Education or Indoctrination?
by Andy Joppa
Without civic morality communities perish; without personal morality
their survival has no value.
(NOTE: Nothing generates more feedback than when I write about education. This certainly reflects an understanding of that topics importance within the “thinking” American public. Because of that importance I don’t “hedge my bets” as I write out my viewpoints. It is too critical an area to worry about hurt feelings. This is an issue where it is far better to be too strong…than too weak. What follows will not be any different.)
There are few things in the American culture that can be defined as both a cause and effect of our current problems. Our educational systems, at all levels, are the most important in this limited category. Because of its dual nature, educational issues become a self-replicating and, deepening, contamination. While many areas can be debatably offered as a primary source of our cultural corruption, none are as profound in their implication as is our current, and historic, educational malaise.
I won’t debate here whether government should even be involved with education, at least at the federal level. That is a discussion worth having, but, for now, “What is, is.” I will, however, make a seldom stated generic point. Taxpayers do not fund public education so that a child will have a good life filled with vocational success, any more than we pay for their food, clothing and shelter. We pay the public school “freight,” so it can produce good citizens who are able to function rationally and independently from the need for government largesse. Their life success is but a biproduct of the school’s essential purpose. If it doesn’t accomplish that end…it has failed. By that measurement…it has failed.
With fear of boring you, a brief presentation of my background credentials may give my remarks some additional weight. I have taught at the university level for over forty years…still do, online. While a full-time faculty member, I also taught at 5 other colleges in the New York area, including being a full-time adjunct at the State University of New York. As far as I know I was the only one having that status. I started two educational reform groups in Westchester, both of which had write-ups in the NYT. I was the lead applicant on two charter school submissions, both of which were politically defeated (take my word for this). No education story was printed in the Gannett Westchester from 1991-1994 without my being contacted for comment. OK…that should at least establish I have something to say that might be of value…” might” being the operative word.
I’ll start with the most basic of considerations. Education, or to be defined as truly educated, does not define a process nor a credential, but an outcome…a result. Perhaps the most profound degradations have occurred when process and credential became more important than the result. Some of the most ignorant people I’ve ever known were PhDs; certainly not all…but many were in that category.
At some point, education became student, and not results, focused. While this may seem to have positive implications, what occurred was the emphasizing of who a student was, and the relevance of education to who they were, rather than the concern with who that student might become.
Education should unleash previously unidentified potentials. Education, which should establish a reality generally independent of the student, became little more than something that made who they were the focus of their interpretation of reality. This made it impossible to escape from their incoming parochialism. To put it succinctly, “Education should enable you to escape from yourself.” My freshman year in college was the turning point of my life…it is when “I” came into being. I am eternally grateful for the gift of losing my 17-year-old self.
The emphasis on building self-esteem around empty characteristics does not prepare the student for the real world; a world that treats them as they see them and not as they have been inflated to see themselves. This is why most of the young practitioners of violence tend to have very high levels of self-esteem. Even if the interaction is neutral, they feel they should have been treated with higher regard.
Having taught all levels of college courses, including graduate, I could see how each entering freshman class knew less and less about more and more, all the while believing in the ultimate and profound wisdom they possessed. Questions of, “Why do I have to learn this?” or “How will this matter to my future?” or “What does this have to do with me,” became more and more common. For example…trying to explain to a group of freshmen or sophomores the critical importance of understanding statistics became almost an impossibility. This specific point is critical.
The level of American innumeracy is appalling. A complex, modern world cannot be understood if you don’t understand numbers and their implication…at least to a minimal standard. California, in many of their public schools, have abandoned the concept of correct mathematical answers. Why can’t 2 + 2 = 5, if it makes the student more “comfortable”?
Keep in mind, I was faculty member of the year in five of my 25 years of classroom teaching. I bring this up so you wouldn’t think those question above were merely being directed at an unpopular faculty member.
These students, within my teaching tenure, were not created in my environment, nor in the colleges and universities where I taught. They were all, with but few exceptions, the result of the public-school systems of America. The major exceptions should be noted as they make an important point.
My best prepared students were from the Caribbean. While many of these came from impoverished areas, with their schools being poorly funded and their textbooks well worn, their incoming knowledge and work ethic were generally superior to most Americans. Most were from environments that accepted no excuses for failure to perform, expectations were always high, and all had to take exit exams to get out of their secondary schools. The difference in what they brought to the classroom was dramatic.
At the graduate level many of my students were from mainland China. If I asked for a ten-page paper they’d give me twenty. Their preparation for class was incredible and kept me on my academic toes as their questions were astute and complex. Any deficiency on my part was immediately exposed.
While not of the same quality, the next best prepared were my students at Sing-Sing. This was, of course, because they had plenty of time on their hands. American students have far too many “important” things to be doing to dedicate themselves to reading a book with the intent of learning. The measured level of reading comprehension is at the lowest point in our history.
American children are certainly as intelligent as any others, from any place on the globe…what could account for the differences I’ve cited?
In 1983, after studying the American education system, the National Commission on Excellence in Education published an alarming federal report entitled, A Nation at Risk. (I’ve cited this report before in a different context.) This report documented that American “students were not studying the right subjects, were not working hard enough, and were not learning enough. Their schools suffered from slack and uneven standards. Many of their teachers were ill-prepared” This report also warned that “our social structure would crack, our culture erode, our economy totter, [and] our national defenses weaken “if the United States did not make immediate attempts to remedy the situation by finding a cure for our fatally-ill education system.
Have the educational outcomes improved since that time…or has it, as I believe, deteriorated even further? All evidence would document that 1983, as compared to 2021, was a banner year for educational attainment. Now, not only are they not educated, but they are indoctrinated as well.
END OF PART I…Take a break…lie down… or have a cup of coffee or an adult beverage. I offer this thought facetiously as many seem to feel that 1000 words is their reading and comprehending breaking point. All are victims of a “snippet” based culture that must explore reality in a few words. OK…now that you’re refreshed…here’s PART II…
I’ll use NYC as a case in point. It demonstrates that grades, process, and graduating credentials is how the educational system often responded to “A Nation at Risk;” not by improving education but by improving the non-educational standards of how they were judged. The New York City public school system was able to dramatically improve its high school graduation rates. This sounds positive, but it was not based on improving educational outcomes. The reason is that New York state steadily lowered the difficulty of its signature Regents Exams.
Why, an objective observer might ask, would New York deliberately “dumb down” its testing? After all, isn’t the goal of public education to raise the academic performance of those who’ve been historically “left behind.” The answer to that question is, “NO.” The goal of public-school education is to allow students to graduate and go to college regardless of their level of preparation. The empirically measured competency of New York City students dropped to embarrassingly low levels and is getting worse. Nearly 80% of New York City high school graduates need to relearn basic skills … reading, writing, and math … before they could even begin college courses.”
The NYC circumstance illustrates the major mechanisms used by the public schools to maintain their legitimacy. Grade inflation built on top of dramatically reduced standards. Any push for top end excellence was squashed when the system was only being judged by whether everyone, through any means necessary, was able to “get through.” Education was now validated and measured against its lowest common denominator. Equal outcomes were demanded and achieved at the only place where equality can ever be achieved…at the bottom.
Any objective measure that involves intellectual ability will reflect innate disparities. Therefore, objective measures were abolished, along with standards. You can’t pursue excellence or even competence and also pursue equality. One may believe that those in charge of public education are qualified to administer the task of educating America’s youth. One may believe they have the best interests of society at heart. And one may believe they are doing the best they could do, given the conditions under which they must work. Abundant evidence, however, points to the conclusion that none of those beliefs is valid. In fact, just the opposite is now true.
Public education has now become an institutionalized variation of child abuse. This may sound unduly harsh, but it has a high degree of validity. Rather than being a tool used to prepare children to become productive adults, public education is being used to indoctrinate them to believe what powerful interest groups wish them to believe. This process is designed to transform America into a place in which rights are suppressed, powers of government are unlimited, and traditional faith-based values are rejected.
What children in public schools are being told to accept as facts and truth is often nothing more than opinions of those who reject reason and do what they might to prevent students from developing the intellectual skills required for critical thinking. All this done so they might embrace their own mental enslavement and the subversion and degradation of their society; while convincing the students that their self-esteem should be bolstered by their ideological fanaticism and their involvement in street activism.
Those who administer public education are contributing to the degradation of the morals of minors, to the undermining of their intellectual and spiritual growth as human beings, and to the sabotaging of their lives and well-being, as well as to all of those in society at large. And they are unlawfully abusing their power to achieve those ends.
Unless this trend is reversed, unless Americans demand restoration of integrity to public education, unless indoctrination in destructive, deranged ideologies is eradicated from public schools, nothing else done in the cause of liberty will have lasting impact, as the foundation for future generations would continue to be built with shoddy materials in the public schools.
Children must be taught critical thinking skills so they might be able to discern between what makes sense and what is deranged. Children are not being taught to employ reason, however, but instead are being indoctrinated to accept ideas and values antithetical to reason, to facts, and to truth, by educators who do not have the interests of those children (or this country) at heart. Even that statement presumes the teachers themselves know these things in reality. Many were not the brightest bulbs to begin with.
The Progressives said they wanted to transform the society. What was their method? Working through education, they would socially engineer children to be simpler and more cooperative. Remarkably, they ended up keeping the poor in their place. Ignorance was their tool of choice.
And…one last thought for those among you that still believe that the internet will impart wisdom by its very existence. Has there ever been a more disturbed and irrational generation than many of The Millennials and most of those in Generation Z? Each one raised entirely in the “glory” of digital technology.
As long as there are people in education making excuses for failure, cursing future generations with a culture of low expectations, denying children access to the best that has been thought and written, because Nemo and the Mister Men are more relevant, the battle needs to be joined. — Michael Gove