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K-12: Making The World Safe For Totalitarianism

It was a shock. Jay Leno went Jaywalking and revealed the startling fact that a lot of Americans didn’t know much history, geography or anything else. Who won the Civil War? What country is Mount Rushmore located in? People didn’t know and didn’t seem to care.

Many thought that was the high watermark of dumb. What could be dumber than not knowing who won the Civil War?

Jimmy Kimmel has astonished the nation by showing that America is even dumber than we worried it is. He sent a crew out to the streets with a map of the world: outlines only, no names. The challenge was simple: pick a country and name it. Here we entered the abyss. Kimmel found people who looked at the whole map and couldn’t name a country!

Jimmy Kimmel is reputed to be a good liberal but he has done the absolute conservative thing by finding a superior way to dramatize the incompetence of our educational class, people whose most salient skill is keeping children as ignorant as the day they first walked into school. But how do our education officials work this magic?

Americans couldn't become so ignorant unless our Education Establishment laid down the law: don’t teach the traditional subjects.

That has to make us wonder. Why would anybody want to ignore geography? Or history?

I first thought this was merely the tendency of Progressive educators to teach less and less content. Now I think it’s something deeper and more sinister.

We know for sure that the bias against geography and history was there from the very beginning of the Progressive era.

John Dewey spelled it out in his rant known as My Pedagogic Creed (1897):

“I believe that we violate the child's nature… by introducing the child too abruptly to a number of special studies, of reading, writing, geography, etc., out of relation to this social life. I believe, therefore, that the true center of correlation on the school subjects is not science, nor literature, nor history, nor geography, but the child's own social activities.”

Look at what the man wants us to believe. Everything valued in traditional education for thousands of years is irrelevant. So how does he reach this conclusion?

We know that the prejudice against knowledge was relentless, in every year, in every subject. One of the giant steps was the introduction of the concept known as Social Studies in the early years of the 20th century. History, geography, civics, politics, government, current events— these were lumped together and studied as one subject. Was this more efficient? As a matter of fact, yes, if you’re trying to diminish and eradicate these subjects.


What a remarkable coup. The most left-wing of a left-wing profession seized control of history and geography. Once the most important subjects studied in elementary and middle school, history and geography were now kicked to the curb.

We need to understand this. What explains this almost psychotic fear of time and place?

If people don’t know where they are, geographically speaking, or what time it is, historically speaking, what roots or connections do they have? What understanding of cultural cause and effect can they have? They’re floating in a timeless void. They have no idea where they came from or where they’re going.

We need to ask why Progressives are hostile to letting people see the bigger picture and how they fit into it?

It’s fascinating that George Orwell dealt with these questions coming from the other direction, i.e. the future, the totalitarian future depicted in 1984. One of the book’s big preoccupations is manipulation of the past, which is often best accomplished by eliminating it. Orwell understood that the totalitarian mentality wants emptiness. Nihilism is totalitarianism’s evil twin.

If there are no facts, the peasants can never say their leaders are wrong about anything.

In 1984 you look out your window and see a street with traffic going by, nothing beyond that. You don’t see a bigger world, a four-dimensional universe defined by Cartesian coordinates. You don’t see past and future so you can’t discuss them. You can’t have hope. That was one of the most poignant themes in 1984. The main character finds a glass paperweight, a beautiful thing that symbolized the past and hope for the future. That’s why the regime couldn’t allow people to own such items, or even see them. One might think of freedom.

I've often written negatively about John Dewey. I thought he was a fumbling liberal wanting to embrace every blue-sky, probably counterproductive remedy. But Dewey was way past that. Somehow he grasped that his task was to prepare the world for totalitarian societies. How? Start by eliminating history and geography.

The Socialists we see on TV today could still be comfortable with history and geography. But Dewey was a big thinker. He understood that people would cling to these anchors and resist the transition into the world of 1984. He needed to clear the deck and start over.

The Party’s goal in 1984 was to control everything by making both past and future unknowable, indeed, nonexistent. Dewey didn’t seem to care that totalitarianism tends to be irreversible, because you burn so many bridges trying to achieve it.

The Party wanted everything to be untethered and disconnected from everything else. They didn’t worry about repeating the past because it doesn’t exist. The proles don’t think about freedom because the word has no meaning. All who enter the Party’s world logically abandon hope.

Finally, totalitarianism contains no stops on ruthless, aggressive personalities. That is the real killer. You get Stalin, you get Hitler, you get Pol Pot. And you always will.

Killing off history and geography makes us Displaced Persons, spiritually and intellectually. It also makes us likely victims.

Progressive educators hate geography. That’s how you know we should teach much more of it.


Bruce Deitrick Price

by Bruce Deitrick Price

Bruce Deitrick Price's new book is “Saving K-12 -- What happened to our public schools? How do we fix them?” He deconstructs educational theories and methods on