cycle. Despite instantaneous access to information, the average IQ has dropped since the 1970s. These elements compose the genesis for the unholy triad of ‘woke’ capitalism, academe, and public education. American values and leadership are kneecapped and demanded to ‘decolonize’ the English language and erase our history pose existential threats. Richard H. Thomason wrote that “Meaning in natural languages is mainly studied by linguists” found in academia. Strong connections to philosophy exist because “Anyone who speaks a language has a truly amazing capacity to reason about the meanings of texts.”

Furthermore, Thomason noted that “To assign meanings to the sentences of a language, you need to know what they are.” Simply put, when powerful people and ideologues control a nation’s language and the context of its history, they control the population. Like the iconoclasts who vandalized and destroyed relics and monuments to the Ancien Regime, or refurbished cathedrals to feature pagan iconography during the French Revolution, America, now three decades into the 21st century, draws similar parallels which don’t comport with “The Spirit of ’76”.

Concurrent with America’s urban black populations burning down most major cities in reaction to George Floyd’s death, The New York Times’ 1619 Project, as devised by crypto-communist Nikole Hannah-Jones, found boundless space and new fertile ground to accelerate her revision of America’s history under a strictly Afrocentric narrative. By poisoning the well, Hannah-Jones promotes black nationalism through a curriculum that’ll radicalize America’s children to embrace ‘woke’ Neo-Victorian attitudes under a pernicious confessional religiosity. By atoning for the alleged sins of their forefathers through a form of self-flagellation, America’s European diaspora are informed that they can live a lifetime of virginal purity, but only through fear and self-loathing.

Left-wing academics and demagogues co-opt public education and multinational corporations to ‘cancel’ critics of the ‘woke’ agenda. People of faith are then condemned and compelled to taste the artificial preservatives giving the LGBT rainbow its fruity flavor. Subsequent attacks by the ‘Gaystapo’ on science and common sense since gay marriage was legalized descended to new levels of lunacy once trans activists demanded that gender-specific bathrooms in public be replaced with unisex ones. Predictably, ‘the alphabet’ embraced pedophilia and now grooms America’s children through woke products, pop culture, and our schools. The lone blessing of the COVID-19 lockdowns was that Zoom classrooms revealed this ‘woke’ curriculum to parents, who now push back against critical race theory and queer studies in school board meetings throughout the land. This civic engagement is good, but it won’t count for much without fundamental structural changes in America’s antiquated public education format. Understanding why and where to begin requires learning the history of American public education and its evolution.

Compulsory public education in America is traced to 17th century New England. The Massachusetts Act of 1647 mandated a Calvinist curriculum that featured reading, writing, arithmetic, and religion throughout the colony. Through this policy, it’s fair to assume (and axiomatic) that literacy rates in Puritan New England were among the highest in the world. But as the Calvinist influence in New England gradually faded into more secular, rationalist attitudes characteristic of the Enlightenment adopted by ‘lukewarm’ Christians in the 18th century, the original reason for literacy was to read the Bible eroded. By the 19th century, proponents of mass education needed a new excuse to mold a literate population. Politicians operated under the pretense that tackling growing illiteracy rates would not only promote American democracy but also required a centrally-regulated standard curriculum to influence public policy according to a set of indoctrinated values. In America today, we might call this ‘Common Core.’

In 1830, Charles Brooks visited the German-speaking nation of Prussia to observe its ‘normal schools’, where he fell “in love with the Prussian system.” To his delight, Brooks saw that “everything… desirable… in the national character… (was) carefully inculcated in elementary education.” Horace Mann similarly saw the normal Prussian schools as the ideal model for teaching “a passive obedience to government” on an industrial scale to undergird “support and perpetuation of republican institutions.” As America’s foremost proponent of the Prussian model, Mann insisted that “the prerogatives of education [are] the means of conferring talent, power, wealth, the arts, [and] prosperity upon a people” in an article for The Common School Journal. But what he didn’t say is that Kaiser Frederick Wilhelm III had intended for ‘free’ regular schools to transform Prussia’s emancipated serfs into ‘a new creation’ as “owners of the soil they tilled”— or little more than indentured servants of the Prussian state. Two of Karl Marx’s ten planks in The Communist Manifestoincluded forming ‘industrial armies’by providing free education for all children by combining schools with industrial production. For these reasons, Marx believed Germany was “on the eve of a bourgeois revolution” because of its “more advanced conditions of European civilization… with a much more developed proletariat.” Mindful of the horrors of the French Revolution and Napoleon’s reign, the elites blamed the nationalist revolutions in 1848 on ‘overeducation,’ a matter paralleling why the Biden administration seeks to censor social media companies for producing ‘misinformation’ with which he disagrees. Therefore, revising the rubric to identify and contain key trigger areas required ‘Americanizing’ Prussian ‘common schools’ across the Atlantic. Today, we see this parallel in how local authorities draw neighborhood school zones reminiscent of Prussia’scanton system, which was organized to educate and train new soldiers for the army. In America, though, the goal was to mass-produce future generations of competent factory workers by focusing on reading, writing, and basic arithmetic, but little else.

In the post-industrial age, though, many say the 'factory method' is obsolete. Advocates suggest that public education be decentralized to incorporate many learning situations in which the child need never adapt to the system, but rather the system adapts to optimize the child's potential better. This is vital if America nullifies bad actors' ability to use critical theory and queer studies to poison the well through the current 'factory' format. Furthermore, after the American Atheist movement purged mandatory prayer from public schools through litigation, a correlative side effect surfaced featuring similar trends as 18th century Massachusetts as classrooms secularized. Performance by American students on standardized test scores gradually declined after the early 1960s, as did the rise of broken homes and shattered communities. Addressing this spiritual and educational malaise demands a total commitment to more holistic, child-centric methods of academic development. One possible alternative lies in the Montessori model developed by Dr. Maria Montessori. Based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood, Montessori concluded that children are naturally eager to learn whenever educators provide supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environments celebrating values that nurture the human spirit and develop the whole child spiritually, physically, socially, emotionally, and cognitively. The teacher, child, and the classroom environment form a learning triangle to encourage independence and freedom within acceptable limits while balancing a sense of order through self-discipline. The child, through individual choice, will make use of what the environment offers while interacting with the teacher who, when necessary, is available for support and guidance. The expectation is for a child to embrace critical thinking skills through independent learning, with multi-age groupings that require younger children to interact with older peers who will teach them new concepts to simulate real-world scenarios in which individuals must work and socialize with people of all ages and dispositions. As students develop, Montessori teachers match appropriate lessons and materials during necessary periods when learning is most naturally absorbed and internalized. By emphasizing greater flexibility based on the progression of one child (or a small group of children) through sensory-motor activities that develop and nurture a child's cognitive development (through seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, and movement), a child with high linguistic intelligence will usually come to relish talking or writing.

The Montessori educational model repudiates the soulless ‘one size fits all’ approach of the Prussian ‘factory’ education model. For example, the Prussian model, similar to Pavlov’s method for behavioral conditioning of dogs, drills the angst and expectation of class changes or lunch periods in each student by anticipating when the school bell rings at certain times of day. Conversely, a child in a Montessori school will apply his knowledge to real-world experiences through a more individualized, organic process. He will synthesize his thoughts and emotions under more abstract universal concepts (i.e., legalism, embrace of freedom) while understanding that justice is possible only through self-control.

Dr. Maria Montessori

The Montessori philosophy includes the goodness of a child’s soul. Dr. Montessori was a devout and practicing Catholic. She believed that society, the family, and teachers should introduce religious concepts in a living model and that conditions development of religious disposition goes hand in hand with normal psychological development. For Leftist professors like Jason Barker wishing to rehabilitate Karl Marx’s legacy, deconstructing the ‘eternal truths of our age’ “is fundamental to true revolutionary progress.” Similarly, critical theory of all kinds destroys one’s ability to engage through “enlightened or rational thinking openly,” according to Barker, who bemoaned the fact that “the norms of thinking are already skewed… even down to the language we use.” Thus, only a well-educated, virtuous, and independent citizenry can defeat the divisive malevolent actors who rule our world. Decentralizing America’s public schools from a dangerous passé ‘factory model’ discourages civic engagement with families, communities, and the church in the names of ‘equity’ and ‘social justice is vital. A new holistic method for teaching our children is necessary. But this will only succeed if it’s institutionalized by playing ‘the long game.’

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About the Author:

Jonathan P. Henderson (B.A. in History, Minor in Pol. Sci.; Univ. of Tennessee, 2012) is a resident of Knoxville, TN. He is Owner/Administrator/Editor-in-Chief of The Conservative Historical Review and a blogger/columnist for PolitiChicks and Intellectual Conservative.

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