Monday, April 28, 2008

Obama's Collectivist Manifesto-Part 1...the "Original Sin" gambit

Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, in a major speech given in response to the Reverend Wright controversy on March 18, 2008, laid out his vision for where he wishes to lead America if elected President. The conventional political wisdom is that Mr. Obama’s campaign has been short on specifics and long on vague generalizations. What he stands for, it is generally accepted, must await announcement of his actual concrete agenda. That is what really counts. He is an unknown quantity, it is said. But this line of thinking inverts cause and effect. Ideas presuppose action. And in this speech, which is short on specifics, Senator Obama is crystal clear about his intentions.

His opening words, "We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.” sets the stage for a complete perversion of the Enlightenment principles upon which our nation was founded. There are many egregious examples of this. This essay will focus on the following one. In the third paragraph, referring to the U.S. Constitution ratified in 1787, the Senator declares that:

“The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery.”

This dangerous injection of religion into the issue of America’s past slavery cannot, in my view, be dismissed as mere rhetorical flare. The doctrine of Original Sin holds that man is depraved or evil by his very nature…i.e., because of influences or events beyond his control. Man is guilty, in other words, because he is man. Man can never correct his innate sinfulness, since his nature is beyond his control, but he must atone for it through a lifetime of duty-bound self-sacrifice to…God, or society, or “others”, or the state…take your pick.

It’s not difficult to see where Mr. Obama is going with the induction of this monstrously unjust doctrine into the political fabric of America. One can say that he is laying the philosophical groundwork for some future attempt at slave reparations, but I doubt it. For one thing, he undoubtedly knows it would never fly as an explicit proposal, at least not yet. The truth is much worse. He is in effect declaring that America, and Americans, can never escape the “guilt” of slavery, reparations or not, but must pay eternal penance or atonement for that guilt, in the form of whatever socialist scheme “We the People” declares is needed at any given time. (“We the People” is used by Obama as a collective, democratic term here, rather than according to it’s original meaning of a society of sovereign individuals possessing inalienable individual rights.) Is the “stain” of “this nation’s original sin of slavery” to be used as that doctrine has always been used, as a guilt-manipulation tool…in this case to advance a political agenda?

Senator Obama speaks positively of the Founders, yet downplays their role in ending slavery. While acknowledging that “the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution,” he goes on with:

“And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part - through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.”

Referring to the Founders decision “to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations”, he is here saying, in essence, that they dropped the ball on slavery abolition. But this view implies a total inversion of the full meaning of that concession to the pro-slavery factions at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The granting of the twenty-year extension of the slave trade was a short-term political compromise that was far outweighed by a monumental achievement…the recognition of the basic equality of all people as the foundation, for the first time in history, of a nation. Far from leaving “any final resolution to future generations”, the constitution approved in 1787 in fact provided an indispensable tool for the future Abolitionists…the ideological and constitutional ammunition without which they could not have succeeded.

On what philosophical basis did “Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part” to end slavery rely on? It's true, as Obama states, that time and struggle were needed "to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.” But narrow the gap America did. That's how principles work. But principles take time to work. In America, they worked—leading to America's finest hour, the end of slavery.

What were the “ideals” embodied in those “words on a parchment” that he claims “would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage?” They are the words and ideals that he neglects to mention…that all people possess inalienable individual rights, equally, at all times, by virtue of being born a human being, and that those rights are the responsibility of government to recognize and protect. Note that the terms “slave” and “slavery” do not appear in the constitution. Rather, the phrase used to describe slaves was that of a “Person held to Service or Labour”. Person. In fact, as Isabel Paterson writes in The God of the Machine, the slaves were even “counted as persons in apportioning for the House of Representatives” (page 142). Those “words on a parchment” were, in fact, enough to “deliver slaves from bondage.”

To understand why, the full historical context in regards to slavery must be viewed. In my post of 1/8/08, I quoted historian Thomas Sowell and it is worth repeating here:

“[A]nyone familiar with the history of slavery around the world knows that its origins go back thousands of years and that slaves and slaveowners were very often of the same race…Whites enslaved other whites in Europe for centuries before the first black slave was brought to the Western Hemisphere; moreover, Asians enslaved other Asians, Africans enslaved other Africans, and the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere enslaved other native peoples of the Western Hemisphere…[and] Thousands of free blacks owned slaves in the antebellum South.”

The Founders, in other words, were battling to eradicate an evil with very deep and long roots, encompassing all peoples from all over the globe. One does not have to excuse slavery or fail to acknowledge that it is a stain on our history to see that slavery is not America's Original Sin. It is mankind's sin and America had a hand in ending it. (By comparison, look at how difficult it is proving to be to reform Social Security today, a program that goes back not thousands of years but only 70.)

The Founders and their anti-slavery allies, of course, were not operating in a vacuum. Rather, they were an integral part of a profound event born of the Enlightenment. Writes Mr. Sowell:

(emphasis added)
“Of all the tragic facts about the history of slavery, the most astonishing to an American today is that, although slavery was a worldwide institution for thousands of years, nowhere in the world was slavery a controversial issue prior to the 18th century.

People of every race and color were enslaved -- and enslaved others. White people were still being bought and sold as slaves in the Ottoman Empire, decades after American blacks were freed.

Everyone hated the idea of being a slave but few had any qualms about enslaving others. Slavery was just not an issue, not even among intellectuals, much less among political leaders, until the 18th century -- and then only in Western civilization.”

The American Republic was born amidst the first-ever concerted effort to eradicate slavery. The American anti-slavery forces at that convention in 1787 were battling against not only the representatives of an entrenched institution having roots going back thousands of years, but also against the inertia of the long-held acceptance of slavery as normal by mankind.

Michael Barone writes:

“Human slavery was tolerated, taken for granted, not seen as even something to argue about, in all cultures for centuries and millennia--until, in the 18th century, certain Britons and Americans began to question its morality.

In 1808, the first date allowed under the Constitution, Congress banned the importation of slaves and the U.S. Navy aided the Royal Navy in suppressing the slave trade abroad. When the United States acquired the Philippines in 1898, it suppressed slavery there, over the objections of many locals.

Only in the West, Sowell writes, did the movement to end slavery win support.”
(emphasis added)

Note that not only did the 20-year slave-trade extension prove to be only a temporary reprieve for the anti-abolitionist faction, but the ascendance of the anti-slavery forces led to America taking a positive military role as well.

The drive to abolish slavery was an Enlightenment phenomenon. And the Enlightenment’s crowning achievement, the United States of America and the Capitalism that it spawned, were an integral part of that. The important historical fact is that there is nothing “original” about America’s early slavery. As I wrote in my post of 1/14/08:

“To fully appreciate [America’s] historic, and heroic, role, one must never forget the contextual fact that America inherited slavery from the world's pre-Enlightenment past, and that the battle against it neither began nor ended in 1776…

“My point here is certainly not to diminish the dark part of our history represented by slavery, nor of its historical significance, nor of the untold suffering of so many human beings under this evil practice. But we must never let the fact of American slavery obscure the incalculable magnificence of the achievement of the Enlightenment and of the Enlightenment’s child, the United States of America…the abolition of slavery.”

Yet Senator Obama chooses to narrow the focus so as to isolate the slavery issue from its true historical context, as a means of laying the ideological groundwork for an Obama presidency. Rather than see the true meaning of the birth of America as having an indispensable and integral role in ending slavery, he instead sees it as culpable in an evil institution with millenniums-deep historical roots. There is an obvious political agenda here. But the tying of Original Sin to the slavery issue is a way to manipulate around a crucial American principle…and most Americans’ sense of justice…that an individual should not be held liable for the crimes of another.

Senator Obama, a deeply philosophical man, appears to be cleverly appealing to Christians, especially on the “right”, by way of a central tenet of Christianity that is at fundamental odds with American principles. This is not to say that Obama’s slavery/Original Sin gambit would be an easy sell. But basic premises in one’s system of beliefs is the prime driver in determining one’s stand on concrete issues. Ideas matter most. Someone who accepts the gravely unjust proposition that a person can be held guilty, sinful, or evil because of circumstances or events that occurred before he was born must necessarily be vulnerable to his “opening gambit.” Someone who doesn’t, is not, and would therefor dismiss him out of hand. Senator Obama is seeking to strike a chord, politically, with a wide Christian audience that is already philosophically attuned to the basic premise of Original Sin.

Psychologically, the purpose of employing any variant of Original Sin is to invoke unearned guilt. In order to intellectually disarm his adversaries, Obama hopes to instill in the American people the sense that they are somehow vaguely responsible for the plight of the “African-American community” by virtue of being Americans. Whereas the Christian doctrine of Original Sin establishes the guilt of the individual, Obama’s version seeks to establish the guilt of a nation.

Of course, as Mr. Sowell writes, "Attempts to limit the discussion of slavery to slavery in the United States or in Western civilization make sense only as a strategy to get money or political concessions... To this very moment slavery continues in parts of Africa and the Islamic world. Very little noise is made about it by those who denounce the slavery of the past in the West, because there is no money to be made denouncing it and no political advantages to be gained."

Mr. Sowell is dead right, of course. But it would be a dangerous mistake, in my view, to dismiss Obama’s comments as mere election year rhetoric. First, Senator Obama has said that “race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now.” And second, the idea of collective guilt passed on generation to generation (a violation of the Constitutional ban on “corruption of blood” under the Treason clause), along with the religion connection, may be more prevalent than one might think. A correspondent commenting on my aforementioned post of 1/8/08 stated:

“The fact that white people…want to claim they were not directly responsible for [slavery] indisputably has no validity in the Bible…[T]hose very same Bibles tell us that.....We are responsible for the Sins of our Forefathers…For it is written that 'You should pray for the sins of your forefathers as you Will Not be Held Blameless!!!”

And, again quoting the bible:

“ ‘The sins of the father shall be visited upon the son’ ‘For the Seed of Generations to come’ ‘Even up to the 4th and 5th Generation’. The fact remains that the blood of your forefathers runs through your lineage, therefore White people of this generation are just as responsible for what their forefathers did as if they committed these Savage, Inhumane, Barbaric acts directly themselves. The fact remains that the majority of Blacks undoubtedly hold whites responsible for their suffering…”

“Its 2008, yet still no reparations fruition for Blacks.”

There’s more, but you get the picture. That correspondent is calling for the return, in a more “civil” form, to the primitive, brutal tribal warfare carried on generation to generation, this time between blacks and whites…a practice that the individualist, capitalist United States of America abolished. Is he right in claiming that most American blacks hold this view?

Senator Obama, in much watered-down language, is saying essentially the same thing:

“But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.”

Senator Obama has sent up a trial balloon. To my knowledge, no one has attempted to shoot it down. Abstract ideas are seen in today’s political world as meaningless curiosities. “Let’s see the specifics of Senator Obama’s program.” But bad abstract ideas cannot be allowed to fester and take root, because sooner or later they will be translated into action. Today’s unchallenged assertions, however absurd, as Ayn Rand has said, are tomorrow’s conventional wisdom.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Earth Day: "The Anti-Industrial Revolution"

Ayn Rand coined the term “anti-industrial revolution” to describe the “ecology” movement of the 1960s and 1970s. That movement was the precursor to the modern environmentalist movement.

The basic premise of Environmentalism is that “nature” in its raw state…which means unaltered by human intervention…has intrinsic value. A volcano erupting and destroying Mount St. Helens, taking with it millions of trees and wild animals, is raw nature. Man clearing a forest and “destroying” an ecosystem to build a housing development is not. Animals devouring one another to survive is raw nature. Man using animals for the purpose of testing (human) life-saving medicines is not. Crop-destroying insects or plant diseases is raw nature. Insecticides and bio-engineered pest- and disease-resistant crops is not. A black primordial goo lying underground is raw nature. Gasoline and heating oil is not.

The common denominator of that which is not “raw” nature is that it represents the application of human intelligence to the advance of man’s well-being and survival. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action. Every living species, from the lowest bacteria to the most advanced mammals, must act according to its nature to sustain its life. In other words, every living species is provided by nature with some means of survival, which it must rely on and exercise.

There is one crucial fact of nature that sets man apart from every other living species. Every other species must adapt itself to its natural environmental background. It has no choice in the matter, since it basically has no way of altering that environment. It is thus equipped by the basic means of survival determined by its nature to survive in that manner. Any species that lacks or losses the means to adapt perishes. Man, however, is not equipped to adapt to raw nature. He must, if he is to survive and thrive, adapt his environmental background to his own needs…by building homes, inventing medical treatments, developing advanced agriculture, producing fuel for transportation and heating…all produced from exploiting the natural resources found in raw nature.

Environmentalism’s elevating of nature to a value status equal to or greater than man is a direct assault on, and denial of, man’s means of survival…his need to transform raw nature as dictated by his very nature. Since man’s primary, basic means of achieving this is his rational mind, the anti-science of environmentalism is thus anti-mind, which means anti-man.

Environmentalism should not be confused with the idea of developing cleaner methods of producing and consuming that which we need to survive and thrive. That is not what the leaders of the environmental movement have in mind. It is human production and technology that is the enemy. Following are some quotes from some of those leaders:

The collective needs of non-human species must take precedence over the needs and desires of humans.

—Dr. Reed F. Noss, The Wildlands Project

Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, is not as important as a wild and healthy planets…Some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.

—David Graber, biologist, National Park Service

The extinction of the human species may not only be inevitable but a good thing....This is not to say that the rise of human civilization is insignificant, but there is no way of showing that it will be much help to the world in the long run.

—Economist editorial

I suspect that eradicating smallpox was wrong. It played an important part in balancing ecosystems.

—John Davis, editor of Earth First! Journal

We, in the green movement, aspire to a cultural model in which killing a forest will be considered more contemptible and more criminal than the sale of 6-year-old children to Asian brothels.

—Carl Amery

We have wished, we ecofreaks, for a disaster or for a social change to come and bomb us into the Stone Age, where we might live like Indians in our valley, with our localism, our appropriate technology, our gardens, our homemade religion—guilt-free at last!

—Stewart Brand (writing in the Whole Earth Catalog).

This last is the ideal that drives environmentalism…the return of mankind to a pre-industrial age when man lived “in harmony” with nature. A time when nature was worshipped, rather than exploited for human gain. Rather than a warm winter home, they long for an existence of savages cowering in fear of natural forces. The name itself, “Environmentalism”, captures the very essence of its meaning, just as Communism or Nazism captures the essence of those systems. In fact, statists of every stripe have latched on to the environmental movement to further their anti-capitalist agendas.

But make no mistake. The agenda of the environmentalists is to thwart, roll back, and destroy the life-giving technology and industrialization of the modern age. This is not to say that I believe that they will succeed. Most people don’t equate environmentalism with an anti-man’s-life agenda. There is a real danger, though, that they will succeed at advancing a statist agenda under cover of environmentalism, leading to a deteriorating economy, rising impoverishment, and possible dictatorship.

By celebrating “Earth Day”, we should be aware of the enemies of man that we are helping to bring to power in America and around the world.

Rather than celebrate raw nature, as embodied in “Earth Day”, we should instead look around at all of the life-giving benefits we enjoy as a result of industrialization.

Earth Day is the “holiday” of the anti-industrial revolution. Instead, we should celebrate the holiday of the Industrial Revolution, Exploit The Earth Day!

Monday, April 14, 2008

On Ayn Rand's Dishonest Critics

Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, has been around now for about half a century. For most of that time, including during Ms. Rand’s lifetime, Objectivism’s influence gained steadily but mostly on the individual, personal level. Such prominent and influential people as Clarence Thomas; tennis greats Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert; John Stossel; and Ronald Reagan have been significantly influenced by Ayn Rand. But Objectivism’s influence on the culture at large has been minimal, “flying” mostly under the radar screen. This is not surprising, since fundamental ideas, especially new ones, can take anywhere from years to centuries to take hold, if at all. It took Aristotle’s ideas two thousand years to come to full fruition, in the form of the Enlightenment and the American Revolution.

In recent years, however, the Objectivist movement has begun to gain traction not only in the culture but also, significantly, in academia. Thanks largely to the work of the Ayn Rand Institute and other organizations, a small but growing number of Objectivist intellectuals and professors have published books, op-eds in major newspapers and magazines, and make regular appearances on major media outlets like CNBC and Fox News. While still relatively unknown, Objectivism must be starting to have an impact, because Rand and her ideas are increasingly coming under attack, especially by the Left. Unfortunately, the negative attention is almost completely, as far as I can determine, based on misrepresentations, distortions, evasions, outright falsehoods, ad-hominem attacks, and straw-man tactics, with a hefty dose of genuine misunderstanding thrown in. The inaccuracies range from blatant insults to subtle context-dropping. It seems that at least some among the establishment intelligentsia and media elites, especially those of the statist variety, are beginning to sense a long-term philosophical threat. Much if not most anti-Rand commentary generally seems not just to seek to discredit Objectivism, but rather is calculated to prevent people from discovering it.

None of this is to say that genuine, principled and objective critical analysis or opposition to Rand’s ideas doesn’t exist. But if it does, not much of it seems to make it into the media. The same type of virulent opposition comes also from the right. And a decent amount of positive commentary can be seen as well. But it is the dishonest attacks that seem to be growing fastest. One such hit piece (actually, two) was recently published on Deal Journal, an on-line arm of the Wall Street Journal. They’re plenty of inaccuracies in these articles, many of which were addressed by pro-Objectivist correspondents in the commentary section (there are, as one might expect, plenty of grossly ill informed or malicious anti-Rand diatribes in this section as well.).

To make my point here, I will expand upon some comments I placed under an article by Heidi N. Moore entitled Capitalism Shrugged: Should Ayn Rand Be Required Reading? The article revolves around the activities of the BB&T corporation’s charitable foundation. BB&T, a regional North Carolina bank (the nation’s 16th largest) headed by an Objectivist CEO, John Allison, makes its higher education donations contingent upon the college or university agreeing to offer courses on Atlas Shrugged. Allison considers Atlas Shrugged to be the best defense of Capitalism he has ever read (as do I). Leaving aside the debate (or controversy) on the BB&T activities, I want to focus on this statement made by Ms. Moore:

And there’s a my-way-or-the-highway absolutism about Rand’s work — “There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil,” she once wrote — that may be at odds with today’s cooperative, interlocked financial system, where codependency is the rule.

The implication here is that Rand advocated an uncompromising rigidity that makes human cooperation impossible. This is blatant context-dropping. To understand the proper context of the quote, “There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil,” the following crucial statement by Rand should be added:

“There can be no compromise on moral principles”

What Ms. Rand is actually saying, and what Ms. Moore apparently doesn’t want to acknowledge, is that she was referring to matters of basic principles. It is wrong, Ms. Rand is saying, to commit acts that you know to be wrong …i.e., to commit “moral treason”, as she put it. Unless, of course, one believes it is wrong to steal, except to do it once in a while is fine, just as a compromise. Or that honesty is good, except dishonesty is okay once in a while, just as a compromise. Or that freedom is good, except that it is okay to give it up, bit by welfare state bit, just as a compromise.

To compromise… i.e., to seek a middle ground… is acceptable, according to Objectivism, when dealing with specific, concrete issues that don’t involve violation of one’s principles. For example, negotiating the terms of a contract on the sale of a property, or deciding which movie or restaurant to attend with a spouse or friends, or determining the choice of a job, etc. The “absolutism about Rand’s work” involves basic principles and fundamental moral issues. Would you say that there is a middle ground between a life of theft and a life of productive work? Or between honesty and deception or fraud? Or between freedom and slavery? On basic principles, “the middle is always evil” because it implies that there is no distinction between right and wrong. “In any compromise [middle ground] between good and evil,” Rand writes, “it is only evil that can profit.” (For a wider discussion on this, see Rand’s essay “Doesn’t life require compromise?” in her book, The Virtue of Selfishness.)

For the record, here is the full meaning, in Rand’s own words, from which the out-of-context quote was taken:

There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil. The man who is wrong still retains some respect for truth, if only by accepting the responsibility of choice. But the man in the middle is the knave who blanks out the truth in order to pretend that no choice or values exist, who is willing to sit out the course of any battle, willing to cash in on the blood of the innocent or to crawl on his belly to the guilty, who dispenses justice by condemning both the robber and the robbed to jail, who solves conflicts by ordering the thinker and the fool to meet each other halfway. In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit. In that transfusion of blood which drains the good to feed the evil, the compromiser is the transmitting rubber tube …

When men reduce their virtues to the approximate, then evil acquires the force of an absolute, when loyalty to an unyielding purpose is dropped by the virtuous, it's picked up by scoundrels—and you get the indecent spectacle of a cringing, bargaining, traitorous good and a self-righteously uncompromising evil.
(from Ayn Rand’s book, For the New Intellectual)

Of course, it is the moral absolutism of Ayn Rand’s philosophy that must be discredited by power-lusters and seekers of the unearned. It is the Objectivists’ absolute, uncompromising, and selfish defense of the moral principle of inalienable individual rights that threatens the steady growth of welfare statism in America. It is the middle-of-the-roaders seeking compromise between government controls and inalienable rights who are responsible for the erosion of freedom and subsequent growing social and economic problems in America (which is no longer a Capitalist, but a mixed economy)

It has now been some 40 years since first reading Ayn Rand, and I have discovered that there is one common tactic shared by most of Rand’s critics. And this tactic is pervasive. The tactic amounts to…First misrepresent, then attack, her views. Heidi Moore is a master at this.

It seems very few people are willing (or able) to present her ideas honestly and objectively before critiquing them.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Is Your Child State Property?

Yes, said Los Angeles County Justice H. Walter Croskey's in his now infamous Feb. 28, 2008 ruling against California’s homeschooling parents. NO, said millions of Americans across the country. Apparently, the court heard them.

In an uncompromising defense of parents’ individual rights, Thomas A. Bowden reports in a March 31, 2008 op-ed, Your Child is Not State Property :

“Rocked by a nationwide storm of criticism, the Los Angeles County court that declared homeschooling illegal in California has agreed to rehear the case in June.” (emphasis added)

The backlash against that dangerous ruling is a hopeful sign. And it is badly needed. Mr. Bowden goes on:

“California legislators were entitled to enact this blanket prohibition, according to the judge, because they feared the supposed social disorder that would result from ‘allowing every person to make his own standards on matters of conduct in which society as a whole has important interests'". (emphasis added)

Just as “the will of God” has historically been the rationale for theocratic tyranny and religious persecution, so the “will of Society” has seeped into the American consciousness as a justification for the growth of government control and power. From healthcare, to eminent domain, to “anti-poverty” programs, to environmentalism, to education… the “interests” of “society” is routinely given as the alter upon which individual rights are to be sacrificed. “Society” is the god of modern secular statism.

Mr. Bowden:

“ ‘Allowing’? By what right does government presume to ‘allow’ (or, in this case, forbid) you to make your own standards concerning your child's education?

“Government has no such right. Neither the state nor ‘society as a whole’ has any interests of its own in your child's education. A society is only a group of individuals, and the government's only legitimate function is to protect the individual rights of its citizens, including yours and your children's, against physical force and fraud…

“…Other citizens, however numerous or politically powerful, have no moral right to substitute their views on child-raising for those of the father and mother who created that child.”
(emphasis added)

But it is exactly “to substitute their views on child-raising for those of the father and mother” that the state’s educational establishment seeks to maintain and expand it’s grip on all levels of education in this country. (By establishment, I am referring here to the elites in the various state and federal education departments, the National Education Association, the Progressive Education theorists, etc…and not necessarily to all teachers.) When Judge Croskey states his fear of “allowing every person to make his own standards on matters of conduct”, he is not referring to some kind of criminal anarchy. It is the “anarchy” of independent thinking that he has in mind.

The dominant philosophy governing modern American schooling is progressive education. John Dewey, the father of progressive education, “is famous for his advocacy of contemporary liberalism, if not socialism”, says Henry T. Edmondson in his book John Dewey & the Decline of American Education. “For instance, he argued for greater government involvement in society at large because our enjoyment of equality depends upon such intervention.” To facilitate this “greater government involvement”, Dewey sought “the use of schools to solve social and political problems [while advocating] the depreciation of academics in favor of assorted ‘activities’ ” which he says “now cripple American education”. “ Dewey argues that education…should promote the practical over the abstract”. “Dewey’s thought”, continues Mr. Edmondson, “is characterized by hostility…to all abstract or metaphysical ideas…[including] belief in objective truth and authoritative notions of good and evil…” Mr. Edmondson believes that “Dewey’s real opposition…may arise from his concern that a belief in objective truth is an impediment to the promulgation of his own philosophical ideas.” (emphasis added)

Ayn Rand, in her devastating critique of modern American education, said the Progressive’s “view of a child’s needs is militantly anti-cognitive and anti-conceptual.” (from The Comprachicos, in her book Return of the Primitive, page 49. The “comprachicos” refers to a hideous primitive practice, described by Victor Hugo, whereby small children were put into grotesquely shaped vases and left to grow in them. When, at a later age, the vase is broken, the child emerges in the shape of the vase.)

“[M]ost of today’s educators”, says Ms. Rand, “do not place a child into a vase to adjust his body to its contours. They place him into a…progressive…school to adjust him to society…They are the comprachicos of the mind.”

“John Dewey,” continues Ms. Rand in The Comprachicos, “opposed the teaching of theoretical (i.e., conceptual) knowledge…” Why? Because “ ‘The mere absorbing of facts and truths,’ [Dewey] wrote, ‘ is so exclusively an individual affair that it tends very naturally to pass into selfishness. There is no obvious social motive…or social gain… for the acquirement of mere learning.’

“This much is true:” writes Ms. Rand, “the perception of reality, the learning of facts, the ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, are exclusively individual capacities; the mind is an exclusively individual ‘affair’; there is no collective brain. And intellectual integrity- the refusal to sacrifice one’s mind and knowledge of the truth to any social pressure- is a profoundly and properly selfish attitude.

The goal of modern education is to stunt, stifle and destroy the students’ capacity to develop such an attitude…” (emphasis added)

For decades, increasingly vast sums of money have been poured into the public school system, with the alleged goal of improving the quality of American education. Yet by all accounts, that quality remains mediocre at best, and disastrous in most urban districts. You would think that by now modern educators would be questioning this futile process, not to mention their own ideas. Instead, they seek to stifle any alternative to their government-run education monopoly. From school choice through vouchers or tax credits to homeschooling and even to charter schools run within the public school system, the monopoly establishment can be seen standing in the school door, blocking any even modest attempts at meaningful reforms. Indeed, they seek to expand their reach into the preschools (See my post of 07/29/07). This is because education… in the human, abstract sense of understanding and independent thought… is not their goal. The creation of a compliant, conformist, obedient, “socially adjusted” populace is… to smooth the path to a socialist America by preventing people from making “his own standards on matters of conduct in which society as a whole has important interests."

“Intelligence, says Dewey, is not ‘an individual possession,’ but ‘a social asset.’… [T]he function of the school is not to develop a reality-spirit or an intellectual spirit, but a ‘social spirit.’… Since ‘mind cannot be regarded as an individual, monopolistic possession,’ the function of the school is…to recondition any aspiring ‘monopolist’ of this kind (any intellectually independent student), by training him, in Dewey’s words, ‘to share in the social consciousness,’ i.e., to submit his mind to the demands of the group.’ What America needs now, Dewey concludes, is ‘organized action in behalf of the social interest,’ ‘organized planning’ of the economy- in short, ‘some kind of socialism.’ ” (The Ominous Parallels, by Leonard Peikoff, pages 129-131)

This is the philosophy that dominates American education today. This is why this ruling, as Judge Croskey’s reference to the “interests” of “society as a whole” make plain, is much broader than the issue of homeschooling. And it is about more than financial concerns, grades, or “accountability”. As Mr. Bowden sees it;

“The shockwaves from Justice Croskey's decision will likely impact not just homeschoolers but also the apologists for government education--teachers' unions, educational bureaucrats, and politicians. Their political and financial survival depends on a policy that treats children as, in effect, state property--but only rarely is the undiluted collectivism of that policy trumpeted so publicly.” (emphasis added, remember Hillary’s village)

When people talk about public schools, pro or con, the subject usually focuses on the absurdly bloated cost, or a specific curriculum, or an objectionable film being introduced to the students, or the drop-out rate, or test scores, etc. Fair enough. The most important issue, though, is also the hardest to detect…the governing educational philosophy. This philosophy is designed to “teach” children to “think” only in concrete-bound, immediate, range-of-the-moment terms without reference to the abstract principles vital to the ability to see long-term consequences, to connect and integrate seemingly unrelated issues, to understand the essence of various issues, and to be able to take a broad view…to see the “forest” as well as the trees. The progressives’ purpose is to blind the people to the direction they wish to take the country, by in effect shrinking their field of intellectual vision down to the size of a keyhole. The damage done may be masked by good grades achieved by memorization (as opposed to understanding) or by some non-objective practice such as “grading on a curve”. The progressive educators’ success, of course, varies, with some people “surviving” the schools with their conceptual faculty fully or partially intact. Others regain some ability to think independently after leaving school, while others lose forever any means of getting through life other than through the guidance of their own emotions and the thinking of other people. The extent to which the progressive doctrines penetrates undoubtedly varies from public school district to district. Many if not most people, I believe, are forever intellectually handicapped by the progressives’ methods.

The progressive establishment has preached its doctrines and motives for decades, yet most parents and perhaps teachers remain ignorant of them. Hearing phrases like “social adjustment”, people take it to mean getting along with others, rather than its true “comprachico” meaning of crippling the minds of the young.

Even with the best of intentions, government-run public education must lead to mediocrity. As with any coercive monopoly, entrepreneurial innovators are stifled, particular agendas become entrenched to the exclusion of new ideas, competition is weak or non-existent. But with the public school system dominated by the progressives, who control teacher training and certification, text book content, curriculum, etc., it becomes imperative to fight for an end to the government’s monopoly on education. “From Plato to the present,” writes Leonard Peikoff, “it has been the dream of social planners…to inject a controversial ideology directly into the plastic, unformed minds of children- by means of seizing a country’s educational system and turning it into a vehicle for indoctrination.” (page 130, emphasis added) Judge Croskey's ruling is an indication of the extent to which the “social planners’ ” agenda has become entrenched.

Working within the system to change educational philosophy is certainly possible. But this involves convincing others (i.e., getting permission) to adopt ideas that you believe are right for your children, a violation of the rights of parents and teachers. This process is time consuming and cumbersome, and with the freedom of local school districts steadily eroding under the onslaught of growing state and federal (i.e., comprachico) control over education, it is becoming virtually impossible. Charter schools, government-run but which operate outside of the entrenched bureaucracy and to which concerned parents flock to, offer a certain degree of freedom for teachers and administrators to experiment with new ideas. Various government-funded voucher plans also give parents some limited choice. But only an educational free market can open the door wide to competing theorists and break the hammerlock of the establishment “comprachicos”. And this means phasing out and abolishing the public school system!

As Mr. Bowden asserts, the education issue is one of individual rights…the parents’ individual rights. And it is only on the moral grounds of individual rights that this battle can be fought. Calling for school choice or tax credits while apologetically defending the public school monopoly by, for example, declaring that the funding will not come “out of” the public schools or that your real intention is to “save” them through competition is the wrong approach and is self-defeating. That is because you are accepting the premise that running the schools is a legitimate function of government. It is not. The only way to fight not only the California attack on homeschoolers but compulsory public education in general is to consistently, proudly, and selfishly fight for individual rights.

The battle lines,” as Mr. Bowden concludes, “are clearly drawn.”

“Are parents mere drudges whose social duty is to feed and house their spawn between mandatory indoctrination sessions at government-approved schools? Or are they sovereign individuals whose right to guide their children's development the state may not infringe?

"The answer could determine not only the future of homeschooling but the future of education in America.”