Blast from the Past: Bill Buckley on the Trojan Horse of American Public Education

All the way back in 1952, before the days of Student Loans and Grants for every ordinary college student at public or private universities, Bill Buckley wrote about the plan to transform all private universities from independent entities into clients of the state.

Why should a man whose most casual asides shake the foundations of the educational world come out and say such unreasoned and unfriendly things about the men and women who support private schools and send their children there?

The answer is that Dr. Conant, along with some powerful educational confreres, is out to fashion society in his own mold . The most influential educators of our timeJohn Dewey, William Kilpatrick, George Counts, Harold Rugg, and the lot—are out to build a New Social Order. And with a realism startling in a group of longhairs, they have set about their job in the most effective fashion . They don’t dissipate their efforts on such frivolities as national elections (though they do this incidentally); they work with far more fundamental social matter, the student.

The chagrined and frustrated parent has very little luck opposing the advances of the New Social Order. “The consumer has no rights in the educational marketplace,” Professor Henry Steele Commager puts it. Translated, this means that a parent has no right to seek reform regardless of the extent to which he disapproves of the net impact of the local school . The educator, in short, has consolidated his position as the exclusive, irresponsible regent of education. L’ecole, he says, c ‘est moi.

There is not enough room, however, for the New Social Order and religion. The New Order is philosophically wedded to the doctrine that the test of truth is its ability to win acceptance by the majority. Economically, the New Order is egalitarian ; politically, it is majoritarian ; emotionally, it is infatuated with the State, which it honors as the dispenser of all good, the unchallengeable and irreproachable steward of every human being.

It clearly won’t do, then, to foster within some schools a respect for an absolute, intractable, unbribable God, a divine Intelligence who is utterly unconcerned with other people ‘s versions of truth and humorlessly inattentive to majority opinion . It won’t do to tolerate a competitor for the allegiance of man . The State prefers a secure monopoly for itself. It is intolerably divisive to have God and the State scrapping for disciples.

Religion, then, must go.

Given the benefit to comprehension imparted by hindsight Buckley’s insight in this classic piece was prescient.

There are an awful lot of other Buckley pieces, both old and new, in the Hillsdale archive.

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2 thoughts on “Blast from the Past: Bill Buckley on the Trojan Horse of American Public Education

  1. Hi Beagle Scout. How are you doing? It’s good to hear from you. Yes, William Buckley shall be remembered dearly in this heart. We were blessed to have him. Have a great day!

  2. Pingback: Rosemary's Thoughts

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