The Progressive Educators' Plan to Socialize America

By:  Sam Blumenfeld
11/05/2012
       
The Progressive Educators' Plan to Socialize America

Most Americans who have become aware of the academic and moral decline of public education, tend to believe that the humanistic curriculum that now dominates the system is of relatively recent origin. They believe that the great emphasis now placed on the “affective domain” — all of those programs devoted to values, feelings, activities, behavior, group dynamics, sexuality, etc. — is somewhat new. Actually, it is far from new. The fact is that the groundwork for what we have in our schools today was laid in the 20th century by the Progressives who knew exactly where they wanted to lead America: to a socialist society.

Most Americans who have become aware of the academic and moral decline of public education, tend to believe that the humanistic curriculum that now dominates the system is of relatively recent origin. They believe that the great emphasis now placed on the “affective domain” — all of those programs devoted to values, feelings, activities, behavior, group dynamics, sexuality, etc. — is somewhat new. Actually, it is far from new. The fact is that the groundwork for what we have in our schools today was laid in the 20th century by the Progressives who knew exactly where they wanted to lead America: to a socialist society.

The Progressives were a new breed of educator that came on the scene in the late 19th century. These men, members of the Protestant academic elite, no longer believed in the religion of their fathers. They put their new faith in science, evolution, and psychology. Science provided the means to know the material world. Evolution explained the origin of man, thus relegating the story of Genesis to mythology. And psychology institutionalized the scientific study of human nature and provided the scientific means to control human behavior.

Many of these Progressives studied in Germany under Prof. Wilhelm Wundt, the father of experimental psychology. Among the most noteworthy were G. Stanley Hall, James McKeen Cattell, Charles Judd, James Earl Russell, James R. Angell, and Frank E. Spaulding. They brought back to America Wundt’s teachings and methodology and set up psych labs of their own in American universities. In these labs man was to be studied scientifically as one would study any other animal. But since human beings could not be experimented on in labs, the psychologists used animals.

In 1928, Prof. Edward L. Thorndike, head of educational psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University, wrote:

Experiments on learning in the lower animals have probably contributed more to knowledge of education, per hour or per unit of intellect spent, than experiments on children. ... The best way with children may often be, in the pompous words of an animal trainer, “to arrange everything in connection with the trick so that the animal will be compelled by the laws of his own nature to perform it.”

Out of this methodology emerged behavioral psychology. In distinguishing behaviorism from earlier introspective psychologies, John B. Watson wrote that the behavioral psychologist “must describe the behavior of man in no other terms than those you would use in describing the behavior of the ox you slaughter.”

Thus, the behavioral psychologist studies only what can be seen and measured in human behavior. Watson wrote: “Behaviorism claims that consciousness is neither a definite nor a usable concept. The behaviorist ... holds, further, that belief in the existence of consciousness goes back to the ancient days of superstition and magic.”

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Sam Blumenfeld (photo)

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