Friday, September 25, 2009

Dewey to Obama: Progressive Education and Politics

De-Shintoizing American Culture

Michelle Malkin nails it with this comment about Progressive education:
Lost in all the chanting for change is the core commitment to impart actual knowledge. For progressives in the Age of Obama, setting high academic standards is secondary to the self-improvement of the "whole child" and "service" to the cause of social justice."
What Ms. Malkin doesn't mention — there really was no need to in the column — is that what concerns her is straight out of John Dewey's work.

It's no accident that Dewey was one of the major inventors of both Progressive education and modern liberal Fascism. He was one of the triad that invented Pragmatism. (He called his version Instrumentalism.) He was also a social democrat and a proponent of doing away with classical education. All of these are intricately linked.

Pragmatism essentially teaches that there are no eternal truths, because there are no objective natural laws. Everything is in Heraclitean flux, forever shifting. All we can do is arrive at a social consensus of what is true.

That view prepares the field for the educational agenda that Dewey advocated, one in which it would no longer consist of memorizing "dry facts" and performing boring cogitation with them. Instead, not just the child's mind but the "whole child" would be taught, chiefly by "socializing" him. I.e. what counts is not objective reality and what it requires of us to create values, but whatever others think is true and worthwhile.

The political consequences are all around us. Every single disastrous policy of Obama and the leaders of Congress is informed by the doctrines of Progressivism, virtually unchanged in the hundred years since Dewey laid them down and Wilson adopted them. (There is one exception: Wilson was much more interested in military victory, albeit for the wrong reasons.)

That's why, every time one is tempted to be puzzled by Obama's actions — whether because of his willingness to commit political suicide to push Fascist health care reform or his blatant groveling to Middle Eastern despots — one only has to remember this: Progressives are the consistent practitioners of what the Left has been preaching for three generations: social subjectivism, collectivism, and statism.

Time to run them all out of all forms of public life — education, media, and politics. It's necessary for the same reasons that no one who advocates Italian Fascism ala Mussolini should hold a public position of influence. To wit, that Progressivism - Fascism Lite - leads to Fascism Heavy.

What I'm suggesting is the complete De-Shintoizing not just of American politics, but American culture. After the end of WWII, the final series of battles against Japan took place, with the removal of the influence of State Shinto from Japanese public life. Individuals could do as they like, but no State sponsorship of the philosophy that led to Pearl Harbor and the Rape of Nanking was allowed to operate in the government, the newspapers, or the public schools.

A similar program is need to restore the American Republic today. And, it's necessary to complete it before they become literally indistinguishable from their intellectual ancestors, before the mask of Smiley Face Fascism is removed and becomes the original.


Anonymous said...

The task of brainwashing for the world government has been the goal of education for a very long time. If people think these songs and videos are the first, they are mistaken -- it is institutional.

"In the struggle to establish an adequate world government, the teacher has many parts to play... He can do much to prepare the hearts and minds of children for global understanding and cooperation... At the very top of all the agencies which will assure the coming of world government must stand the school, the teacher, and the organized profession."

-- National Education Association Journal, 1946

Michael Moeller said...

Great post, shades of "Comprachicos". Tough question: what are some of the ways you think our side can loosen the Progressive grip on education, media, and politics?

Jeff Perren said...

It is a tough question, a good and tough one. I don't pretend to have a good answer, but here are a few suggestions:


1. Yaron Brook should set aside any differences and hire Robert Tracinski to write daily editorials for ARI, to infuse some realism into them. Then distribute them as widely as possible.

2. 'Right wing' organizations should support publication of good fiction. Those with more money should support production of films.

Not long ago that suggestion would have been hopelessly impractical. Today, thanks to the burgeoning e-Book market and Internet video, it's realistic.

Just looking at foreign policy alone, for example, the absence of a patriotic Hollywood has done much to injure our success in the war against jihadists. (The presence of the opposite has done little harm, actually, since all the Anti films have failed at the box office.)

3. If one principled wealthy person bought a major news outlet - one dedicated to hard fact gathering and unblemished objectivity - it could have a major influence on public opinion. It would also be a huge business success.

4. Make "Progressive" a better known adjective, and make it clear how much like Italian Fascism it is. (Fortunately, Jonah Goldberg has already broken ground on that.) Work to make "pragmatism" a dirty word.


5. One highly competent professor of history, economics, literature, or philosophy with the right views at a major university could have a large impact. Two at two different universities would be more than twice as good.

Such individuals do exist (although they're aging), but - except for Thomas Sowell - none are employed at major colleges. (And Sowell doesn't teach.)

6. Push to eliminate the Department of Education. (Even better, all public education. For the next generation or two at least, both those are impossible, of course.)

For politics:

7. Push for term limits for all of Congress.

8. Push to outlaw all Federal expenditures on any area not stated explicitly in the Constitution.

And, while I'm fantasizing,

9. Push to eliminate the Federal Reserve.

10. Push to get at least one decent, consistent justice on the Supreme Court.


Overall, work to make Shaving Leviathan the best known blog in the country. A hurricane can blow away a lot of locusts in a hurry.

Yours truly, etc.

Jeff Perren said...

P.S. A few dozen more ACORN-like sting operations could surely help, too!

Michael Moeller said...

Good suggestions Jeff. Let me throw a few things out there.


When I was thinking about it, I realized just how daunting the task is with respect to education. You now have a teachers' union that solidly backs government control and will stop any measure to loosen the government's grip.

Working stepwise towards free market education, vouchers are not a bad idea. They were successful in DC, but the government quickly stepped in to stop the program--backed by the teachers' union.

As Mark Steyn noted, the same will be true of health care. You will have a whole new voting block and union of health care workers invested in the bureacracy. Once it starts, it's almost impossible to unravel. Worse, as we have seen from the recent videos, public education becomes political and they push indoctrination measures.

Pushing the voucher programs in the short term, showing the benefits, and getting those who are engaged in the program to advocate on its behalf (including the poor who government is allegedly suppose to help, but doesn't) would go a long way in helping with the ultimate goal of getting rid of the Dept. of Education in favor of free market education.

Other policy goals should be for individuals to write textbooks accessible for students, especially on US history. Try and push these books into classrooms, much like the book project at ARI. Not propaganda, but simply a more objective view of what the founders did and what they thought, for instance.

A two-pronged attack I think is needed. One that focuses on the benefits and shift in political policy of education. The second is actually providing students with better materials--materials that help them think and present a more objective view of subjects like US history. Even where there is freer competition (like Progressive preschools vs. Montessori preschools), you still need the right philosophical tools.

More later....