Category Archives: Marxists

Real Questions, Thoughtful Answers, Part 2: Parental Engagement in Education

A thoughtful friend who is a keen observer of public issues, wrote to me the other day and asked, “Charlie, what just happened in Virginia? Many of my friends are calling it a racist backlash. Other are saying the parents are finally being heard. What do you think?”

As always, the issues of any election are complex and people do not fit into tidy cultural and/or ideological boxes assigned by the pundits. This election does demonstrate that a sentence or two can change history! If Governor McAuliffe had invited frustrated parents to a roundtable discussion and expressed empathy, he might have won the election. Instead, he casually opined that the parents should not tell the school board or teachers what to teach. This was not well-received by many in his own party (even if it was exploited by the other side beyond McAuliffe’s intent).

The conflicts of Virginia are found across the nation as parents are deeply agitated about the content and overall quality of the education their children are receiving. This was amplified by the effects of COVID and parental exposure to heretofore unknown topics. The school boards and administrators of many schools are proving themselves unwilling to listen deeply and engage in dialogue, resorting to narrow rules for feedback and even obscuring controversial content, as well as budget allocations. Parents feel condescended to, belittled, and libeled. Disagreeing with some facets of how racial issues are presented is not racism; however, that is the conclusion of some commentators and teachers’ union leaders. Concerns about sex education and the age-appropriate materials is met with derision by educators, some of whom see no problem with telling students to keep secrets from their families.

A bit of historical and social perspective helps as we aim for a better way forward. Three issues are converging in these conflicts: 1) The public schools are challenged with bringing education and support services to children coming from very difficult homes: 2) Professionals take offense at non-experts telling them what to do; 3) We have a deep cultural divide over the scope of education, from broad, ideological agendas to more narrow subject foci.

In defense of most schools and teachers, education can be challenging, especially in under-resourced communities. Kids come to school with emotional and physical needs that make learning hard on a good day. One kindergarten teacher I spoke with summarized her day this way: “I have 20 students. Only a few have two-parent households and come to school with clean bodies and clothes and ready to learn. I think I taught about 8-10 and kept the others from hurting themselves and others.” Social service case workers affirm this picture as they try to help families and manage the consequences of abuse, addiction, divorce and single-parent homes. Before we berate educators, it is right to pause and realize that we must renew the importance of parents serving their children and creating the conditions for flourishing.

Issues 2 and 3 are part of a century-long tension between parental authority and the responsibility and the influence of experts. While issue #1 unveils the brokenness of many families, educators have long been as the forefront of questioning family authority and influence and desiring that the state be the primary leader in nurturing children. A few years ago, a news commentator, responding to similar parental concerns, blurted out, “Your children do not belong to you…they belong to the collect…I mean the community!” She meant to say, “collective” in good Marxist fashion, but caught herself and said “community.” While we all affirm that community is vital, parents are the vital foundation and any diminishment of their influence (except for abuse) is overreach by the state.

What is the way forward? First, children must be welcome as gifts from God and parents must embrace the unselfishness and sacrifice of nurturing them to maturity. Parents are the first teachers. Issues of faith, morality, and key values rests primarily in the home, secondarily in the faith community, and only thirdly with public institutions. Parents must be heard and their children must not be subject to indoctrination or information beyond their years.

Second, the educational establishment must narrow its focus to education, especially the important knowledge and skills for functioning in a competitive world. Except for enforcing common values of civility, diligence, and mutual respect, teachers must teach their subjects well, properly exposing students to many historical narratives and cultural expressions, while ensuring that basic liberal arts and sciences are central. It is time for a school year to increase in days, not decrease. The USA is way behind much of the developed world in the amount and quality of schooling that our K-12 children receive.

Third, all curricular and co-curricular content must be public and subject to scrutiny. NO secrets, full transparency, and open debate must be the norm. Teachers are trained to help children that might be abusive victims, and we do need a safety net for these situations. It is time to end the secrecy, especially about religion, sexuality, and politics. These realms belong to the family first, then the local community agencies, and then, informationally, to the educational establishment.

Fourth, the educational landscape must be a free market, with public, charter, private, and homeschooling networks cooperating and competing. Right now, more than a million underserved families are waiting for places in charter and private schools because of the poor quality of their local schools. Yes, we need more resources for the poorer neighborhoods – and much more accountability for how they are managed! Costs per pupil are not the only indicator of success.

We can have civil debate and explore better ways for education. Courage, humility, and a willingness to share influence and power are the keys to a better future for our children.

Totalitarians Unite: August 22-23, 1939 and 2021: Will Democracies Capitulate or Find Courage?

The triumph of the Taliban in Afghanistan is a devastating blow to US prestige and the cause of pluralistic liberty everywhere. Afghan history reveals a region that is a collection of tribes and utterly unconquerable by outside forces. From Alexander the Great three centuries before Christ, to a variety of empires, this inhospitable and divided land will not subject herself to colonialism, communism, or western democratization.

US/Allied policy for nearly two decades has wavered between simply rooting out terrorist dens and trying to instill some cohesive and democratic regimes. The former would have been a wise policy, with a strong Allied base and less occupying influence. All this is now water under the bridge. What is instructive are the implications of this current moment for the future of freedom and the historical connections that should inform the responses of nations and peoples that love liberty.

The Taliban are presently supported by a variety of jihadist networks, Islamic states, and totalitarian regimes such as China. Even though China is persecuting Islamic groups in its own nation, she has vested economic interests in ousting western nations and being in position to mine the resources of Afghanistan. What we have is a pragmatic alliance of two totalitarian systems that equally hate the USA and her allies.

The 1939 Connection

On August 22-23, 1939, the world was stunned as the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a 10-year non-aggression pact and trade agreement. These mortal enemies suddenly were friends. Communist parties around the world were told overnight not to disparage Germany. Of course, for both Hitler and Stalin, this was a marriage of momentary convenience, until each had sufficient forces to oppose the other. The secret protocols of the agreement divided Poland between the two empires, gave the Soviets free reign in the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, with Germany also willing to let the USSR wage war against the stubborn Finnish nation. Hitler was given freedom for his eventual invasions of the West.

The significance of the moment for today must be clearly seen, with no illusions: jihadists are happy to unite with other groups that desire the demise of democratic and pluralistic nations. Each totalitarian group thinks they will eventually triumph, while the immediate impact is harm to liberty. Hitler and Stalin hated the democracies and they united for their dictatorial ends. The various forces of jihadism are willing to work with Marxists to undermine the West.

Here are the signs of 1939 in 2022:

  • The irrational hatred and delegitimizing of the State of Israel and the enormous rise in antisemitism around the world. Jewish heritage and a democratic Israel stand in the way of the “long march of Marxism” (Os Guinness) and Jihadist goals, just as both Hitler and Stalin saw the Jews as the impediment to their utopias. 
  • Among many Marxists in the West, there is an unwillingness to criticize the Islamist oppression of minorities and women while projecting Nazi and Taliban identities on conservative political parties in Western democracies. This includes castigating any African-American or Hispanic-Latino conservatives, and refusing to listen to serious empirical and historical arguments that do not fit “the narrative.”
  • Utter disregard for the suffering of Cubans and Venezuelans while keeping an open border with Mexico reflects the political strategies of those aiming for a one-party state in the USA.
  • The refusal of the current administration to see global situations clearly and work in concert with democratic allies.
  • Fueling greater divides among cultural and economic groups.

Our response to this serious moment must not be ideological polarization or personal insults, but affirmation of core principles that cultivate the character and community ethos needed for a more loving and just world. In next week’s essay, I will propose new ways forward that refuse to look to political leaders as messiahs and empowers caring people for participation in community flourishing.

We can learn from history and forge a fresh future without the subversions of totalitarian ideologies and regimes. The choice is ours: fear or faith, capitulation or courage.