State Education and the Tea Party

by Shane Atwell

I've been mulling a long time over the composition of the Tea Party movement, mostly 30+, well-educated yet not professional intellectuals. I think the answer lies in the failure of state run education. I do not mean failure in the sense of graduating students that can't read, write or add. I mean failure in the sense of graduating students that can't think.

Since the early 20th century progressive education has monopolized the education system, from elementary through university. The progressive education philosophy holds that there is no reality, that reason and the mind are impotent, that education per se is bad. The goal of schooling for the progressive is to either help the student express their feelings or to habituate the student to group discussions and decision making without substantive guidance. Its a rare teacher that teaches anymore, that imparts a body of knowledge to her students and a method of thinking about that content. More common are individual projects wherein the student expresses their uninformed thoughts on a topic, group bull sessions with teachers simply moderating, or straight up indoctrination on political or environmental topics (e.g. 5 year olds chanting slogans in Earth Day celebrations).

Progressive education is especially bad in the liberal arts, like history. Any high school or college graduate could probably express to you his sympathy for the plight of the American Indian, but could not tell you the difference between a democracy and a republic, between freedom and statism, between western civilization and primitive savagery.

The smart student who accepts the irrational principles of his progressive education becomes adept at playing their game, adept at twisting the meaning of words, adept at obscuring any topic, adept at finding exceptions to any principled statement. He gets plenty of practice time and has good mentors. Meanwhile the student that rejects the principles of progressivism, that thinks there is a reality, truth and principles, admires the United States, and condemns attacks on civilization goes silent. He has few mentors and little material to feed his curiosity.

The former student eventually becomes a professional, perhaps an intellectual: a journalist, author, teacher, artist. He propagates his progressive liberal ideas. Not so with the other student. Around the late high school or college level, if he's lucky, he starts to read in his own time books that promote reason, civilization, that teach him the history he never learned in 'social sciences'. He might discover Ayn Rand or free market economists (Hazlitt, Hayek, etc.) perhaps libertarians or conservative writers. He educates himself in economics, history, philosophy, but does not become a professional intellectual. That realm is monopolized by the progressives. He becomes a scientist, stock broker, small businessman, contractor.

And so we reach the situation we are in now. The mainstream media and political establishment, populated by the stars of progressive education is statist, irrationalist, anti-American. The rest of America, self-educated in the literature of freedom is in open rebellion against this media and politics. The internet has been critical in accelerating and broadening this self-education education. What might have taken another 10 years or never arrived in time, now happens over the course of months. Washington makes a mess of housing and we learn about it, despite the attempts of the MSM to blame it on capitalism. Washington bails out the banks and we hear about it, we protest, the Tea Party is born.

Kudos to the internet for making our self-education possible, and cudos to us for spending the time to educate ourselves. But is it sustainable? The key to a long-term future for freedom is better leadership and youth involvement. The key to generating better leadership and youth involvement is eliminating the stranglehold the progressives have on education, which means eliminating state control of education. Ultimately there should be separation of state and education like there is state and religion. We need to support every effort to free education: the right to home school without restriction, voucher systems, privatizing student loans, elimination of collective bargaining for (teachers) unions, elimination of teacher certification, elimination of government grants.

When schools are once again free, as they were for most of a hundred years before, we'll have a chance to patronize schools that promote reason, science and freedom. Those will be the schools that turn out educated patriot leaders and a youth excited about freedom. Until then we'll always be playing catchup to the progressives.

(Editor's Note: Shane Atwell is a San Diego resident, objectivist, local tea party activist and proud voice for liberty. We are glad to have made his acquaintance and look forward to more material from him. Visit Shane's blog here.)

1 comment:

  1. Shane, you said...

    "Any high school or college graduate could probably express to you his sympathy for the plight of the American Indian, but could not tell you the difference between a democracy and a republic, between freedom and statism, between western civilization and primitive savagery."

    This statement in and of itself sums up the failure of the progressive education system. One only need visit progressive sites to realize the truth that exits in you statement.

    Great work Shane, look forward to future articles here at LCR.

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