Editor’s note: Dr. Bruce Shortt, along with fellow Baptist Roger Moran, has proposed a resolution for the Southern Baptist Convention that would urge churches in the denomination to develop an “exit strategy” for removing their children from public school.
Marlin Maddoux virtually pioneered Christian talk radio, founded the USA Radio Network, cultivated a new generation of highly gifted radio personalities such as Kerby Anderson and Penna Dexter, wrote several books, and provided a strong radio voice for the Christian worldview for over 30 years. Most of us would say that that is quite a legacy.
Yet, even at the end of his life when he was in poor health, Marlin’s energy and commitment to Christianity wouldn’t allow him to slacken his efforts on behalf of the Kingdom. The result is the final piece of the Marlin Maddoux legacy: “Public Education Against America: The Hidden Agenda,” the culmination of his research and many interviews regarding public schools.
For those of us who tuned into Marlin’s “Point of View,” we always knew we would gain some insight into how to think and act biblically. Beginning in the 1990’s, “Point of View” started focusing more on education. In fact, Marlin was not only an early champion of Christian schooling and homeschooling, but became, true to form, a keen observer of the metastasizing pathologies of our government school system.
“Public Education Against America” is, in part, a fascinating account of how Marlin’s work as a radio-show host and interviewer led him to see behind the respectable facade of the “public” school system and recognize the public schools for what they have become – a cauldron of toxic pathologies inimical to the welfare of our children, our families, our churches and our culture. It is also, in part, his account of why the public-school disaster is not an accident. Most important, however, is Marlin’s conclusion that we, as Christians, must not educate our children in today’s public schools.
Public schools and cultural Marxism
Although many Christian parents are aware of the baleful influence on public schools of John Dewey and other paladins of “progressive education,” the most intriguing aspect of “Public Education Against America” is Marlin’s discussion of how cultural Marxism, more popularly known as “political correctness,” has come to dominate our educational institutions.
In 1933, an obscure band of German Marxists known as the “Frankfurt School” began immigrating to the United States to escape Hitler. Today, many of those associated with the Frankfurt School are familiar names – Eric Fromm, Herbert Marcuse, Wilhelm Reich, Max Horkheimer, to name a few. What relatively few know, however, is that all of these “intellectuals” adhered to a form of Marxism developed by an Italian named Antonio Gramsci.
Gramsci founded the Italian Communist Party and, unlike most Marxists of his day, rejected the Soviet model for spreading communism through armed revolution. Gramsci’s essential insight was that the West could not be beaten militarily or economically – the working class in the West was simply not going to rise up in revolution.
Why? Because Western culture – that is, the culture of what used to be called “Christendom”– was simply too strong for Marxist ideology to overcome. Consequently, argued Gramsci, the only way to conquer the West was moral subversion through destroying the West’s values, obliterating its knowledge of its own history, and destroying its Christian spiritual foundation. If these things could be accomplished, the West would collapse from within. In essence, Gramsci outlined a strategy for transforming the thinking of the free peoples of the West so they would enter willingly into the Marxist gulag.
When the members of the Frankfurt school began arriving in America, they almost immediately began drawing upon Gramsci’s principles for “deconstructing” American culture. Their approach was simple: Begin a systematic campaign of criticism of Western culture and America with the objective of ultimately convincing the public that the West – and America, especially – have been guilty of genocidal crimes against every culture they had come in contact with and that these crimes had flowed essentially from Christianity.
Thus, the objective was to de-legitimize such pillars of American culture as Christianity, capitalism, the family, sexual restraint and patriotism. Obviously, this was a project that, as Gramsci had foreseen, would take time. The Cultural Marxists knew that adults, because they were generally aware of the truth regarding America’s institutions and history, would reject their critique. Therefore, their main effort was directed toward youth, and particularly educational institutions.
Cultural Marxism and the war against Christianity in our schools
Over the years, the original members of the Frankfurt school and their American adherents obtained positions in colleges, universities and other institutions where they were able to use their positions to influence generation after generation of students. As their influence on campus grew, Marlin points out that they consistently pursued “a policy of intimidation, censorship, and slander against anyone opposing their agenda for America.”
Today, Cultural Marxism is virtually the norm on most campuses. One of the telling examples of this provided in “Public Education Against America” is an account of the “Freshman Orientation” endured by a young college student, Abby Nye. According to Miss Nye, “Freshman Orientation” was really “Freshman Indoctrination.” As she described it, the “orientation” was actually a process for “… holding the students hostage for three or four days as they [college officials] attempt to reprogram their brains on matters of moral relativism, tolerance, gay/lesbian/transgender rights, postmodernism, and New Age spirituality.”
The public school K-12 catechism in moral relativism
Most Christian parents now have at least some inkling that most of our colleges and colleges and universities are largely in the grip of the political and cultural Left. What “Public Education Against America” demonstrates forcefully, however, is that the K-12 government school system is now also awash in cultural Marxism. Public-school curricula, for example, now tend to ignore essential American history in order to lavish attention on minor historical figures that allegedly boost the “self-esteem” of designated victim groups and that are also used to persuade children that the historic American culture and Christianity are illegitimate.
Throughout the 19th century and into the 1940s, K-12 government schools generally taught children moral principles that, if not always explicitly Christian, were at least compatible with Christianity. Today, many Christians wonder how public and private discussions of morality have largely become cliche-ridden gibberish about “not being judgmental,” “not moralizing,” “not imposing your value judgments on others,” and “valuing differences.” What this represents, tragically, is a massive movement in American society away from the Christian conception of transcendent moral values, toward a moral relativism rooted in the conviction that moral values are nothing more than subjective preferences.
How is this happening? The critical first step is leading children to adopt moral relativism. Of course, there is no primary-school, middle-school, or high-school class called “Moral Relativism 101.” Nevertheless, this theme is woven into many different subjects, often by incorporating into various courses “non-directive moral education” curricula such as “values clarification” and “critical thinking” that implicitly teach there are no absolute moral values. Instead, the children are told, they must choose the values that are “right for them.”
Just what is “non-directive moral education”? Non-directive approaches treat moral education as a process through which children are supposed to develop their own values through participation in games, discussion of moral problems or dilemmas, and use of certain intellectual strategies. In this approach, teachers are not supposed to take moral positions or present their own moral views. Indeed, proponents of non-directive moral education explicitly reject the notion of “teaching values” and criticize those who object to this value-neutral approach as wanting to impose their own “rigid, obsolete value structures” on others through the schools. As a result, children are to be turned loose without any moral guidance on critical, complex issues involving drugs, sex, war, and life and death to arrive at conclusions based upon their limited experience and knowledge and their feelings.
Despite claiming to be value-neutral, non-directive approaches to teaching moral reasoning actually indoctrinate children with the view that all moral values are purely subjective and that none are transcendent and universally applicable. The real purpose behind all of this is to separate children from the values they have learned in their families so that they will be “open” to new values consistent with some variant of cultural Marxism. Thus, the “values curriculum” in public schools is rather like AIDS – it destroys a child’s moral immune system and renders him vulnerable to opportunistic worldview infections.
At a practical level, non-directive moral education turns moral instruction on its head. Efforts by parents, churches and others to teach children values, let alone the transcendent moral values at the heart of Christianity, are denounced by those trained in values clarification and other non-directive approaches as “moralizing” – the “mistake” of failing to recognize that all moral values are a matter of personal preference and that, therefore, moral values are always relative, changing and situational. Thus, children are taught that “moralizers” are just pushy, intolerant people who are trying to force their values on others. From the perspective of the adepts of non-directive moral education, such people are nothing more than moral imperialists. In essence, non-directive moral education tells children that they are free to make up any system of values that is “right for them.”
Now, consider that non-directive moral education is frequently applied to AIDS, drug, and sex-education programs, and the disastrous consequences to children of bringing these curricula into the classroom begin to become apparent. But the damage is more extensive than that. If all values are relative, then no culture or way of life is objectively better or more important than another.
America or Albania?
From this perspective, then, American history, for example, is no more important than the history of, say, Albania. Certainly, it would be impermissible to say that the American Republic is in any sense better than Albania under its late, unlamented, Stalinist leader, Enver Hoxa.
Moreover, there is no legitimate basis for saying that learning about the American Revolution is more important than learning about techniques of Navajo rug making. As a result, most older adults would be surprised to find out how little children are learning about American history and Western culture. To the extent that American history and Western culture are being taught, they would also be surprised to discover how these subjects have become just another branch of “victim studies” in which children are taught implicitly or explicitly that the problems and failings of people and cultures everywhere are the fault of Christianity, capitalism, patriarchy, homophobia, racism and white heterosexual males.
The objective has been to induce collective historical amnesia by eliminating our collective historical memory. This, in turn, makes it possible to fill the historical void with a Gramscian historical narrative.
Manipulating the values and beliefs of our children
Given the assumption that there are no transcendent moral values, the government schools now teach children that what matters is “valuing diversity,” “respecting differences,” being tolerant and open, and avoiding being “judgmental.” Moreover, if there is no moral truth, only personal values and preferences, then all that can really be done is reach a consensus. The consensus that is promoted, however, is one that uses the cultural Marxist presuppositions of race, class and gender victimization as a foundation for driving children to the conclusion that the highest values are diversity, multiculturalism and tolerance, as interpreted by the politically correct crowd.
“Public Education Against America” also points out that if children are to be led to a predetermined consensus, it helps to have detailed information about the children’s values and beliefs. And, indeed, the government education establishment wants to know more about the children institutionalized in public schools. One particularly egregious example Marlin recounts involved the Pennsylvania Educational Quality Assessment. Of the 370 questions, 60 had to do with math and reading. The remaining 310 questions “… measured attitudes, values, beliefs, opinions and home-life of the children.” Worse, the administrative version of the test had numerical codes next to the questions that were keyed to various “remediating curricula.” In other words, once the EQA identified “undesirable attitudes,” the test instrument would point the “educators” toward a curricula that would change the child’s beliefs.
As a general proposition, local teachers and administrators have no idea that they and their curricula are promoting cultural Marxism. Moreover, they would undoubtedly deny that they are doing any such thing if questioned about it. Nonetheless, they have been taught these ideas while getting their education degrees, during their in-service training, and by their unions. The moral and cultural relativism that is imbedded in all of the claptrap about “respecting differences,” diversity, and so on is simply what seems obviously right and decent to the typical public-school employee.
On the other hand, those who teach in schools of education, elements of the union leadership, and others typically have a quite explicit understanding of what they are doing. Indeed, we have now reached the point at which schools of education function in part as political re-education camps. For example, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, which is a national accrediting organization for schools of education, requires adherence to such politically correct shibboleths as “multiculturalism” and “diversity” in hiring and curriculum as a condition of accreditation. Think of NCATE as the enforcer of the ideology embraced by the educator elites.
At its 2001 Las Vegas convention, NCATE’s agenda moved farther into the open. During a presentation just prior to the opening of the convention, NCATE’s senior vice president, Donna Gollnick, told an audience of 1,000 education professionals from around the country that “diversity” is the most important standard by which NCATE will evaluate those who train teachers – not effectiveness in training teachers to teach phonics, math, or grammar, but “diversity.”
And just what is “diversity”? According to NCATE’s glossary for its “Professional Standards,” “diversity” means “differences among groups of people and individuals based on ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, gender, exceptionalities, language, religion, sexual orientation, and geographical area.” Why is this important? Because now NCATE wants to require that teachers demonstrate that are showing correct “dispositions” regarding diversity and that they are teaching “multicultural and global perspectives.” Thus, NCATE’s real project is imposing a mandatory ideology of cultural Marxism on those who would be part of the teaching profession, whether they want to teach in schools of education or in K-12 schools.
The fact is, schools of education have been catechizing prospective teachers and administrators in the creeds of globalism, multiculturalism, social justice and diversity for years. These students are now our children’s teachers, and they are now catechizing our children with the worldview they have been taught.
This brings us back to our responsibilities as Christian parents. Christ tells us in Luke that a student is not above his teacher, and when he is fully trained, he will be like his teacher. If we have our children in public schools, the public school is indeed our children’s teacher and, effectively, their parent. The federal courts agree. In Fields v. Palmdale, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals candidly stated that public-school parents “… have no constitutional right … to prevent a public school from providing its students with whatever information it wishes to provide, sexual, or otherwise, when and as the school determines that it is appropriate to do so.” [emphasis added]
If our children are in public schools, we have delivered them into the hands of the enemies of Christianity and Western culture. If we continue to offer our children up as living sacrifices to the Moloch of government education, we know what the results will be, and it will be our fault. This is why Marlin tells us we must get our children out of public schools immediately – a timely and wise final thought from a man whose life enriched us all.
Editor’s note: “Public Education Against America: The Hidden Agenda,” by Marlin Maddoux, is published by Whitaker House: 877-793-9800; 1030 Hunt Valley Circle; New Kensington, PA 15068.
Be sure to get your copy of Bruce Shortt’s revealing book, “The Harsh Truth About Public Schools,” available from ShopNetDaily.
Bruce N. Shortt is a graduate of Harvard Law School, has a Ph.D. from Stanford University, and was a Fulbright Scholar. He and his wife homeschool their three sons.