Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Postmodern Education in the United States

by Dr. Sam Holliday

Many people do not understand how drastically education has been transformed in the United States since the 1960s. Most people trust the professional educators; after all they are the experts. However, if we take another look at the transformation that has taken place in both K-12 and in higher education during the past fifty years the impact of postmodern thought is obvious.

Ordinary citizens and parents have been concerned about the education of our youth. But they have focused on the practical: reading, writing, arithmetic, job skill training, and morality/character development being replaced by multicultural indoctrination, concerns for self-esteem, sex education, increased costs and more administrators.

On the other hand, the professional educators have focus on the theoretical and their own self-interests: how to make a paradigm shift from traditional American education to the development of a more progressive society and how to get paid more for less work.

Which is more important: the theoretical or the practical? Although some people like to focus on one or the other, separation is an error. They are two parts of the same whole, and neither should be considered more important than the other.

To illustrate the connection of the theoretical with the practical, consider education. Surely there is nothing more practical than the education of children—as parents have always thought. However, what has happened to education in this country since the 1960s is the result of a theory: postmodern thought. This is true whether you agree or disagree with the transformation that has taken place during the past fifty years in the name of progress.

The objective of traditional American education was to produce intelligent, resourceful, moral individuals capable of thinking and making decisions based on their own judgments. Such individuals were expected to have free will and an inner compass that gave them character and morality compatible with the principles and ideals upon which America was founded.

How this traditional American education has been transformed is clearly presented by Antony C. Sutton in America's Secret Establishment. Today professional educators see their task as a socialization process; their goal is to mold students into being parts of collectives (factions), and to generate politically correct behaviors in accordance with postmodern thought.

The metaphor is no longer a melting pot, but a salad bowl. This is not a better way to do things--it is only a better way to serve the purposes of some collective, or someone.

The National Education Association produced a program for the 1976 Bicentennial entitled "A Declaration Of Interdependence: Education For A Global Community" which was pure progressivism, or postmodernism.  On page 6 of this document we find:
"We are committed to the idea of Education for Global Community. You are invited to help turn the commitment into action and mobilizing world education for development of a world community."
This is an objective straight out of Hegel’s philosophy. It is explained in Self Knowledge And Social Action by Obadiah Silas Harris, Associate Professor of Educational Management and Development, New Mexico State University:
"When community educators say that community education takes into consideration the total individual and his total environment, they mean precisely this: the field of community education includes the individual in his total psycho-physical structure and his entire ecological climate with all its ramifications - social, political, economical, cultural, spiritual, etc. It seeks to integrate the individual within himself [sic] and within his community until the individual becomes a cosmic soul and the community the world."
And on page 84 of the same book:
"The Cosmic soul ... the whole human race is going to evolve an effective soul of its own - the cosmic soul of the race. That is the future of human evolution. As a result of the emergence of the universal soul, there will be a great unification of the entire human race, ushering into existence a new era, a new dawn of unique world power."
This last quote sounds more like a German in 1933 than any American. It has the same blend of the occult and absolutism.

All of this is theory, but does in have practical outcomes? The transformation of American education by postmodern thought is evidence that it does.

Compare the objective of progressive education with our Constitution, the basic theory under which the United States was to be governed. Our Constitution makes the individual supreme, i.e. the government exists only to serve individuals and government has no power except by express permission of the people. Of course, progressives (postmodernists) do not agree with this view of our Constitution. They think in terms of collectives (factions), not of the individual. This is why they consider our Constitution a "living document"; this allows changes through interpretations, rather than having to actually change the Constitution.

Nevertheless, Amendments IX and X of the Constitution guarantee the supremacy of the individual. Amendment IX reads, "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the People." Note, the "retained". And, Amendment X reads, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

- Caption: The origins of Postmodernism: the German Idealists of the Counter Enlightenment: Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, and Ernst Moritz Arndt (undated Woodcut) - 

Therefore, the theory and proposals of John Dewey and his followers (who gave us progressive education) violate our Constitution., Since it is impossible to bring a legal case against a theory or proposals, the constitutionality of this theory has never been challenged. Nevertheless progressives, shaped by postmodern theory, are those who have made the practical applications in the classrooms, schools, colleges and universities since the 1960s.

Who is behind this transformation of education in the United States? Who established the vision, which shaped what students need to know and how they should behave? The answer: those who established the theory for postmodern thought as a way to have a paradigm shift from traditional American education. They took to heart the words of Thomas Kuhn who in 1970 defined a paradigm as “a constellation of values, beliefs, and methodological assumptions, whether tacit or explicit, inscribed in a larger world view.

This group orientation is common to all socialist collectives, be they of the left (communism) or of the right (fascism). Its aim is not to produce intelligent, capable individuals who can think and make decisions based on their own judgments. Its goal is a Utopia in which there is no war, crime, poverty or injustice. Of course there is nothing wrong with this goal.

But the way to achieve it is to create intelligent, capable, aware, responsible and decent individuals, who will then go out to built a better nation, and also a better world. No community organization, no social plan, no political system and no politically correct agenda will ever do it as well, because these always ignore and suppress the individual. They centralize power in the hands of an elite--which thinks it knows best.
All government should exist for the security, economic success, and happiness of individuals. However, postmodern educators, politicians, community organizers, and social planners see it the other way around.
We must look clearly at the lessons of history. Government cannot insure happiness or equality of outcomes. No collective can enjoy freedom? Morality depends on the inner compass of individuals. Only individuals feel and experience anything. Those who think in terms of governments or collectives are playing with words and metaphors--which is a hallmark of postmodernism, since language is the centerpiece of its epistemology.

Postmodernists attribute individual human equalities to collectives. Also for them interpretation and investigation never end with reality, since truth or falsity is not the issue; what matters primarily is the language’s effectiveness. They have turned education up side down through the clever use of words. The lessons of history are clear: return to the reality of traditional American education.

Once again the objective should be the development of intelligent, resourceful, moral individuals capable of thinking and making decisions based on their own judgments. Their education should offer them the opportunity to develop character and morality compatible with the principles and ideals upon which America was founded.

Copyright © 2010 Armiger Cromwell Center, Atlanta, GA 30319.
Permission is granted to forward this article by e-mail to friends or colleagues on a fair use basis. For reprint permission, contact Armiger Cromwell Center at

An online printable version of "Postmodern Education in the United States" is available here.

Filed on Articles in "
The Armiger Cromwell Center"

Related dossiers

- "Postmodern Ravages"
- "Pomo Lingo"
- "Education"


RatePoint Business Reviews