ObamaCore: 'Why Johnny [Still] Can't Read'
The Systemic Dumbing-Down of America
“If a nation expects to be ignorant – and free – in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” –Thomas Jefferson (1816)
In William Shakespeare’s “Tempest,” Act V, Miranda observes, “O wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, That has such people in’t.”
It is those words from which Aldous Huxley drew the title of his 1932 novel, “Brave New World.”
In that celebrated work, Huxley describes a utopian future in which a central authority maintains totalitarian rule and obedience by re-education – replacing historical comprehension with a common core of indoctrination, utilizing sleep-learning, psychological manipulation and classical conditioning.
Huxley’s utopian apparition contrasted that of George Orwell’s 1949 dystopian narrative, “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” and that of Ayn Rand in her 1957 work, “Atlas Shrugged,” but all three were, and remain, exceptional expositions of the discordant coexistence of Essential Liberty and the collectivist state.
Each reflects the outcome of a worldview advanced by the architects of statist totalitarianism – Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin – both of whom fully understood that state-controlled “education” was essential to the fundamental transformation from Liberty to tyranny.
According to Marx’s “Communist Manifesto,” “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.”
Lenin followed with this chilling demand: “Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.”
The modern instruction manual for implementation of Marx’s Manifesto is Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals,” considered the holy book of so-called “community organizers” like Barack Hussein Obama. It is the contemporary outline of how to restructure institutions in order to achieve a totalitarian state.
Indeed, Alinsky dedicated the book to the patron saint of community organizers: “Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins – or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom – Lucifer.”
The current caucus of Socialist Democrats occupying the executive, legislative and judicial branches of our central government subscribe to the following Marxist/Alinsky maxim: “Democracy is the road to socialism,” and for four decades have used the educational indoctrination of youth to pave that road.
In 1955, Time magazine published a cover story, “Why Johnny Can’t Read,” an early indictment of post-war centralized government education institutions, which were graduating students who couldn’t make the grade.
Of course, statists claimed the problem could be solved with more money and centralization of academic standards.
In 1950, federal spending on K-12 was about $400,000. Since then, it has climbed to $71.2 billion. Spending for higher education has risen from $250 million in 1958 to $60 billion in 2013. Since the 1970s, spending per pupil has increased 138% while student enrollment has increased only 7.8%. Spending per student by state ranges from $6,000 to a whopping $29,000 in Washington, DC, where the graduation rate is a dismal 58%, and most who do actually graduate are unprepared for meaningful employment.
Obama insisted on an additional $60 billion last year “to keep hundreds of thousands of teachers on the job.” Since 1970, the number of teachers grew by 60% and non-teaching employees by 84%, while student enrollment increased, as noted above, by only 7.8%.
And what has all that centralization and spending achieved? Could it be that the problem is not the need for uniform curriculums and more spending? Arguably, federal government diktats regulating state and local government schools have resulted in a progressive and systemic dumbing-down of generations of young Americans. Indeed, Johnny still can’t read.
Jimmy Carter codified this systemic progression by creating a cabinet-level secretary for the U.S. Department of Education. Ronald Reagan vowed to dismantle it, but as with most government programs once created, the union funding machines supporting Democrat majorities in the House and Senate created an insurmountable obstacle to that objective.
Now statists insist the solution to endemic academic decline is a uniform plan of indoctrination under the name “Common Core” – a series of academic standards set by a horde of bureaucrats known as the Council of Chief School Officers. While some might argue that such standards could implement a degree of accountability, in reality what Common Core does is something far more perilous: It further centralizes the ability to craft and implement educational curriculums – with the potential outcome of, well, I refer you back to Huxley and Orwell.
Forty-five states plus DC have embraced Common Core, although as conservative columnist George Will notes, they have done so in exchange for stimulus funds or waivers from federal regulations – federal arm-twisting at its best. Even worse, some states adopted Common Core almost immediately after the June 2, 2010, release of the standards, leaving little to no time to evaluate their efficacy. Another Pelosian example of “passing” something to find out what’s in it.
According to Will, “The advocates of the Common Core say, ‘If you like local control of your school you can keep it, period. If you like your local curriculum you can keep it, period.’ And people don’t believe them for very good reasons. This is the thin end of an enormous wedge of federal power that will be wielded for the constant progressive purpose of concentrating power in Washington so that it can impose continental solutions to problems nationwide.”
Indeed, the ObamaCore mandates are the Department of Education’s version of the Department of Health’s ObamaCare mandates – and the outcomes will be similar.
At a high school convocation speech to a youthful corps of what he hopes will one day become loyal Leftist sycophants, Obama claimed, “My administration has been working hard to make sure that we … encourage the kind of change that’s led not by Washington, DC, but by teachers and principals and parents…”
Note the order in which he lists the agents of change: “teachers and principals and parents.” And “the kind of change” led by teachers' unions and government school administrators across the nation is already in lock-step with what “Washington, DC” dictates. They’re both bent upon churning out, perhaps unwittingly, legions of “useful idiots” – the necessary ingredients for ensuring the future envisioned by Huxley, Orwell and Rand.
For the record, there are tens of thousands of teachers across the nation who do not subscribe to these statist curriculums and the PC pacification of their students. They remain steadfast in their commitment to teach, not indoctrinate, and however few and far between they may be, in many communities they are the last defense against the socialist tide in classrooms. But the federal mandates are multiplying, and the net effect will further undermine any real educational opportunity for this and the next generations of young people.
Concern for the adulteration of educational curriculums to comport with the ideological objectives of the state, in effect asserting that ignorance is a virtue, has a long history.
Nineteenth century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli wrote, “Wherever is found what is called a paternal government, there is found state education. It has been discovered that the best way to insure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery.”
His contemporary, John Stuart Mill, warned, “A general State education is a mere contrivance for molding people to be exactly like one another; and as the mold in which it casts them is that which pleases the dominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, an aristocracy, or a majority of the existing generation; in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the body.”
A clear example of such “despotism over the mind” would be the Common Core complicit revised Advanced Placement U.S. History exam, which reflects a radically revisionist perspective on our nation’s genuine history. The College Board, which sets the curriculum-testing bar, makes only two references to George Washington, one to Thomas Jefferson, and nowhere to be found are Benjamin Franklin and James Madison, among others.
To that end, here is the advice the College Board provided for the practice AP essay:
“[A good essay] might note, for example, that the outcome of the American Revolution saw no broad change in the composition of those who dominated the social, political, and economic structure of the former colonies. Those individuals who were wealthy, powerful, and influential before the event continued to possess wealth, power, and influence later. George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson could serve as examples.”
For the benefit of those whose understanding of American history is limited by Common Core and AP curriculums, I offer a few quotes from our nation’s Founders –which appear nowhere in their syllabus.
“Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. … Knowledge is power.” –Thomas Jefferson
“Law and liberty cannot rationally become the objects of our love, unless they first become the objects of our knowledge.” –James Wilson
“A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” –James Madison
“For no people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and Virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders.” –Samuel Adams
“Genius without education is like silver in the mine.” –Benjamin Franklin
“In vain are Schools, Academies, and Universities instituted, if loose Principles and licentious habits are impressed upon Children in their earliest years…” –John Adams
“[W]e ought to deprecate the hazard attending ardent and susceptible minds, from being too strongly, and too early prepossessed in favor of other political systems, before they are capable of appreciating their own. … Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” –George Washington
And again, let me reiterate these timeless words from Thomas Jefferson…
“If a nation expects to be ignorant – and free – in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
Pro Deo et Constitutione – Libertas aut Mors
Semper Fortis Vigilate Paratus et Fidelis