Editor’s note: This is the second in a series on education. To see “The High Water Mark,” go here.
The second phase began around 1887. There were those who wanted to experiment with ideas to make changes in the system:
1-The populist movement demanded that the federal government use income taxes to confiscate some of the property of the rich and redistribute it among the lower economic classes
2- Industrial and financial leaders wanted to influence the federal government to forcefully regulate our economy and limit competition at home and abroad.
3- A group of political leaders and economists wanted to try the theories of socialism (which means government ownership and control of production and distribution).
4- Leading intellectuals rejected the spiritual and moral foundation of the American formula and wanted it eliminated from education.
The Founders had pronounced all of these ideas formulas for failure and warned of their destruction to the American system. These 4 ‘experiments’ began to infiltrate every aspect of our society, and serious erosion began.
Five independent studies by leading educators across the country began calling for a return to basics. A report from the National Commission on Excellence in Education declared: “The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.” (US Department of Education, “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform”)
The commission found serious danger signals, such as:
“Over 3 million American adults were functionally illiterate by the simplest tests of everyday reading, writing, and comprehension.
About 13 percent of all 17 year olds in the US could be considered functionally illiterate.
Between 1975 and 1980, remedial math in public 4-year colleges increased by 72 percent .
Business and military leaders were required to spend millions of dollars on costly remedial education and training programs for reading, writing, spelling and computation. “
During the 2nd cycle, the moral and social quality of our culture was in serious decline. White collar crime skyrocketed; divorce became far more common; more babies in gestation were destroyed by abortion than were born alive; promiscuous sexuality among the youth created a wave of unwed mothers and illegitimate children, and the social destabilization which results from these problems; sexual depravity in some of its most bizarre forms began to be widespread; filthy speech was promoted in the name of free speech (4 letter words had become prominent in routine conversations of many); First Amendment rights were used as a license for the sale, distribution and broadcasting of pornography; obscenity was the principal attraction for commercial exploitation in books, magazines, films, and television shows; drugs became a plague on the nation.
A strong drive to completely secularize all phases of public education was begun. The Supreme Court eliminated prayer and Bible reading from the schools. The teaching of morality and spiritual values were eliminated from the schools. Stories with moral lessons (which were so popular in the McGuffey Readers) disappeared from textbooks.
There was much less emphasis on patriotism or any firm commitment to the Constitution or the Founders’ formula for prosperity. Volumes were written about the Founding Fathers which leveled serious accusations against their reputation and character. Researchers are now finding these stories to be myths and of recent invention.
A powerful federal government began to replace local government. The shift of power from the states to the central government involved numerous violations of the Constitution.
There was a shift from a free-market economy (capitalism) to a highly regulated economy (another violation of the Constitution).
During this time – against the Monroe Doctrine – the U.S. entered into entangling alliances and began meddling in the affairs of nearly every nation on earth. Hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ dollars were spent (and the objectives of this meddling were not even met).
The U.S. went from virtually no national debt, to the biggest national debt in history, and more than all other countries’ debts combined
Our soldiers were ordered to fight in undeclared wars such as Korea and Vietnam (prohibited by Article 1 section 8 of the Constitution).
The Supreme Court began issuing mandates and decrees which unlawfully amended the provisions of the Constitution.
The executive branch began issuing thousands of executive orders each year which were enforced by the courts as federal laws (Article 1 section 1 states that Americans were not to be subject to any laws which had not been approved by Congress).
The nation – without a Constitutional amendment- was taken off the gold and silver standard.
There are too many in our society that believe the way things are now is the way they have always been and should always be. But, how is it all working for us? I would say – “not too well.”
With all of these negative experiences emerging from the second cycle, it was inevitable that the vast majority of Americans would begin calling for reform – which will take us into phase 3 – next week.