From indoctrinated students walking out of school to fulfill their collective destiny as progressive activists to the annual exhibition of hyper-partisan, neo-Marxist commentary at the Academy Awards, it is obvious that the American citizenry is in desperate need of a good old-fashioned civics lesson.
In 2017, National Association of Scholars (NAS) published a report called Making Citizens: How American Universities Teach Civics about the movement in higher education (though it has now spread to K-12) to transform traditional civics into progressive activism rooted in protest politics and disruption. The report details what the movement is, where it came from, and why Americans who value a free society should be concerned.
Traditional civics education taught students the history of humanity, warts and all. It guided them through the philosophy and wisdom gained through experience and study that leads to freedom and liberty. It showed students how a free society is built and maintained, the common values that must be upheld and passed down to each new generation, as well as the values that can connect human beings to each other despite differences. It taught students about civil society and the institutions that, while not perfect, protect individuals from the mob and form the underlying structure in which we can all operate freely.
Seemingly every day there are news stories that confirm what NAS uncovered in Making Citizens. In an interview with Ginni Thomas, NAS President Peter Wood said, “College produces people who think that the great lesson they’ve learned is that Western civilization is rotten to the core, that America is an experiment in hypocrisy and that the only thing we can do is overturn what our forefathers have handed down to us.”
In his article “We All Live on Campus Now,” Andrew Sullivan discusses the implications of graduates who transition into their real world careers with a “social justice” mindset. He writes, “When elite universities shift their entire worldview away from liberal education as we have long known it toward the imperatives of an identity-based ‘social justice’ movement, the broader culture is in danger of drifting away from liberal democracy as well. If elites believe that the core truth of our society is a system of interlocking and oppressive power structures based around immutable characteristics like race or sex or sexual orientation, then sooner rather than later, this will be reflected in our culture at large.”
In the interview with Ginni Thomas, Peter Wood also noted “because members of the media and Hollywood have attended American colleges… the result of that is that we have an educated public in this country that is now mal-educated.”
This mal-education was on full display at last night’s Oscar’s. This year, Hollywood seemed to focus on a belief that is deeply held by many progressives that American women are still systematically denied recognition and power. Many of the ads during the Oscars were hailed as social justice ads meant to ride the waves of the #metoo and Time’s Up movements.
Twitter’s Oscar ad particularly embraced this point of view. The ad featured a poem being read over images of women looking into the camera, along with the hashtag #HereWeAre. The poem opens with the following, “I heard a woman becomes herself the first time she speaks without permission. Then every word out her mouth a riot.” While Twitter referenced women around the world, and there are areas of the world where women are truly treated as second-class citizens, Hollywood, the media, and Silicon Valley tend to ignore the oppressive and brutal cultures that terrorize women and instead complain about imagined oppressions in the United States.
Not surprisingly, many of the people that push identity politics and the balkanization of our society were the first to criticize Twitter’s attempt to join their cause, calling on Twitter to ban people and speech they find offensive.
Additionally, Frances McDormand referenced something called an “inclusion rider” in her acceptance speech for Best Actress last night. An inclusion rider is language that top Hollywood stars would add to their contracts and “is designed to ensure equitable hiring in supportive roles for women, POC, the LGBT community, & people w/disabilities.”
The American left's position that there is systemic discrimination and oppression against American women leads them to insist that the only acceptable course of action is disruption, protest, and “resistance.” It’s a line of thinking that too many college students internalize and passionately believe. And once they accept this hypothesis as gospel truth, they become open to restrictions on free speech, hiring quotas, and other unconstitutional actions that have no place in a free society.
The evidence that civics education has been transformed into an incubator for progressive activism, at least partially, is all around us. We have high school kids, college students, Oscar winners, and a new cohort of graduates entering the workforce who have wholly embraced what they were taught, that America’s very existence is a stain on the history of humanity, oppression is rampant, and the noblest way to live one’s life is to disrupt this pattern, no matter the cost. The end always justifies the means.
The choice to corrupt civics education was not an accident. It was a deliberate choice. It is going to take a lot of work, and more than one generation to restore civics to its proper role of educating young men and women about the foundations of liberty and a free society.
Image Credit: Public Domain