In our last episode, the Frankfurt School (specializing in all things Marxist) had vacated Nazi Germany in the 1930’s and injected itself into America by way of Columbia University in New York City. What’s so special about Columbia? Columbia’s “Teachers College” had become THE leading intellectual institution regarding the development of the American teaching profession.
Here’s the problem.
In a survey from a 1986 Hearst Report on General Knowledge of the U.S. Constitution:
— 46% of Americans do not know the purpose of the document;
— 25% believe that the purpose was to declare independence;
— 10% believe it was intended to create the original 13 states;
— 49% believe the President can suspend it;
— 59% don’t know what the Bill of Rights is;
— and 45% believe that Karl Marx’s statement, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” is in the U.S. Constitution.
It seems that something had gone drastically wrong – or had it?
If you were Professor John Dewey, president of Columbia University’s Teachers College until 1930 you would probably be quite pleased with yourself.
According to a recent series published by PBS,
John Dewey was the most significant educational thinker of his era and, many would argue, of the 20th century. As a philosopher, social reformer and educator, he changed fundamental approaches to teaching and learning. His ideas about education sprang from a philosophy of pragmatism and were central to the Progressive Movement in schooling.
In 1928 Dewey traveled to the Soviet Union and declared it to be a worker’s and educational paradise! And in 1936 (while Stalin was right in the midst of his murderous purges, killing 20 million Russians, or so) Dewey wrote an essay called Authority and Resistance to Social Change, in which he argued that freedom and individualism were responsible for the upheavals that triggered dictatorships (he was referring, of course, to Hitler – not Stalin). Social science, he urged, had developed a means for liberating modern man from freedom [WHAT?] and called for “some kind of collective authority … for a return to some kind of social control, brought about through, and perpetuated by, external institutional means.”
Regarding his “fact-finding” mission to the USSR, Dewey ultimately owed a great debt to a man named Anatol Lunacharsky, Lenin’s Commissar of Education at the time. Lunacharsky created a system that was so destructive to the functioning of an industrial nation (the USSR) that it was stamped out within years once it became apparent that it was leading to nihilism and organized ignorance. However, in a series of six articles for The New Republic, “Impressions of Russia: A New World in the Making,” written after his trip, Dewey enthused over what he would be using as his model of “progressive best practices.”
Not unexpectedly, he also rejected long-held American concepts that declared there are fixed moral laws and eternal truths. He also rejected the concept of God, holding that man has no soul: that man is merely a biological organism subject to the changes and adaptations required by his environment.
So, according to Dewey, man is simply a machine, something that can be tinkered with like an old car or a clock-radio. Nice.