Tyrants Seek a Dumbed-down Population
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
It should come as no surprise that an aspiring tyrant or dictator would want poorly educated and docile subjects. His goal would be the creation of a “dumbed-down populace.” That some aspiring rulers of fellow man have instituted programs to assure minimal or non-existent challenges to their rule is a certainty.
Consider America’s John Dewey and his campaign to convert the population of his native country into an ill-educated horde unable to combat his scheme to steer the nation into socialism. He actually stated this very goal in a little-known 1898 essay entitled “The Primary Education Fetich.” As the late Samuel L. Blumenfeld wrote in Crimes of the Educators he co-authored with Alex Newman, Dewey’s plan “was to disparage high literacy and teach children to read by a method that would prevent them from achieving the kind of high personal literacy needed to develop their independent intelligence.”
The two authors of Crimes of the Educators cite the claim of the father of Progressive Education that “learning to read in early school-life … seems to me a perversion. It is simply superstition: it is the remnant of an outgrown period of history.” Gathering other socialists anxious to promote their attack on America’s well educated and independent-thinking people, they slowly and carefully set out to impose their new method of teaching the young. Of primary importance was their determination to prevent children from becoming independent thinkers. They accomplished their goal by inserting a new method of learning to read, away from phonics and into a technique marked by whole-word memorization and an inability to understand meanings and concepts that a properly educated student would figure out for himself.
The ultimate goal set by Dewey and his confreres was a system where government controls everything, people most certainly included. While Dewey and his confreres never shied away from admitting where they wanted to take the nation, they persuaded many to believe that their aims would benefit the general population. Crimes of the Educators correctly pointed out that the egalitarianism these socialists sought “is what Lenin gave to the Russians and Castro gave to the Cubans.” Stripped of all its grandiose promises, Dewey’s program assured that there would be “equal poverty for all.”
Where Dewey and his associates advocated a slow “dumbing down” of the populace, other well-known tyrants sought to speed up the process. Adolph Hitler’s faithful secretary, Martin Bormann, spelled out the Nazi plans for the people Hitler’s army had conquered. Of those in Poland, he wrote, “They are especially born for low labor.… It is necessary to keep the standard of life low in Poland and it must not be permitted to rise.” Obviously, if German youth were properly taught reading at an early age, the tyranny of the Third Reich would be more difficult to maintain. Turning his attention to the clergy, Bormann wrote that the Polish priests “will preach what we want them to preach. If any priest acts differently, we shall make short work of him. The task of the priest is to keep the Poles quiet, stupid, and dull-witted.”
Regarding the people of the Slavic nations, Bormann expressed Hitler’s utter contempt for justice when he cited the conquering dictator’s thoughts with “Education is dangerous. It is enough if they can count up to 100 … Every educated person is a future enemy. Religion we leave to them as a means of diversion….”
Achieving control of the many by the few can be arrived at slowly through Dewey-style progressive education. It can be achieved speedily with tanks and guns. Always, the goal is creation of a dumbed-down population. In America, the government-run schools have been forced to introduce failing programs such as Outcome Based Education, Goals 2000, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core Standards. The results continue to produce functional illiterates. Blumenfeld and Newman see all this as deliberate criminal activity. Who can disagree?
Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.