A brief look at the progressive agenda in education reveals that critical race theory is just the latest in a long series of attempts to deform and ultimately fracture the country.
By Larry Sand
While critical race theory has rightfully garnered much attention of late, it is simply the latest step in advancing what is known as cultural Marxism. Many people lay the origins of America’s left turn to the 1960s, but in fact, it actually dates back to the Progressive Era, a time of social and political reform that started over a hundred years ago. While eliminating some government corruption and granting suffrage for women were positive steps, the early 20th century movement ushered in an era of radical thought that has never left us. What follows are a few stand-out points of the far-left’s invasion into education.
“The purpose of a university should be to make a son as unlike his father as possible.” These radical words were uttered in 1909 by Woodrow Wilson as president of Princeton, four years before he became the 28th president of the U.S. (When Wilson won his election in 2012, socialist Eugene Debs received 6 percent of the vote.).
In 1916, education reformer John Dewey began professing what we now call “social justice.” At the same time, Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist came upon the scene. He believed that it was most effective to spread revolutionary ideology slowly and incrementally. By doing it gradually, he thought that enough people would eventually be won over to Marxist thought. His approach eventually became known as the “long march through the institutions.”
In 1923, a group of professors known as the Frankfurt School, came to the fore. These German Marxists—notably Theodore Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse—hated capitalism and traditional morals. (Marcuse’s dreary One-Dimensional Man was omnipresent when I went to college in the late 1960s.) The professors did not stay in their homeland long, however. Adolph Hitler’s rise to power forced them out of Germany, and unfortunately, they reemerged at Columbia University in New York City in 1935.
The 1940s saw the country involved with World War II, and we then focused on regaining domestic tranquility in the 1950s. But things became unhinged in the 1960s. Radicals ruled many college campuses and Saul Alinsky, the uber-leftist community organizer, was hired by the National Education Association as a trainer. John Lloyd, an NEA insider at the time, warned that to understand the union one must learn about Alinsky. Reading Rules for Radicals, will help one “understand NEA more profoundly than reading anything else,” he said, because the organization was modeled on Alinsky’s precepts, which the union used to train its staff.
In 1970, Paolo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” became all the rage in education schools. Rife with class warfare, Freire’s work stressed the relationship between oppressors and the oppressed.
Published in 1980, Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States became extremely popular and still dominates our classrooms. Zinn insisted that teaching of history “should serve society in some way” and that “Objectivity is impossible and it is also undesirable.” When called on the carpet for writing a history book that played very fast and loose with the facts, Zinn freely admitted it, saying that his hope in writing the book was to create a revolution. It is estimated that almost five million copies of the book have been sold, mostly to high school and college students.
By the time I went to ed school in the late 1980s, all the leftist ideas hatched throughout the century had become mainstream. We had to confront our various “isms”—race, sex, etc., and multiculturalism and culturally responsive education were the order of the day.
When I began teaching full time in the 1990s, I saw the progressive infestation up close and personal .........To Read More.......