“For decades now, America has been investing ever-growing fortunes into its K-12 education system in exchange for steadily worse results.” —from the book The New School by Glenn Reynolds
Journalist George Packer, who proved his progressive bona fides in a decades-long career writing for leftist publications, has written a lengthy article for The Atlantic regarding his personal discovery of something American conservatives have known for decades: Many of America’s public schools are nothing more than leftist indoctrination factories.
“When the Culture War Comes for the Kids” describes Packer’s personal experience with NYC’s public school system, where the “organized pathologies of adults, including yours — sometimes known as politics — find a way to infect the world of children,” he reveals.
Yet while Packer’s article is devoted to machinations of a school system, he also divulges the almost pathological levels of narcissism, self-aggrandizement, and arrogance of New York’s cultural elites, who lie awake at night wondering if they can get their two-year-old children into preschools costing $30,000 a year, even if it takes “gaming the special needs system” to do so.
Their angst is palpable. “The pressure of meritocracy made us apply to private schools when our son was 2 — not because we wanted him to attend private preschool, but because, in New York City, where we live, getting him into a good public kindergarten later on would be even harder, and if we failed, by that point most of the private-school slots would be filled,” Packer writes.
Packer soon realized meritocracy had nothing to do with it, noting that in recent decades “a broadening of opportunity” had been displaced by “a new class structure in which professionals pass on their money, connections, ambitions, and work ethic to their children, while less educated families fall further behind, with little chance of seeing their children move up.”
“When parents on the fortunate ledge of this chasm gaze down, vertigo stuns them,” he adds. “Far below they see a dim world of processed food, obesity, divorce, addiction, online-education scams, stagnant wages, outsourcing, rising morbidity rates — and they pledge to do whatever they can to keep their children from falling.”
Not exactly. They won’t abandon a progressive ideology that ultimately ensures a societal split into rich and poor, with the latter dismissed as “deplorables” who refuse to embrace the elitist world of intersectionalism and diversity.
A world where social justice trumps meritocracy.
Thus, when the tuition at the preschool in which Packer enrolled his first child passed the $50,000 mark, and soon after his wife gave birth to their second child, he enrolled his kids in public school.
Yet he soon realized his “zoned” public school was a disaster, and he applied to “eight or nine” others. When his wait-listed son finally got a place in one of them Packer was ecstatic, taking additional pride in the fact that the boy was befriending children from different social strata, even as he and his wife wondered whether “we had cheated our son of a better education.”
All remained well until 2014, when a new mood Packer described as “progressive but not hopeful” took hold. “At the heart of the new progressivism was indignation, sometimes rage, about ongoing injustice against groups of Americans who had always been relegated to the outskirts of power and dignity,” he explained.
Packer soon discovered how that new progressivism played out in the classroom. The first thing that troubled him was the backlash against standardized testing, couched as “structurally biased, even racist, because nonwhite students had the lowest scores.” And while he was not on board with the “opt-out” movement, he soon realized it had become “a form of moral absolutism, with little tolerance for dissent,” even as actual meritocracy became the ultimate casualty.
That was only the beginning. Next up, identity politics. He recounted, “When our son was in third or fourth grade, students began to form groups that met to discuss issues based on identity — race, sexuality, disability.”
Then, the transgender agenda. Shortly after a second grade girl insisted she was a boy “almost every bathroom” in the school became gender-neutral. “Where signs had once said boys and girls, they now said students,” Packer reveals.
All of it was done without parental notification. “Parents only heard about it when children started arriving home desperate to get to the bathroom after holding it in all day,” Packer writes. “Girls told their parents mortifying stories of having a boy kick open their stall door. Boys described being afraid to use the urinals.”
Moving on 2016, two things dominated life in the Packer household: the musical “Hamilton” and the election of Donald Trump. Packer describes the former as a balm for the latter, as Packer claims both of his children were wholly traumatized by Trump’s victory.
“We owed our children a thousand apologies. The future looked awful, and somehow we expected them to fix it. Did they really have to face this while they were still in elementary school?” Packer asks.
Not unless the adults make their political biases transparent.
Which is exactly what the school system did to Packer’s son and his fellow students. “He learned about the genocide of Native Americans and slavery,” Packer writes. “But he was never taught about the founding of the republic. He didn’t learn that conflicting values and practical compromises are the lifeblood of self-government.”
It gets worse. “At the year-end share, the fifth graders presented dioramas on all the hard issues of the moment — sexual harassment, LGBTQ rights, gun violence,” Packer reveals. “Our son made a plastic-bag factory whose smokestack spouted endangered animals. Compared with previous years, the writing was minimal and the students, when questioned, had little to say. They hadn’t been encouraged to research their topics, make intellectual discoveries, answer potential counterarguments. The dioramas consisted of cardboard, clay, and slogans.”
Packers first child eventually entered middle school and it didn’t take Packer long to become disenchanted, as Democrat Mayor Bill de Blasio and his equally radical School Chancellor Richard Carranza were working furiously to eradicate the “racist” concept of meritocracy, and Packer soon realized the $23 million Carranza spent on anti-bias training was a sham. “One training slide was titled ‘White Supremacy Culture.’ It included ‘Perfectionism,’ ‘Individualism,’ ‘Objectivity,’ and ‘Worship of the Written Word’ among the white-supremacist values that need to be disrupted,” Packer notes.
Ultimately, however, Packer remains myopic. “That pragmatic genius for which Americans used to be known and admired, which included a talent for educating our young — how did it desert us?”
“Progressives” abolished it, Mr. Packer. They replaced education with indoctrination and made academia a place where social justice and woke history flourishes, and reverse racism is celebrated. A place where content of one’s character is less important than the color of one’s skin, or one’s sexual or gender preference.
It is a world you, Mr. Packer, and your fellow elitists have championed for decades, all the “chasms” and “vertigo” that separate the privileged elitists from ordinary Americans fully intended. It’s what being “woke” — as in fully contemptuous of this nation’s customs, culture, traditions, and exceptionalism — is all about.