SWALLOW YOUR PRIDE, SAVE YOUR CHILD
Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
Proverbs 16:18 (King James Version)
It is high time for parents who care about the future of their children, their communities, and their civilization to stop telling themselves comforting lies about their power to combat the degradations of public education. Believing that reason and morality can be restored while leaving the compulsory public school apparatus intact is like imagining you are going to raise your daughter to be Jane Austen while feeding her a daily diet of Beyoncé and Lady Gaga. Sometimes, conditions in life become so bleak that telling ourselves little white lies about the nature of the situation becomes a survival mechanism. We must not fail to distinguish, however, between giving ourselves hope and spitting into the wind.
The modern public school’s purpose, as described by its leading theorists, advocates, and power-brokers of the past two hundred years, is to eradicate traditional notions of virtue, to undermine the natural human impulse toward knowledge and self-reliance, and to create societies of intellectually stunted, humble, conformist workers (and voters) for the progressive authoritarian state. To blind oneself to this reality, and to the obvious success of this project in undoing modernity, is unwittingly to facilitate the gradual smothering of the human spirit.
I have encountered many objections to my supposedly radical recommendations on education, most of which are addressed in this book. The one that disturbs me most, however, is that of conservatives who agree with my analysis of the subversive influence of public schools, but then dismiss my conclusion that the solution is to remove any child within your sphere of influence from the government school system as fully as possible, and to reject any political efforts to reform public education that would further circumscribe private options and hence limit parental authority over the raising of children (such as by imposing new compulsory “standards” or supporting alternative schooling with public funds). These conservatives, most of them undoubtedly decent and reasonable people, stubbornly insist that they can offset the negative effects of public school by spending “quality time” with their children at home, limiting their television viewing and internet use, and providing moral alternatives to the school’s socialization.
Let us assume that parents are doing all of those things consistently and earnestly. Is this enough to ensure that the state indoctrination program is not having at least some retarding effect on their child’s moral and intellectual development? Should parents be satisfied with merely reducing the damage done to their child? Must they not seek to prevent all such damage, to the extent within their power? Are they not morally obligated to do so?
And there is a further difficulty with this effort to fight the school’s effects from within. Children, of course, do not only learn the lessons they are explicitly taught. Far more important in the long run are the implied messages they absorb from their experience, and from the actions of the adults they admire most. If those messages seem contradictory or confused, the effects may be very different from what the parents imagine they are teaching. Children are not yet capable of examining all sides of an issue rationally. Their special strength, which slowly gives way to reason as they mature (if this evolution is not deformed by schooling), is an exceptional sensitivity to unspoken signals, emotional resonances, and subtle irregularities in the order of things.
Imagine, then, the case of a couple that sends a child to public school, and then hopes to undermine the school’s damage at home by discussing the child’s lessons each evening with a view to correcting historical inaccuracies, providing an alternative moral perspective, and encouraging self-reliance and confidence where the government curriculum is promoting dependency and fear. The parents tell themselves they are doing what they can to negate the harmful effects of the child’s teachers, and of the mob rule social milieu of the school. Hence, they feel justified in rejecting suggestions that they should remove their child from public school outright. But consider the lessons a child learns from being confined, for several hours a day, to a social setting wherein—according to the parents who confined him there—what he is learning is false. Why, he must wonder, are Mom and Dad delivering me into the hands of people who are lying to me? Ought the parents to explain to their child that most of his teachers are ignorant cogs in a corrupt system, low achievers happy to have a socially respectable job with salary, benefits, vacations, and a very comfortable retirement protected by a powerful union with a socialist agenda? How is that supposed to make the child feel about the fact that his parents are willingly consigning him to hours of confinement with those teachers every day?
What if, on the contrary, the parents think it best to conceal the gross corruption and inadequacy of the school’s teachers and curriculum, so as not to harden their child to trust, optimism and goodwill? What confusion will their daily undermining of the school’s lessons and moral outlook foster in the child’s mind under this condition? Trying to protect him from cynicism, they encourage him to respect his teachers. That respect will, given the natural effects upon children of daily dependence and proximity, develop into a certain degree of attachment and affection toward the teachers—along with a faith in their authority and knowledge. Indeed, this emotional attachment to the teachers—a moral connection existing over the heads of parents, as it were—has been an essential element of the psychological manipulation of government schooling since the very early days of the project, as we saw in our examination of Fichte’s Addresses to the German Nation. In The District School (1834), Taylor uses a subtle rhetorical ploy to prod parents into ceding control over their children to the state. Accusing parents of caring too little about their children’s education and character formation, he encourages them to take a more active role—not by teaching their children themselves, naturally, but rather by cajoling their children into being more submissive to the teacher, i.e., to the government school.
You should, instead of trusting all to the teacher, cooperate with him, unite your labours with his, and ascertain the influence of the teacher and the influence of the school upon the child. Do not speak unfavourably of the teacher before your children, but teach them to love the instructer [sic] and the school-room, and at all times to be obedient.[i]
“Did you have a good day at school today?” “Pay attention to your teacher.” These everyday parental remarks are perfectly innocent when spoken in the context of a relationship of mutual respect between parents and educators, and particularly in a relationship understood at all times to be under the ultimate control of the parents. Spoken by parents of state-raised children, where the proper relationship between parent and educator is reversed, they undermine any hope of seriously contradicting the school’s influence over a child, for they support a basic, implicit tenet of public school, namely that a good parent is an obedient parent, which is to say a complicit parent.
Thus, in the name of protecting their child’s innocence, our hypothetical couple will have painted themselves into a moral corner, giving their child tacit emotional encouragement to submit to his school’s invocations to relativism, nihilism, and soul-sapping collectivism—and then hoping to undo all of this in the evening, somehow without the child recognizing the contradiction. Out of the best motives, they will, in effect, have served their child to the lions. To present themselves as an opposing voice now will likely make the child feel like a pawn in some sort of ideological rivalry between two factions of adults whom he admires and respects—similar to the sad psychological effects of divorce upon young children.
Perhaps the most reasonable option for these parents would simply be to tell it like it is, explaining to their child that school is a boring, painful, and often demeaning experience to which we are all forced to submit against our will, even though we wish it were not so, and then help the child maintain a healthy skepticism about the whole experience by “de-schooling” him at home. But what would this say to a child’s mind? Only the truth, namely that his parents—the people on whom he relies for his sense of stability and safety—are being prevented from taking care of him to the best of their abilities by a power that obviously supersedes Mom and Dad, and which does not have his best interests at heart. In other words, telling it like it is would implicitly teach the child that he is essentially unsafe, that his parents are ultimately powerless to protect him, and therefore that self-protection at all costs ought to be his primary objective. In fact, I suspect this implicit understanding explains the cornered animal state of mind of many public school students anyway, and goes a long way to accounting for both the obsequious social climbing and amoral power-playing that typify the “well-adjusted” majority of students, and the emotional detachment, catatonic obsessions, and reticence to “come out of one’s shell” that typify the contingent of loners and outsiders surviving on the fringes of every school’s social system.
Apart from all the unintended emotional damage likely to result from any angle our hypothetical parents choose, there remains, of course, the more fundamental question of whether it is possible to negate the most pernicious effects of public school at all. There is, for example, no way to estimate the damage to a child’s moral and intellectual development of having his pubescent (or pre-pubescent) erotic energies manhandled by progressivism’s crude, animalistic reductions of the sexual realm. No parent, however well-meaning, can ever undo the spirit-flattening effects of modern government education’s cucumber birth control demonstrations,[ii] alternative lifestyle lessons, and gender equality sloganeering[iii]—not to mention the effects of daily exposure to the dehumanizing “sex is no big deal” attitude encouraged by the school’s social environment. Beyoncé kills Jane Austen, period. I have already described the peculiar task of struggling to help students of ancient philosophy to understand, through reasoning, the perspective that was merely the common emotional starting point for college-age students of Plato for most of the preceding twenty-four hundred years, namely that Eros is the great, tantalizing mystery of human existence, the key to our faint notions of immortality, eternity, and wisdom. Young people who acquire their sentimental education from progressive cucumber classes and hip-hop videos are hardly prepared to go seeking the meaning of life with Socrates and Aristophanes.
In sum, parents who are capable of providing home education or private schooling, but who leave their children in public school while hoping to undo the damage at home, are fooling themselves. Some damage can never be undone, and even that which can be somewhat mitigated would be better avoided entirely. Furthermore, setting yourself up as parental avenger against the government’s indoctrination is setting your child up for confused feelings, resentments, and disillusionments that are both harmful to his moral development and completely unnecessary. Parents, swallow your pride and save your children. Your efforts to fight progressive education from within—saving your pride while allowing your children to be swallowed—are a microcosm of the Gramsci plan for modern civilization’s defeat.
In truth, the history of universal compulsory education displays the fate of today’s well-intentioned public school parent writ large. Civilization always was, in effect, combating and mitigating the compulsory school’s damage at home. In the earlier stages, the degradation was subtler, but only because public education itself had not yet become a completely closed shop. That is to say, a hundred years ago many parents had spent relatively few years in public schools themselves; many teachers and school administrators had received alternative forms of education, as had their own teachers and university professors; government schools were still somewhat under the sway of educational models adapted from the pre-progressive era; and the public schools had not yet fundamentally displaced family, religion, and great literature as the primary moral influences among the majority of people. Civilization therefore deteriorated slowly, rather than all at once. But it did deteriorate: Today’s universal public school catastrophe is not a radical shift from the schools of “your day.” It is the inevitable, logical outcome of a long, global war between authoritarians who have sought to mold a compliant underclass of submissive dependents, and responsible people—yes, some of them public school teachers—who wished to promote a happy, moral adulthood for their children. The lesson is clear—the authoritarians won. They always will, in the end, until they are forcibly denied the souls they wish to degrade.
Take your children out of the government schooling apparatus now—before today’s heirs to the dream shared by men as different as Fichte, Dewey, Marx, and Rockefeller, achieve their ultimate aim, which is to deny parents the freedom to take their children out of the reach of the state at all. Jane Austen had no government schooling, standardized testing, or official state ranking, and received most of her education at home, reading books recommended by her father. Try it.
[i] Taylor, TDS, 29.
[ii] Glenn Fairman, “The Great Divide: My Time in the Trenches,” American Thinker (December 9, 2012), http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2012/12/educations_great_divide_my_time_in_the_trenches.html.
[iii] Zosia Bielski, “‘We want to talk about sex’: Grade 8 girls push for sex-ed reforms to include the concept of consent,” The Globe and Mail (February 5, 2015), http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/relationships/grade-8-girls-push-for-sex-ed-reforms-with-petition-of-40000-signatures/article22807466/.