Written by Col. Tom Snodgrass
It Was Institutional Insurgency, Not The Political Process
Col. Tom Snodgrass (Ret.), Right Side News
While the politicians normally associated with the rise and success of liberalism/ progressivism include William Jennings Bryan, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Barack H. Obama, there were two other high profile, non-politician Americans who were extremely instrumental in preparing the socio-philosophical-political battlefield for the final victory of liberalism/ progressivism. One was the philosopher, psychologist, and educator, John Dewey, and the other was the criminal defense attorney, Clarence Darrow.
John Dewey (1859-1952) was born in Vermont and entered into his own as an academic at Johns Hopkins graduate school where he came under the influence of the thinking of the German philosopher, Friedrich Hegel, and his Hegelian Dialectic (that is, a thesis generates an antithesis, generating synthesis, which overcomes the conflict by reconciling at a higher level the truth contained in both the thesis and antithesis). The Hegelian principle that everything is subject to change and, hence improvement, played an important part in Dewey’s development of his philosophy of “instrumentalism.” (Instrumentalism was basically synonymous with the philosophical tradition of “pragmatism,” that is, the linking of theory and practice.) In Dewey’s world guided by instrumentalism, there was no absolute truth. Therefore, everything was malleable and changeable according to how society chose to dictate change through its governing institutions. Dewey’s statist philosophy negates the concept of “free will” as government takes precedence over the individual, and the government’s needs must consequently be paramount over any needs or desires of the individual.
Instrumentalism was the core of Dewey’s belief that, through experimental psychology, he had developed a revolutionary scientific methodology to be applied to the human sciences. He taught as a professor of psychology at the universities of Michigan, Minnesota, and Chicago before settling at Columbia University, where he had a monumental impact on U.S. teacher education through his work at Columbia’s Teachers College. In fact, he is founding father of the current U.S. educational system. Dewey’s most influential work and the one that has been the basis of his success in undermining American public education was Democracy and Education (1916). The premise of this pernicious book, which implanted malignant liberalism/ progressivism like a cancer in the U.S. public school system, was that the individual is only a meaningful human being through his or her contribution to society, and the society only has meaning from its manifestation in the lives of each of its individual societal members. In short, it was Dewey’s belief that society should supersede the individual as the primary purpose and beneficiary of the educational process. The individual existed only to serve society. Socialization trumped factual learning. Not surprisingly, during a 1928 visit to the Soviet Union, Dewey and Soviet educators formed a mutual admiration society, and Dewey borrowed heavily from the Soviet model in his subsequent work.
The fallacy of Dewey’s theory of education in regard to American society was perfectly summarized by Senator Barry Goldwater in his 1961 book, The Conscience of a Conservative.
“In the main, the trouble with American education is that we have put into practice the educational philosophy expounded by John Dewey and his disciples. In varying degrees we have adopted what has been called ‘progressive education.’
“Subscribing to the egalitarian notion that every child must have the same education, we have neglected to provide an educational system which will tax the talents and stir the ambitions of our best students and which will thus insure us the kind of leaders we will need in the future.
“In our desire to make sure that our children learn to ‘adjust’ to their environment, we have given them insufficient opportunity to acquire the knowledge that will enable them to master their environment.
“In our attempt to make education ‘fun,’ we have neglected the academic disciplines that develop sound minds and are conducive to sound characters.
“Responding to the Deweyite attack on methods of teaching, we have encouraged the teaching profession to be more concerned with how a subject is taught than with what is taught. Most important of all: in our anxiety to ‘improve’ the world and insure ‘progress’ we have permitted our schools to become laboratories for social and economic change according to the predilections of the professional educators. We have forgotten that the proper function of the school is to transmit cultural heritage of one generation to the next generation, and to so train the minds of the new generation as to make them capable of absorbing ancient learning and applying it to the problem of its own day.
“The fundamental explanation of this distortion of values is that we have forgotten that purpose of education. Or better: we have forgotten for whom education is intended The function of our schools is not to educate, or elevate, society; but rather to educate individuals and to equip them with the knowledge that will enable them to take care of society's needs. We have forgotten that a society progresses only to the extent that it produces leaders that are capable of guiding and inspiring progress. And we cannot develop such leaders unless our standards of education are geared to excellence instead of mediocrity.”
After reading this Goldwater critique of liberal/ progressive education of a half century ago, there can be no doubt why Goldwater was so feared and personally savaged by the left in the 1964 presidential election. As is well recognized, because the left cannot defend its policies and programs intellectually on the basis of facts, logic, and results, they have no recourse but to personally attack and demean their critic.
Senator Goldwater’s criticism and characterization of Dewey’s philosophy of education was ironically validated by the leftist Progressive Education Association, which heralded his statist educational ideas and doctrines by codifying them. On the top of their doctrinal codification list was this principle, “The conduct of the pupils shall be governed by themselves, according to the social needs of the community.” Dewey’s obsession with the “social needs of the community” has been proselytized throughout most of the university-level teacher’s training schools and all grades of public instruction under the auspices of the John Dewey Society, the Progressive Education Association, the National Education Association, and the American Federation of Teachers. The far-reaching influence of John Dewey today can be seen in student teacher’s college curriculum. In order for public school teachers now to be certified, they must major in learning how to master Dewey’s teaching methods and social doctrine, while only minoring in the subject they intend to teach, like science, mathematics, or English! As a result, many, if not most, American public school classrooms have become leftist indoctrination mills rather than places of factual learning and academic excellence. Leftist propagandization of students was born in the educational doctrine of John Dewey, and the public education system has never been the same.
The next villain in this piece is the very successful criminal defense attorney and “liberal debunker of Christianity” of Scopes Monkey Trial fame, Clarence Darrow (1857-1938). One part of Darrow’s contribution to the advancement of liberalism/ progressivism on the American socio-philosophical-political battlefield was his courtroom defenses of members of the American Communist Party who were on trial for subversive, anti-American enterprises. Another related aspect of Darrow’s promotion of pro-Marxist activities was his early membership in the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an organization initially founded as an anti-war protest against U.S. involvement in World War I. However, after the successful Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917 and the almost immediate initiation of Soviet Communist sedition in the U.S., the ACLU morphed into a communist front protection organization.
[ACLU founder Roger] Baldwin’s radicalism caught the eye of the FBI, which quoted him in a 1924 report as having said: “The right to advocate a violent revolution, assassination, and proletarian Red guard, are all clearly within scope of free speech …”
The ACLU founder traveled to Stalin’s Russia in 1927 and wrote a book titled “Liberty Under The Soviets” the following year, which defended the Lenin’s and Stalin’s repression of dissent because they “are weapons in the transition to socialism.”
While Darrow’s defense of seditious communists and ACLU membership clearly indicated his philosophical position regarding communism, his court defense actions on behalf of communists pale in comparison to the damage he did to the attitude of the nation regarding personal responsibility for criminality. Darrow did not see crime resulting from free will choices by individuals, rather he believed that crime was a medical and/ or societal problem. He shared the widespread belief of “modern thinkers” of the early 20th century that the answers to mankind’s behaviors could be definitively found by studying science and evolution.
For instance, Darrow believed that the medical field of psychiatry, emphasizing infantile sexuality and unconscious impulses, denied that human actions were freely chosen and rationally arranged. Therefore, it proved his point of view that humans acted on the consequences of childhood experiences caused by society. Hence, it was Darrow’s belief that society-caused, childhood occurrences shaped a person’s choices for right or wrong in adult life. Additionally, the study of the glandular system, endocrinology, also proved to Darrow that individual responsibility did not exist because hormones produced mental and physical alterations in the afflicted person. So, in Darrow’s opinion, abhorrent criminal behavior could be the result of mental illness that correlated to glandular problems. As a consequence, Darrow concluded that individuals could not be responsible for their unlawful actions, since those actions were predetermined by complications arising from psychiatry and/ or endocrinology. But above all for Darrow, society was guilty for creating the unfair conditions of life that exacerbated medical complications into criminal behavior. Darrow’s beliefs about the causes of crime are unmistakably stated in these excerpts from a speech he gave.
Long ago Mr. Buckle, who was a great philosopher and historian [“History of Civilisation in England,” by H. T. Buckle], collected facts and he showed that the number of people who are arrested increased just as the price of food increased. When they put up the price of gas ten cents a thousand I do not know who will go to jail, but I do know that a certain number of people will go. When the meat combine raises the price of beef I do not know who is going to jail, but I know that a large number of people are bound to go. Whenever the Standard Oil Company raises the price of oil, I know that a certain number of girls who are seamstresses, and who work after night long hours for somebody else, will be compelled to go out on the streets and ply another trade, and I know that Mr. Rockefeller and his associates are responsible and not the poor girls in the jails.
First and last, people are sent to jail because they are poor.
The more that is taken from the poor by the rich, who have the chance to take it, the more poor people there are who are compelled to resort to these [criminal] means for a livelihood. They may not understand it, they may not think so at once, but after all they are driven into that line of [criminal] employment.
First and last it’s a question of money. Those men who own the earth make the laws to protect what they have. They fix up a sort of fence or pen around what they have, and they fix the law so the fellow on the outside cannot get in. The laws are really organized for the protection of the men who rule the world. They were never organized or enforced to do justice. We have no system for doing justice, not the slightest in the world.
The only way in the world to abolish crime and criminals is to abolish the big ones and the little ones together. Make fair conditions of life. Give men a chance to live. Abolish the right of private ownership of land, abolish monopoly, make the world partners in production, partners in the good things of life. Nobody would steal if he could get something of his own some easier way. Nobody will commit burglary when he has a house full. No girl will go out on the streets when she has a comfortable place at home. The man who owns a sweatshop or a department store may not be to blame himself for the condition of his girls, but when he pays them five dollars, three dollars, and two dollars a week, I wonder where he thinks they will get the rest of their money to live. The only way to cure these conditions is by equality. There should be no jails. They do not accomplish what they pretend to accomplish. If you would wipe them out, there would be no more criminals than now. They terrorize nobody. They are a blot upon civilization, and a jail is an evidence of the lack of charity of the people on the outside who make the jails and fill them with the victims of their greed.
An American probably never uttered a more Marxist, anti-capitalist indictment of societal guilt. Given Darrow’s concept of crime as a medical- and/ or societal-caused problem, he opposed punishment for criminality, especially the death penalty. And it was his opposition to the death penalty that provided the historical occasion for Darrow’s destructive inculcation in the collective American mind the liberal/ progressive concept of replacing individual responsibility for criminal behavior with medical- and/ or societal-causation of circumstances that are beyond the control of the individual. This historical occasion was Darrow’s successful defense of the teenage homosexual lovers, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, for their 1924 thrill murder of 14-year-old Bobby Franks in Chicago.
Leopold and Loeb had already confessed their guilt by the time that Darrow took the case, so drawing upon his medical-/ societal-causation of crime beliefs, Darrow put the society on trial as his defense of these wanton murderers. Because this crime was so sensational, it was covered nationwide. The Leopold-Loeb trial provided Darrow with an unprecedented national forum to air his Marxist arguments exonerating individuals and indicting society. Darrow convinced the trial judge to spare the lives of the homosexual lovers. Instead of the death penalty, the judge sentenced each defendant to 99 years for the kidnapping and life in prison for the murder. The verdict was a victory for the defense and a defeat for the state. Trial lawyers, the media, and the Democrat Party took note of Darrow’s success in blaming society and have been using this leftist tactic ever since. Clarence Darrow legitimized trying the society as a valid means for defending criminal behavior. “Victimology” was born out of Darrow’s Marxist beliefs, and the criminal justice system has never been the same.
The agents of liberalism/ progressivism led by John Dewey and Clarence Darrow infiltrated the public school structure and the court system. These opinion-shaping institutions are in now in the liberal/ progressive grasp – by the end of Obama’s second term in 2017, the liberal/ progressive hold of the federal judiciary will have been consolidated. The judiciary is the last of the societal institutions that mold public attitudes about society and government to come under liberal/ progressive dominance. Ever since the first decade of the 20th century, liberal/ progressive forces have being waging institutional insurgency to also capture the media, the mainline churches, and the entertainment industry, in addition to academia and the judiciary. The media, judiciary, and entertainment bought into the liberal/ progressive “victimology” ploy, and the mainline churches not only embraced “victimology,” the clergy leadership also confused government redistribution of wealth through social welfare with “charity” and became politically sympathic to the party they considered the to be the benefactors of the poor, the Democrats.
The liberals/ progressives have succeeded, not because they are a “conspiracy,” but rather that they are a “movement.” A political movement does not operate in secret; rather it operates openly in public to convince citizens and/ or government officers to take action on the issues and to implement the policies that are the focus of the movement. Liberals/ progressives framed their issues and policies by combining Dewey’s concept of “supremacy of the society” as the means to correct the “deplorable social and economic conditions” contained in Darrow’s indictment of the existing U.S. capitalist society. This amalgamation of Dewey’s “solution of statism” and Darrow’s “condemnation of capitalism” yielded the concept of “fairness” – which is the “battle-cry” of liberals/ progressives and their “justification” for their irrational leftist economic policies. Using the emotional appeal of “fairness,” liberals/ progressives have eventually completed the decades-long, incremental conversion of the academia, judiciary, news industry, spiritual leadership, and entertainment establishment.
There is not any question today that liberals/ progressives almost totally rule the five idea-producing, attitude-fashioning social institutions – academia, judiciary, news industry, spiritual leadership, and entertainment establishment. By the conclusion of Obama’s final year in office, liberal/ progressive dominion over all means of societal belief-forming and propaganda-distribution will be unchallengeable. Fox News and Conservative Talk Radio do not have the reach or bandwidth to effectively compete with “the big five” in the arena of information and opinion dissemination.
In the wake of the 2012 presidential election, the Republican Party establishment and conservative, talking-head pundits (they are not the same thing) are daily trying to rally their troops, while simultaneously attempting to convince themselves about the continued viability of the Republican Party, with innovative campaign strategies of “running better candidates,” improving their “campaign ground game,” perfecting their “micro-targeting, digital campaign,” “reaching out” to blacks and Hispanics, and “beefing up the conservative message.” In the end Republicans and conservatives comfort themselves with a belief in the “historical inevitability of the periodic swing of the political pendulum” back to the right. These pundits theorize that with time, the American public will come to their senses and understand what an economic train wreck Obama and liberalism/ progressivism have created. It is a Republican article of faith that liberalism/ progressivism can be discredited by its unavoidable economic failure to the extent a Republican candidate can again be competitive for president in 2016 and on into the future.
The “conventional wisdom” of the Republican Party’s strategies to recapture the White House do not really adequately address the fact that liberal/ progressive institutional insurgencies have successfully seized the U.S. academia, judiciary, media, mainline churches, and entertainment industry. While the Republicans and conservatives do acknowledge liberal/ progressive control of academia, media, and entertainment; they bravely theorize that Republican-conservative election victory is still possible without them by going directly to the voters using their innovative strategies for more effective campaigning. Furthermore, the Republicans and conservatives are making the erroneous assumption that they are still competitive within the arenas of the judiciary and religious institutions.
There is a lot of talk among Republicans and conservatives about Obama’s electoral victory being due to his “Santa Claus promises of social welfare goodies and free Obama-phones.” Rush Limbaugh has aptly christened the believers of Obama’s promises as “low information voters” (AKA “the stupid” in pre-PC days). The Republican-conservative answer to “low information voters” is thought to be found in their innovative strategies for more effective campaigning that will turn out the latent conservative voter base that will outnumber the Democrat “low information voters” in the next election.
However, the John Dewey-crafted public school system, which puts socialization over factual learning, has already produced legions of “low information voters” who place “fairness” over economic results as the 2012 election definitively proved. Since there are no constructive reforms in the works for the public education establishment, there is no logical reason to believe that there will be anything but more “low information voters” in 2016. And, of course, the statism ideal taught in academia is daily reinforced by the judiciary, media, mainline churches, and entertainment industry.
It has taken the forces of liberalism/ progressivism over a century to achieve their current, unassailable societal-political dominance. It is foolish for Republicans or conservatives to believe that innovative campaign strategies will overcome liberal/ progressive control of all societal opinion-shaping institutions in a one-to-two year political campaign. The problem for Republicans and conservatives is that, as Obama's economy gets worse, the liberals/ progressives just get stronger because "low information voters" clamor for more statism (e.g., food stamps), not less. The populace demands more government welfare in economic crisis, not more "free market economy." The liberals/ progressives have developed and been able to enforce a political correctness "speech code" on the nation that precludes honest discussion of the undeniable failures of liberalism/ progressivism. For instance, there are 47.7 million people on food stamps, an increase of 15.1 million in Obama's first four years. That statistic in a sane world would be a "shameful" commentary on Obama's economic policies, but instead political correctness converts it into commendable "compassion" motivated by "fairness." Unless Republicans and conservatives can devise some short-term "magical" solution or long-term public "reeducation" program to replace "fairness" with economic logic, they are doomed to spend an eternity in the political wilderness.
Col. Thomas Snodgrass, USAF (retired), earned a Master of Arts degree in history, with minors in political science and anthropology, at the University of Texas, Austin, on an Air Force Institute Of Technology Civilian Institutions scholarship. Subsequently he taught history and political science at the Air Force Academy, CO, Air War College, AL, Troy State University, AL, University of Miami, FL, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, AZ.