A Key Lesson in Education Policy: You Don’t Make Peace with Termites
For most of the last century, the “progressives” have been taking over the nation’s education system at every level. Pick any teacher, professor, or administrator and the chances are high that he or she is utterly dedicated to the Leftist project of replacing our liberal (in the true sense of the word) society with their vision of a properly regulated one. By controlling education, the Leftists implant the ideas they favor into students (including collectivism, egalitarianism, and acceptance of authority) while at the same time repressing ones that work against them (such as individualism, skepticism of authority, and belief in the spontaneous order of liberty).
Due to the phenomenal success of that project, school and college curricula are saturated with hostility to Western civilization. Teachers are trained in “education schools” that promote failed pedagogical concepts while at the same time demonizing anything that’s remotely conservative or libertarian. Overwhelmingly, the people who work in state education bureaucracies have been steeped in leftist ideology. They are far less concerned about how well students learn to read, write, and do math than with turning them into zealous advocates for their pet causes.
And once students get into college, the drumbeat for “progressivism” continues. Not every student succumbs, of course, but the heavy leftist slant has a big impact on many of them. That helps to explain why such a high percentage of young voters went for the Democrats in 2022 and why so many hold frighteningly authoritarian beliefs.
This is as if someone had built a lovely house through savings and hard work, only to find that termites have infested the foundation. They are steadily chewing away at the wood, weakening it. They won’t stop. It’s what they do.
I bring this up because two neighboring states, Florida and Georgia, show how and how not to deal with the “termite” problem of Leftist education control.
Writing for National Review, Stanley Kurtz here contrasts the eagerness of Florida governor Ron DeSantis to take on and defeat the leftist education apparatchiks in his state, and the way Georgia governor Brian Kemp has allowed his to continue their control over how students will be taught in his state.
First, DeSantis has promoted an excellent replacement for the “Common Core” standards that were so vigorously pushed during the Obama years. Why does that matter? Kurtz explains:
The wonderful thing about Florida’s new English standards is the way they restore classic literature to its rightful place in the curriculum. The education Left wants to ditch substantive ‘knowledge’ (about authors like Shakespeare or Austen, or about literary periods like the classical era or the Renaissance) in favor of a focus on ‘skills.’ The delusion here is that knowledge and skills can be separated. In practice, the focus on skills simply serves as an excuse to scrap the great works of Western literature. The seemingly bland and apolitical jargon of ‘skills’ is manipulated to inject leftist politics into the classroom.
You can read much more about Florida’s new standards here.
Georgia also has new curricular standards in draft form. Unfortunately, there is no emphasis on reading our literary classics. Rather, Kurtz continues, “Georgia encourages students to identify the effects of social and historical influences on the biases of a given author.” That trendy leftist approach “cultivates a shallow reductionism that prompts students to dismiss the great literary works as dated.” Indeed, it also reinforces the leftist mindset that writers should be evaluated based on their supposed biases, rather than on the actual content of their works.
Georgia, under a Republican governor, has an opportunity to stop the termites from doing further damage, but, unaccountably, seems content to let the destruction continue. In this American Greatness article, English professor Mark Bauerlein blows the whistle. “Why would a Republican governor with national ambitions produce an education roadmap that is wholly devoid of conservative beliefs and goals? How did his administration come up with a pedagogy that maintains the very progressivist ideals that have dominated the public schools for decades and turned the youth vote into a heavily Democratic bloc?”
Instead of restoring the former emphasis on great English and American literature, the Georgia standards babble away about “convergent and divergent thinking,” and “deconstructing” the works that are assigned. That is just what the Left wants, a clear field for their continuing assault on Western civilization.
Bauerlein hits the nail on the head when he writes, “We shouldn’t underestimate the power of great literature and a great tradition to resist the blandishments of Woke coercion. Identity politics don’t appeal so much to a youth who has imbibed ‘Self-Reliance’ and Walden, works that abhor group dynamics. Read Swift and Orwell and you immediately suspect an idealist who arrives with promises of radical change….Victimology won’t please a mind that admires Booker T. Washington’s Up from Slavery.”
That’s right, and it’s the reason why the leftist educrats (in Georgia and everywhere else) want to replace great books with babble about the skills they say students need, including the identification of “bias” in authors. The most vital skill of all, being able to read and comprehend a worthwhile book, is ignored. (In truth, many teachers are themselves not very good at reading and writing, but that’s another problem that stems from the “progressive” takeover of our education system.)
State education standards need to be revised along the Florida lines, but getting rid of the termites requires deeper work. Education schools are the pipeline for the great majority of our teachers. In Georgia, for example, the University of Georgia School of Education’s website is wonderfully revealing about what kinds of things animate its officials, such as its focus on “White Privilege and Anti-Racist Solidarity.”
It is hard to imagine how any student could get through the UGA School of Education without being drawn into the ideological morass. A student who disagreed would be harassed for not having the proper values. The atmosphere is poisonous to any student who simply wants to learn to teach a subject, without becoming a Social Justice advocate.
Almost uniformly, education schools have become breeding grounds for hard-Left teachers and administrators. They are beyond reform, so elected officials who want to stop the further decay of their education systems must push for alternatives to ed-school certification.
Conservative leaders need to wake up to the peril we face from control of education by dedicated Leftists. There cannot be any peaceful coexistence with them, for their intention is to radically transform the nation by indoctrinating its young people. As important as issues like taxes and regulations are, their most important (and most difficult) task is to restore control of education to people who actually want to educate.