The Link between Mass Schooling and Mental Instability in Kids

High School Hallway. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

The other day I wrote a piece for the Federalist in which I explore the ways mass public schooling actually cultivates mental instability in children.  You can read it here:  “13 Ways Public Schools Incubate Mental Instability in Kids.”

In the wake of another school shooting – and now the ways children are being used to serve as mouthpieces for PC agendas, including (but not limited to) gun control — I think it’s high time we take a good hard look at the institutions that are shaping them for most of  their waking hours. The schools teach abject conformity in so many ways, that I believe they are literally making kids ill.  In my piece I list 13 ways this happens in today’s government mega-schools. They include the hierarchy of cliques, status anxiety, relational aggression, hostility towards family and faith, politicization, and enforced conformity.

I’m sure you can add many more ways today’s schools feel oppressive, and even prison-like.  And yet there are now places called “school refusal clinics” for children to be psychologically “treated” if school becomes so alienating and lonely for children that it literally makes them sick.

Below is an excerpt on just one of those 13 points.  In it, I reflect on how the sheer size of today’s schools have grown exponentially.  I think this in itself promotes an alienating environment that’s not conducive to mental health.

Back in 1929-30, there were about 248,000 public schools in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. How many today? Far less than half that. By 2013-14, the number had shrunk to 98,000.

When you consider that the U.S. population nearly tripled in that timeframe, there’s no question this factory model of schooling has grown exponentially. The numbers speak to the intense bureaucratization of a public school system that is becoming more centralized with less local control, packing ever-larger numbers of students in one place.

The natural effect for a young human being is an emotional malaise that fuels a sense of confusion and detachment. I believe the sociologist Emile Durkheim coined the term “anomie” to describe this state of isolation. Even the physical architecture of public schools is getting more estranging. They tend to be larger and more looming, almost blade-runner-like in their effect of shrinking and sequestering individuals to irrelevance.



My FRC talk about Social and Emotional Programming, the latest fad in Education

I recently spoke at the Family Research Council about a new fad in mass public schooling called “social and emotional learning” (SEL.) Those who advocate for SEL claim the program will give children critical life skills, such as empathy, getting along with others, and making good decisions. An organization called the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) wants a government mandate that will bring this program into every school. You can watch my FRC policy lecture here:

In this talk I give my perspective on SEL.  While good teachers are always a godsend, bureaucrats can never achieve what they promise in such programs. Especially since their framework is mass schooling. Such values and attitudes need to be taught in intimate settings of trust, such as families.  Not in hyper-bureaucratized mega-schools.  I see the SEL program as a bait-and-switch operation, because it demands universal compliance with its methods, with its content, and with its monopoly.  By its very monolithic nature as program driven by a government monopoly, it is coercive. In the video, you’ll see a clip in which a representative for SEL tells us that they “need the WHOLE child.” And if you delve into this more, you can see that the SEL program is really all about enforcing conformity: Conformity of feelings, attitudes, emotions, speech, attitudes, beliefs, and behavior.  When such things are directed by a centralized State mandate, rather than by de-centralized mediating institutions —  institutions of family, faith, and voluntary associations — there can be no freedom, nor can there be real diversity.

Staged Hate in Charlottesville? In War, Perception is Everything.


“All the world’s a stage; And all the men and women merely players . . . ” — Shakespeare, As You Like It

Below is an excerpt from my latest Federalist piece:  “America’s Post-Charlottesville Nervous Breakdown was Deliberately Induced.” I hope you’ll have a chance to read it in full.

“Wars are won or lost based mostly on perceptions of events, not on what actually happens. This is true for any given battlefield, whether it’s the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam or the ideological battlefield over the future of the First Amendment as played out in Charlottesville in 2017. The reality of what takes place in the public arena is always secondary to any projected illusion.

So let’s never forget this: Whoever has the power to dictate public perceptions of reality is in a position to dictate public opinion and behavior. Abusing language and images to stir up emotions is an ancient trick of power-mongers. And once journalism turns into unchecked propaganda, we become trapped in its dangerous illusions.”

The social turmoil we are witnessing today has largely been manufactured through the combination of three elements: 1. the manipulation of our language; 2. the deliberate use of such loaded language to cultivate extreme emotions in people, particularly anger and resentment; and 3. the role of mass media as a nuclear device to impose those perceptions on a mass scale.

Here’s another interesting sidelight to consider.  Public Relations firms such as Crowds on Demand provide actors for protests and rallies and run ads on Craigslist to recruit and pay for that purpose. So it’s very easy to create illusions of riots if you can rent a mob for it.  The blog Gates of Vienna ran an interview recently with an eyewitness who was in Charlottesville on the day of the riots and reports that protesters from both sides — attired both in “counter-protester” clothing such as Antifa or BLM shirts AND neo-Nazi/KKK shirts — were dropped off from the same bus.  And this happened with a line of chartered buses, both sides apparently sharing the same vehicles. The story is here:  “All the World’s a Stage.”  Whether or not you believe this, the fact that politicized officials ordered police to stand down lends credence to the scenario of a staged riot.

Gratitude for the Devotion and Labor of Fathers

Saint Joseph, patron of fathers and workers. Guido Reni c. 1640. (19th c. photograph by James or Domenico Anderson, Wikimedia Commons)



















My Father’s Day piece at the Federalist is a meditation on the contributions of fathers to the labor of their households.  You can read it here: “Rather than Judging Fathers’ Household Labor, Let’s Appreciate It.”

One of the recent feminist complaints is that men should contribute more to  housework — as in laundry, dishes, and child care.  Rarely do we hear anything about “gender equity” when it comes to the sort of household labor that is traditionally masculine.  But Dads who take on projects to add sweat equity contribute a lot to their families, though those things are little noted in the culture.  When I think of all my husband  has done to promote the little homestead, I’m grateful. And I’ve always preferred doing the housework if it frees him up for such big ticket projects.

And when I think back on my own father who actually did a lot of housework, grocery shopping, and caregiving, I am very grateful for all he contributed both as a breadwinner and on the homefront.  He was an amazing man who had a hard life. But he always appreciated his blessings, especially his family. He was cheerful,, and truly a delight to be around.  Remarkable. In my Federalist piece, I reflect on the many things he did for his family, quietly and without complaint.

I think trying to keep score in household chores is a lose-lose situation in any relationship, assuming both are contributing according to their gifts. Fathers in particular should be more appreciated for their efforts, whether the labor is “gendered” or not. Everyone has something to offer, and it’s up to the team to work out a system without fixating on 50-50.

On this Father’s Day, let’s appreciate the devotion of fathers and their unique gifts, whatever they might be.

Must Read: The Devil’s Pleasure Palace

I have a review of Michael Walsh’s book (now out in paperback) “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West” over at Acton Institute’s Transatlantic blog.  If you haven’t yet read Walsh’s book, it’s a must read for understanding the Left’s war on reality, and how it spawned political correctness and multiculturalism to divide and control us all.  Here’s the link for purchasing the book on Amazon:  The Devil’s Pleasure Palace

My review is here:  Book Review: “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace” by Michael Walsh.

We can trace critical theory back about a hundred years, to a group of Marxists in Germany:

The neo-Marxist thinkers who invented critical theory coalesced at the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt after World War I. The core idea was to foment radical social change and undermine “repressive” Western culture by advancing roughly the premise that all ideas – except theirs, of course – should be criticized and challenged. The attacks on the institutions that make freedom possible – family, religion, classical education, the arts, free markets, free speech – can be traced to critical theory. Critical theory operates under the guise of “equality” and “social justice,” but suppresses all competing influences.

Walsh’s book is rich with allusions from literature and opera.  The title is based on the Schubert opera “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace,” a metaphor for the nihilism of critical theory which is all built on illusion — and crumbles into nothing when it is confronted head on.

Some Study Questions for “Cults in our Midst”

If you decide to read Margaret Thaler Singer’s book, “Cults in our Midst,” I offer a few study questions below.  I also hope you have the beginnings of a book club to get the conversation going on these issues.

We are living through a time of immense social change and instability.  It is during such times throughout history — especially with fast technological changes — that cult activity takes root and thrives.  But even more alarming is that there is virtually no discussion in public discourse about how cult-like thinking penetrates and infects a society.  This level of unawareness is a red flag.

If you can’t read the whole book, I recommend focusing just on the following pages/chapters:  Singer’s INTRODUCTION (to the first edition); Chapter 1 – DEFINING CULTS (pp. 3-28);Chapter 2  A BRIEF HISTORY OF CULTS – Just 2 pages: 29-30)  THE PROCESS OF BRAINWASHING —  (pp. 52-82); Chapter 4 – WHAT’S WRONG WITH CULTS?  (pp. 83-102); Chapter 5 – RECRUITING NEW MEMBERS (pp. 104-124); Chapter 9 – THE THREAT OF INTIMIDATION (excerpt pp. 224-43); Chapter 11 — WHY IT’S HARD TO LEAVE – (excerpt pp. 270-79)

Pay special attention to Chapter 3 in which Singer identifies the six basic features of cults, which are as follows:  1. Keep the person unaware that there is an agenda to control or change the person; 2. Control time and physical environment (contacts, information); 3. Create a sense of powerlessness, fear, and DEPENDENCY; 4. Suppress old behavior and attitudes; 5. Instill new behavior and attitudes; 6. Put forth a closed system of logic.

Singer also includes discussion of the eight themes of cults, as ennumerated by cult expert Robert Jay Lifton:  1. Milieu control; 2. Loading the language; 3. Demand for purity; 4. Confession; 5. Mystical manipulation; 6. Doctrine over person; 7. “Sacred science;” and 8. Dispensing of existence.

Singer also discusses the Edgar Schein’s theory of three stages that a person in a cult goes through as their attitudes are being reshaped to suit the cult’s leadership:  the freezing of thought processes; the transformation of thoughts; and then the unfreezing of thought processes.

Here are some study questions to consider while reading:

1.     Review the charts in Chapter 3, and especially the list of Singer’s six conditions that allow brainwashing to happen.  Then answer: What makes a person susceptible to that kind of psychological manipulation?  

 2.     What groups (or institutions or policies or social trends) can you name in Western life today that apply cultic methods and techniques to unduly influence behavior and suppress freedom?

3.     According to Singer, the effects of brainwashing are very often reversible. What can ordinary citizens do to help Americans – and especially students – keep their minds free of undue influence?

4. Why do you think the methods and techniques of cult activity never come up for discussion in America today?


The SPLC Scam

What would the Southern Poverty Law Center do if there was no poverty? If there was no hate? Or ignorance?  I suppose its leaders would invent all those things.  Because if you examine the SPLC’s operations, it certainly cultivates ignorance, hate, and poverty — perhaps to keep itself rolling in dough.  For more on this, take a look at my recent Federalist article:  “12 Ways the Southern Poverty Law Center is Scam to Profit from Hate-Mongering.”

The tragic irony is that the United States was on the road to real racial healing before self-professed watchdog groups like the SPLC got addicted to the practice of tearing the scabs off of the nation’s wounds and pouring salt into them.  Division is the name of their game:  isolating people, de-humanizing them, labeling them as “haters” or “bigots” and inciting mob anger at anyone who dares to express a different perspective on life than the one the self-appointed authorities at the SPLC have assigned to us all.  Sadly, the SPLC uses pathetic and scattered cases of “white supremacists” as cover to lump in and label anyone who doesn’t buy into their agenda.  And since 95 percent of all media outlets do their bidding, that sort of stereotyping has an impact on creating a society of skittish people loath to treat others as human until they check in with Big Brother.  It’s an ancient dynamic that totalitarian regimes have always depended upon to keep themselves in power.

I think Alexis deTocqueville said in best in his work “Democracy in America” when he noted that the essence of tyranny is to divide people, to make sure they do not love one another. This is the purpose of political correctness, especially as applied by groups like the SPLC.

The truth is that people everywhere are starving for real friendship and freedom. They certainly don’t crave regimes of PC silencing that prevent them from getting to know one another.  There is a loneliness epidemic.  But friendship can’t happen without real conversation and civil society — both of which are shut down by SPLC-styled rhetoric. But friendship — which can only happen through free conversation — doesn’t serve the bottom line of organizations devoted to sowing seeds of discord. It’s all so sad and unnecessary. People of goodwill must confront and end this inhumane practice, which, ironically, is always pushed “in the name of humanity.”

I Hope you Had a Happy Mother’s Day (and Steered Clear of Social Gender-neering!)

My Mother’s Day essay for the Federalist this year was entitled “Let’s Realize as Moms, that Work-Life Balance Just Doesn’t Exist.”  In it, I explored what I think is going on with the meme about achieving “work-life balance” especially as it relates to motherhood and the feminist push to get more women into career leadership positions.

Many high-achieving feminists are chagrined to find — even in this day of supposed enlightenment about “gender roles” — that more women are now choosing to stay home with their kids if the family can afford to do so.  Superwoman Anne-Marie Slaughter had this to say about that:

“The pool of female candidates for any top job is small, and will only grow smaller if the women who come after us decide to take time out, or drop out of professional competition altogether, to raise children. That is exactly what has [Facebook CEO] Sheryl Sandberg so upset, and rightly so.”

Sigh. Where to begin with that?  The frustration of gender warriors like Sandberg and Slaughter has led them to devise more and more new schemes to keep the maternal instinct under control.  In my opinion, their tweaks add up to little more than a push for social engineering, or “gender-neering.”

Here’s an excerpt from my piece, which you can read in full at the above link:

To her credit, Slaughter had a good epiphany: the maternal instinct—or to use her term, the “maternal imperative”—isn’t really a choice.  It dies hard. Which, of course, leaves professional moms in a difficult spot, especially if their clueless husbands call it a day while moms are still doing all the housework and childcare after work. Not fair. I get it.

But here’s another epiphany to consider: we all live in the time-space continuum. That means absolutely nobody can “have it all.” Ever. We all must make choices with the limited time and circumstances we have. And if the maternal instinct is hardwired into us, why is it a problem?

And if you’re in the mood for more, take a look at my piece from last year in which I argue that devoted mothers are the first and last line of defense against Big Brother:  “A Little Mother Prevents Big Brother.”


Next up for Stella’s Book Club: Doris Lessing’s “Prisons We Choose to Live Inside”

My book club met the other day and we had a lively discussion of Denise Winn’s book The Manipulated Mind: Brainwashing, Conditioning, and Indoctrination.  Next we’ll be reading Doris Lessing’s book on this topic.  That little volume (77 pages) of five essays entitled Prisons We Choose to Live Inside (1986) is a gem that deserves a whole lot more attention.  Lessing (1919-2013) was an icon of feminism who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007.   Youtube has posted excerpts from those speeches in which she talks about conformity and how group think operates on us.  You can listen here:

Over the years, especially as Lessing became more unsettled by the noxious influences of group think and mob psychology in Western society, she became a great champion of free speech.  I wrote about her in two previous blog entries:  “Acclaimed Author Doris Lessing: Our Future Depends on Resisting Group Think” and “Doris Lessing on Fighting Group Think.”

I am more convinced than ever that awareness of how propaganda works on us is KEY to helping our society regain sanity and reason.  As more and more students at campuses around the country shout down politically incorrect speakers — even to the point of rioting — it is clearer than ever that our very individuality is under attack.

Freedom of conscience, of speech, of association is all under attack.  Radical education reforms continue to sow ignorance. They continue to intellectually kneecap students so that they are not even capable of listening to diverse points of view.  Instead, students seem to have been programmed to respond reflexively and emotionally against free speech, as they did the other day at Indiana University at Bloomington when scholar Charles Murray spoke there.  Watch here:   The act is so self-destructive, it’s as though these students have been virtually programmed to shoot themselves in the head.

Let me provide an insightful quote from Lessing’s book.  Whether or not you read the book, please keep this particular quote in mind:

“. . . it is always the individual, in the long run, who will set the tone, provide the real development in a society.

Looking back, I see what a great influence an individual may have, even an apparently obscure person, living a small, quiet life.  It is individuals who change societies, give birth to ideas, who, standing out against tides of opinion, and change them. This is as true in open societies as it is in oppressive societies, but of course the casualty rate in the closed societies is higher.  Everything that has ever happened to me has taught me to value the individual, the person who cultivates and preserves her or his own ways of thinking, who stands out against group thinking, group pressures.  Or who, conforming no more than is necessary to group pressures, quietly preserves individual thinking and development. . . .

“It is my belief that an intelligent and forward-looking society would do everything possible to produce such individuals, instead of, as happens very often, suppressing them.  But if governments, if cultures, don’t encourage their production, then individuals and groups can and should.”

Isn’t it interesting that political correctness is all about suppressing the voice of the individual?  To force self-censorship on us? I suspect that is because the small minority of power elites have always wished to control the masses.  But they realize — better than we do — that there is great power in the individual voice. So, as always, they employ group think-tactics in order to mobilize mobs to shut down conversation and friendship.  We’ve no choice but to go against that hostile tide.  So start your book club to help disable the propaganda machine! Even if it’s only with one other person.  It’ll grow.

My Book Club about how Propaganda Works is Getting Underway. How about yours?

Cover of The Manipulated Mind, by Denise Winn (1983)

This week I’m beginning a book club which is  entirely focused on the theme of propaganda and the human susceptibility to mind hacking.  Why? Because there has been an abysmal lack of self-awareness on this topic among the general public.  And that’s a shame because the less aware we are of the trickery involved in social pressure and psychological manipulation, the less immune we are to those things. But when you learn how and why people blindly conform to destructive behaviors, it’s like learning the magician’s tricks.  You can get beyond the illusions of political correctness, propaganda, and advertising.  That’s not to say you won’t still be susceptible, but building public awareness can really help cut through and challenge the political correctness we are barraged with in modern life.

Our club is going to read a lot of titles, mostly non-fiction, but I hope also to include some fiction. (The dystopian novel “We” by Yevgeniy Zamyatin is high on my list.  That’s the book that influenced George Orwell to write 1984.)  I offered a short list of titles in my Federalist article “Ten Resources for Hack Proofing Your Mind.”

But I’ve decided to start the club off reading Denise Winn’s book “The Manipulated Mind” because  that book serves as an overall primer on many different aspects of psychological conditioning, indoctrination, and brainwashing.  At just over 200 pages, it’s relatively short and introduces the reader to many of the theories and scholars who have studied conditioning and social psychology, including Ivan Pavlov, Stanley Milgram, Solomon Asch, and numerous others.  Here are a few  of the questions I offer for pondering if you read this book:

  1. What parallels can you detect between political correctness and the 10 brainwashing processes discussed in Chapter Two? (For example, as used on college campuses, or in the media, or in Human Resources departments.)

2.  Why is the threat of social rejection so central to getting people to conform to an agenda? And what makes some people more vulnerable than others?

3. What do the Milgram experiments (“Obedience to Authority”) tell you about how ordinary people can commit unthinkable acts?

  1. Given the information you gleaned from this book, what qualities would you conclude are necessary to keep a society free?

I’d love to hear about more and more folks starting book clubs like this to jump start these kinds of discussions.  If you know people who are interested, why not get together and start reading with them? Spread the word!