The Biggest Lobby in Washington (chapter 9)
In 1952, William G. Carr succeeded Willard Givens as executive secretary of the NEA. Carr had gotten his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. at Stanford University, the domain of godfather Cubberly. In 1924-25, at the age of 23, Carr taught at a junior high school which immediately qualified him to become a professor of education at Pacific University, Forest Grove, Oregon, in 1926-27. While working for his Ph.D he served as director of research for the California Teachers Association, and on receiving his Ph.D. in 1929 became assistant director of research at NEA headquarters in Washington. He then became director of research (1931-40), associate secretary (1940-52), and finally executive secretary.
Carr was also instrumental in creating UNESCO and the World Confederation of Organizations for the Teaching Profession (WCOTP), of which he served as secretary-general from 1946 to 1970. He was dedicated to the idea of world government.
Carr's tenure at NEA, which lasted until 1967, was a period of transition. He became executive secretary in the same year that Eisenhower became President and John Dewey died at age 92. The vast curriculum and philosophical changes advocated by the educational mafia were in place and most of the leading godfathers were either dead or in retirement. Their teachings were being carried forward by their disciples, some of whom took things to further extremes, particularly in the field of behavioral psychology.
In 1914 Thorndike had said, "the Progressives in psychology think of a man's mind as the organized system of connections or bonds or associations whereby he responds or reacts by this or that thought or feeling or act to each of the millions of situations or circumstances or events that befall him... From this point of view educational achievement consists, not in strengthening mystical general powers of the mind, but in establishing connections, binding appropriate responses to life's situations, 'training the pupil to behavior' ('behavior' being the name we use for 'every possible sort of reaction on the circumstances into which he may find himself brought'), building up a hierarchy of habits, strengthening and weakening bonds whereby one thing leads to another in a man's life."
Following Thorndike came John B. Watson, who is often referred to as the true father of behaviorism. Watson had gotten his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1903 under James R. Angell and John Dewey. He decided to dispense with the human mind altogether. Watson wrote in 1924:
Behaviorism ... holds that the subject matter of human psychology is the behavior of the human being. Behaviorism claims that consciousness is neither a definite nor a usable concept. The behaviorist ... holds, further, that belief in the existence of consciousness goes back to the ancient days of superstition and magic.... The great mass of people even today has not yet progressed very far away from savagery - it wants to believe in magic.... Almost every era has its new magic, black or white, and its new magician. Moses had his magic: he smote the rock and water gushed out. Christ had his magic: he turned water into wine and raised the dead to life....By 1952, behavioral psychology had not only become the scientific foundation of American pedagogy, but it had changed our textbooks, revised the classroom curriculum, and redesigned the American school building. If you detect something mindless about American education, it's because the mind has been taken out of it. Only visible behavior counts. The NEA not only accepted all of this but was one of the main instruments for diffusing this educational philosophy among teachers.
But the public was beginning to wake up. An article in the January 1955 issue of the NEA Journal by Teachers College historian Lawrence Cremin drew special attention to the problem. He wrote:
For two years, beginning with Dean Harold Benjamin's "Report on the Enemy" to the NEA in 1950, ihe profession had been made increasingly aware of persistent and acrimonious attacks on the public schools. Communities from Englewood, New Jersey, to Pasadena, California, had become the scenes of sharp encounters over educational policy.The "enemy" were a growing number of "new organized anti-public school groups suggesting insidious relationships between public education and communism, socialism, subversion, delinquency, atheism, and ignorance."
Apparently the public knew that something had gone wrong in public education but simply did not realize the extent of the problem they were dealing with. There were lots of complaints that children weren't learning to read. In fact, American children by the thousands were suddenly deemed to be afflicted with a newly discovered condition called "dyslexia." All of which prompted Rudolf Flesch to write a book called Why Johnny Can't Read, which told a startled public:
The teaching of reading - all over the United States, in all the schools, in all the textbooks - is totally wrong and flies in the face of all logic and common sense.Flesch then went on to explain how beginning reading instruction in American schools had been radically changed by the professors of education from the traditional alphabetic phonics method to a new whole-word, or hieroglyphic method. What astonished so many parents was how thoroughly the traditional method had been replaced by the new method. It indicated the power the Progressives had to make such drastic fundamental changes in every classroom in the nation without public awareness that it was even happening. Flesch explained how it was done:
It's a foolproof system all right. Every grade-school teacher in the country has to go to a teacher's college or school of education; every teachers' college gives at least one course on how to teach reading; every course on how to teach reading is based on a textbook; every one of those textbooks is written by one of the high priests of the word method. In the old days it was impossible to keep a good teacher from following her own common sense and practical knowledge; today the phonetic system of teaching reading is kept out of our schools as effectively as if we had a dictatorship with an all-powerful Ministry of Education.In the September 1955 issue of the NEA Journal, Arthur I. Gates, Thorndike's disciple at Teachers College, blasted Flesch in an article with the headline, "Why Mr. Flesch Is Wrong." He wrote:
Close reading of Mr. Flesch's book, in fact, makes it apparent that his aim is to discredit American education in general. And no attack has yet appeared which is more flagrant in its misrepresentation of the facts.Gates had another reason for wanting to discredit Flesch. Aside from inheriting Thorndike's prestigious post at Columbia, he was the editor of one of the most widely used basal reading programs in the country published by Macmillan. A lot of money was at stake for both editor and publisher. Another article blasting Flesch appeared two months later in the NEA Journal, plus a defense of progressive education by Hollis L. Caswell, president of Teachers College, who, in the previous year, had awarded executive secretary Carr an honorary doctor's degree.
The mid-fifties also saw the construction of a new multimillion dollar NEA building on the site of the Guggenheim mansion to house a growing bureaucracy. Membership in 1956 stood at 627,000. There were 65 state and 5,815 local affiliated associations, plus a Representative Assembly of 5,000 delegates, 30 departments, 13 headquarters divisions, 24 commissions and committees, 51 directors, 5 trustees, 11 members of the executive committee, and a staff of 560 employees in 39 units, 25 of whom reported directly to the executive secretary. Out of all of this flowed 20 monthly magazines, 181 bulletins, 36 yearbooks and over a thousand miscellaneous publications.
The United States didn't need a Department of Education. It already had one, and it had become the largest single lobby in Washington. Each year the NFA's Legislative Commission drew up its legislative shopping list for Congress. In 1955 that list included proposals for:
Although the NEA found many friends in Congress willing to do its bidding, there was strong opposition to federal aid to education from a variety of sources: those who argued that federal support would mean federal control of local schools; those in the parochial schools who would be ineligible for federal aid; and liberal Congressmen who insisted on withholding federal funds from racially segregated school districts.
Nevertheless, the NEA persisted, each year missing passage of their bills by smaller margins. Yet, in 1956, Congress appropriated over $500 million for a variety of educational programs. But what finally opened the federal spigot wide was the alarm set off by the Soviet launching of Sputnik, the first man-made satellite, in 1957. The following year Congress passed the National Defense Education Act, the first major act of general federal support of public education to the tune of $1 billion. This may not seem like much today, but in 1958, the entire federal budget was a mere $73.9 billion.
The election of liberal Democrat John F. Kennedy to the presidency in 1960 brightened NEA hopes that its legislative agenda would find easier sailing in Congress than under the Republicans. But Kennedy had won by a very small margin, and Congress was still the stumbling block. Executive Secretary Carr told NEA members in January 1960:
Now is the time for American citizens to tell members of Congress that federal support for education is essential....At that time, the idea of NEA members becoming a militant political force was still just an idea. The classroom teachers who made up the bulk of NEA membership were not interested in politics. They had a paid staff in Washington which lobbied Congress on a full-time basis, and if the NEA's legislative proposals were not being made into law, perhaps the American people didn't want them.
But Carr was convinced that the public wanted large-scale federal support of education, and that Congress did not really reflect the views of the public as expressed in opinion polls. Nevertheless, Carr realized that the teachers of America needed the support and trust of the public and he did not want the NEA to engage in activities that might alienate that trust and support.
Yet, calls for educators to become politically active were being voiced with increasing frequency. At the NEA convention in 1955, Dr. Earl James McGrath, president of the University of Kansas City and former U.S. Commissioner of Education, urged educators to organize for political action. In 1956 the executive secretary of NEA's Legislative Commission, James L. McCaskill, urged NEA members to "check for yourself the voting record of your Congressman." Teachers were urged to register to vote, to write their Congressmen, visit their offices. An article in the January 1957 NEA Journal went further:
Your help is needed in translating into action NEA policy which supports or opposes a particular piece of legislation. You can help set up a committee on federal legislation in your local association to study the pending legislation and to develop a program of local support or opposition, whichever seems called for. Then enlist the help of organizations and individuals outside the profession.In 1958, the NEA Representative Assembly approved a new statement of principles calling for "informed participation by teachers in the consideration of all legislation that would affect the quantity and quality of education either directly or indirectly."
In 1961, when the 87th Congress failed to pass a bill in support of federal aid to education, the NEA concluded that "not enough pressure from supporters of public education" was responsible for the defeat. The only solution was for teachers to get involved in party politics.
In January 1962, President Kennedy presented a budget calling for the largest expenditure for education in U.S. history: $2.5 billion, or 2.6 percent of the total budget. But the Congress rejected it. The NEA concluded that "the forces favoring federal support of education are not in control of Congress."
In 1963, Congress voted $3 billion for education by passing the Higher Educational Facilities Act, the Vocational Education Act, an "impacted areas" aid program, and extending the National Defense Education Act. But elementary and secondary educaton - which NEA considered the most important area of all - was still left out in the cold. Nevertheless, after John F. Kennedy's assassination, President Johnson called that session "the education Congress."
The 1964 presidential campaign between Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson presented the issues to the NEA in very clear terms. The NEA Journal printed statements from both candidates. Johnson told NEA members that "new and imaginative methods of financial aid must be explored," while Goldwater told them, "I have consistently opposed federal aid to elementary and secondary schools as unnecessary and unwise." It was the policy of the NEA not to endorse any presidential candidate, but the statements by the candidates made it quite clear which one NEA members would vote for.
The October 1964 NEA Journal published an article on "The Teacher's Role in Politics," and in the following month appeared an article entitled "Education Is a Political Enterprise." Both articles were clarion calls to political action.
Lyndon Johnson's sweeping victory over Goldwater in November 1964 set the stage for what was to be the NEA's biggest legislative victory. In January 1965 the NEA's Legislative Committee submitted its proposal for a $1.5 billion federal aid program for elementary and secondary education. On March 1, 1965 President Johnson met with 220 NEA members and leaders in the East Room of the White House summoned from all over the country by the NEA's Legislative Commission. Allan West, an NEA executive, describes the occasion:
Attendance at the conference was one of my most memorable Washington experiences. I had attended conferences in which educators had expressed such faith in education. But I had never heard such unrestrained commitments from a President of the United States.In Johnson the NEA had always had a powerful friend, for LBJ himself had graduated from a teachers college and had actually taught school. He addressed the group as "fellow educators." The result was the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the single largest federal aid to education program ever enacted by Congress. It opened the floodgates of federal money, and public education has never been the same since.
The role the NEA played in helping Johnson get the law passed was crucial. According to Allan West:
During the entire period that [the bill] was before Congress, the NEA shuttled hundreds of state and local leaders in and out of Washington to work with their congressmen to furnish information, write speeches, and produce other materials as needed.NEA consultants were actually used by Congressional committeemen to help write the final version of the bill. For all practical purposes, it was everything the NEA wanted. According to Robert E. McKay, chairman of the NEA's Legislative Commission:
There was written into the act specific prohibitions against the allocation of any funds by the states ... for direct support of private or parochial schools and the use of any of the money from the act to finance or enchance or to promote in any way religious instruction.When the bill was about to be passed, LBJ told the jubilant educators: "We are going to get it started, but we are never going to get her stopped." The September 1965 NEA Journal spread the news to its members all across the, country: "We've got it started. The Elementary and Secondary Education act of 1965 is only the beginning.... NEA hopes that President Johnson was correct in his estimation that, once started, federal aid to education will never be stopped."
Get The Book!NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education by Samuel L. Blumenfeld - the story of the National Education Association, it's ties to socialism, progressive education and behavioral psychoogy. If it's a part of public education, the NEA approved it.
Suggested Reading List - the Demise of the Educational System - OBE (Outcome-Based Education), NEA (National Education Association), educational psychology, German psychology & influences, demise of public education, educational sabotage, Wundt, Pavlov, Dewey, Skinner, Watson.
Say NO To Psychiatry!
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