Commenter “Wandriann” asked recently [emphasis mine]:
How in earth is it possible that ‘Middle America’ combined with the solid US institutions does not make this weird kind of thing [the current Democrat agenda and methods] impossible?…Is this still the bill of the sixties, the luciferic, youthful rebellion against age-old common sense and wisdom? Has the ‘great march through the institutions’ finally succeeded?
The short answer is: yes, especially in our press and our public education system.
It’s my impression that more people are aware of the press’s Leftward drift than of the extent of the change in the schools, although I could be wrong about that. There are also alternatives readily available to the liberal/Left press, such as Fox News and periodicals such as the Weekly Standard, National Review, the Washington Examiner, and sometimes the Wall Street Journal, as well as blogs such as this and larger ones.
The takeover of the educational system has been more insidious. Yes, there are private schools that offer a more conservative option, but that requires a commitment of money and an amount of effort that most people are neither willing nor able to expend. Also, what happens in a school system not only happens to our youngest and therefore most easily molded citizens, it also occurs (at least for the most part) outside of the awareness of their parents, unless the parents happen to be monitoring what’s going on very closely by reading textbooks and assignments and quizzing their children. Even then a great deal of it can be missed.
Paradoxically, the school systems that are considered the best and most modern, with the smartest student bodies—for example, in districts near universities—are often the worst in this regard. But the problem has infected the public education system as a whole. How else could a man such as Bill Ayers become a highly regarded educator, and his curriculum one of the most popular and influential in the field?
Sol Stern, who has written extensively about Ayers and education, was on Ayers’s case on this subject even before Obama was a candidate for president and the Ayers connection became an issue for that reason. Here Stern is in 2006 on how terrorist Ayers came to see the educational system as another way to steer this country Leftwards, and an effective and legal one at that (I will quote at some length because I think it’s important, but reading the whole thing is even more informative):
Ayers’s spectacular second act began when he enrolled at Columbia University’s Teachers College in 1984. Then 40, he planned to stay just to get a teaching credential. (He had taught in a “Freedom School” during his pre-underground student radical days.) But he experienced an epiphany in a course taught by Maxine Greene, a leading light of the “critical pedagogy” movement. As Ayers wrote later, he took fire from Greene’s lectures on how the “oppressive hegemony” of the capitalist social order “reproduces” itself through the traditional practice of public schooling—critical pedagogy’s fancy way of saying that the evil corporations exercise thought control through the schools…
It hadn’t occurred to Ayers that an ed-school professor could speak or write as an authentic American radical…Greene told future teachers that they could help change this bleak landscape by developing a “transformative” vision of social justice and democracy in their classrooms. Her vision, though, was a far cry from the democratic optimism of the Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr., which most parents would endorse. Instead, critical pedagogy theorists nurse a rancorous view of an America in which it is always two minutes to midnight and a knock on the door by the thought police is imminent. The education professors feel themselves anointed to use the nation’s K–12 classrooms to resist this oppressive system. Thus Maxine Greene urged teachers not to mince words with children about the evils of the existing social order. They should portray “homelessness as a consequence of the private dealings of landlords, an arms buildup as a consequence of corporate decisions, racial exclusion as a consequence of a private property-holder’s choice.”…
All music to Bill Ayers’s ears. The ex-Weatherman glimpsed a new radical vocation. He dreamed of bringing the revolution from the streets to the schools. And that’s exactly what he has managed to do.
It’s also instructive to take a look at what passed (and passes?) for a doctoral dissertation in the field of education at the prestigious Columbia Teachers College back then (and probably now as well). Stern certainly has:
In record time Ayers acquired an Ed.D. with a dissertation titled “The Discerning ‘I’: Accounts of Teacher Self-Construction Through the Use of Co-Biography, Metaphor, and Image.” There wasn’t much biography, metaphor, or image in the 180-page text. Ayers’s research consisted solely of a few days spent interviewing and observing the classroom practices of three nursery school teachers he knew personally.
On the basis of research such as this as well as his family connections, Ayers was on his way to becoming influential not only in the field of education in the city of Chicago, but in the country as a whole [emphasis mine]:
With his Teachers College credential in hand, Ayers landed an ed-school appointment back in Chicago, where his father was CEO of Commonwealth Edison and nicely plugged in to the city’s political establishment. These days, Ayers carries the joint titles of Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago. One of his several books on the moral imperative of teaching for social justice is a bestseller in ed-school courses. Like many other tenured and well-heeled radicals, Ayers keeps hoping for a revolutionary upheaval that will finally bring down American capitalism and imperialism.
That was written in 2006; now Ayers must feel he’s finally got it, in the person of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, et. al., although you might say it’s been more of an evolution (devolution?) than a revolution. But that was exactly the aim of the Long March of Ayers and others—and he is hardly alone—through our educational system.
And if I sound like a paranoid McCarthy-esque alarmist, so be it. The evidence is in; just take a look at the reading lists of so many public schools today as well as the curricula, and you will see it. And we also see the fruits of the labors of Ayers and company in our young people’s relative ignorance of history and civics; the dwindling of the teaching of the Western canon as it has been “reframed” as the works of oppressive white men; the dominance of the tragic view of this country as a force for evil, one for which constant apologies and sacrifices are necessary; and the decline of critical thinking and the rise of moral relativism and post-modernism.
All of these trends are now amply demonstrated in our educator-in-chief, President Obama, as well as his wife Michelle, who’s only been really proud of America in her adult life since it began to take her husband’s ambitions seriously.
Whatever Obama’s direct connection to Ayers (and I continue to think it’s greater than we know), his philosophical connection is clear. The patience of the 60s radicals has been rewarded at last, and this accounts at least in part for the fact that they—and Obama—are so unwilling to compromise their radical agenda at the moment, even in the face of mounting opposition. They know best, after all; they’re our teachers, and we the students.
[NOTE: And speaking of Ayers and education, he and his cronies had big plans for our re-education back then. And if that failed, there was always murder:
And speaking of murder, yesterday was the fortieth anniversary of the Manson gang murders, a very sad chapter in American life. Let’s revisit the commentary of Ayers’s wife-to-be—and current Northwestern University law professor—on the subject.]