Old Mother Goose has been eulogized by generations of children and parents in many lands. Those familiar rhymes and riddles have been sung and repeated by nearly every child and adult in America . One of the most popular rhymes is the story of Humpty Dumpty, the egg who sat on a wall.
According to the story, Humpty was quite a popular egg. He sat balancing on top of the wall where everybody could see him. Nursery rhyme books show pictures of how even Humpty was pretty proud of himself for being so daring! But then, of course, we remember the fate of Humpty Dumpty. He had a great fall! Apparently, the whole countryside came running to him. The alarmed people even summoned all the king’s horses and all the king’s men to put Humpty together again. But alas, the task could not be done, not even by the king’s most trusted stewards, mounted on his finest steeds.
This popular nursery rhyme has been used by many writers to illustrate various aspects of life. Few illustrations, however, show such a parallel to real life than when we use this simple yet understandable fantasy story to outline the plight of America ‘s public education system. This country’s educational system was once regarded as one of the finest schooling programs in the world. In fact, not too long ago, it was balancing on the wall for the world to see. So many people chose to come to America for their education, that newspapers and magazines around the world relayed the fear of some leaders that many of these other countries would suffer brain drain. That fear has vanished! Americans are now finding themselves grappling with the fact that our public education has not only bumbled from its high and lofty perch, but is presently considered to be a system of crumbling aspirations. People everywhere are seeking answers to what happened. What caused the fall and what can be done to put it together again? A closer look at the history of our Educational Humpty Dumpty reveals an interesting parallel to the rhyme of Mother Goose and the three major cycles of education in America.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN (The First Cycle of Education in America )
It is important to remember that it took the American Founders 180 years (1607 to 1787) to come up with their successful formula of government for freedom, prosperity, and peace. But once this formula was solidified it proved so successful that for the next 200 years it was the hope of the world. Experience had taught the Founders that the very underpinning of a free, happy, and prosperous America depended upon the development of an educated citizenry. Their goal was to have a universal education. As Thomas Jefferson stated, AIf a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. (See The Real Thomas Jefferson, by Andrew M. Allison, NCCS, p. 409.)
THE FIRST SCHOOLS
America’s first schools existed mainly within family units. The home was the classroom, and the subjects taught, as well as the methods used, reinforced the family’s perception of the world. Their Acore curriculum included religious values, basic reading and writing, ciphering (math) skills, a little history, and farm skills which were pertinent to an agrarian society. As the country grew, communities combined their resources and hired teachers to educate their children in little red school houses. Their focus was on making sure the students had the ability to function effectively in the society where they would live. In those days, a child’s future was fairly predictable. By 1836, William Holmes McGuffey (1800-1873) considered by many today as being the greatest educator America has every produced, began publication of his famous McGuffey Readers. His books were indicative of the first cycle of American Education with a strong emphasis on basics. These included:
- Basics in reading, which embraced phonics and memorizing.
- Basics in writing, with extensive practice in penmanship. Script was taught in the first grade.
- Basics in arithmetic, as applied to bookkeeping and business.
- Basics in oral and written communication, with emphasis on vocabulary and spelling.
- Basics in literature, music, art forms and nature study.
- Basics in history, particularly American history, including geography.
- Basics in civics and the American system of Constitutional government.
- Basics in hygiene, physical and mental.
- Basics in community ethic with emphasis on respect for one’s elders.
During this first cycle, there was also strong significance placed on spiritual values, together with the mandates of morality and the qualities needed to develop sound character. There were frequent references to the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, and popular Bible stories. Parents and community leaders alike expected both the teachers and the texts to drill into the students the necessity of being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. These principles not only became incorporated in the laws of the Boy Scouts of America, but likewise were included in the routine disciplines of every classroom. This formula for education propelled America into world leadership, not only in education, but in industry, science, medicine, and agriculture, which produced an enviable standard of living. It also generated the most charitable nation the world has ever known. By 1905, though a tiny nation with less than six per cent of the world’s population, America was producing more than 50% of the world’s developed wealth. Country after country has striven to emulate America ‘s educational and governmental system. The world looked to America for all the best and greatest opportunities. Students from countries everywhere came to America to learn the leading edge information that America had to offer. Immigration was indeed the sign of the times. Then two famous scholars arose in the educational arena whose ideologies changed everything. In next month’s article, we’ll find out who was responsible for the change in America ’s successful education, and the principles that led to its downward spiral. The Educational Humpty Dumpty was about to teeter on the wall.
An excellent educational report called “A Shift in Focus,” was created by a Utah governor’s committee in the late 1980s. This report continues Part 1 of our “Humpty Dumpty” story about what gradually happened to education in America: From “Restoring the Educational Dream” by Glenn and Julianne Kimber) An excellent educational report called “A Shift in Focus,” was created by a Utah governor’s committee in the late 1980s. This report continues Part 1 of our “Humpty Dumpty” story about what gradually happened to education in America: “The Civil War and the Industrial Revolution changed everything. Americans started moving to cities and society demanded more education than families could provide, even when they got together. A wave of immigrants, primarily European, arrived on our shores in great numbers, generally settling in the cities. “Throughout the country around the end of the 19th century, schools began to be organized around the production practices used in the factories–the best model we had at that time for processing things in large numbers. Schools faced vastly increased demands–more English, more math, more geography, more social studies, more of everything. Learning took place in a formal classroom setting, for a set period of time, with a single subject being taught at a time. Students were assigned their places on the basis of age. “When a bell rang (like a factory whistle blowing?), the students reassembled themselves in a different set of rooms, or put aside the subject being addressed, and started over again–new topic, same conditions, same exact amount of time. “Industrial society required interchangeable parts, and the diversity of home schools meant chaos in the workplace, when graduates with varying skills and extents of knowledge came together to produce a product or perform a non-farm service. As a result, specialized academic textbooks, written by experts, became the basic tools teachers used in the classroom. As more students went to school, school districts became larger, more structured, and more uniform. Teachers, with more and more expected of them, received more formal training for their jobs. “Some students thrived in this environment; some did not. For a time, those who did not were allowed to drop out with no stigma attached, to find their own way in the work force. Job skills were rudimentary at best, and these dropouts created a convenient labor pool that helped fill the factories and build America into a world power. Society, in general, was in balance.” (Shift in Focus., pp. 6-7)
The Ultimate Disguise
This “balance of society” was beginning to fulfill a dream for some of the so-called “social scientists” of the day. Under the guise of modernizing education, they began pushing a system which shifted the focus of education away from the needs of the student. Instead, they concentrated their efforts to see that education would serve what they saw as the needs of society. Hence, the system became more important than the student. These social scientists also abandoned McGuffey and any God-centered concepts. Instead, they focused their attention on the philosophies of a scholar by the name of Horace Mann. In the 1840s, about the same time McGuffey was developing his primers, Horace Mann began a crusade against the McGuffey concepts of moral education. Mann espoused the idea that the authority and responsibility of education should be shifted from the parents to the state. His philosophies and concepts included:
- Children should no longer be held responsible for their “natural instincts” of behavior, but are to be looked upon as “innately good.”
- An elite educational establishment should be organized to “save our society” and manipulate how education should be administered.
- “Man” should be “the measure of all things”–not God.
- Children should be taught that there are “no absolute values” of right and wrong–and that one’s decisions are always based on particular situations at the time. (See Klicka, The Right Choice–Home Schooling, pp. 80-94)
Horace Mann further stated:
“What the church has been for medieval man the public school must become for democratic and rational man. God will be replaced by the concept of the public good…. The common schools…shall create a more far-seeing intelligence and a pure morality than has ever existed among communities of men.” (Ibid., p. 32)
Horace Mann continued to promote his educational philosophies, and convinced many parents that their children had a right to education, and that the state ought to see that they got their rights. His goal was to create a nonsectarian school system, and his vision was that education would become the salvation of society. In fact it is incredulous to imagine Horace Mann’s arrogant thinking when he said he wanted “a new religion, with the state as its true church, and education as its Messiah.” (The Messianic Character of Education by Rousas J. Rushdoony, [Nutley, N.J., Craig Press, 1968], p. 21)
John Dewey Creates the System to Incorporate the Philosophy
Once Horace Mann’s ideas were in place, a man came along by the name of John Dewey. He too believed in the “messianic character of education”. However, Dewey took Horace Mann’s philosophies one step further and organized them into an “educational system.” John Dewey also incorporated into his system his own philosophies that he had developed over many years of selective study. In 1916, John Dewey published his book Democracy and Education, in which he advocated an entirely new, revolutionary approach to child training. The American schools have never been the same since. John Dewey called his brainchild progressive education, but even liberal educators such as Robert M. Hutchins called his whole conception regressive education. Here is a brief summary of his life and philosophies, written by W. Cleon Skousen in an article called “John Dewey: The Man Who Betrayed Education.” John Dewey received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins where G. Stanley Hall, a disciple of the German socialist philosopher, Wilhelm Wundt, indoctrinated him with the vision of a welfare state with the schools serving as the change agent to bring it about in a single generation. Democracy in Education turned out to be a planned pattern of anarchy in education. Something called “self-realization” became the goal instead of “learning.” Nothing but the most casual reference was made to English grammar, ancient history, U.S. history, geography, the classics of Western civilization, or even the basic sciences. School was to be just fun, with each student doing his own thing in a climate of permissive, unstructured confusion. Contemporary educators of national stature treated Dewey with respectful demeanor but expressed professional horror when they saw what Dewey was promoting as “progressive education.” Robert M. Hutchins declared: “His book is a noble, generous effort to solve…social problems through the education system. Unfortunately, the methods he proposed could not solve these problems; they would merely destroy the educational system” (Great Western Books, vol. 1, p. 15). In practice, Dewey practically threw traditional “book learning” out the window. Dr. Hutchins wrote: “The disappearance of great books from education and from the reading of adults constitutes a calamity. In this view, education in the West has been steadily deteriorating; the rising generation has been deprived of its birthright; the mess of pottage it has received in exchange has not been nutritious; adults have come to lead lives comparatively rich in material comforts and very poor in moral, intellectual, and spiritual tone” (Ibid., preface; pp. xii, xiii). Dewey looked upon the schools as a wonderful opportunity to indoctrinate the American youth in the virtues of a glorious age where private property, the free market, open competition and profits would all be eliminated. He visited the Soviet Union in the late 1920s and, instead of recognizing the wasteland of revolutionary desolation and the widespread destruction of human values, he blissfully described it all as “a popular culture impregnated with esthetic quality” (John Dewey, Impressions of Soviet Russia, [New York; 1932], p. 44). Long before, in 1904, he had joined the faculty of the Teachers College at Columbia University. He had then teamed up with James Earl Russell, the dean of the Teachers College, who was also a student of Wilhelm Wundt, and together they had worked for a quarter of a century diligently building this branch of Columbia University into the largest institution in the world for the training of teachers. By 1953, about one-third of all the presidents and deans of teacher training schools in America were graduates of Columbia’s Teachers College. “Today we are reaping the tragic results of the pedagogical misery that America inherited from Dewey’s misadventure in experimental education. At the same time we rejoice in the five recent surveys by top professional teachers that recognize the need to divorce Dewey and get back to excellence in American education.” (W. Cleon Skousen, editorial, The Freemen Digest, May 1984) John Dewey built his entire program on the educational concepts of Humanism. To understand the depths of these anti-God ideas, a closer look at what Humanism really is will be very beneficial. Here is a summary of the beliefs of secular humanism as described in the pamphlet “Weep For Your Children” by Dr. Murray Norris:
“To most people, Humanism sounds almost nice. After all, if you are ‘human’ it means you are kind and thoughtful and possess the many other qualities that make you ‘human.’ “But if you are a Humanist, you do not believe in God; you attack the moral values taught by parents and church; you believe in suicide, abortion, divorce, euthanasia, and complete sexual freedom to commit adultery, fornication, and all types of sex perversions…. “Touchstone of the Humanist philosophy is the Humanist Manifesto II, written in 1973, to replace Humanist Manifesto I, written in 1933. This Manifesto affirms the beliefs of Humanists in suicide, abortion, euthanasia, sexual perversions, and divorce. It talks about freedom and world peace, but insists that there is no God, no life hereafter, that man can make his own morals, his own values, his own goals. “In practice, Humanists are adamant that Christians shall not teach anything that interferes with their promotion of the evolution theory (which many textbooks insist is fact) or that allows a child to learn about God in school…. “Typical of the attitude of Humanists, is this creed from the British Humanist Association:
“‘I believe in no God and no hereafter. It is immoral to indoctrinate children with such beliefs. Schools have no right to do so, nor indeed have parents. I believe that religious education and prayers in school should be eliminated. I believe that denominational schools should be abolished…I believe that children should be taught religion as a matter of historical interest, but should be taught about all religions, including Humanism, Marxism, Maoism, Communism, and other attitudes of life. They must also be taught the objections to religion. I believe in a non-religious social morality….
“‘Unborn babies are not people; I am as yet unsure whether the grossly handicapped are people in the real sense.
“‘I believe there is no such thing as sin to be forgiven and no life beyond the grave but death everlasting….’
“This is only part of the beliefs of Humanists who are now promoting their religion in our public schools–Humanism was twice declared to be a religion by the U.S. Supreme Court, once in 1964 and again in 1969.” (Dr. Murray Morris, “Weep For Your Children,” published by Christian Family Renewal & Valley Christian University, Clovis, CA, 1977, pp. 3-4)
The amiability of Dewey’s philosophies to these concepts can be borne out in the fact that:
- John Dewey signed the Humanist Manifesto, consenting to the false principles it contained. These principles include atheism, evolution, society-based values, immorality, and the acceptability of euthanasia and suicide.
- He was the first president of the American Humanist Association.
- He applied the philosophies of the Humanist Manifesto to his system of public education.
- He believed that humanism was actually a religion, and that the teachers were the prophets.
- He emphasized “social unification” as the goal of the public schools in order to promote “state-consciousness.”
John Dewey himself admitted his atheistic beliefs when he declared:
“Faith in the prayer-hearing God is an unproved and outmoded faith. There is no God and there is no soul. Hence, there are no needs for the props of traditional religion. With dogma and creed excluded, the immutable truth is also dead and buried. There is no room for fixed, natural law or moral absolutes.” (John Dewey, “Soul-Searching,” Teacher Magazine, September 1933, p. 33)
What an amazing contrast these ideas are compared to the Bible-based ideals that were part of America’s beginnings!
How the Dewey/Mann Philosophies Were Received in America
At first, the philosophies of Horace Mann and the system proposed by John Dewey were resisted by many Americans. But a monumental transformation was soon to begin in America that would distract many of its citizens away from traditional education with its fundamental God-centered base.