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52: The Conspiracy Chronicles



Conspiracy turns out to be a very interesting word. It makes people nervous. And it reminds us that there are murky mysteries all around us, and we don’t really know how to feel about them.


That pretty much sums up my own rather vacuous opinion of the Illuminati, the Council of Foreign Relations, the Bilderbergers, the Pope, the CIA, KGB, Rothschilds, British royal family, Saudi royal family....well, you know all the usual suspects. 


These people are thought by some to control the world. In that case, why does the world seem so out of control? And surely these people are conspiring, in many cases, at cross purposes, which would seem to neutralize some of their power. It’s also very difficult to say that A did B and got C results. I’m not smart enough to figure out all the causes and effects. The world is a very big thing to control. And I didn't even mention UFO's, Atlantis, the Pyramids, and many other possible conspiracies. Bottom line: I don't know what to think about all this.


But education is another matter. Specifically, American public-school education. Here we have what is in effect a micro-world. Tiny, one might say. The people in charge of this world are known figures, they operate on a public stage, and their results are published in the daily paper. They are sneaky, for sure, but they blather on a great deal. So we can actually see their plans, read their motives, and begin to say, yes, A did B to get C.

The more I studied the public schools, specifically the reading theories, the more blatant it was that we are are up against a conspiracy, of the dumb, the silly, the vicious, I’m not always sure about that part. 

Here’s what I am sure of: the Education Establishment in this country, ever since John Dewey 100 years ago, has been emotionally and intellectually committed to collectivism. That’s as much a fact of American history as Washington crossing the Delaware. From their point of view collectivism was inevitable, and they wanted to be in the vanguard. They wanted to be righteous revolutionaries. Just imagine several hundred people like Obama and his czars put in charge of the public schools, circa 1935. You can easily imagine the sorts of extremism you would get.


As I began to put this picture together, and write about it more often, I realized there were people who might never be comfortable with the word conspiracy. That’s all right, I probably felt the same a few years ago. Now I would suspect it's more of a slam-dunk than most people want to suppose. John Dewey and his gang probably never went to a meeting or a conference when they were not conspiring to take control of the American public schools. If you don’t like the word conspiring, how about saying that they were plotting, scheming, manipulating, maneuvering, lying, propagandizing, organizing, networking, hiring and firing, indoctrinating young teachers, mentoring future commissars, and in general saying we will control American education, and so what if you don’t like it.


Below, if you want more detail, are some excerpts from articles that touched on conspiracy. But I’ll note here there are really only three important points:  


First, it’s not possible to understand the many foolish ideas promoted by our Education Establishment unless you allow for the fact that they are aiming at something different from what you think they mean when they use the word “education.” (They mean: indoctrination.) 

Second, identifying and eliminating the bad ideas is the only way we are going to make improvement. (That’s the premise on which “38: Saving Public Schools” is based.)

Third, Whole Word (also known as Sight Words, etc.) is so monumentally bogus that only ideological extremists could have perpetrated it. This is the in-your-face paradigm of stupid ideas, and it proves the central conspiracy in American education and frees us up to look for deception and conspiracy in other places.


Here’s some background on what has to be one of the pivotal events in American history. Roughly 1932, the country is sunk in depression, a dollar is very scarce. So what happens is totally mind-boggling. The Education Establishment insists that all public schools throw away their reading books and, at great expense, buy a whole new kind of reading book, basically the Dick and Jane type of reader. The new theories were not properly tested state versus state, city versus rural; there were no statistics, no proof of concept. Here’s what I think actually happened. The Great Depression seemed to confirm for the left that Marx was right, America was finished, and Russia was going to win. So the educators wanted to jump in front with this radical bold idea. Reading as these people understood it was to be an ideological tool that could serve to keep each class of students at roughly the same level.


Recall that the central feature of Look-Say was that students would memorize X-number of words each year. Regardless of whether that number is 800 (as first hoped) or 200- (as turned out to be more realistic), all students are artificially restrained, collectivized at a mediocre level, and prevented from actually becoming independent readers who can pick up a newspaper and read it, as had happened routinely in the past. The point was to have all the second graders more or less doing the same things, and all the third graders, etc. Look-Say readers, even the fast ones, were delayed by many years. The slower ones were turned into functional illiterates, of which we have 50,000,000.    

Even more remarkable, as the bad results piled up and Rudolf Flesch in 1955 explained the whole mess in elementary English, our Education Establishment persisted. Now you’re talking about an even bigger conspiracy, dug in, and willing to fight to the last dyslexic child.


E  X  C  E  R  P  T  S
There’s simply too much failure, too many depressing stats. I’ve grown increasingly comfortable with the notion that the people at the very top could not be so unlucky or so incompetent over so many years. It defies all odds. So we have to consider the next most logical explanation. They deliberately set out to transform the schools, presumably in order to transform the society. Trouble is, what they regarded as transforming, most other people regarded as deforming. The common term is dumbing-down. (It’s a matter of historical record that John Dewey and virtually all of his successors were far to the left; and visions of social engineering danced in their heads. The road to a Socialist America, they believed, ran directly through the classroom.)

At this point, the conversation gets problematical. The possibility of intent (that is, conspiracy) makes some people nervous. A college professor wrote me just last week: "Conspiracy is a flag word. When I hear someone say conspiracy I tune them out as kooks.” Similarly, a high-level executive sent me a note saying he agreed with much of my work; however, he didn’t like the word conspiracy. But I have to ask: if not conspiracy, what then?

For me, this is not an academic discussion. It has profound consequences. Namely, if we can’t honestly confront what plagued our past, how are we going to fix the future? I worry that we can’t. If we won’t even discuss the question of conspiracy, then perhaps we safeguard the ideological machinery that made so much failure possible. We give that machinery carte blanche to go on sabotaging every hope of progress....
Perhaps it’s time to give credit where it’s due. My own guess is that Whole Word is the most brazen, far-reaching and successful conspiracy in American history. In my imagination this conspiracy required scores of smart, dedicated people who decided among themselves: “It’s fairer if kids are more or less equal. When everybody is semi-literate, that’s social justice. And let’s face it, the public is never going to vote for our political views. The only option is to sneak them through, and realistically speaking, dumbed-down citizens will be less likely to see what we’re up to.”

Did America’s top educators deliberately aim low?? A lot of evidence says dumbing-down was the name of their game. Did these top educators work together on this project? That is, did they engage in a conspiracy? 

If the subject is Education, the 2000-pound gorilla that nobody wants to talk about is always conspiracy. Or, as they say in crime novels, who-dun-it, what was the murder weapon, and who were the accomplices?

“We see lots of gloomy education statistics,” notes Bruce Price, founder of “But the worst of all may be the finding that the United States has 50 million functional illiterates. I think it’s reasonable to conclude that such massive damage couldn’t happen by accident. You need lots of high-ranking people working together, over many decades.”
I’m fascinated by the conspiracy question because I don’t think we can fix the public schools unless we first confront what actually happened to them.  Here’s my short take: a lot of socialist educators said the heck with knowledge, facts and all that academic stuff, the big job is to turn children into future socialists. End of story.

On the other hand, if you start talking about conspiracy, one common response is, no, no, we don’t need any crazy theories like that. The problems in the schools are clearly due to lazy parents, difficult kids, the Internet, drugs, sex, television, rock ‘n roll, etc., etc. Why go poking around in the past? Dewey’s been dead forever.

My sense is that many people are content to stay on the surface and to blame the victims. They don’t want to rock the boat. They don’t want to blame any of their nominal allies. They don’t want to look at root causes. 

Well, in this case, the political beliefs of our Education Establishment a century ago are the root causes. These people were basically what we would today call European socialists. Traditional, academic education was not their main priority. Once they committed to a secret agenda that the public did not ask for or approve of, you are witnessing a conpsiracy. 
In 1955 Rudolf Flesch published a blockbuster called “Why Johnny Can’t Read.” In this still-relevant book Flesch lamented that: “The word method is gradually destroying democracy in this country; it returns to the upper middle class the privileges that public education was supposed to distribute evenly among the people.”

Toward the end of the book Flesch made an intriguing comment: “Mind you, I am not accusing the reading experts of wickedness or malice. I am not one of those people who call them un-American or left-wingers or Communist fellow-travelers. All I’m saying is that their theories are wrong.”

Point is, by 1955 some people were accusing our top educators of being “un-American or left-wingers or Communist fellow-travelers.”...
The Education Establishment--with considerable see-no-evil cooperation by the major media and elite universities--pushed Look-say as relentlessly as Philip Morris pushed cigarettes. In both cases, there were increasing reports of undesirable side effects. 
Another aspect that stays in my mind is that the Look-say experts concocted irrational explanations and cruel treatments. Life magazine, in 1944, claimed that reading problems might be caused by a range of physical ailments (glandular imbalance, heart disease, eye or ear trouble) or by psychological disturbances. The article described a little girl who was examined at Northwestern University’s reading clinic. Experts said she needed "thyroid treatments, removal of tonsils and adenoids, exercises to strengthen her eye muscles." The Life article concluded: “Other patients may need dental work, nose, throat or ear treatment, or a thorough airing out of troublesome home situations that throw a sensitive child off the track of normality....these range from alcoholic fathers to ambitious mothers who try to force their children too fast in school.” Irrelevant stuff. Sick stuff. Very sick. . 



GM CONSPIRED SUCCESSFULLY TO ELIMINATE STREET CARS AND TROLLEYS FROM AMERICAN CITIES. The goal was to sell more buses and cars. Now this unfortunate development is being reversed and street cars are coming back as "light rail."  

JOSEPH KENNEDY AND THE DALEY MACHINE CONSPIRED TO STEAL ILLINOIS FOR JFK. The result was that Nixon lost the election in 1960.  


© Bruce Deitrick Price 2010