Tony D. Senatore
"I'm the spokesman for the OK Boomer generation

Education or Indoctrination? The State of American Education

After a 28-year career in the music business, I decided to return to college in 2008 to finish the degree that I abandoned in 1980. I had grown tired and disillusioned of the industry that Hunter S. Thompson asserted was “ a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs.” As I illustrated in a TEDx Talk where I attempted to define the meaning of education, my pursuit of fame had left me cold and disappointed. I planned to use education and a college classroom to reinvent myself as a teacher rather than music and a stage. Throughout my music career, young men and women have asked me for advice regarding a career in the music industry. While I did not want to destroy their hopes, I have seen the business deteriorate where it is almost impossible to make a living as a musician. As a result, I felt a sense of duty that I must be honest with anyone hoping to survive as a musician and in any creative or artistic endeavor.

Similarly, when I received my degree at Columbia University in 2017 and was ready to change the world one student at a time, I found myself in the same position as the young musicians who had asked for my advice. I have several friends who have been teachers their entire lives. They told me that changes to the education system, such as the federally funded PARCC standardized test, have transformed the way students learn, and not in a good way. As a result, they have had to shift gears and spend excessive time preparing students for the idiosyncrasies of the test that they could spend on actual classroom instruction.

The inclusion of  Frankfurt School-style ideologies has always been a part of higher education. Still, in America, they have become a part of the lesson plans of elementary school students. As a result, my educator friends decided on early retirement rather than to teach ideologies that they regarded as insidious. Critical race theory is one example. CRT asserts that race is a social construct weaponized by dominant groups (whites) to oppress others (blacks). Some argue that parents like Andrew Gutmann and Dr. Elana Fishbein, who claim that radical teachers indoctrinate malleable young students, are misinformed. Left-leaning pundits and scholars voice their concerns that these new educational practices, as taught to grades K through 12, are not divisive and argue that modern-day lesson plans do not fall under critical race theory. In reality, progressives have mastered using words and ideologies in a way that obfuscates their true intentions. Thus, they have created a watered-down version of CRT that they refer to under the umbrella of anti-racism, which is better suited for young and impressionable minds. Gender studies and gender identity are other critical theory areas taught to elementary school students. One of my friends is a lunch aid in the public school in New Jersey, where I received my education. She pointed out that the first graders that she monitored were barely capable of tying their shoes or buttering their bagels. She was shocked and repulsed when I showed her a proposed lesson plan designed for them and some sample dialogue intended for use by first-grade teachers: 

“Gender identity is that feeling of knowing your gender.” “You might feel like you are a boy; you might feel like you are a girl.” “You might feel like you’re a boy even if you have body parts that some people might tell you are girl parts. You might feel like you’re a girl even if you have body parts that some people might tell you are boy parts. And you might not feel like you’re a boy or a girl, but you’re a little bit of both. No matter how you feel, you’re perfectly normal!”

What is most interesting to note about this dialog is that there is no mention of the boys and girls that are perfectly comfortable in their skin. Thus, individuals whose gender identity aligns with traditional ideals inevitably question their beliefs or feel abnormal.

Through her organization No Left Turn, Dr. Fishbein argues that ideas like diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice, white privilege, and systemic racism are the tools that radicals use to groom K-12 grade students into future communists. Moreover, she asserts that people of color have been successful in all avenues of society, as Supreme Court justices, legislators, mayors, captains of industry, best selling authors, and school superintendents, and that Martin Luther King would be “rolling over in his grave” in light of current events. She seems to understand that her detractors are coming from a Marxist perspective but fails to realize precisely why her words fall upon deaf ears with so many. A true Marxist is not impressed by the material success of notable black Americans in society or the grand accomplishments or opinions of anyone, regardless of their race, creed, gender, or color, under a capitalist system. As Karl Marx argued in the Manifesto of the Communist Party:

“Please do not argue with us by using your bourgeois notions of liberty, culture, right, etc., as the standards by which to judge the abolition of bourgeois property. Your ideas are themselves the outcome of bourgeois methods of production and of bourgeois property relations; just as your “right” is only the will of your class writ large as law- a will whose trends are determined by the material conditions under which your class lives. Your interests lead you to think that your methods of production and your property relations are eternal laws of nature and reason instead of being transient outcomes of the course of production. Abolition of the family! Even the extreme radicals hold up their hands in horror when they speak of this shameful communist proposal. On what is the family, the bourgeois family based on today? On capital, on private gain. In its fully developed form, it exists only for the bourgeoisie. It has two complements: one of these is the destruction of the family life of proletarians, and the other is public prostitution. Do you reproach us for wanting to stop the exploitation of children by their parents? We plead guilty to the charge. Our determination to replace domestic education by social implies (you declare) a disregard of the most sacred of relationships. But, the education you provide, is it not socially determined? Is it not determined by the social conditions within whose framework you educate? Is it not determined directly or indirectly by society, acting through the schools, etc.? The influence of society upon education was not an original discovery of communists. They merely propose to change the character of the process by withdrawing education from the influence of the ruling class. Bourgeois phrasemaking about the family and education, about the intimate relations between parents and children, becomes more and more nauseating in proportion as the development of large scale industry severs all family ties of proletarians, and in proportion as proletarian children are transformed into mere articles of commerce and instruments of labor.”

Earlier, I used the phrase “true Marxist” to distinguish between individuals seeking the American equivalent of the Bolshevik Revolution and those who are merely aspiring capitalists just hoping to cozy up to corporate interests. I believe that what is happening in America is the latter. In my view, the politics of anti-racism is merely a cover for capitalism and the status quo. I agree with political scientist Adolph Reed’s assertion that those that peddle it are vacuous opportunists; “little more than hustlers, blending bombast, cliches, psychobabble, and lame guilt-tripping in service of the ‘pay me’ principle.” On the other hand, ideas like CRT and gender identity, which incidentally are more Gramscian than they are Marxian, are hazardous to our way of life in America. I would argue that the majority of educators that base their lesson plans around these ideas could not differentiate between Karl Marx and Groucho Marx. They have this notion of a global world, which is the veritable manifestation of John Lennon’s Imagine, hands clenched in brotherly love as we all sing along. Although well-intentioned, I believe that this scenario is incredibly naïve, and current world events should make this evident. When I think of the purveyors of this pipe dream, the term useful idiots comes to mind. None of them are changing the system that they deem so reprehensible. On the contrary, they are merely trying to become successful entrepreneurs in the system they claim to detest while pretending to be champions of social justice.

While I have put my teaching aspirations on hold, I have not given up on my dreams of teaching in the manner I see fit. I have been looking into charter schools, which might be a better fit. In this later stage of my life, education has given me everything, and I feel that I must give education everything in return. I am grateful for the efforts of Elana Fishbein, Andrew Gutmann, and the countless Americans who are standing up to their local school boards all across America. Their efforts have helped prevent the hijacking of our education system from individuals who genuinely despise our great nation and are hoping for its destruction.

About the Author
I was a sociology major at Columbia University, where i received my B.A in 2017, at age 55. My opinion pieces have appeared in the Columbia Spectator, the Tab at Columbia University, and Merion West.
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