The Battle for the Minds of America's Children
The fifth in a series . . .
The last two essays in this series on government education examined the origin and history of State-run schooling in the United States. In “Why Government Schooling Came to America,” we saw how nineteenth-century American intellectuals and politicians used the reactionary Prussian model of government schooling as a prototype for educating America’s children. And then in “When Bolshevik Schooling Came to America,” we further saw how twentieth-century Progressive-socialist intellectuals were influenced and inspired by the communist model of education implemented by the Bolsheviks in the Soviet Union during the 1920s and 1930s.
These two different models of education shared one important objective: to educate children by and for the State. This is an indisputable fact demonstrated in these essays by an abundance of historical evidence. (Note to readers: by the “State” I mean any form of government that exceeds the legitimate powers, purposes, and functions of a rights-respecting government.)
An important corollary goal of America’s Prussian- and Bolshevik-inspired education “reformers” was to break the bond between children and their parents. The problem with the parent-child relationship and the reason why it must be broken, according to both the reactionary and progressive proponents of government schooling, is that it is grounded in the deepest and most profound form of human self-interest—the self-interested love of parents for their children (see my essay “Parental Rights Defined and Defended” on the moral-legal relationship between parents and their children).
The family is the most exclusive private association known to man, and, as Plato knew, it is the single greatest obstacle to collectivism. Families are inward looking units that resist government-imposed homogenization, and they are an inherently conservative cultural force that seek to preserve the private manners and mores of each and every particular family. Worse: families are the origin of private property, the division of labor, inequality, and gender roles. The family is a naturally occurring social unit that has always stood against the State in its attempt to collectivize the community for either reactionary or progressive ends. Figuratively speaking, every family is protected by a virtual “No Trespassing” sign barring entry.
The success of government schooling and its ultimate goals therefore require the families ties between parent and child be weakened if not broken. In the Communist Manifesto, made known his disgust of the bourgeois family, with all of its “clap-trap” about the “hallowed co-relation of parents and child.” The bond must be broken, and children must be brought up and educated as wards of the State. The problem is that parents selfishly care too much about their children. Parents erroneously think, according to government schoolers, that they have an unalienable, fundamental, human right to determine their children’s values. The proponents of government-run schooling think otherwise.
Only when we understand why America’s government schools were founded in the first place can we understand the utterly perverse relationship that exists today between parents and the Education Establishment that runs America’s government schools. Over the course of the last twelve months parents have seen how and why the Education Deep State has sought to take full control over the what their children think in ways that were unimaginable even a few years ago.
Let’s fast forward now to the recent past to see how the original goals of the nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century proponents of government schooling have panned out in practice in twenty-first America? How do government educators today view the three-way relationship between parents, children, and the schools? How and why is government schooling by and for the State? How exactly does that work?
Government Schooling as Indoctrination
Let’s begin with the obvious facts.
All three levels of government in the United States—federal, state, and local—play a role in running the so-called “public” school system. Local, state, and federal governments in this country are democratically elected, although the education bureaucracies that actually run the schools are not. Those who actually determine what is being taught to children and how are directly or indirectly appointed by the politicians. Because the education of children is so important to both parents and politicians, groups of individuals with shared moral-political values often compete with one another politically to gain power in order to control what ideas are being taught to children.
One obvious consequence of a system in which government schools push State-sanctioned ideas and values on children is that the system invites ideological rent-seeking in which various social-religious-ideological-political factions pursue political power in order to force their particular beliefs or interests on the community, the state, or the nation as a whole. As James Madison intimated in Federalist No. 10, ideological-political factions will always compete against and fight with one another for control of the State apparatus that controls the schools and therewith the education of all children. Government schooling enables those who control the State (e.g., the majority and their surrogates) to force their political views on those who do not. That is an iron law of politics, particularly democratic politics.
This is why in the context of twenty-first century America, secular liberals in Kansas rightly fear that religious conservatives in power will use the government education system to support a right-wing agenda, and religious conservatives in Massachusetts rightly fear that secular liberals in power will use the schools to promote a leftist agenda. Parents who want their kids to get a good education in math, science, history, and literature rightly fear both—they no more want their six-year-olds being forced to memorize the Ten Commandments in school than they want them being forced to read Heather Has Two Mommies. Parents, of course, are properly free to introduce their children to such subjects, but the government has no business pushing religious or sexual preferences on students.
It is clearly a violation of rights for the government to force secular parents to send their children to schools that teach them the world was made in seven days, that snakes can talk, that a virgin gave birth, that a man walked on water, or the like. And it is likewise a violation of rights for the government to force religious parents to send their children to schools that teach them to worship mother earth; to put condoms on cucumbers; to believe that boys can become girls and vice versa; to reject the Bible but enjoy the Koran; and to regard American society as inherently racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, and transphobic.
The problem here is not that schools are teaching values. No form of education—whether it is government, private, parochial, or home schooling—can escape the teaching of values. The problem is that the values being taught in government schools are chosen not by parents but by the State or what I call the Education Deep State (i.e., federal and state departments of education, teachers’ colleges, teachers’ unions, school boards, curriculum designers and textbook publishers). Parents are excluded entirely from this process. But that’s always been the goal of government schooling.
“Universal Orphanhood” and Government as Parent
The role parents play in the system of government education today is minimal to nonexistent. Parents have virtually no control over the ideas or values taught at the school to which their children have been assigned by the government. As G. K. Chesterton once observed sardonically in his 1910 book What’s Wrong with the World: “The only persons who seem to have nothing to do with the education of children are the parents.”
Over the past 150 years, the government has acquired the authority to teach children moral values that were once the exclusive domain of mothers and fathers; it has done so on the supposition that it knows better than parents how to bring up their children and which values they should embrace.
Although in some school districts parents are given a token voice in school affairs, even this small role is granted by permission rather than by right. The view of government authorities and educators on this matter is that parents are an unenlightened, retarding, harmful influence on children during the formative years of their development.
Since the creation of government schooling in the mid-nineteenth-century, the managers of the government school establishment have always viewed parents not as clients whose needs and values were to be respected and catered to, but as recalcitrant reactionaries standing in the way of genuine reform. The only real parental involvement to be tolerated is when parents volunteer for school fundraisers.
The goal of government schooling is and always has been social reconstruction for the purpose of advancing the ideological agenda of those in power. This means that the teacher, the school, the education establishment, and ultimately the State must assume control of the child in order to reeducate him and to break him from the influence of recalcitrant and ignorant parents who almost always teach the wrong ideas and values.
Nowhere was this view stated more clearly than in a 1973 keynote address to The Association for Childhood Education International, delivered by the Harvard educational psychiatrist, Chester M. Pierce, who said:
Every child in America entering school at the age of five is insane because he comes to school with certain allegiances toward our Founding Fathers, toward his parents, toward our elected officials, toward a belief in a supernatural being, and toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It's up to you, teachers, to make all these sick children well by creating the international child of the future.
Pierce’s views are obviously creepy and demented and some people will dismiss them as the rantings of a mad man, but they should be taken seriously and as representing the end point of many generations of government school proponents going back to the mid-nineteenth-century.
On the basis of these and related premises, government schooling takes away from parents the enormous rights and responsibilities of providing their children with an education (directly or indirectly) and transfers that responsibility to the self-seeking politicians and faceless bureaucrats who run the Education Establishment. The government decides which schools children will attend, what, how and by whom they will be taught, and who they will associate with for most of the day. Parents are quite intentionally left out of these crucial decisions.
The parents’ only responsibility is to ensure that the child is delivered to the school on time every day. If they should fail in that responsibility, the child is declared truant, and in most states the parent is subject to fine and/or imprisonment.
The schools have thus become surrogate parents concerned with child rearing—not by default, as they typically argue, but by design. The proponents of government schooling actively seek this role. They consider themselves to be your child’s “
second” parent. We know this because they have said so. The Chicago Teachers’ Union tweeted recently, “We fight for your children like they are own, because when we teach, they are.” In 2021, parents all over the United States were told by the Education Deep State that they have no rights to determine what their children will or should learn in the government schools. A headline in The Washington Post summed up how Big Ed views the role of parents in the education of their children: “Parents claim they have the right to shape their kids’ curriculum. They don’t”!
But there’s more, much more.
What is the logical endpoint of socialist government schooling? As one columnist in California put it recently, “the state must require parents to give away their children” if universal equity is to be achieved. In fact, said columnist called for “universal orphanhood,” the sharing of children, and the criminalization of parenthood. Ending parenthood, the op-ed continues, would help to “dismantle white supremacy and outdated gender norms” and it “might birth a brave new world.” You might think this satire or parody, but it’s not. This immodest proposal was written and published as a trial run.
In severing the relationship between children and their parents, America’s government schools demand full allegiance from their students. Consider a recent example from New Jersey, where a school required its children to recite the pledge of allegiance—allegiance not to the flag of the United States but to the school itself and to its teachers. Students were told to pledge their allegiance to “the Marlboro Township School District and to the teachers who help us learn all that we need to know for the future.” FoxNews.com reports that, after receiving criticism for this, the school “opted to rewrite the pledge as a school song instead”—as though it makes any difference whether the propaganda is spoken or sung.
America’s political and legal systems have played an important role in institutionalizing Big Ed and the Education Deep State. In California, for instance, a federal appellate judge ruled in 2005 that the government school system has the absolute authority and right to educate children about whatever it wants, including matters dealing with sex. In the case of Fields v. Palmdale School District, the court invoked the doctrine of parens patriae (i.e., the country as parent), which says that the government has the authority to do anything reasonably related to its educational mission.
According to Judge Stephen Reinhardt, “[T]here is no fundamental right of parents to be the exclusive provider of information regarding sexual matters to their children.” Ultimately, the court wrote, parents’ right to control the upbringing of their children “does not extend beyond the threshold of the school door.” (Stop for a moment and think about what that means.) The court continued, stipulating that once a parent puts a child in a government school (something many parents must do given compulsory schooling laws, the taxes they are forced to pay for public schools, and their inability to pay for education twice), the parents’ “fundamental right to control the education of their children is, at the least, substantially diminished.”
The same year Judge Reinhardt issued his California ruling, David Parker, a Massachusetts father of a five-year-old boy, was arrested, handcuffed, thrown in jail for a night, and fined after he went to his son’s school objecting to his child being forced to read and discuss the book Who’s in a Family—a book promoting same-sex marriage. (Parker was arrested for trespassing after refusing to leave the school until it honored his requests.) Parker sought merely to arrange an opt-out for his son, but his efforts were in vain.
The following year, Parker filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in order to defend his right to have some control over his son’s education. Parker’s lawsuit claimed the school had “intruded upon,” “impaired,” and “invaded” his substantive due process rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments in three ways: first, by violating his rights as a parent and guardian “to direct the moral upbringing” of his children; second, by violating his “familial privacy rights”; and third, by violating his right to the free exercise of his religion. Federal court judges in the Parker case eventually ruled that parents have no right to interfere with the authority of the government schools to educate children on whatever topics they please.
Or consider a couple of related news stories that have come out of Wisconsin in the last year, but which are also being repeated and played out all over the country. In the Eau Claire Area School District, teachers were told in one of their endless woke training sessions that parents are “not entitled” to know their children’s gender identity. That knowledge, according to Eau Claire teachers, “must be earned.” Imagine that!
The government schools do not accept or recognize the right of parents to know that their child is or is thinking of “transitioning” from one “gender” identity to another, which ultimately means they do not have the right to participate in the health-care decisions of their own children. (By the way, we’re talking about students in elementary and middle school.) Moreover, it is a now well-established fact that government school teachers, counselors, and administrators all over the United States have been actively encouraging young children to consider the possibility that they just might be transgender.
The government schools both encourage children to be open to a transgender lifestyle, and they actively conceal this indoctrination from parents. In the Madison, Wisconsin, the local school district’s anti-parent policy is clear and frightening. The policy states:
-Children of any age can transition to a different gender identity at school, by changing their name and pronouns, without parental notice or consent.
-District employees are prohibited from notifying parents, without the child’s consent, that their child has or wants to change gender identity at school, or that their child may be dealing with gender dysphoria.
-District employees are even instructed to deceive parents by using the child’s legal name and pronouns with family, while using the different name and pronouns adopted by the child in the school setting.
This is madness. Consider the moral meaning of such a school policy.
Government teachers and administrators have declared themselves to be the true parents—i.e., the guardians, protectors, and counselors—of these children who are undergoing profound psychological stress. Parents are treated as though they are the enemies of their own children and must therefore be denied their fundamental rights qua parents.
The government schools arbitrarily cut parents out of the lives of their own children on the most important issues related to the health and long-term wellbeing of their children, and the government teachers secretly forge new bonds with children not their own.
But parents are now starting to fight back. In some places, they have sued the local government schools to prevent teachers and administrators from permitting minor-aged children from changing their names and pronouns at school without parental knowledge or consent. In Kettle Moraine, Wisconsin, some parents have launched a lawsuit against the local school district, which claims that local school teachers and administrators denied the parents their fundamental human right to “direct the upbringing and education of children under their control.”
Over the course of the last year or two, parents all over the United States have been protesting the loss of their rights to determine how, in what, and by whom their children are to be educated. These protests have sometimes been raucous affairs, with parents asserting their rights and demanding that they have some say in school policy. Not surprisingly, though, the Education Deep State has not been pleased by this attempt of parents to reassert control over their children.
As the final and ultimate proof that government schooling is by and for the State, consider the extraordinary actions taken by the federal government this past fall to ensure its monopoly control over determining what your children think.
As I wrote about in “A Declaration of War,” the Biden administration mobilized and unleashed the full power of the federal government’s National Security State against parents (now labeled as “domestic terrorists”) who were protesting at local school board meetings around the country against Critical Race Theory, Critical Gender Theory, pornography in school libraries, mask mandates, vaccine requirements, and remote learning. The parents’ real crime was, of course, their attempt to reclaim control over what is being taught to their children in the government schools.
But the Education Deep State will not permit parental control of the schools. That would defeat the whole purpose, the raison d’être, for government schooling.
So, there it is.
This is the state of education in twenty-first century America, and this has only been a superficial overview. The reality is considerably worse. Over the course of more than a century, the government has successfully claimed ideological and moral possession of your children. Tragically, American parents have turned over their children willingly to the State for State indoctrination. This is a simple, undeniable fact.
But this can’t go on and the United States of America remain a free country.
The time has come for the American people to address the fundamental question of our age: who is responsible for the education of your children, you or the State? Put differently the question is: do you want to live in a free society where parents control the education of their children, or do you want to live in an authoritarian society where the State controls the education of your children?
The choice is yours, my friends. Make it well.
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. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr Publishing Co., 1978), 38.
. See Leslea Newman, Heather Has Two Mommies (New York: Alyson Books, 1994).
. Pierce quoted in John A. Stormer, None Dare Call It Education (Florisssant, MO: Liberty Bell Press, 1998), 86.
. Joe Mathews, “California should abolish parenthood, in the name of equity,” VC Star, January 13, 2022: https://www.vcstar.com/story/opinion/columnists/2022/01/13/column-california-should-abolish-parenthood-name-equity/6513756001/.
. “School Agrees to Next Pledge of Allegiance to Teachers, Recast it as Song to School,” FoxNews.com, June 20, 2012, http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/06/20/officials-cave-after-parent-complaints-school-pledge-recast-as-song/?test=latestnews.
. Fields v. Palmdale School District, United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, November 2, 2005, http://openjurist.org/427/f3d/1197/fields-v-palmdale-school-district (first emphasis added).
. “US Supreme Court Turns Down David Parker’s Appeal,” MassResistance, October 7, 2008, http://www.massresistance.org/docs/parker_lawsuit/sc_petition/rejected.html; “Parker v. Hurley,” Conservatopia, December 20, 2008, http://www.conservapedia.com/Parker_v._Hurley. The text of Parker’s federal civil rights lawsuit can be viewed at http://www.massresistance.org/docs/parker_lawsuit/filing_2006/complaint.html. See also document no. 07-1528 from the First Circuit Court of Appeals at http://www.ca1.uscourts.gov/pdf.opinions/07-1528-01A.pdf.
. M.D. Kittle, “Parents Not ‘Entitled to Know’,” https://wisconsinspotlight.com/parents-not-entitled-to-know/.
. Mary Margaret Olohan, “Wisconsin School District Used Male Name, Pronouns for 12-Year-Old Girl Against Parental Objections, Lawsuit Alleges,” https://www.dailysignal.com/2021/11/17/lawsuit-wisconsin-school-district-male-name-pronouns-girl-transgender-lgbtq/.