Thursday, June 17, 2010

Taking Ideology out of Your Child's Education

The following article "Taking Ideology Out of Your Child's Education" appears in the Memorial Day issue of the Lincoln Eagle, a Kingston, NY penny saver.  Mike Marnell, the Eagle's crusading editor, does an excellent job in putting it together. It is the only freedom oriented paper in the area, as far as I know.  It does not have a website but it reaches at least several thousand people. 

Taking Ideology Out of Your Child’s Education
Mitchell Langbert, Ph.D.*

When I attended high school in New York City, my class was required to read Karl Marx's "Communist Manifesto."  But we were not assigned to read any alternative view, such as Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations or Friedrich A. Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.  Communism was extolled, freedom disparaged.  I was recently speaking to a friend whose son graduated from a high school in this region and she told me that the emphasis on Marxism has not changed one bit.  Her son had not been assigned any book that describes free market economics or how and why free markets work better than government-controlled ones.  However, he had been assigned to read Marx and his teacher repeatedly preached in favor of socialism. 

The debate between people who believe in government control and those who believe in freedom is not new.  However, there are many myths not only about the subject but about its history.  The myths come from relentless efforts by advocates of government control to spin the debate. This has led to a takeover of the educational system by left-wing ideologues.  Thus, what students learn in public schools is often socialist propaganda and more often than not ignorant nonsense.

For example, the claim that adding layers of government or regulation is "progressive" is not historically true.  Yet, the students are told that it is.  In fact, the Roman Empire was based on a state-controlled, mixed economy like that advocated by today’s "progressives." What happened to Rome?   

In modern times, the idea of free markets originated out of a debate that had been initiated by advocates of government authority and regulation.  The mercantilists, such as Lord Shaftesbury and David Hume, advocated the use of government force to open markets, print money and regulate trade. Adam Smith responded to the mercantilists' "progressive", state-based ideas later in the 18th century.  Free markets are progressive, not socialism.  Advocates of monetary expansion to stimulate growth, such as David Hume, wrote before the advocates of the gold standard and zero inflation.

This was true in American history.  The first socialist in the history of US government was the first man to conceive of our Constitution, Alexander Hamilton.  Hamilton favored the use of paper money to expand the economy; government owned manufacturing; a central bank, the ancestor to today's Federal Reserve Bank; the use of subsidies to stimulate shipping; and taxes to fund government debt.  The problem with Hamilton's ideas was in part that they had led to hyper-inflation during the earlier Revolutionary War.  The central bank led to the earliest examples of corrupt speculation, and the stock of Hamilton's First Bank was the object of among the earliest financial bubbles in American history.  The government owned manufacturing firm he tried to start was associated with the corrupt bank stock speculation.  Hamilton’s Keynesian ideas (140 years before Keynes) failed.

In reaction to Hamilton's big government, "progressive" ideas, Jefferson, winning Hamilton's former ally, James Madison, formed the Democratic Republican Party.   The response to the big government ideas of Hamilton and his Federalist Party was to emphasize freedom.  This reached a crescendo in the 1830s, when Andrew Jackson founded the Democratic Party and abolished central banking, putting the US on a gold standard.  The most rapid growth in American history occurred during the 80 years that there was no central bank and money was based on the bi-metallic and then the gold standard.  Establishment of the Federal Reserve Bank in the 20th century has led to slowed growth and stagnant real hourly wages.  You are poorer as a result of increasing government involvement in the economy. Much poorer.

The problem with government intervention is that it didn't work. But that’s not what students are taught in school.  

The examples of government failure get worse, though, when you fast forward in time to the early twentieth century.  The hyper-expansion of communism in Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea and elsewhere led to economic retardation and mass murder.  State-dominated economies were utter failures, and repeatedly so.  They failed so frequently and so thoroughly that one would think that anyone seriously studying them in universities would have tried to understand why they failed.  Yet, university professors throughout the communist era, until the 1980s, uniformly claimed that the performance of the Soviet economy exceeded that of the United States.  In other words, virtually 100% of university economic and social science departments ignored reality; preached ideological propaganda in favor of socialism; and excluded anyone who disagreed. 

When the Soviet Union fell in the late 1980s for the very reasons that the critics of socialism such as Ludwig von Mises and Frierich von Hayek had predicted in the 1920s to 1940s, you might think that university social scientists might have reconsidered their dogmatic, religious commitment to socialism. But that is not so.  The intolerance of anyone who disagrees with now obviously failed socialist and big government dogma has become even more extreme in universities.  Any academic who disagrees with the left is slandered and drummed out of universities.

Thus, it is not surprising that the local high schools are purveyors of ideological dogma. Having been educated by ignorant ideologues in universities, the teachers have been trained to be ideologues.

Parents have serious reason to be concerned about their children’s’ education.  The schools today are preaching socialism more aggressively than ever, even though historically socialist policies have repeatedly failed.  In order to counteract this tendency parents might consider taking the following steps:

1. Tell your school board that if the students are reading Karl Marx, they should also be reading Adam Smith.  If they are not reading Karl Marx, they should be reading Adam Smith anyway.
2. Ask you children for feedback about the claims being made by social studies teachers.  If the teachers are advocating socialism, they are incompetent.  If the school is encouraging the teachers to do so, the school board needs to be replaced.
3. Read your children’s social studies text books.  One parent told me that their child’s textbook’s discussion of the Second World War consisted of five pages on the internment of the Japanese (a terrible misdeed) and only one page on the war itself.  That is propaganda. It is not education.

Are your children being told of the advantages of freedom, or are they being propagandized as to the advantages of socialism?  I have worked in higher education for nearly twenty years.  I have repeatedly seen students who have been indoctrinated into failed, socialistic ideas in their primary educations.  I can undo some of the damage done by elementary and high school teachers, who in turn have been brainwashed by ideologues in universities.  You can undo some as well.

*Mitchell Langbert, Ph.D. is a member of the Town of Olive Republican Committee and is associate professor of business at Brooklyn College, CUNY.  He blogs at

1 comment:

Phil Orenstein said...

Brilliant, Mitchell. This goes to the heart of the problem in our society. Not only are children indocrinated to statist ideas and not schooled in the exceptionalism of America and our founding Consitutional principles, but they are not grounded in a good civics education which is essential for a society to prosper and remain free. Common sense and personal responsiblity is missing from the curriculum as well. Where are students tught the important life lessons in credit, balancing a budget, not spending $$ you don't have, saving for the future? Are they taugh that saving and investing a mere $10 a week in their youth with the magic of compounding will make them all millionaires by the time they retire? Instead we are brainwashed to beleive we are entitled to government caretaking for our well bieng from cradle to grave.