A crisis from early-childhood-education to post-grad
If there is anything that left-liberals in Canada clearly and unequivocally understand today, it is that education – from daycare to university – really is the key to society and the future. Hence, they have exerted enormous efforts to make education, in some respects at least, reflective of a broadly left-liberal ethos, and to make teaching one of the most financially well-rewarded and well-looked up to professions in Canada.
In Canada, education is, formally speaking, under the jurisdiction of the provinces. Hence, there are in theory some chances that a more right-leaning provincial government could effect at least some changes in a province’s education system. However, when Progressive Conservative premier Mike Harris attempted to introduce considerable changes in the education system in Ontario, he faced a ferocious revolt from teachers’ unions, unprecedented in Ontario history. The media typically used phrases along the lines of “Mike Harris’ pogroms against Ontario’s teachers” to describe the situation.
In regard to educational matters, one could begin by looking briefly at daycare centres and kindergartens. In many such places, so-called “war toys” are banned, and “sexist role-models” discouraged. For example, it is considered a scandal if women are shown in so-called traditional roles and occupations in a picture or reading book.
The child then proceeds to grade school, where virtually all of the supplied textbooks and books are designed according to ultra-politically-correct criteria. Such studies as “minority awareness”, “global awareness,” and the beginnings of the ubiquitous “sex-education” are introduced almost from the first grade.
In high school, the curriculum is designed away from learning in the areas of real history or culture. As far as the socially impacting type of studies, there is usually a so-called “social issues” focus. History and culture are typically conceived in terms of women’s, labour’s, and minorities’ struggles to free themselves from a never-ending cycle of oppression which has barely abated today. There are also the so-called “peace” and “development” studies. One can notice that ideological feminists and multifarious minority spokespeople are regularly brought into the classrooms, in support of that part of the curriculum where such matters are given considerable prominence. Indeed, multifarious types of “minority consciousness” are greatly encouraged, creating a climate where a ready excuse is always available for minorities, for any personal scholastic failures. It may also be remembered that in the 1980s, Soviet peace delegations were visiting Ontario classrooms, “to give their side of the story.” One does not recall U.S. Republican politicians ever being offered such invitations.
The multifarious, aforementioned trends in public education are so massive and all pervasive, especially in large urban settings in Canada, that it is virtually impossible for most people to perceive them as ideological. In any case, it is all being done ostensibly for the sake of noble ideals like progress, humanity, enlightenment, and so forth.
Because of left-liberalism’s long war against the so-called “authoritarian personality,” attempts to assert real moral authority, to transmit higher ethical principles, or to invoke a sense of social and generational continuity to new generations – are seen with suspicion. Such endeavours as “values clarification” and sex-education are rather miserable surrogates for the lack of meaningful ethical instruction.
Without a doubt, the late modern classroom, especially in large cities like Toronto, is fraying just like the society around it.
Without the sense of a shared higher meaning; of real ethics; of a common history, religion, and tradition; and of something to really strive and live for, the existence of the individual in a socially fraying society tends to become meaningless. There tend to emerge the social problems which characterize a shallow, materially obsessed society – such as, most notably, illicit drug abuse, compulsive promiscuity, and violence.
The left-liberal “therapeutic,” so-called “helping” establishment is, it could be argued, itself is based on incomplete and reductive views of human nature, and therefore it is incapable of soothing the authentic rage of persons whose life has been stripped of all real meaning, in the modern wasteland.
The sort of education given today can, in most cases, offer no healthy counter-balance to the overwhelmingly pervasive influences of the film, television, rock and rap music, and videogame subcultures — which are probably the strongest and most socially conditioning of the media. The typical modern public high school is probably one of the worst social milieus for any decent and reflective person (whatever their nominal ideology) to be in. Any positive results achieved are usually in spite of, not because of, the education system. There are nevertheless those persons in the education system today who cling to some remnants of tradition, or some normative ethics – which can be of varying nominal derivation.
It could be argued that the modern education system produces, broadly-speaking, four main types of people – those who are destined to be the “Inner Party cadres” of the system (and usually come themselves from wealthy families); the “gullible followers” of the system who uphold the tenets of the system, but derive no tangible benefits from it; the nihilists, some of whom tend towards a semi-sociopathic outlook; and the minority so obsessed with their minority identity that they can barely reasonably function. The third group typically uphold the tenets of “political correctness” only in so far as they think they can get some tangible benefits from them.
As for what has today been dubbed the “multiversity,” it bears little resemblance to the Academy, as it has been more traditionally conceived (except in the outward, purely formal sense). All the socially impacting disciplines in Canada (such as, especially, sociology, psychology, anthropology, political science, history, and philosophy) are mostly under the dominance of left-liberal and far-left outlooks. The Ph.D. process is so onerous, and non-leftist professors in the social sciences and humanities so few, that the Academy has every chance of remaining a hermetically sealed “politically correct” environment, even if there happened to occur major social change all around it. Student politics and student journalism are usually dominated by a left-wing clique who systematically excludes other viewpoints from the “arena.” The tightness of the control goes far beyond anything found in the society at large.
For all its limitations in terms of being grounded purely in Enlightenment thinking, Allan Bloom’s seminal The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students (1987), also had much relevance to Canada. Indeed, such a debate about the Academy in Canada has arguably barely yet begun. Canada’s falling away from traditionalism is all the more painful because it could be argued that it once had a more traditional, distinctive culture than America’s, in which the established Canadian universities played a major role.
Towards ‘normative’ totalitarianism
In managerial theory, it is often argued that there are three main methods of getting a person to do something: coercive, utilitarian, and normative. These distinctions are useful in describing some of the principal differences between, for example, the former Soviet system (operating mostly through coercion), and the managerial-therapeutic regime. It is quite possible for a totalitarianism based almost entirely on normative controls to exist. That is, if people are conditioned in one given direction by mass media and mass education, they follow the ruling ideology apparently of their own free will. Given the enormous component of left-liberalism in the mass media and mass education, it could be argued that traditionalists and conservatives are simply being edited out of current-day social reality.
One of the most cherished educational policies of left-liberals are programs of “sensitization” like “Anti-Racist Education.” One should really put the name of programs like these in quotation marks, as they usually move far beyond “teaching people to be nice to others” as if often claimed. One could suppose that – in the way it is usually administered to students today – it is mostly a vehicle for wracking white people with guilt, and for pejoritizing traditionalism and conservatism.
It is important to remember, nevertheless, that politeness is not political correctness. It could be argued that people can usually be more naturally polite to each other, only if they are secure in their respective identities. Yet the whole emphasis of measures like “Anti-Racist Education” would appear to be an attempt to render nearly all of Western civilization to appear as utterly hideous to so-called “decent” human sensibilities. It could be seen as an attempt to morally terrorize the so-called majority into “being nice” to minorities. It seems to have been forgotten that one can probably be more naturally polite to people without hewing to the dogmas of political correctness.
And it is in such “sensitivity-training” measures that the dogmatic aspects of left-liberalism may be seen very clearly. It is an area where left-liberalism brooks no opposition.
One may have been quite shocked to find these words being spoken by Bernard Shapiro (the deputy minister of education, and ostensibly a “neutral professional civil servant”) in regards to Ontario’s proposed Anti-Racist Education measures, in 1987: “My own sense is that the time to have a mandatory policy, the time to wield the stick, is when you have three or four recalcitrants out there that you want to whip into shape… Resocialization takes time… The point is to produce the result, not to produce the symbol of the result… The easiest thing to do is to make a policy mandatory and to announce that the problem has been solved.” (The Toronto Star, September 12, 1987, p. A3)
If a conservative had used such forceful language in regard to a different issue, he probably would have been branded as a Nazi and hounded from office. Shapiro had all the subtlety of Orwell’s O’Brien. It looks like he is speaking from the position of an absolute ruler, confident that no one will raise a hand against him, or question his statements. The totalitarian edge of modern left-liberalism is clearly seen here. Of course, it is claimed that it is being done on behalf of such “high-minded,” “decent” values, that a bit of coercion is called for.
George Orwell, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, describes the origins of the ruling class of that society: “The new aristocracy was made up, for the most part, of bureaucrats, scientists, technicians, trade-union organizers, publicity experts, sociologists, teachers, journalists, and professional politicians.”
The near exact correspondence to the social origins of what might be called today’s “New Class” or “Information Class” — of which the media is the most prominent portion — is uncanny.
In terms of the hysterical left-wing responses to the slightest, supposed “move to the right,” in an already left-liberal dominated society, the following passage from Orwell is instructive, highlighting the drive to totality generated by a regnant ideology: “The heretic, the enemy of society, will always be there, so that he can be defeated and humiliated over and over again… The more the Party is powerful, the less it will be tolerant: the weaker the opposition, the tighter the despotism. Goldstein and his heresies will live for ever. Every day, at every moment, they will be defeated, discredited, ridiculed, spat upon — and yet they will always survive.”
Hence the political conflict in late modern societies – despite their pretence of liberal democracy — may move in the direction of ever more dystopic and apocalyptic outcomes.
To the typical left-liberal or left-winger, to be on the social peripheries means to be truly “social”; to be in the social mainstream, and consciously supportive of its ideas and outlooks, is to be dangerously “anti-social.” This “inside-out” sort of situation as a major feature of the society, creates a very intractable social crisis. Indeed, it might be argued that a society ruled by liberalism (in the contemporary sense of the term) cannot long endure — either liberalism destroys everything ordered in that society, or the core of the society somehow re-asserts itself, and successfully challenges the environment of ever increasing social fragmentation and attenuation.
Mark Wegierski is a Toronto-based writer and historical researcher. An earlier version of this article has appeared in Enter Stage Right.