Do you Know the Difference Between Real Education versus Coercive Thought Reform?

Margaret Thaler Singer (1921-2003)

Every college student should get acquainted with the chart below. In fact, all thoughtful citizens watching the spectacle of the zombification of college students – as they protest against what they don’t understand and shout trendy slogans to promote what they don’t understand – should be familiar with the chart.

Margaret Thaler Singer, the 20th century’s preeminent expert on cults, put together this excellent table called the “Continuum of Influence and Persuasion.” It shows how various forms of persuasion stack up against one another.  She lists five forms of influence, starting with the most open, true education, and ending with the most tyrannical, “thought reform” (also known as brainwashing or coercive persuasion.  You can also find this chart in Singer’s excellent book “Cults in Our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace.”)  Take a look:

As you can see, Singer identifies five major methods by which people can be influenced.  The most open and honest of them all is true education.  Education exposes us to many bodies of knowledge and allows for civil discourse in which students feel free to ask questions openly.  They are therefore able to develop their ability to think clearly and independently.  In an environment of real education, students are respected as individuals with minds of their own.  The aim is to transfer knowledge about our common reality.  There is no deception in true education.

Thought reform or brainwashing, on the other hand, is the most deceptive and authoritarian form of persuasion. The subject is unaware of being manipulated to promote a hidden agenda.  The main purpose of thought reform is to turn the subject into a deployable agent to recruit others to agitate for that agenda.  As you watch today’s student protests, there can be little doubt that they are acting as agents for elites pushing various agendas. When interviewers ask them basic questions about the meaning of their protests, they tend to hem and haw, exposing their ignorance of the subject at hand. Their collectivist mindset tells you that they have had little in the way of meaningful education.

There are various other methods of persuasion that differ in their structure, level of deception, and other factors.  Singer identifies them on this continuum as advertising, propaganda, and indoctrination.  But the main takeaway from this chart should be a clearer understanding of the difference between education and thought reform.

Congress will soon take up reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.  Let’s hope that Congress overhauls it.  If education can not get back on the road to its true meaning, its institutions will only continue to be centers of coercive persuasion, not learning.

It’s Time to Call Out the Education Establishment for Betrayal and Intellectual Theft

I wrote earlier this week in The Federalist that schools seem to deal more in cult like methods of indoctrination than they do in truly educating students so that they can successfully navigate the world.  The article I wrote, entitled “Today’s Riot-Prone Mobs are a product of America’s Cult Like Education System,” generated about 800 comments.  I generally don’t get caught up in reading comments, but I happened to scroll through some of them on that article, and one of them caught my eye.

The commenter, “Peter” shared his insights about his experiences in the public schools. I am excerpting some of his comments below.  He harbored a feeling much like my own when I realized that I was academically mind-hacked: I felt anger and a sense of betrayal.  The generational difference between the commenter and me means that he no doubt experienced far more oppressive political correctness than did I.  Nevertheless, the curriculum changes at my high school — especially in history and English — paved the way for what Peter would experience.  My high school’s history and English curricula destroyed the wholeness of survey courses and replaced them with out-of-context fragments of knowledge. In short, it was a form of intellectual theft, marketed as “relevance.”  I hope to write more about that later.  Political correctness also serves to drive very damaging divisions between students.

Here are excerpts of what Peter wrote (emphases mine):

I am a Millennial and I went through public education. I suffered racial hatred, sexism and all that jazz. I was treated horribly in those schools where they like to set up a black sheep and blame him for everything. If you can’t fight back, they choose you. A corrupt system finds these little relief valves, of sorts. The kind of people who lie, need to lie, and need to lie about those lies. When you see this kind of dysfunction, you’ve got blatant corruption.
What they never expected from me is that I’m a fighter and I don’t give up. It wasn’t easy, but I got through. . . .

I was indoctrinated into suffering this totalitarian belief system. They never told me about conservativism. I never learned about the Constitution in depth, or history such as Baron Montesque and Polybius, and of course the Bible was never mentioned. That was just for those racists in the south, those deplorables, I presume. What they didn’t expect was their abuse put a sour taste in my mouth, and my natural male rebellion and my natural gifts and curiosity led me to educate myself.
Years after high school and college, I stumbled on a YouTube video that lectured on the Constitution and how the founding fathers designed it to perpetuate freedom. I don’t know if this was it, but it was much like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?…
I think it was really a British professor, originally…
Anyways, when I stumbled on this certain video I was angry. I should have been taught this while in high school. I’m supposed to be an informed voter and a good citizen, right? Well, why was I taught only one side of history where the liberals prevail using quasi-Machiavellian tactics for the sake of the vulnerable and the oppressed (or really propaganda, excusing the tactics which actually create fascism from a democratic system, abusing it), when I should also have been taught all this other stuff? Why was this unfit for my expanding mind? How dare they humiliate me like this.
This wasn’t the first time I discovered another way of looking at things. I educated myself in business years ago and what I learned about free enterprise was stunning. It was a whole new look at economics outside of government control and regulation. It argued effectively against socialism and communism. Hint: socialism and communism suck. The main idea here is that I was assured that there’s just no other way to look at things outside of, gee, Capitalism simply failed because during the Great Depression, the stock market failed due to capitalism, and inevitable result, and we should be liberal socialists to control it, because the richer got richer and the poor got poorer. How can you look at history and not see this?
Well, that was only some of the information, and it’s good information, but it’s only a fraction. I don’t hold them in contempt that they shilled liberalism, they have a right to a bias and their own opinions and if they feel they’re right, they may try to sell their ideas to me, but I draw the line at intellectual dishonesty. For this reason their totalitarian philosophy towards education is absolutely antithetical to education, more or less, it’s blatant indoctrination into their liberal cult. . .

Hear, hear.

I am very familiar with Peter’s sense of betrayal, of being sold a bill of goods.  And whatever your political inclinations, as a person of goodwill you should be able to sympathize. I would add that this is not so much about liberalism versus conservatism as it is about freedom versus censorship.  He was deprived of the wholeness of the knowledge base that every student needs in order to make sense of the world.  And he was stuck basically in a prison that shuts down natural curiosity.  He was fed a diet of political correctness that propagandized him and was hostile to questions.  Worse, he was never educated about the real story about the founding of the American Republic, which at its very essence stood for freedom to express one’s conscience, freedom to learn.

I think a public list of grievances is in order.  Millennials — as well as those of other generations — who understand the damage done to them by the lies of the education establishment should band together and make those grievances known. Perhaps that could begin a process of de-programming for others who have been trapped in the cult of K12 and Higher Ed.

I want also to stress that wonderful teachers suffer at least as much as the students who are stifled and stuck in this system.  So a campaign airing these grievances would serve to support those good teachers, and could help to free them to fully pursue the joy of teaching.

 

Connection Between Riot-Prone Mobs and Cult-like Education

One of many mobs of agitators, angry about the US election results. (Wikipedia)

My article in The Federalist this morning — “Today’s Riot-Prone Mobs are a Product of Today’s Cult-Like Education System” — examines the growth of mindless group think that is fueling so much of the street theater we’re seeing these days.  I believe public education has developed a lot of the hallmarks of cult-like indoctrination, including coercive thought reform, the cultivation of emotional reflexes, and relational aggression against anyone who expresses an unauthorized thought.  Sadly, the agitators have been deployed as cannon fodder to serve the agendas of power elites who are hostile to any truly civil society in which real public discourse can take place.  And the radical education reforms of the past 50 or so years have played a huge role in bringing us to this moment.

Here’s an excerpt from my piece:

“Let’s face it. Today’s street theater is the culmination of decades of radical education revision. The radical Left’s systematic attack on the study of Western Civilization has essentially been an attack against the study of any and all civil societies. It is an attack on the features that make a society civil and free. Those features include freedom of expression, civil discourse, the Socratic method of figuring out truth, value of the individual, and a common knowledge of the classics of history and literature that help us understand what’s universal in the human experience. All of that had to go.

“Now, as we see students marching to demonize as “fascists” proponents of free speech, their ignorance is in full view. This is really a full frontal attack on the rule of law, the Constitution, and a system of checks and balances that guards against the consolidation of centralized power.

“That’s the whole point of the education these students have been fed. In fact, a lot of 1960s agitators, including domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, decided to place their bets on radical education revision. For at least 40 years, Ayers has been devoted to transforming schools from places of actual education to places of coercive thought reform. As Andrew McCarthy recently pointed out in National Review: “It was a comfy fit for him and many of his confederates, once it dawned on them that indoctrination inside the schoolhouse was more effective than blowing up the schoolhouse.”

“If you review the history of radical education reform, it’s clear these agitators have been committing mind arson on the children, undermining their ability to think independently and clearly.”

Two Quotes on Ignorance and Tyranny

Let’s spark imaginations, not stupid Molotov cocktails.

Maximillien Robespierre was a major figure of the French Revolution, probably best known for his role in the reign of terror.  I only bring him up because of this fascinating quote:

“The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.”

In that same vein, Thomas Jefferson noted:

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

But what is education?  What is ignorance? What do those words mean?   Today, only a clear and free mind — not one that has been pre-programmed — can begin to approach the true answers to those questions.  And that’s because our language has been so throughly corrupted by radical education reforms that have replaced content knowledge with politically correct scripts in our schools.  In his novel, 1984, George Orwell showed how the corruption of language leads to a dystopia whose people will accept as true such slogans as “Ignorance is Strength” and “Freedom is Slavery.”

So we need to demand the teaching of real knowledge.  Our schools should encourage natural curiosity instead of enforcing politically correct scripts that squash that curiosity.  They should allow for real tolerance instead using a PC label of tolerance that’s only meant to empower the power mongers, and to smear anybody with whom they disagree.  If we don’t do these things, we have essentially given in to the building of a cult mindset.

Instead, let’s encourage the building of axemaker’s minds that will promote innovation, self-reliance, true community building, and real knowledge.  And let’s fight the mind arson that’s been committed for too long by radical education “reformers.” By doing all of these things, we can begin to spark the productive fire of imagination, not the ignorance that causes people to mindlessly throw Molotov cocktails.  In this way, we can promote domestic tranquility, real friendship, and the possibility of real love among us.

 

When you Suspect Propaganda, Here are 10 Questions to Ask Yourself

Bolshevik Vladimir Lenin, agitated the masses and spread propaganda, basically to get people to disempower themselves.

Yesterday I was interviewed about an essay I wrote for the Intercollegiate Review, called “Truth or Propaganda?” and you can click here to read it.  (I’ll post a link to the podcast when I get it.) I wrote the piece in order to help people — particularly college students — understand some of the hallmarks of being propagandized. What does it feel like? How to detect it?

Quite often you can discern propaganda — or political correctness — simply by the shut-in feeling you get when being confronted with it.  So, I came up with a list of ten questions to ask yourself whenever you feel pushed to censor yourself. The first step to overcoming this oppressive state of affairs is to recognize it.  If more people got in the habit of recognizing and then confronting propaganda, we can begin to rebuild a civil and free society.

So, here are 10 questions you might ask yourself when you’re trying to determine if you’re having a real discussion with people or if you’re being propagandized:

  1. Is your natural curiosity being suppressed?
  2. Are you being threatened with slurs or labels?
  3. Do you feel you will be ostracized if you ask a question or express a politically incorrect view?
  4. Do you notice a “herd effect” as people shift their opinions to adapt to a politically correct opinion?
  5. Are you being pigeonholed as a result of your question or opinion?
  6. Do you sense that if you express ideas freely, you will be labeled a nutcase?Do you sense relational aggression at play?
  7. Will others be “triggered” by your opinion?
  8. Are you expected to trade in reality to prop up somebody’s illusion?
  9. Are you tempted to self-censor to avoid social punishment?Or are you tempted to falsify what you believe to gain social rewards?
  10. Do you feel like you’re stuck in a cult?

 

About Blog Dormancy

Asleep at the keyboard. (“Sheila the PC Cat” @ Wikimedia Commons)

My lulls in social media use and posting to my blog come down to two things: aversion and fracturing.

First, I’ve built up quite an aversion to social media. Have you? The sad fact is that we live in an increasingly uncivil society, and the trend line only shows that the vulgarity and hostility fueled by political correctness is getting worse.  That’s not constructive for getting anything done.

The second issue is that extensive internet use — and social media in particular — is disruptive to the process of deep thinking. Constant mental gear shifting has a fracturing effect on the mind. You can read about this phenomenon in Nicholas Carr’s excellent book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. I’ve been trying to avoid the constant browsing that the internet and social media require, because so much of what I am trying to explore in my writing requires a very deep focus.

Our age is distracting enough, especially with the growing attacks on civil discourse.  The recent rioting intended to shut down speech at UC Berkeley and NYU have shown beyond a doubt that we’re in a bad way in that department.  So it’s more important than ever to nurture one’s ability to think clearly and deeply. And independently. Then we should try to spread that habit to others so that they and all of society can flourish in an atmosphere of civility.

I thank all who sent me messages through the contact form.  I very much appreciate your thoughts and support.  If I missed getting back to you about a question you had, I regret that. (Correspondence has become a bit more unwieldy too.)

Going forward, I hope to intensify my efforts on the subject of propaganda awareness.  Propaganda — along with its latter day spawn, political correctness —  is anathema to independent thinking, which means it is hostile to human conversation and friendship.

In the future I hope to post regularly at least twice a month.  Please subscribe if you’re interested!

Please Support Professor Jordan B. Peterson, a Shining Light for Free Speech

If you’re looking for a modern day hero (and who isn’t these days?) one you should check out is Jordan B. Peterson.  He is a tenured professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, and also has a clinical practice.  He is a brilliant lecturer, with several insightful TEDx talks posted on youtube.   I wrote about Professor Peterson last week at The Federalist, and I hope you’ll check out my piece here: “Professor Ignites Protest by Refusing to Use Transgender Pronouns.”

The thought police is after Professor Peterson because he is waging a valiant war against political correctness in Canada. The University of Toronto is challenging him to adhere to speech codes, but he is not backing down.  Bravo!  Check out the video below to see how aggressively anti-speech activists disrupted his attempt to talk about the importance of free expression in a free society.  They fed noise into the sound system to overtake his microphone.  They tried shouting him down.  They pushed and shoved.

Since then, the University of Toronto Adminstration has written to Professor Peterson, essentially demanding he self-censor.  But, thank God, he will not, you can watch his reply to that letter here.    (Professor Peterson has a fantastic Youtube page, which you can access here.  His Twitter feed is here.)

Now, the fact that Professor Peterson won’t use pronouns that play into the gender identity industry is secondary to all of this. Gender politics actually have little to do with gender or sex. Gender identity “non-discrimination” is the cover story, of course.  But the primary effect — and, I believe, the purpose of gender ideology — is the disruption of language.  It’s the disruption of our ability to communicate with one another on a human level.  This is always the first step in thought reform, since words are basically symbols for thought. And if you think about it, pronouns serve an essential function in the structure of the English language.  This structure transcends how we perceive of ourselves as individuals.  The structure of language is paramount to communication.  So to have unelected judges and bureaucrats dictate the structure of language — at their own whim as well as the whim of anybody and everybody else — is really a recipe for chaos and cult-like thought reform.  Such schemes force citizens to self-censor before they open their mouths about even the most mundane things.

Most unsettling is how so-called “social justice warriors” swarmed Professor Peterson simply because he wanted to have an open conversation about what it means to have a real conversation.  In other words, to talk about the importance of freedom of expression. Personally, I don’t believe they even understand what they are doing. They seem programmed in much the way cult recruits are programmed.

The saddest thing about the war against free speech is that it is essentially a war against friendship.   If we cannot speak openly to one another, we can’t have real relationships, can we?  As I’ve written before, that’s really what this power game of shutting down speech adds up to: state control of personal relationships.

 

On Friendship, Faith, and Martyrdom

Faith Abbott McFadden (1931-2011)

October 6 is the feast day of Saint Faith of Agen.  Few people are aware that there is actually a saint named “Faith” in the martyrologies of the Church.  I took the occasion of her feast day to write about my friendship with the late Faith Abbott McFadden, who was senior editor of The Human Life Review until her death in 2011.   The good folks at Review posted my reminiscences on their blog today.

Faith was a champion of the fight for life, and she was a huge influence on me.  She and I had a 20 year correspondence in which we shared our observations on the changing culture and life in general.  Today’s struggle to create a culture that respects and values human life was central to Faith’s work.

We both understood that to openly identify as pro-life is an act that will get you socially rejected in most social and academic circles. And to persist in doing so – to refuse to trade in the Truth for the shiny objects of worldly “rewards” no matter the price — is where true martyrdom begins. Martyrs who hold that fast to the Faith are willing to shed blood if it comes to that.  That’s the story of Saint Faith of Agen.  Though mention of that saint never came up in our correspondence — I only discovered Saint Faith recently — today I seek to link the devotions of both women.

And so I offer this excerpt from the Review’s blog on the feast day of Saint Faith:

Saint Faith’s refusal to renounce Christ and sacrifice to pagan gods got her tortured and killed. And that’s what true martyrdom is about, really:  refusing to bow down to idolatry under pain of punishment, and even death.  It means holding fast to Faith.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and an old French adage rings truer than ever:  “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.”  My favorite translation of that is this: “The more things ‘change,’ the more you get same old, same old, same old.”  Indeed, as we witness the lightening erosion of religious liberty in today’s transformed America, we are increasingly facing the same choice as Saint Faith and all the saints: true worship or idolatry? God or mammon?

Such are the things my friend Faith and I reflected on.  And I can hear Faith adding a stoic “Natch” to all of the above.  I believe her outreach to me — and to everyone — was built on her understanding that God leads us to do his work through friendship, through one-on-one personal relationships, influencing the lives of others as well as our own lives.

I still fall short whenever I try to express the impact her letters had—and continue to have—on my life. And why wouldn’t I fall short? Why wouldn’t anyone who ponders the influence of another person on their life fall short in sizing it up?

I think the answer lies in the eternal mystery of love and the limitless trajectories a life can take. It lies in the fact that every human life is an entire universe of God’s making. There is just no way that the effect of one life upon another can be measured or predicted.

You can read the whole post here:  http://www.humanlifereview.com/9184-2/

 

 

Why Shouldn’t “Age-Identity Non-Discrimination” be a Thing?

Finnish woodcut, Ages of Man (1831.)

A few months ago I wrote a tongue-in-cheek article for the Federalist entitled “The Trans-Aged Deserve Equal Rights, Too.”  I’ve made this point before, a few years ago: here and here.  But don’t you agree it’s high time we take this seriously now that the Obama Administration’s directive on “gender identity” puts the social engineering of our humanity in high gear?

I say that if gender identity is a protected category for non-discrimination, age identity should be as well.  Why not? Those who call for age identity non-discrimination have a parallel grievance with those who call for gender identity non-discrimination:  their identity does not match the age they were “assigned at birth.”

In fact, I can say with all honesty that I do not identify with my age “assigned at birth.”  Do you?  I imagine the percentage of the population who feel this way are far greater than those who feel dysphoria over their gender identity.  And yet a 52-year old who identifies as 71 can be turned down for medicare.  A 12-year-old who identifies as 20 is forced to stay in a middle school classroom.  And so on.

There is nothing to lose by pressing legislators (and judges) today to add age identity as a new category to non-discrimination law. We should be asking presidential candidates if they would support laws to halt age identity discrimination, especially if they support the social engineering that comes with the transgender thing.

Here are some excerpts from my piece:

Just as transgender activists will tell you not to conflate gender with sex, so no one should conflate age with time. Trans-aged individuals are just as entitled to anti-discrimination protection as transgender individuals.

Obama and his allies in Congress fully accept the idea that gender identity is a person’s self-perception of their gender whether or not it “aligns” with the sex they were “assigned at birth.” But they brazenly ignore a far more common source of inequality: total lack of equal protection for those whose self-perception of their age does not match up with the socially constructed date they were assigned at birth.

Discrimination on the basis of age identity is rampant in education, medicine, and employment, just for starters. I dare say it is orders of magnitude more common than discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

Think of the 12-year-old who self-identifies as 19, but is stuck in a middle-school classroom. Think also of the 58-year-old who knows she is 75 but is ineligible for Social Security, and must suffer loss of benefits in silence. Let’s have some compassion for the 22-year-old (not to mention the 72-year-old) who knows he is 18 but is nevertheless not permitted to become an Eagle Scout, or even a Boy Scout. And what about the 69-year-old teacher who is forced into retirement even though she knows she is but 49—and is thereby deprived of living an authentic life?

 

What Happens when Human Beings are Neutered in Law?

The other day Public Discourse ran my piece entitled “A De-Sexed Society is a De-Humanized Society.”  It was my analysis of President Obama’s directive to enforce a transgender policy on all K-12 bathroom and locker room facilities throughout the nation.  We need to understand that this project has nothing to do with “gender identity” or civil rights for anybody.  That’s the pretext, sure.  But the endgame is to abolish all sex distinctions in law.  That’s definitely the trajectory we’re on.  We can already see the telltale signs with government documents such as passport applications no longer allowing for the identification of mother and father, but only the more generic term “parent.”  In Canada, nine plaintiffs to the high court have sought to have sex distinctions removed from all birth certificates.

So obviously, this agenda applies universally.  We need to get that through our heads.  It’s not about transgender individuals.  They are merely the vehicles, the pawns that the administration is using to push this project through.  But in the end, it’s about every single one of us. It means we are all in the de-humanizing process of being legally “de-sexed.” And like sheep to the slaughter, so many of us just don’t seem to get it.

This “gender identity” nonsense is the cornerstone of probably the biggest social engineering project in human history.  That’s because it will allow the mass state to treat us only as isolated individuals, separated from our familial relationships.  When the State no longer has to recognize the existence of “male” or “female,” would it have to recognize the existence of a husband and wife or a mother and father? I don’t think so. Nor any other biological relationship.  And therefore, no relationships at all. This would eventually wipe out spousal immunity, which means the state can force spouses to testify against one another in court.  It puts the State in a stronger position to regulate personal relationships.  As you know, my theme on this blog is that personal relationships are the source of all real power.  So if you go along with this transgender project, I believe you are ceding that power to the state (for everybody) whether you know it or not.

Of course, no law can make reality go away.  But the force of law can manipulate you to behave as though reality has gone away.   Here’s an excerpt from my article, which I hope you’ll read:

What will happen when all of society is sexless in both language and law? If the law does not recognize your body as physically male or female—applying only the word “gender” to your internal, self-reported self-perception—does the law even recognize your body? Every single cell of you has either “male” or “female” written into its DNA, but the law refuses to recognize such categories. Such laws will only recognize an infinite, immeasurable “gender spectrum,” your place on which is determined only by your mind. So what exactly are you after the law has de-sexed you? In what sense is your body a legal entity?

And what happens to your familial relationships after the law has de-sexed you? Are they legally recognized? I don’t see how they could be. Certainly not by default, certainly not by the recognition that each child comes through the union of two opposite-sex parents.

In the end, there is nothing “brave” about this new world chaos. Just sheer insanity.