|NUMBER 304||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||MAY 2011|
|The Toxic Influence of Progressive Education on K-12 Curricula|
By Chuck Rogér
In the 1960s, America's education schools began conditioning teachers to peddle impossible social and economic theories to captive human sponges in K-12 classrooms. Since then, teachers taken in by progressive indoctrination have been planting fallacies in students' minds using a pernicious device: the "deconstruction" of reality.
Deconstruction aims to disassemble traditional Western culture and replace that culture with a collectivist utopia operated under rules set by the deconstructors. Between Inauguration Day 2009 and the January 2011 GOP House takeover, a congressional wrecking crew led by President Barack Obama did an amazing amount of deconstructing.
The ouster of much of the wrecking crew in last November's election was a small step toward stopping America's descent into a utopian hell. But it is the 2008 election of a full-bore statist and the statist's still-decent approval rating which suggest that too many Americans embrace socialist-collectivist promises. Such na‹vet‚ and ignorance of socialism's miserable track record are stunning.
Though naïveté will always afflict some people, ignorance can be corrected by objective education and heightened awareness. One thing is certain. The nonstop flow of pre-primed, left-indoctrinated university graduates must be stopped, which means that the K-12 education system that feeds the universities must be rehabilitated.
Cleaning up K-12 requires understanding how schools devolved into left-wing ideology centers.
Starting in the 1960s, academics took heightened interest in Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci's cultural Marxism. Members of the political class glommed onto the resulting "social justice," affirmative action, "diversity," multiculturalism, political correctness, and other malignancies spawned by cultural Marxism. Progressive politicians came to view society as a hodge-podge of racial, ethnic, gender-based, and now also sexual orientation-based groups locked in zero-sum combat with Western whites.
Generally speaking, cultural Marxism's indoctrinees have learned to view morality and knowledge as "constructs" and social and economic power as commodities to be transferred from "oppressor" to "oppressed." Progressives routinely label minorities as oppressed, and anything that benefits minorities as moral. Such thinking dominates the Democrat party platform.
In embracing Western middle class deconstruction, universities took a radical left turn. To ruinous effect, the radicalism gradually descended below freshman level. Cultural Marxism entered high school, then middle school, and now infests elementary schools as well as preschools. One illustration of the use of anti-wealth, anti-American fallacies in K-12 classrooms is the showing of the virulently anti-capitalist video, The Story of Stuff. The video presents baseless, hysterical vitriol as fact. For instance, schoolchildren are told that: . . . extraction . . . is a fancy word for natural resource exploitation, which is a fancy word for trashing the planet. What this looks like is we chop down trees, we blow up mountains to get the metals inside, we use up all the water and we wipe out the animals.
Thousands of schools and churches have the video, while hundreds of teachers have required students to view the propaganda on the Internet. Googling the phrase, "The Story of Stuff," nets 2.2 million hits, and though the web buzzes with concern over exposing schoolchildren to the video's venomous distortions, interspersed amid the alarm is a shocking amount of gushing praise.
What motivates such praise? What motivates teachers to bias students against capitalism? Answers lie within education schools that influence K-12 teachers and curricula.
University of Arkansas researcher Sandra Stotsky found that education schools push "evidence-free theories" to influence curriculum development. One theory, "constructivism," argues that children learn best by constructing class topics and methods in ways which leverage the children's personal experiences. The notion "feels" seductive, but contains no factual basis.
Constructivist theory recklessly assumes that racial, ethnic, gender-based, and sexual orientation-based subgroups learn what's truly important by absorbing teacher-led dissection of Western middle class knowledge and values. Constructivism holds that after such cleansing, the subgroups should be qualified to select study topics of their choosing. The method aligns with the equally baseless views of early progressive education theorist John Dewey, who wanted children to specify "relevant [classroom] material."
Related to constructivism, "reader response theory" teaches students to ignore authors' actual words and assign preferred meanings to written works. Children are conditioned to believe that truth is relative to individual or tribal experience. Ayn Rand captured the tribalistic aspect of minority exploitation in her essay, "Global Balkanization." Rand observed that government "manufactures pressure groups," especially ethnic groups.
The profiteers are those group leaders who discover suddenly that they can exploit the helplessness, the fear, the frustration of their "ethnic" brothers, organize them into a group, present demands to the government — and deliver the vote.
By encouraging minorities to resist socioeconomic assimilation, progressive politicians maintain a nationwide nursery of government-dependent adults from which to draw lifelong votes and income. Progressive teachers steer students toward a strange-brew mindset of anti-assimilation, collectivism, diversity, and we-are-the-world-ness.
Stotsky points out that the "evidence-free" education school theory of "social justice" alleges that minority children learn best when encouraged to embrace grievances against middle-class whites. Social justice-indoctrinated teachers instill resentment in "non-dominant" (minority) children and guilt in "dominant" (white) children. Judging by the abundance of guilt-ridden white Americans, the tactic is working its magic well.
Social justice education deemphasizes knowledge retention and the development of traditionally productive skills. The theory's fanatical adherents maintain that teaching American history to blacks and Hispanics is oppressive. It's also oppressive to force blacks to "think like whites." "Diversity consultant" Glenn Singleton teaches that blacks must be excused from developing "annoying white characteristics, such as being 'task-oriented' and "intellectual.'" Together, government dependency and social justice education have fashioned a super-progressivism turbo-charged by cultural Marxism. Stunted black academic achievement and disintegration of the black family are but two of the many devastating results.
In truth, disintegration of not only the black family but of wholesome tradition itself begins in preschool, as discussed in my introductory analysis of Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky's influence on early childhood curricula. A study by Stanford education professor David Labaree frames the scope of disfiguration of America's education curricula. Education schools fit "solidly in the progressive camp." Teachers are conditioned to "integrate the disciplines," use "socially relevant themes," and push morally relativistic versions of "community, cooperation, tolerance, justice, and democratic equality" in ways that make the concepts appear noble, indeed innocent.
But there is no innocence in the effects of the progressive conditioning of teachers. More K-12 students than ever are now being manipulated through lesson plans warped into platforms for moralizing against capitalism, the white middle class, and America. The deconstruction of American society is proceeding. The ghosts of Gramsci, Dewey, and Vygotsky are probably smiling.
A physicist and former high-tech executive, Chuck Rog‚r invites you to visit his website, www.chuckroger.com. This article first appeared on 4-16-11 at AmericanThinker.com and is reprinted here by permission.