The recent bloodbath that took place on February 14, 2018, which cost the lives of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, comes in the wake of similar tragedies all over the country. This last tragedy seems to have awakened the conscience of so many Americans who are asking themselves the questions of HOW and WHY these horrific events are occurring all around the country, threatening the peace, stability and wellbeing of our great nation. In my modest opinion it is far easier to answer the first question by simply watching the news on television and other means of communication: laxity in gun control measures and open deficiencies at the highest levels of government agencies. The existence of serious mental conditions needing special treatment, are often passed by and ignored without receiving proper medical assistance.
Independently of all the factors mentioned above, there is no doubt in my mind that education — or the lack of a proper education — has been a major factor contributing to the present deteriorating state of affairs. Unfortunately, there is a lack of understanding of the fundamental reasons of WHY some of these major tragedies are creating havoc to our basic values inherited from our founding fathers.
Personally, I am convinced that the popular and masterful writing skills of Jean Jacques Rousseau have had a tremendous and negative influence on the education of youth since the French Revolution, in particular as a result of his popular book Emile ou de l’Education. In it, he writes that man once lived in a state of natural innocence and only later became perverted by his surrounding institutions and political and economic structures. In his original state, there were no conditioning factors such as obligations and duties which would impede the child’s free actions: “God makes all things good, man meddles with them and they become evil.”1 Children, claims Rousseau, learn from their direct sensatory experiences and their manipulation of objects.2 It can rightly be said that his theory on education is subjected to the most extreme form of what today is called child-centered or progressive education.
Rousseau was well known for his contempt and even hatred for authority, both civil and ecclesiastical, not excluding paternal authority. Ironically, his famous General Contract and the fallacious idea of the General Will gave ground for the establishment and “justification” of two of the most ruthless and totalitarian regimes in modern history, led by Stalin in the Soviet Union and Hitler in Nazi Germany. Intoxicated by Rousseau’s writings men like Nietzsche and his ideological followers were carried away by his false ideas which, under the cover of freedom, equality, and fraternity, were, in reality, the total alienation of all the rights of each individual in order to place them in the hands of the General Will: the State.
Perhaps it is opportune to mention at this point the name of Saul Alinsky, the founder and organizer of modern American community centers.3 He wrote the book Rules for Radicals, which he had no hesitation in dedicating to Lucifer. It was really a handbook for radical social and economic change. He did not seek a peaceful solution to what he considered the problems of America. Alinsky contemptuously rejected the values of the middle class, and, in the process of destroying them, he taught his trainees to use popular language while deceiving the people about his real intentions. He had no hesitation in maintaining that the end justifies the means, and warned his trainees that all their actions should be clothed in moral and religious garments. The importance of education was one of the many issues that interested him and was not ignored by the organizers of the community centers.
The former President Barack Obama was a close friend of Alinsky and was at home talking with him about agitation, which he defined as challenging people to scrape away habit and recognize the importance of organizing workshops fostering leftist political and economic views giving, at the same time, the impression that he was above the ideological frays of the day. When asked about his former education the day he announced his candidacy for the presidency, the presidential candidate answered that: “The best education he ever had was not his undergraduate years at Occidental and Columbia University or even his time at Harvard Law School, but rather the four years he spent in the mid-80s learning the science of community organizing in Chicago. The night after his announcement speech, he made a similar point on 60 Minutes.”4 These answers can help in giving the American public a clearer understanding of the thinking and goals of the former President, not only in politics and economics, but also in such an important issue as education.
With respect to the HOW and the irrationality of the wave of unjustified and horrendous massacres which have hit our country like a destructive tsunami, many explanations and public statements have been given: lack of gun control legislation, incompetence at the highest levels of government, organizations such as the FBI or other security agencies, etc. But little or nothing has been said about the real underlying causes of such tragedies, especially among the young. The answer to the WHY has still been left mainly unanswered.
From early youth, the men and women of this relativistic world need to go through an educational process based on the free acceptance of the reality of an objective moral law which distinguishes good from evil and the reality of a transcendental natural law external to man, not subjected to his relativistic whims. The educational process starts within the bosom of the family which, contrary to the erroneous ideas of Jean Jacques Rousseau and the American philosopher John Dewey,5 accepts discipline, much love and the greatly needed paternal authority as indispensable parts of education.
Reflecting on the ideas of the Renaissance, parents must search for the meaning of life and teach their children, especially through example, to overcome their egoistic and evil tendencies by stressing selfless service, which is at the core of the West’s Judeo-Christian heritage. The present popularity and acceptance of a rule of conduct founded on a subjective and relativistic theory of ethics — anything goes — can only lead to the chaotic situation which we are witnessing today. This should give men and women of good will ground for thought when analyzing the WHY or reasons behind the tragic events that are threatening the very existence of a just democratic political system free of totalitarian encroachments.
Let me conclude with these wise words from Pope Benedict XVI, which he delivered on the 40th Anniversary of the Closure of the Second Vatican Council on 8 December, 2005: “If we live in opposition to love and against the truth — in opposition to God — then we destroy one another and destroy the world. Then we do not find life but act in the interests of death.”6
1. See: Peter Gray Ph.D., “Rousseau’s Errors: They Persist Today in Educational Theory,” in Psychology Today, Feb 12, 2009.
2. See: Jean Jacques Rousseau, Emile ou l’Education where he writes: “Notre manie enseignante et pedantesque est toujours d’apprendre aux enfants ce qu’ils apprendraient beacoup mieux d’eux memes , et d’oublier ce que nous aurions pu seuls leur enseigner.” Jean Jacques Rousseau, Emile ou l’Education. Paris: GF Flammarion, 1966. p. 50.
3. Saul Alinsky (1909-1972) was considered the founder of modern community organizations. He had a profound influence on the political arena of the United States. Amorality is fundamental to him and to his followers, an ideology that justifies the abandonment of morality and ethics.
4. See: Ryan Lizza, The Agitator, The New Republic, March 19, 2007.
5. John Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer whose ideas had a great influence in education. He was a founder of the philosophical movement known as pragmatism and the leader in the progressive movement in education.
6. John Paul II, homily pronounced at the Closure of the Second Vatican Council on December 8, 2005. See: https://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/homilies/2005/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20051208_anniv-vat-council.html, accessed 3/14/18.