The Education System Is The Problem

March 1st, 2017 | Liberty 5-3000

If asked for the most pressing issue facing Canadians, the answers from the political right vary considerably. Some of the primary issues given include topics such as terrorism, immigration and national security, changes to our voting system, or even the left-wing bias within the media. Chief among the myriad of responses given to this question is the issue of free speech, especially with the recent motion, M-103. Lower down the list, if it even makes the list at all, is the issue of education reform. This needs to change. Any issue deemed important by the political right has its origins first within the education system, and we cannot address these problems without returning to their source.

On the issue of free speech, it is meaningless to preach the virtue of free speech if our citizens haven’t first been educated on why free speech is valuable. This, however, would require an education in history, specifically the use of censorship under authoritarian or totalitarian regimes.

Where has censorship of free speech led societies in the past?

An extremely telling study conducted by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) sheds insight on just how limited a working knowledge both millennials and generation Z’s actually have with respect to the atrocities committed under communist regimes, tragedies which were facilitated and exacerbated by the censorship of free speech. Nearly 32% of millennials truly believe more people were killed under George W. Bush than under Joseph Stalin, and only 55% of millennials believe communism was and is a problem. (The full details of the study can be found here.)

This should say something about our education system and the instruction of future generations. It isn’t that millennials and generation Z’s have received proper instruction on communist regimes and have still chosen to support ideas of the hard left, rather it is that they were never instructed fully in this regard to begin with. According to the AEI’s study, 75% of millennials underestimate the death toll brought about by communist governments, a clear indication that they never were instructed in this regard. The same can be said on a myriad of other topics, for instance, the issue of radical Islam. Rarely is Islam, radical or otherwise, studied critically within academia. What I receive as a Religious Studies major on the religion of Islam is the fluffy, feel-good apologetics from the likes of Carole Hillenbrand and Rosa Maria Menocal. (Menocal, for those of you who don’t know, wrote a historically ignorant fantasy entitled, The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain. The title speaks for itself, but even more so if you have a background on this particular topic, in which case you’d know firsthand that this book is politically motivated, wishful thinking.) In any event, the issue of what our youth are taught about communism and Islam are only two examples of topics severely lacking within our education system. There are many more.

What can be said is this: it does no good to promote the value of free speech, when the topics that should be discussed ‘freely’ have never been brought to our attention in the first place, have been significantly played down or obfuscated, or our youth haven’t been shown the historical tragedies that will replicate themselves again should free speech be completely abolished within Canadian society. All of this has its origination within the education system, and to hold free speech as a virtue without being educated on its value, means that virtue is one that is held by default, without deep conviction and, accordingly, is susceptible to being persuaded against.

I often hear the political right complain about left-wing bias in fields like journalism and media, law, the judiciary and even Hollywood. I invite you to ask yourselves this: where were these individuals primarily taught their ‘values’? The values reflected within our societal institutions are a product of the educations we receive. You are free to point out left-wing bias in our institutions as much and as often as you’d like, but until we go to the source of the problem and reform our curriculums, the bias will remain. The education system will continue to churn out individuals holding to the ‘values’ that the political right complains of, and these individuals will then fill our societal institutions, so we can yet again complain about them. If you have an issue with the biased media, left-wing Hollywood or the disproportionate amount of people on the political left filling important occupations, you need to take a look at where they are receiving their training, failing which, this cycle will perpetuate itself.

As an aside, I find the right’s response to the issue of reforming our voting system one of particular interest, although the issue has now been held over for the time being, as this readership is aware. The right-wing position on this issue should have been this: as long as there is only one political party whose views are represented within our education system, the question of voting reform is moot. To reform the voting system without first reforming the education system, would be to give an artificial hand up to the political hard left, something we know to be extremely unindicative of a democracy. Having said that, what the hard left is desirous of isn’t a democracy. We have been told in the simplest of language exactly what the role of the education system should be in terms of shaping society, at least according to the hard left.

It was Vladimir Lenin who said, “Give us the child for 8 years and it will be a Bolshevik forever”, it was Joseph Stalin who said, “Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed”, and it was Herbert Marcuse who said the role of the education system was to “teach in the opposite direction”, meaning only in favour of the political left. I don’t want to mislead you into believing that our educators, particularly professors, are open about their intentions. They aren’t, or at least only the select few fully out their plans. What we see instead is a grooming process designed to prep the youth towards future reception of otherwise unpalatable views. This grooming process, in conjunction with the refusal to teach the truth of history, as discussed above, ultimately leaves students vulnerable to ideas that, when understood fully, would not be willingly undertaken by any reasonable thinking person. The hard left doesn’t need to be open about its intent, the instruction process within the education system leads to the same ends.

In this regard, I want to share with you a story about a friend I have in university. I’m not usually a fan of anecdotal personal stories, but in this instance, I think you’ll see its relevance. This friend is by all accounts a leftist; a vegan, an animal rights activist, a feminist, she speaks the language of the left and, respectfully, even looks like a university leftist. I will never forget the time when we were out for dinner together and she said to me, “You know who I just started reading and am really interested in his ideas? Karl Marx.” I was shocked she hadn’t already read Marx extensively. By all accounts she already held the views of leftists and behaved like one.

Later that night, when reflecting on her comment and our subsequent discussion on communism, I thought back to a book I had read many years previous. It was C. S. Lewis who described this educational grooming process in his work, The Abolition of Man, in his example, by way of relativism and subjectivism:

It is not a theory put in his mind, but an assumption, which ten years hence, its origin forgotten and its presence unconscious, will condition him to take one side in a controversy which he has never recognized as a controversy at all.”

That’s why my friend had taken up Karl Marx with excitement, only having read him for the first time in her second year of university; she had been primed to be receptive to the ideas contained in Marx’s work for many years previous. Then, once the foundation had been laid, and the appropriate sentiments instilled in her, she was in no place to refute against the ideology that brought the world more than 100 million deaths. She lacked the historical background, but more importantly, had been softened intellectually by a system controlled solely by one political party.

What upsets me the most about the issue of education reform is that there was only one person, in my view, to give a legitimate attempt at fixing the problem. In 2003, ex-leftist David Horowitz proposed an Academic Bill of Rights which he hoped would be undertaken by American universities and “launched an academic freedom campaign to return the American university to traditional principles of open inquiry and to halt indoctrination in the classroom.” Unfortunately, he achieved only a fraction of the success he should have, as in my opinion, not enough like-minded people were on board. He additionally attempted to tackle the issue on the grounds of free speech as opposed to teaching truth within the curriculum. I still laud him for his efforts, as at least someone took it upon themselves to uncover the source of our problems. In any event, as it currently stands, no similar action to reform the education system has been undertaken by anyone on the political right to date. (David Horowitz’s life story and work are extremely interesting. If you feel like learning more about him you can check here.)

You can name any issue taken up by the political right, and its roots can be traced back to the education system. Again, these politicians, lawyers, judges, and journalists are receiving their training somewhere. And yet, interestingly enough, it is a topic that rarely, if ever, is addressed by the right with the intention to resolve the problem. Perhaps it feels too overwhelming and wide spread. Maybe the problem is easier to ignore, as it seems too large to know where to begin. This is the wrong stance to take. With enough like-minded people on board, we can reform the education system the same way it was taken from us, incrementally. Ill be honest- I’m not sure exactly what that curriculums should look like in detail. I, and I imagine others, are currently attempting to figure that out. Accordingly, I plan to write several more articles on the issue of education reform. What we need in the interim, however, are numbers, and the majority of the political right on board to acknowledge the source of our problems originates within the education system, and agree that we need a concentrated and focussed effort to reform same. We need to make education reform our top and only priority. We need to refuse to be distracted about issues like media bias, free speech and making politically sellable arguments against voting reform, for example. These issues not only detract from what should be our top priority, but more importantly, they all have their origins in the education system in the first place.