Women of Washington

Communicating America’s Founding Principles

Women of Washington is an educational organization with a focus on understanding local, national, and global issues that are critical to our world today.

When Ignorance is the Goal

by Ann Streit  

In the first two installments in this series, we learned how U.S. Representative Horace Mann, the Father Of American Public Schooling brought home the Prussian education model, trapping American students in a system of compulsory education that focused on obedience, not enlightenment.  In the second of the series, we learned how William Wundt, the Father of Experimental Psychology, believing that a child has no spirit and is nothing more than the sum of his experiences, trained the Ph.D. students who would bring the concept of conditioning children, rather than educating them, to America.  

In this installment, we will investigate John Dewey and the radical impact he and his fellow progressives had on the education of America.  G. Stanley Hall, Wundt’s first American PhD student, brought Wundt’s ideas to America and taught John Dewey, who would become the most influential educational philosopher of the century, and honored with the title: The Father of Modern Education.  

Dewey was, first and foremost, an atheist.  He was a writer and signatory of the original Humanist Manifesto.  Influenced by Darwin and Freud, Dewey believed that because man’s environment is constantly changing, man must also change and therefore, teaching children absolutes, morals, government and ethics, was a waste of time.   

John Dewey believed that a child’s education should center on his own social activities, not subjects like science, literature or history. His three year experiment with The Laboratory School at the University of Chicago, ended in dismal failure when it was discovered that the children had not learned anything. One must question if ignorance was actually the goal, as Dewey believed: “children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society.”  He concluded that no child should be permitted to excel, as it would hurt the group.  

Given Dewey’s belief in the importance of a collective society, it comes as no surprise that the House Committee on Un-American Activities determined that Dewey was literally a card-carrying communist and a member of no less than 15 communist organizations.  Dewey fell head-over-heels in love with Bolshevik Russia which wined and dined him, embracing his educational theories in 1920.  However, within 12 years, his progressive ideas had not educated the children but had instead developed a generation of juvenile delinquents.  

Undaunted by his failures in Chicago and Russia, John Dewey continued to focus his attention on training the teachers, principals and education experts for the next generation of Americans.  His influence cannot be overemphasized.  He held the position of “honorary president” of the National Teacher’s Association for 17 years.  By the 1950’s, 20% of all American school superintendents and 40% of all the heads of teacher colleges had trained under Dewey.  Each of those superintendents would guide the direction of their entire district while Columbia and other teacher colleges would continue to churn out the likes of Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, Angela Davis and Tom Hayden, not to mention tens of thousands of well-intended teachers who became seeped in the doctrine of humanism, experimental psychology and marxism.    

As if it were not enough to destroy the education of generations of American children, Dewey was also instrumental in bringing to Columbia: the Frankfurt School, known for the “long march through the institutions.”  Our next installment will explore the Cultural Marxists of the Frankfurt School and their influence on American universities and society as a whole.