Why Johnny Can’t Think Critically

Empty Classroom DesksSchool is now back in session. And our children’s minds are impressionable vessels. And we trust their teachers to take precious care of them.

But can we?

We have learned over the years “Why Johnny Can’t Read,” “Why Johnny Can’t Write,” and “Why Johnny Can’t Count.”

Now with far-right activists like Glen Beck pushing for more Jesus and less Darwin — working to reshape the academic landscape in schools, colleges and universities across the country — we will soon know without having to wonder “Why Johnny Can’t Think Critically.”

When the Texas Board of Education last March approved changes to its school curriculum to emphasize the superiority of American capitalism, creationism over evolution, and Republican political philosophies some of us may have laughed it off as typical and tendentious of Texas.

But when Arizona Governor Jan Brewer two months later in May signed a bill to become effective December 31st, eliminating ethnic studies in Arizona schools to specifically target Latinos in the state, I realized our American classrooms can gradually become a political laboratory of the Tea Party movement’s indoctrination rather than a free marketplace of diverse ideas for critical thinking.

“The epistemological nadir of any university is found in the wacky world of ethnic and gender studies: black studies, Africana studies, Chicano studies, Latino studies, Puerto Rican studies, Middle Eastern studies, Native American studies, women’s studies, gay and lesbian studies, et al.,” wrote columnist Mark Goldblatt in the February 9, 2005, online edition of the conservative magazine National Review. He went further to say:

“The suggestion that ‘studying’ is involved in any of these subjects is laughable. They are quasi-religious advocacy groups whose curricula run the gamut from historical wish fulfillment (the ancient Egyptians were black; the U.S. Constitution was derived from the Iroquois Nation) to political axe grinding (the Israelis are committing genocide against the Palestinians; the U.S. is committing genocide against the people of Cuba)”

The “Glenn Beck scholars” blame the current crisis in education on the erosion of the so-called “traditional American education” in favor of giving unmerited advantage to underrepresented minority groups. But the resistance to shift from the millennia–long opuses of dead white heterosexual men to a multicultural perspective including the scholarship of women, gays and lesbians, and people of color is viewed, by many, as a “dumbing-down” effect of America’s educational curriculum.

The movement to reshape the academic landscape of our schools, colleges and universities from a democratizing force in our society where all ideas and voices are welcome into a tool of conservative indoctrination can be traced back to the 1951 publication of William F. Buckley’s book God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of ‘Academic Freedom. Buckley, once a leading voice in the American conservative movement, decried his alma mater for spreading “socialist” ideas by attacking students’ religious beliefs through their teaching.

But the success of conservative and Tea Party academic agendas winning over the impressionable minds of America’s students simply boils down to funding (Conservative and Tea Party activists spend more and have more money than liberals to promulgate their causes.) and activism on college campuses.

“The campus is an arena for ideological struggle. The crucial prize is the mind of the student. Right-wing conservatives have set out, with enormous funds at their command, to capture the thinking of students, to imbue them with certain ideas: the glories of capitalist “free market” the justness of the nation’s wars, the genius of the American political system, pride in the nation as “superpower” bringing democracy and liberty to other places in the world, “ Howard Zinn stated at the 2006 Speak Out and the Oakland Institute forum “Turning the Tide: Challenging the Right on Campus,” that called for building a broad-based and sustainable movement for progressive values on college campuses.

The Rights has built a nationwide network with a highly organized infrastructure, an extensive network of campus affiliates, and over a dozen conservative student- focus think tanks, spending over 40 million annually. And the Right has worked hard to eliminate student fees funding campus progressive groups.

For example, already successful on some campuses is the defunding of gay organizations. Student fees, they argue, should not be used to support groups with which some students ideologically and religiously disagree with.

Activists on scattered campuses nationwide have a unified communication strategy funded and crafted by the right-wing Collegiate Network, which operates or supports more than 80 student publications. Its anti-gay and anti people-of-color rhetoric reaches over 2.5 million students a year.

Right-wing foundations have strategically leveraged their resources to engineer the rise of a right-wing intelligentsia that can wield enormous influence in national policy debates in their favor. For example, Harvard University received more than $6.2 million from the Olin Foundation between 1993 and 1997 to set up various conservative law, business, and economics and strategic studies programs.


For conservatives and Tea Party activists the buck doesn’t stop at the classroom level or on college campuses but rather their dollars are also spent on producing future generations of neoconservative and right-wing journalists, government employees, and legislators.

A mind is a terribly thing to waste. But for conservatives and Tea Party activists who want to indoctrinate our kids rather than to educate them, a mind is a terrible thing to have.

Rev. Irene Monroe


  1. Indepdent_thinker says

    The inability of students being able to think critically is a product of the Left and the Teacher’s Unions. To think of something critically you must be able to understand the issue and then make a value decision on that information – is this correct or wrong, is this idea moral or immoral… In a society where all points of views are held as valid there can be no critical thinking. The universe of multiculturalism breeds students without the ability to decide right from wrong.

  2. Fred Farkle says

    The Tea Party activists are not “far-right”. They are trying to return our government to its constitutional limits. That is anything but “far-right”.

    Conservative activists outspending the left? Flat-out false. Not even close. The left-wing socialist line dominates the teacher’s unions and the campuses in this country. It’s impossible for you to not be aware of that fact. 90% of college professors identify as liberal. 90% of reporters in the MSM identify as liberal. The numbers are similar in the rest of our government schools too. You must know this already.

    Eliminating ethnic “studies” is a great idea. Mr. Goldblatt is certainly correct as quoted above. Irene, please don’t be bigoted against extremely worthy ideas whose value has stood the test of time, just because they came from white men.

    The free market is the only moral system that allows each individual to make their own choices in life. It’s the government’s job to energetically ensure fairness and integrity of the system, and then stand back out of the way.

    Irene, if you think that more should be done for the poor, the helpless, and the needy in this world, I agree with you. As long as it’s done voluntarily, I’m all for it. The left-wing habit of stealing one groups’ money to give it to another group is wrong, immoral, and evil. If your cause is just and urgent enough, then you should have no problem asking for others to give. Americans are the most generous givers in the world, by a very wide margin. But taking from others at the point of a government gun is tyranny.

    You charge the Tea Partiers and conservatives with indoctrinating instead of educating. That charge is more applicable to the leftists and statists who do not respect the value of the individual person, but obsessively focus on groups and races and classes and tribes. That explains your desire for these ridiculous “studies” of course.

    I’m no fan of the Creationism crowd, and I wish they’d realize there’s no conflict between science and religion. But those people are a small minority. Most Christians I know are easily more open-minded, tolerant, and generous than the faithless, self-centered, close-minded “progressives” you seem to identify with.

    If you can’t tolerate conservatives spending their own money to tell their story and share their values, then that looks like a rejection of intellectual diversity on your part. But I see on my own college campus how dominating, how intolerant and reactionary the leftist mindset is today.

    Don’t force your point of view on anyone, please. Be open to the Tea Partiers, and you might find they agree with many of your goals, as well.

  3. Mad Jayhawk says

    A all-time good example of uncritical thinking is the election of a man to the presidency who had less managerial experience than an assistant manager of a WalMart shoe department. 54% of the country’s electorate bought empty promises and lies without ever examining what were behind them. Those ‘thinkers’ owe my granddaughter an apology. God help us.

  4. TheRumpledOne says

    Ignorance is a “disease”. Education is the cure. Unless you take logic, you do not learn how to think. Do not mistake “how to think” for “what to think”. The 3 “R”s are missing in today’s schools. So is physical education. That is why there are so many fat ass dummies out there.

    Students need to study http://www.takingchargeofmylife.org/ each and every year so they will be mentally healthy instead of co-dependent dysfunctional.

    Students need to study http://simplefinancialfreedom.com/the-alpha-strategy to learn about money and how not to get into debt.

    The root problem and solution lies with the parents not with the government run schools.

      • Mad Jayhawk says

        I agree. I taught geometry a long time ago. I told the students that they would not probably ever use what I was teaching them about the math in geometry. I told them that the logical processes they were learning could be used every day of their lives. I doubt they believed that. Students today aren’t taught to think. You can see it everyday. Facts aren’t important anymore. Logic isn’t important. Feelings are. Look at what our President ran on – hope and change – feelings not facts. No logic required. People lapped it up.

  5. Luke Easter says

    Summer School Vacation (E.T.A.L.B.E.)

    Summer vacation is almost here & surely you will play,
    But do not let these games be the highlight of your day,
    For there is only one way to accomplish all your needs,
    As the most important thing that you can do is, “READ! ”

    Baseball, basketball, football, no ball, whatever you like,
    Ok, swimming, camping, golf, tennis or even flying a kite,
    School’s out for twelve weeks in the fall you will go back,
    So, spend some time in educational areas where you lack.

    The purpose of any school curriculum is to learn and grow,
    You cannot go to the next 1 if the 1 before you don’t know,
    The government has a policy called, “No child left behind,”
    But that’s exactly what will happen if it’s not in your mind.

    I have a friend, who teaches telling his students the very first day,
    We’re beginning a new semester everyone starts out with an “A,”
    But it’s your responsibility throughout the year to keep it that way,
    So, why is it more than half the class at that level will fail to stay?

    To find any answer or when in doubt, where would you look?
    At the movies, on television, a playground, how about books?
    “Excellence Through Advanced Learning by Bible Education,”
    An academic program reinforced by scripture to get it done.

    And the best thing about E.T.A.L.B.E. that makes it so good,
    It can be, “tailor made” to fit the needs of any neighborhood,
    Pronounced, E-TAL-BE, it is a combination noun and verb,
    Because we all know that action speaks louder than words.

    Example of scripture, 1st Kings 10:5, (AB) although not the only one,
    By the excellence of your work others will be breathless & overcome.
    An old saying or adage right for this is known as the, “Rule of Thumb,”
    No one’s perfect therefore always check the work before you’re done.

    If you can find someone to play with you can find a buddy,
    Who also has a desire to grow and they’re willing to study,
    Another student with aspirations to succeed and not to fail,
    For every 1 who graduates,1 will not and 1 ends up in jail.

    You can’t take the test for a promotion and expect to lead,
    When you’re unable to pass because you’re unable to read,
    Or think, “I am a superstar athlete, hey coach take a look,”
    Either you’ll have to understand signs or a game playbook.

    High school diploma? Nope! Now it takes a college degree,
    Gone are the days when, “well, at least I can join the Army,”
    As even technical skills are required, “to be all you can be,”
    Your future is now being framed by your scholastic history.
    In closing, like the Catholic & Jewish communities have God in school,
    Anyone who thinks it won’t work in public education is an idiot & a fool,
    Education should be like going to church, you get ready the night before,
    Without your homework or the bible, you’re walking naked out the door.
    *“The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare,”
    Wanting it but making little or no effort won’t get you there,
    If you do not put into practice the lessons that you’ve heard,
    “May I take your order? ” You better remember these 5 words.

    *(Quote by, Juma Ikanga, a marathon runner from Tanzania)

    The Golden Rule (For Back To School)

    My oh my, is it already that time?
    Books, pencils, erasers, the lunch line,
    Teachers, students, Cleveland Schools,
    Let us not forget, “The Golden Rule.”

    I know there are several so, where do we start?
    Our Father in heaven looks straight to the heart,
    Remember, it is the fiery darts of the evil one,
    That will separate us from the love of His Son.

    No surprise that church is the right place to begin,
    If you don’t believe me just ask Deacon Anderson,
    Whether you’re a senior or starting out in “K,”
    The first lesson learned is the need to be saved.

    On Calvary hill, Jesus our Savior paid the cost,
    Accomplishment means little if your soul is lost,
    Let us recite the confession found in Romans 10: 9,
    If you’ve never done this before, now is the time.

    In order to protect ourselves from Satan’s flames,
    I Thes.5: 17, “Pray without ceasing” in Jesus’ name,
    Talking with Sister Mary and Reverend Bob,
    Then we, “Put On The Full Armor Of GOD.”

    King David went to battle with a sling and 5 stones,
    However, by no means was this warrior ever alone,
    Defeating a foe who looked mighty when standing tall,
    With the power of God every mountain is subject to fall.

    No matter how big the giant you one day might see,
    Whatever circumstance Luke 8: 50 say’s, “only believe,”
    2nd Corinthians 5: 7, “we walk by faith, not by sight,”
    Zech.4: 6, “the Lord’s spirit, not our power or might.”

    Start a new trend this fall in the year of our Lord 2008,
    How about putting a good foot forward never being late,
    Our very best behavior, you should always strive to be,
    Adopt the motto, everyone will only see the Jesus in me.

    Now you have it, long before the bell of your first class,
    Carrying the rule of righteousness, you’ve already passed,
    Beginning on day one every student starts out with an A,
    With “The Golden Rule, ” it’s not hard to keep it that way.


  1. […] Ethnic Studies: Why Johnny Can't Think Critically | The LA Progressive Irene Monroe posted on Thursday, 9 September 2010One Comment. Empty Classroom Desks School is now back in session. And our children's minds are impressionable vessels. And we trust their teachers to take precious care of them. But can we? How about putting a good foot forward never being late, Our very best behavior, you should always strive to be, Adopt the motto, everyone will only see the Jesus in me. Now you have it, long before the bell of your first class, […]

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