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The Unraveling: The Way Forward

June 27, 2017 0 Comments

theunraveling

I have argued throughout my series of posts on The Unraveling that a great deal of our nation’s coming apart has been orchestrated by those who have no love for either our Judeo-Christian heritage, or the Constitutional framework established by the Founding Fathers.  In the second half of the 19th century, elements of what came to be called the Progressive Movement introduced a more European-centric form of education.  Developed in Prussia, now modern Germany, this system overwhelmed the less well organized, loosely structured American form of education based on the McGuffey Readers and a social tradition that found its center in the Bible.  Over time, the progressive euro-centered model of education merged with Marxist elements that arose in the 1920s and led by people like George Counts of the NY Teachers’ College and his education disciples.

Counts spent a summer in 1927 touring Russia and learning about their educational system.  Though in later life he denounced aspects of their governmental system, he never-the-less helped to sow the seeds of a philosophy that embraced the tenants of Marxism.  Here is how one writer described his philosophy of using education as a tool of social reform:

“With characteristic boldness, Counts argued for the replacement of traditional capitalism with some form of democratic collectivism in order to avert social and economic chaos. He called for educators to shape the attitudes of children so that they would be receptive to the idea that collective control of the economy was necessary. Thus schools, according to Counts, could become the incubators of a great society dedicated to cooperation rather than to exploitation. Anticipating the charge that his scheme smacked of indoctrination, Counts declared that all education entailed indoctrination to some extent.”

Recognizing that the legal framework rested on a cultural foundation which placed the teaching of the bible at is center, liberal legal scholars began to chip away at it with such cases as Everson vs. Board of Education and Engle vs. Vitale.  These efforts introduced the phrase “Wall of Separation” into the discussion of education, driving a wedge between bible based ethics training and civics education that had been traditionally practiced in America.

By the 1960s, these efforts to redesign America’s understanding of her foundational roots found a ready audience in a new generation of “beatniks” and “hippies.”  Ready to embrace a countercultural revolution at the “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius,” the ideals of Truth, Justice and the American Way collided with the new montra of “Drugs, Sex and Rock ‘N Roll.”  While the Baby Boom flower children of the 1960s did not have the means to control the larger society with their ideals, an elder Boomer class of aging hippies is capable of funding a tech savvy Millennial generation to do so via the tools of social media.

SDSBill Ayers: Revolutionary Turned School Reform Activist

Today, this cadre of hippie boomers has now sought out positions of authority in government, business and academia.  Most never became as famous as Bill Ayers, who as a respected college professor, is deeply invested in the debate over education policy in America.  If you are not familiar with this name, three quotes from websites that talk about him (including his own) are instructive.

From PBS’s website “Independent Lens: The Weather Underground,” (Accessed 6/22/2017) we read:

A central figure in the Weathermen, Ayers lived underground for ten years, an experience he wrote about in his memoir, Fugitive Days. Now married to Bernadine Dohrn, Ayers is currently a school reform activist and a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

 From Bill Ayres own biography page at https://billayers.org/biographyhistory/, (Accessed 6/22/2017) we read:

William Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago (retired), member of the executive committee of the Faculty Senate and founder of both the Small Schools Workshop and the Center for Youth and Society, taught courses in interpretive and qualitative research, oral history, creative non-fiction, urban school change, and teaching and the modern predicament.  A graduate of the University of Michigan, the Bank Street College of Education, Bennington College, and Teachers College, Columbia University, Ayers has written extensively about social justice, democracy and education, the cultural contexts of schooling, and teaching as an essentially intellectual, ethical, and political enterprise. He is a past vice-president of the curriculum studies division of the American Educational Research Association.

And, from his own blog at https://billayers.org/ (Accessed 6/22/2017) we read:

Charlotte! June 16, 2017

Charlotte Marchant, my friend for 50 years, has been writing a fascinating and important blog that illuminates an era through an inner-generational conversation: letters from her father, a long-time communist and labor activist/organizer, to her brother and herself, a couple of young new-leftists in the 1960’s. Check it out: https://100lettersfrommyfather.wordpress.com/  Posted by billayers

            After years of remaining in the shadows, Ayers emerged in 2008 as a potential confidant to Barack Obama.  It came to light that Ayers and his wife hosted a reception where Obama was introduced as the chosen successor to State Senator Alice Palmer.  Both Ayers and Obama later served on the Woods Fund of Chicago’s board of directors with overlapping terms from 1999 to 2002.  When information of their connections surfaced during the 2008 election campaign, Candidate Senator Obama stated: (Peter Slevin, Washington Post, April 18, 2008):  “The notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values, doesn’t make much sense.”

As I mentioned in an earlier post, much of the New Civics has been driven by liberal change agents in the Department of Education working with granting organizations.  Out of this network emerged a White-House-commissioned task force led by the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U).  The AAC&U published its report A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future in 2012.  It called on “the higher education community—its constituents and stakeholders—to embrace civic learning and democratic engagement as an undisputed educational priority for all of higher education, public and private, two-year and four-year.”

Was Bill Ayers involved with this report?  There is no way of telling for sure. However, this interesting quote is found on the AACU’s website describing “AAC&U Partnerships:”

“Led by George Kuh (Indiana University) and Stan Ikenberry (University of Illinois), NILOA (National Institute for Learning Outcome Assessment) is guided by a National Advisory Panel, of which the AAC&U president is a member. NILOA is supported by Lumina Foundation, The Teagle Foundation, and other funders.”(Emphasis added)

Stan Ikenberry of the University of Illinois would no doubt know and have had professional collaborations with Bill Ayers.  As we saw in his biography, Ayers is now “Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago (retired),” and is “a past vice-president of the curriculum studies division of the American Educational Research Association.”

Is there a possible connection between Bill Ayers and the AAC&U’s Critical Moment report?  It’s hard to say.  However, when one goes to NILOA’s website to look at its funding source (which, interestingly, is dated “2012,”) one finds that the only “other foundation” listed as a funding source is the “College of Education at the University of Illinois.“

Combating the New Civics

Regardless of the individuals involved in pushing the “New Civics” as described by the National Association of Scholars’ report “Making Citizens,” the story of Bill Ayers helps to illustrate how the generation of 1960s radicals have now moved into positions of authority to impact civics education in America.

In his introduction, NAS Chairman Peter Woods makes this key point Making Citizens, p. 11):

What is most new about the New Civics is that while it claims the name of civics, it is really a form of anti-civics…It focuses overwhelmingly on turning students into “activists.” Its largest preoccupation is getting students to engage in coordinated social action. Sometimes this involves political protest, but most commonly it involves volunteering for projects that promote progressive causes.

In the popular HBO series “Game of Thrones,” seven kingdoms play games of political intrigue, forging alliances, betraying those alliances, and scheming to conduct wars.  All the key characters are consumed with achieving the status they crave. Yet while they are preoccupied with destroying each other, an evil threat coalesces in the north that threatens all of them.  A band of “white walkers” lead an army of the dead.  Vaguely aware of the threatening  army of zombies which threatens to descend on them, these seven warring southern kingdoms are too busy fighting each other to pay the real threat any mind

Game of Thrones serves as a fitting metaphor for the reality facing America today.  William Strauss and Neil Howe coined the term “Baby Boom” generation in their 1991 groundbreaking book, Generations:  The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069.  They defined the Boom generation as those born between 1943 – 1960, and predicted that the next “secular crisis” Americans will face will occur by 2025.  One issue that Strauss and Howe clearly saw coming is what we now refer to as the “fiscal cliff.”  They also predicted that the Boomers would be moralistic in attitude – and that they would experience conflict within their generation over leadership philosophy “circa 2020.” [i]

Thus, at the moment we are facing a looming fiscal cliff, not to mention an increasingly tense international scene, America today is confused over its own soul, asking who we are as a people, and what it is we believe.  We do not trust our institutions, and therefore argue over what is or is not fake news.  Unable to wisely discern, as a united people, the course we must chart in our moment of peril, we may fail to resolve Strauss and Howe’s secular crisis of 2025.

What Must Be Done

The NAS report, Making Citizens, makes a series of recommendations.  One in particular bears repeating here.  It is Recommendation Number 8 (p. 45).  They state:

Create a rival national alliance of educational organizations dedicated to countering and replacing the national alliance of service-learning organizations . The New Civics movement can pretend that its program of progressive activism and advocacy is generic civics education because it has the field to itself. An alternative national alliance of civics organizations needs to work forcefully to promote unpoliticized civics education, focused around civic literacy rather than civic engagement. This alternative national alliance should work to promote traditional civic literacy and dislodge the New Civics, by rallying public opinion and informing federal and state legislators. This alternative national alliance should also provide national civics programs for the use of American universities, aligned toward traditional civic literacy rather than progressive activism.

civicseducation

This is an ambitious recommendation.  To bring it to fruition, we must simultaneously overcome four obstacles if we are to move forward and reverse the effects of the unraveling.  Some might consider it an impossible task.  But, it only seems impossible because it is hard to do, not because it is impossible to do.

Obstacle #1:  The Long Tail Effect

The knowledge base of what is happening to our society runs the spectrum:  From those who know nothing about the topic and don’t care, to those who know everything there is to know about the subject but have given up caring. This is an example of what is known as the long tail effect.   Those relative few who have been leaders on this issue have become frustrated with the vast majority at the other end of the long tail who do not know what they do not know.  With so many people uninformed on this topic, those in the lead must pull the long tail of those behind them to bring them to the point at which they have already arrived.    The relative few who know the subject intimately despair of ever bringing the rest of the tail up to their level, and therefore want to give up.

Obstacle #2:  Teachers of Traditional Civics Feel Isolated

            Those who are actively teaching traditional civics courses (or at least, not teaching the “new civics”), and who approach the subject from a Judeo-Christian world view are scattered across the country.  They suffer from a “foxhole mentality,” fighting the good fight while feeling that they are virtually alone.  Like Elijah, they need to know that there are still “7,000 who have not bowed he knee.” (I Kings 19:18). While they may not be aware of the details of the new civics and the viral marketing efforts to spread it by its advocates, they would welcome new allies who might join them in their efforts.

Obstacle #3:  The Conservative Academic Class Is Not Proactive

There are those in academia who have studied the topic and are well aware of the issues we face. However, conservative academics are inclined to observe, analyze and commentate.  There are some, most notably Hillsdale College, who are attempting to take proactive steps to reverse The Unraveling.  However, as a group, they have no real understanding of how to engage in political grassroots activism to effect the changes that are needed.  Their comfort zone is the classroom lecture, and writing journal articles. They content themselves with holding seminars where other like-minded experts talk about the problems. The challenge is to tap their expertise and combine it with that of others who are familiar with grassroots political action.

Obstacle #4:  Grassroots Activists Are Leaderless

Finally, there are those among the Tea Patty who know exactly how to fight for their values on the political battlefield. However, they lack intelligent, policy oriented “air support” – well-crafted short video pieces designed to be shared on social media to help them reach those among the masses in the long tail.  They also need help from those in academia who can help direct their actions in precise, targeted campaigns at the state and local levels.

Understanding these four obstacles provides a foundation for understanding what needs to be done.  Allow me to refine recommendation #8 of the NAS report into the following five action items:

  1. Understand the long tail effect, and launch an edutainment information campaign to introduce the issue to the masses. Such a campaign can be a combination of short, focused public service type infomercials, from humorous satires on the problem, to “Harry and Louise” youtube advertisements as were done against Hillary Care in the 1990s. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dt31nhleeCg With today’s technology, many people can now make their own “Harry and Louise” advertisements.  A series of blog posts and other short, social media-shareable content could be created.
  2. Leverage the anti-common core sentiments among Tea Party and similar grassroots organizations to become the eyes, ears, and voices at the state and local levels. This includes training them to initiate Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to uncover and publicize outrageous education regulations and expenditures of taxpayer dollars.  Such a network could then share this content as part of action item #1, launching a conservative viral marketing campaign to counter the liberal progressive left.
  3. Announce an “All Hands On Deck” call for conservative, Judeo-Christian educators to create an open source library of lesson plans, lectures, and learning projects for K-12, secondary and post-secondary students. For example, a growing number of public and private schools are using online Learning Management Platforms like Canvas.  Canvas has a “Commons” lessons resource which is available for free to all users of their system.  If skilled educators were to create age specific lessons revolving around traditional civics content, and publicize their availability, this would provide an alternative to government funded and progressive created “new civics” courses.
  4. Form a pool of conservative academic experts and make them available to appear in debates, on camera interviews, and other forums to discuss the dangers of the new civics curriculum.
  5. Compile a reading/video/movie list, by grade level, with a discussion of age appropriate audiences and lesson plans. This would be of special value to those private and home school communities who are not using online LMS platforms, like Canvas, at present.

Conclusion

In June of 2017, the Trump Administration issued a request for people to submit ideas on how to reduce burdensome regulatory programs that have been pursued by the US Department of Education.  If ever the time was right to begin a push to halt and reverse The Unraveling, this is it.  It will require that groups and organizations that support conservative education in the areas of faith and economic self-responsibility, come together to explore how we might develop suggested courses, lesson plans, reading lists and assignments geared toward equipping a new generation to articulate conservative, Judeo-Christian principles that reflect the founders’ intentions under Constitutional rule of law.  This effort should not be limited academics in higher education, but include those working with home school, faith based and charter school organizations across the country.  The mission of such group should be to educate and equip the next generation of leaders, providing a better vision for how we will we will once again talk about “Truth, Justice and the American Way,” instead of the divisive message of the Progressive movement which seeks to promote class envy and cultural upheaval.

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[i] Strauss, William and Neil Howe(1991).  Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584-2069, p. 402.  New York, NY, Harper Perennial.

Filed in: The Unraveling

About the Author:

David Lantz is a self-published author, adjunct college professor and leadership consultant. Visit my online courses at https://generationselfemployed.zenler.com/ and like my facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/wisejargon and

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