In the film “Apollo 13,” after the explosion has crippled the spacecraft and everyone at NASA has been gotten out of bed, all the engineers are gathered together in a room trying to calculate the hours of life support remaining and debating which systems have priority. Finally, a soft-spoken engineer explains that without electrical power nothing else matters—“power is everything.”
This engineer was a real person, named John Aaron. He held a bachelor’s degree in physics from Southwestern Oklahoma State University and was 27 at the time of Apollo 13. Half a year earlier, his quick thinking had saved Apollo 12 from a mission abort when it was hit by lightning a few seconds after blastoff, and the phrase “steely-eyed missile man” was coined to describe him.
I only bring this up because America is having its own Apollo 13 moment. An election stolen from a sitting president, the cowardice of Congress, the moral bankruptcy of the judiciary, corruption of federal agencies, violent mobs in our cities, and compulsory masks on every face. We are trying to sort out what to address, and how. How do we save our freedom? We seem to have more problems than we can possibly handle.
There are a lot of useful suggestions out there—reforms to the judiciary, term limits for Congress, election law reform, and anti-fraud measures. These are important, vital things. They are the oxygen, the fuel, the telemetry, and guidance computers. But knowledge is power.
Education Is Everything
We have gone on for years imagining that, if we elect the right politicians and vote for the right policies, the nation will be safe even if we hand over the education of our children to the Marxists at the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. Now we’re in trouble. And it won’t matter what the tax laws are or how health insurance is structured or who is running the military if we continue to neglect the education of our children: Education is everything.
There is no need to catalog the moral and intellectual atrocities that our schools are perpetrating. Things have been bad for at least a generation now, and are getting worse. Instances of left-wing indoctrination are well-documented elsewhere, and most readers have first-hand encounters, or have watched the transformation of their own children and their neighbor’s children as they are taught to hate America, hate and fear the Bible, and project that hate onto the grand and obscure concept of social injustice which somehow dominates the world and everyone in it. The question is, what do we do about it?
My grade and high school education, apart from being relentlessly politicized, was a childish sham. Our senior-year project in English was not an academic paper, but a patchwork quilt—by which I mean a literal patchwork quilt: Each student was to contribute a drawing of what some story meant to him, as well as a poem written out on a square of paper, and we would assemble this big English-class quilt as though we were in second grade and not just about to go off to college.
My teacher decided to speak to me in the hallway after I recited my own contribution, a limerick wondering why the novels we read were so bad. I took the opportunity to ask her, in private, if she didn’t think my criticism of a particular novel’s quality was valid. She made a startling admission: We would not have read this novel, she said, if selections were based solely on literary criteria. In other words, it was a political choice. (The subject of the novel was, of course, slavery and the general evil of white people.)
This is the poison-brew of contemporary education: Mindless infantile projects floating in an unending stream of political sewage. It is designed to produce intellectual cripples, incapable of independent thought, knowing nothing of history, art, or literature and practically nothing of math or science. A young and supple brain is ripe for learning as it never will be again. To burn up those early years, to destroy the childhood of the mind, is the worst crime of all. It is among the greatest evils happening in America today, with the most destructive and far-reaching consequences, and the most helpless victims.
Education vs. Anti-Education
In early grade school, I was already aware of the tremendous waste of time, if not of the political subterfuge. I begged my parents to homeschool me. I even wrote persuasive essays on the subject. My mother was unswayed, believing that only a regular school environment could teach me how to interact socially and be a normal kid. She was right, as far as that argument went.
Luckily enough my parents also provided an alternative education in parallel: Starting very young, my brother and I would listen to my father reading excerpts from history and literature and the lives of great men—Washington and Churchill, Rush Rhees on Wittgenstein, Morrison on the Battle of Midway, Vasari on Michelangelo, and so on. My father didn’t heap great burdens of reading on us—just a few pages here, a fascinating anecdote or two there: The perfect circle that Giotto drew to impress the Pope; Lincoln going to the corner outside the White House to buy his morning newspaper. It was enough to engage the mind, to paint vivid pictures there, and in many cases to create a lasting impression.
The lessons I learned from these readings on strength of character, fortitude, courage, beauty, and intellectual curiosity are foundation-stones of my whole personality. I call on them daily, and think of individual examples often.
When I started to read on my own, my parents had a truly brilliant inspiration: $35 to read For Whom the Bell Tolls if I could discuss it intelligently afterward; $15 for Heart of Darkness; and so on. I was to read each book slowly and carefully. It may seem this would soon run into serious money. It certainly seemed like that to me as a child, and I read as much as I could. But then a very peculiar thing happened. After a year or two of this Pavlovian conditioning, I found that I had learned to love reading for its own sake. I still do.
I spent my first paycheck on a book.
That is a concrete example of education to counter the school system’s anti-education. The reading list my parents gave me was extremely varied and eclectic. I didn’t need vocabulary lists—my grip on language deepened inevitably as I went along. My father would provide background on the author or the era, but he let the books speak for themselves rather than trying to squeeze me into drawing certain conclusions.
Give Children a Real Education
As I considered what I would do with my own kids, were I ever to have any, I remained troubled by my mother’s objection to an education that lacked friends and human interaction. But two years ago, I met in New York a couple who were part of another brilliant project, and who offered a solution to the problem of socializing.
These parents homeschooled their children, but not in isolation from their peers. They had teamed up with five or six other families. Each family was responsible for a subject—English, math, history, French, and so on. Each day the children would gather at the house of one of the families to spend the day under their tutelage, learning that particular subject. The results were extraordinary. And the children were very lucky to have parents who were willing to invest so much in them. I’m sure many of us today can’t help but wonder what we might have achieved if we could have spent the whole day learning, instead of having been forced to spend it in school.
But we can apply that lesson to today’s children: It is a mistake to think our kids will learn to love America or to live by the Golden Rule or even to have basic respect for freedom of speech in today’s schools. The teachers whom we have been commanded to applaud as heroic frontline workers are, in too many cases, the arch-destroyers of the future generation. More dangerous than actual agents of an enemy power, they do their damage in earnest ignorance and delight in the results. And we mindlessly deliver up our children—the most precious thing in this world—to their devouring maws.
But you can stop that trend today, this moment. Schools this past year have finally managed to combine teaching nothing with simultaneously keeping children in isolation. Never has there been a better time to dispense with the charade of progressive schooling. Team up with other families. Take your children out of the hands of professional teachers, and give them a real education. Teach them to love reading. Save America.