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Jewish World Review Sept. 18, 1998 / 27 Elul, 5758

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell Are we sheep?


Chicago is the latest and largest public school system to impose compulsory "volunteer" work on its students as a requirement for graduation. If the parents stand for this in Chicago, you can expect it to spread all across the country.

There is even less reason to put up with such heavy-handedness from education bureaucrats in Chicago than in most other places, because the school system there is under the control of an elected mayor. If the voters get up in arms, this half-baked power play will have to go. But if the public can be soothed or deflected with pretty words like "community service," you can expect "educators" to push their intrusions into students' lives even further.

Most of the children in the Chicago schools cannot read at the national average. Yet the bureaucrats want them out serving soup to bums or handing out leaflets for the Sierra Club.

What is happening in the Chicago schools is not limited to Chicago or even to the "community service" craze. It is part of a much larger and much older hidden agenda that goes back at least as far as John Dewey.

Professor Dewey, the godfather of "progressive" education, said it all, 70 years ago: "The great task of the school," he said "is to counteract and transform" the beliefs and values that the child brings from "the home and the Church."

That is what the educational trends of the past two generations have been all about, whether the specifics were called "values clarification," "community service," "outcome-based education" or a thousand other pretty names. Once you look behind these glittering labels to the specific things that are said and done, the agenda becomes clear: Undermining the values and beliefs that parents have taught their children and replacing them with politically correct notions from the counter-culture.

"Community service" is not about the community or about service. It is about using children for ideological agendas and using those agendas to insinuate the welfare-state view of the world on impressionable young minds.

This is not about educating children. It is about using children as cannon fodder in ideological battles and as guinea pigs for experiments. Children are also being used by the schools as entering wedges through which to invade the family itself and insinuate and impose the agenda of the anointed on the unwary.

Intruding into family privacy is the first step toward intruding into the family itself. Most parents have no idea how much personal family information is being collected from school children and fed into computer networks.

These networks can integrate medical, psychological, academic and social information from numerous sources to create an electronic dossier on each individual child -- a dossier that can follow that child on through school and out into the adult world. Assurances about the confidentiality of such information are absolutely meaningless.

Even when the forms filled out by children or their families have no name on them, the forms themselves are pre-coded with identifying numbers that tell a computer whose form it is. Assurances that this information will never be given to any "unauthorized" individuals or organizations likewise mean nothing, because anyone they give it to will be called "authorized." It is one of the signs of our dumbed-down education that we are so easily taken in by people who play with words.

The most fundamental objection to the manipulation and indoctrination of children is not to what educators want children to be used for. Children are not being sent to school to be used for anything. The school is supposed to be used to educate them. Above all, the so-called educators should never forget whose children these are.

Parents who want to debate the merits or demerits of various programs using their children as guinea pigs in the schools miss the point entirely. The real question is: "Whose children are these?"

Who takes the consequences if the latest fads in the schools turn out to be wrong?

It is children and their parents -- not the glib and smug talkers. Decisions should be made by those who pay the price when things go wrong, not by those looking for "exciting" things to do, instead of teaching.

9/16/98: Judicial review
9/15/98: Hillary Rodham Crook?
9/14/98: Taking stock
9/11/98: Moment of truth
9/04/98: Random thoughts
8/31/98: The twilight of special prosecutors?
8/26/98: "Doing a good job"
8/24/98: America on trial?
8/19/98: Played for fools
8/17/98: A childish letter
8/11/98: Hiding behind a woman
8/07/98: A flying walrus in Washington?
8/03/98: "Affordability" strikes again
7/31/98: Random thoughts
7/27/98: Faith and mountains
7/24/98: Clinton in Wonderland
7/20/98: Where is black 'leadership' leading?
7/16/98: Do 'minorities' really have it that bad?
7/14/98: Race dialogue: same old stuff
7/10/98: Honest history
7/09/98: Dumb is dangerous
7/02/98: Gun-safety starts with
parental responsibility
6/30/98: When more is less
6/29/98: Are educators above the law?
6/26/98: Random Thoughts
6/24/98: An angry letter
6/22/98: Sixties sentimentalism
6/19/98:Dumbing down anti-trust
6/15/98: A changing of the guard?
6/11/98: Presidential privileges
6/8/98: Fast computers and slow antitrust
6/3/98: Can stalling backfire?
5/29/98: The insulation of the Left
5/25/98: Missing the point in the media
5/22/98: The lessons of Indonesia
5/20/98: Smart but silent
5/18/98: Israel, Clinton and character
5/14/98: Monica Lewinsky's choices
5/11/98: Random thoughts
5/7/98: Media obstruction of justice
5/4/98: Dangerous "safety"
5/1/98: Abolish Adolescence!
4/30/98: The naked truth
4/22/98: Playing fair and square
4/19/98: Bad teachers"
4/15/98: "Clinton in Africa "
4/13/98: "Bundling and unbundling "
4/9/98: "Rising or falling Starr "
4/6/98: "Was Clinton ‘vindicated'? "
3/26/98: "Diasters -- natural and political"
3/24/98: "A pattern of behavior"
3/22/98: Innocent explanations
3/19/98: Kathleen Willey and Anita Hill
3/17/98: Search and destroy
3/12/98: Media Circus versus Justice
3/6/98: Vindication
3/3/98: Cheap Shot Time
2/26/98: The Wrong Filter
2/24/98: Trial by Media
2/20/98: Dancing Around the Realities
2/19/98: A "Do Something" War?
2/12/98: Julian Simon, combatant in a 200-year war
2/6/98: A rush to rhetoric

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.