The Threat to Education: Unmasking the Influence of "Woke" Ideologies
Investigating the infiltration of "Woke" ideologies, including Freirean Pedagogy, Idea Laundering, and Marxism, and their controversial implications for education systems and intellectual growth
Chris Whitehead is a new friend to Woke Watch Canada. He is a like-minded writer and researcher concerned with the woke cultural revolution currently gripping the Western world. His motivation is simply to study and gain understanding of Wokeism, and then transmit that knowledge through his writing - which you can find on his excellent Substack. Today, I am publishing for readers of Woke Watch Canada, an excellent essay written by Chris on the Marxian/Freirean subversion of Western education. You can find Chris on Twitter here.
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The Threat to Education: Unmasking the Influence of "Woke" Ideologies
In his 1972 book, "Counter-revolution and Revolt," Herbert Marcuse, an influential American Critical Marxist and Philosopher often referred to as "The Father of the New Left," expounded on the concept of "the long march through the institutions":
To extend the base of the student movement, Rudi Dutschke has proposed the strategy of the long march through the institutions: working against the established institutions while working in them, but not simply by “boring from within,” rather by “doing the job,” learning how to program and read computers, how to teach at all levels of education, how to use the mass media, how to organize production, how to recognize and eschew planned obsolescence, how to design, et cetera), and at the same time preserving one’s own consciousness in working with the others. (p.55)
The landscape of education in Canada has evolved since my wife embarked on her teaching career in the early 1990’s. Teaching is a highly esteemed profession, as educators often spend more time with our children than we do. They wield substantial influence in shaping their students' future selves and the knowledge they carry into adulthood. After dedicating 31 years to teaching, my wife retired last year. The latter part of her career was spent in a close-knit elementary school within a small community. Working alongside a group of exceptional educators who fostered mutual support, they created a secure and enjoyable environment for teaching and learning. Upon her retirement, a young, new teacher took her place, introducing a new teaching perspective influenced by Paulo Freire's Pedagogy, which is currently prevalent across North America.
During the planning for the new teacher's first holiday concert at the school, discussions were held to determine the performances of each class. A veteran teacher proposed a Hawaiian-themed performance complete with grass skirts. To the surprise of the veteran teacher, the new teacher (they/them) objected, citing concerns of "cultural appropriation." The veteran teacher disagreed and advised that the show will go on. Subsequently, the new teacher raised their concerns with an administrative committee at the school board level, which happened to be the "Ethics committee." This committee ruled that the Hawaiian-themed performance constituted cultural appropriation and, therefore, should not be allowed. The activism leading to this "issue" is a direct consequence of Freirean Pedagogy. The notion of cultural appropriation originates from Kim Crenshaw's concept of Intersectionality. Both of these ideologies are rooted in Marxist principles and bear resemblance to the Maoist Cultural Revolution in China.
The Marxification of Education - who is Paulo Freire
"The Marxification of Education" is the title of a book published in 2022 by author James Lindsay, who has been a valuable source in researching this topic. Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator and philosopher, exerted significant influence on education in North America, ranging from kindergarten to university level. His work emphasized "generative themes," where educational content was replaced by political content. Freire, a Marxist, integrated several themes found in Maoist Education into his work. Critical pedagogy, dialogical education, and conscientization were among his key concepts. Like Marx and Mao, Freire's work stems from a critical analysis of power dynamics and the examination of social inequality. He emphasized the necessity of challenging oppressive systems and structures that perpetuate inequality, directing attention towards marginalized and oppressed groups in society. As noted by James Lindsay:
Conscientization is the chief goal of the Freirean educational program. It means bringing someone to Marxist consciousness of their circumstance (Lindsay, 2022).
Lindsay continues to draw the parallels between Freirean education and Maoist re-education camps by leaning on the work of Robert Lifton:
Conscitzado is the process of thought reform, which is the translation psychologist Robert Jay Lifton gave to the Mandarin Chinese term for “brainwashing” in Maoist re-education prisons in Communist China (Lindsay, 2022).
Alleged Racism in Mathematics
Jason To, a math coordinator at the Toronto District School Board and the president of the Ontario Mathematics Coordinators Association, asserts that the way we teach math is inherently racist. To has wholeheartedly embraced Marxist-Freirean Pedagogy, as evident from his blog, which reads like a manual on Freirean education. In his blog, To states:
For instance, students can learn mathematics through relevant issues of social justice. MathThatMatters and High School Mathematics Lessons to Explore, Understand, and Respond to Social Injustice are great books to spark ideas for K-12 teachers wanting ways to infuse issues such as climate change and systemic racism into their math blocks.
Paulo Freire himself could have written that passage. Some might argue, "What's wrong with this approach to education?" James Lindsay gives an example of this pedagogy in practice:
Here’s a very subtle example, courtesy of former educator Jennifer McWilliams, that’s unfortunately typical in Social-Emotional Learning approaches to leveraging “engagement.” Consider this second grade arithmetic word problem: “Johnny is riding in the car on the way to the amusement park with his mom and dad. The amusement park is 50 miles away. They have already driven 30 miles. How much further do they have to go?” It seems completely innocuous, but an activist “educator” trained in SEL could easily facilitate this word problem into a classroom discussions of poverty, race, sexuality, gender, environmentalism, and parental authority. For instance, she might ask the students who has been to an amusement park and who hasn’t to build “engagement.” Then before doing the math problem ask why some people have been and haven’t been to an amusement park until someone brings up that not everyone can afford it. The teacher used “amusement park” as a generative theme for a discussion about poverty that could easily spin into a discussion about race. “Mom and dad” could “generate” discussions about feminism, sexuality and gender. “Car” could “generate” discussions about environmentalism. The circumstances of some children having gone and other parents telling their kids they’re not old enough yet could “generate” discussions about parental authority and its legitimacy. All of these topics will then be addressed from lenses like “equity” and “sustainability.” This is how the “generative themes” approach can easily hijack any academic lesson at all and turn it into an opportunity to conscientize into a desired “political literacy.” (Lindsay, 2022)
This is what Freire’s educational theory is designed to achieve. Students are meant to be “facilitated” into Leftist political activism, and other student achievement outcomes are quite literally an afterthought. Education is a pretext; Marxist activist grooming is the point. (Lindsay, 2022)
You read that correctly. Freirean Pedagogy places the transformation of children into social activists above the acquisition of reading, writing, and math skills. Consequently, if your child is currently enrolled in school, there is a high likelihood that they are being educated in a Freirean manner.
This ideology is depriving our children of a true education. In 2019, the Ontario Human Rights Commission published its "Right to Read" report, which highlighted the following concern:
Too many Ontario students are not learning to read well. Education Quality Accountability Office (EQAO) data shows that a large portion of Ontario students (one in four in grade 3, one in 5 in grade 6) are failing to meet provincial reading standards.
However, by Freirean educational standards, these measurements are rendered inconsequential as they are considered constructs of colonialism and white supremacy. Freire measures educational success based on the level to which children are "awakened to systematic racism, systems of oppression, and equipped to deconstruct colonialism." One might wonder if most parents would prefer their children to learn how to read and write instead.
Lindsay summarizes the Freirean educational process as follows:
This “educational process” in which education and politics are dialectically synthesized into one activity is instrumental to Marxism in the free, liberal West because, frankly, that structural oppression isn’t actually there, at least not significantly. You have to be groomed into seeing it through an “educational” process, and that’s what Freire offers. Freire, then, is in a meaningful sense the father of Woke because going Woke means learning to see structural oppression in virtually everything in order to denounce it, like a process of waking up to a hiding, horrible world. (Lindsay, 2022)
Freieren Themes we might recognize
For the sake of clarification, it's essential to recognize that it’s unlikely that there is a designated textbook or instructional guide labelled "Freirean Education" being utilized in your child's educational institution. Furthermore, it would be unjust to harbour resentment towards the educators, as a significant number of them may not be fully cognizant that the core of their teaching methodologies is grounded in this pedagogical approach.
However, there are several identifiable themes, observable within the structure of various schools, reflected in students' report cards, or embedded within the curriculum itself. Such themes encompass:
Student-led project based learning
Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)
Transformative Social-Emotional Learning
Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE)
These educational themes can be traced back directly to the principles of Freirean pedagogy and Critical Race Theory. The latter concept, in particular, has recently come under scrutiny, garnering significant media coverage and eliciting vehement objections from parents and governmental figures. Proponents of CRT have proposed a solution by merely renaming it. However, the fundamental ideology remains ingrained within the themes outlined above.
How did we get here? A brief history of Marxism in Education.
These parasitic ideas have infected our institutions from the top down. At the top, we find our Universities and Teachers Colleges. Marxist theories have long been a part of academic discourse, particularly in the humanities and social sciences. The emergence and evolution of Marxism in Western universities has been a multifaceted process, influenced by multiple social, political and cultural trends over the decades.
1. The 1960s: This era was marked by intense political and social unrest, with movements for civil rights, peace, and student activism becoming particularly prominent. In many Western universities, students and faculty began to delve into Marxist theory as an intellectual response to societal inequality and imperialistic warfare. In academia, this was also the era when 'Critical Theory' derived from the Frankfurt School (a social and political philosophical movement in Germany) began to influence several fields of study, including sociology, political science, and literary criticism, amongst others. The theorists from this school applied Marxist critique not just to political economy, but also to culture and ideology.
2. The 1970s: Marxist thought continued to develop in the 1970s, finding fertile ground in various academic departments. The period was marked by the rise of structuralism and post-structuralism, which drew on Marxist ideas about power structures and class conflict, and also reflected a critical turn in the social sciences. Marxist historians like E.P. Thompson in the UK helped to develop 'social history', shifting focus from political elites to ordinary people and class structure.
3. The 1980s and the Cold War: The Cold War period was a challenging time for the propagation of Marxist ideas, given the staunch anti-communist stance of Western governments. However, in academia, these ideas evolved rather than disappeared. Some academics began to synthesize Marxism with other theoretical frameworks, resulting in the emergence of new paradigms like feminist Marxism and ecological Marxism.
4. The 1990s to Early 2000s: After the fall of the Soviet Union, there was a decline in the influence of traditional Marxism. Yet, its core concepts continued to shape fields such as literary criticism, cultural studies, history, and sociology. This was also the time when 'post-Marxism' began to develop. Post-Marxists like Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe sought to revise Marxist theory by challenging its economic determinism and incorporating elements of post-structuralism and psychoanalysis.
5. Late 2000s to the 2020s: In response to the 2008 financial crisis and growing wealth inequality, there was a resurgence of interest in Marxist critique of capitalism. Academia saw a rise in critical studies and movements that embodied Marxist theory, such as critical race theory and continued feminist theory, which often intersected with Marxist principles. This is where we see the introduction of Freirean Pedagogy and what we now call “The Woke Mind Virus".
What is Marxism?
Marxism is a social, political, and economic theory that originated from the work of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. It is a complex ideology with several key components:
1. Historical Materialism: Marxists believe that the social and political structures of society (superstructure) are shaped by its economic base, which includes the means of production and the class relations they engender. In other words, economic factors are fundamental in shaping historical development.
2. Class Struggle: Marx and Engels argued that all history is the history of class struggles. In capitalist societies, these classes are the bourgeoisie, or capitalist class, who own the means of production, and the proletariat, or working class, who sell their labour for wages. The bourgeoisie exploit the proletariat by appropriating the surplus value produced by their labour.
3. Alienation: Marx argued that in a capitalist system, workers are alienated from the product of their labour, from the act of production itself, from their species-essence (meaning, from realizing their full human potential), and from each other.
4. Revolution and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat: Marxists believe that this class struggle will eventually lead to a revolution in which the proletariat will overthrow the bourgeoisie. This would lead to a transitional phase known as the dictatorship of the proletariat, during which the proletariat would govern society.
5. Communism: The ultimate goal of the Marxist revolution is the establishment of communism, a classless and stateless society where the means of production are commonly owned, and goods are distributed according to the principle, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."
It's important to note that while Marx and Engels laid the foundation for these ideas, Marxism has evolved significantly since the 19th century, branching into numerous offshoots, interpretations, and applications. These include Leninism, Stalinism, Trotskyism, Maoism, and more contemporary variations such as Neo-Marxism, which incorporates elements of other theories and focuses more on culture and ideology. In the Contemporary Era the offshoot of Marxism has come to include “Wokeism.”
In contemporary academic settings, a phenomenon known as "circular validation" has emerged among certain educators with a woke-Marxist ideology. This system serves to validate self-generated ideologies that aim to mold and shape society. The exposure of this system came to light during the "Grievance Studies affair," also referred to as the "Sokal Squared controversy."
During this affair, Peter Boghossian, James Lindsay, and Helen Pluckrose deliberately authored 20 fabricated papers. These papers were intentionally nonsensical or morally questionable, cleverly written in the jargon of postmodern theory and identity politics. The authors submitted these papers to various academic journals specializing in cultural, queer, race, gender, fat, and sexuality studies, often criticized as "grievance studies." Their project sought to reveal what they perceived as low standards of academic rigour and ideological bias within these fields.
The revelation that several of these papers were accepted for publication caused significant controversy. Among them was a translated version of Hitler's manifesto, "Mein Kampf," reworked with feminist language. Another paper, titled "Human Reactions to Rape Culture and Queer Performativity at Urban Dog Parks in Portland, Oregon," controversially argued that dogs participate in rape culture and suggested that men could be trained similarly to dogs. Remarkably, this paper garnered praise from the journal in which it was published.
Lindsay, Boghossian and Pluckrose, in their work, describe "idea laundering" as a process through which unfounded or biased ideas are presented as legitimate and established truths through academic structures and mechanisms. This term is often used by them to criticize what they perceive as ideological biases within academia, particularly within the humanities and social sciences.
The process, as they describe it, typically involves the following steps:
1. Creation of a biased or unfounded idea: This might be a concept, theory, or assertion that reflects a particular ideological viewpoint but lacks a robust evidential basis.
2. Publication in academic journals: The idea is then written up in an academic paper and submitted to a scholarly journal. Lindsay, Boghossian and Pluckrose argue that if these journals are also ideologically biased or lack rigorous peer review standards, they may accept the paper even if its conclusions are not well-founded.
3. Citation and amplification: Once the idea has been published, other academics cite the paper in their own work, and the idea is taught in university courses. This gives it greater exposure and legitimacy.
4. Establishment as 'fact': As the idea is repeatedly cited and taught, it becomes part of the accepted body of knowledge within that academic field, even if it hasn't been scrutinized or substantiated outside of ideologically friendly circles.
Lindsay, Boghossian and Pluckrose argue that this process contributes to the propagation of radical or unfounded ideas within academia and can lead to those ideas influencing broader society in ways they consider harmful. They use this concept as part of their broader critique of what they call "grievance studies", including certain aspects of critical theory, gender studies, and postmodern thought.
Professors often have to publish 7 papers in 7 years to gain tenure and will leverage this circular validation process to propagate their parasitic ideas onto their students. Students will be “taught” from these professors published papers and a passing grade would require the student to accept the principles being taught as “fact” allowing the parasitic ideas to spread further into society upon graduation.
Idea Laundering at work: Intersectionality.
If your child is currently enrolled in university and pursuing studies in the humanities, they are likely encountering the concept of "intersectionality." This concept gained prominence through an academic paper published by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1991, titled "Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color." Notably, this paper has been cited over 37,000 times, exemplifying the process of idea laundering previously discussed.
Who is Kimberlé Creenshaw?
Kimberlé Crenshaw is an American scholar, professor, and civil rights advocate known for her contributions to critical race theory and intersectionality.
Crenshaw is a professor of law at both Columbia Law School and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law. She has played a crucial role in developing and popularizing the concept of intersectionality.
Crenshaw's influential article, "Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color," published in 1991, is widely cited and considered a foundational text in intersectional theory. Her work has had a significant impact on fields such as law, feminist theory, critical race studies, and social justice activism.
What is Intersectionality?
Intersectionality is a concept that claims to recognize how different social identities, such as race, gender, class, sexuality, disability, and others, intersect and interact, shaping individuals' experiences of privilege and oppression. Intersectionality claim that these identities are not separate and independent, but instead interconnect and mutually influence one another.
According to intersectionality, individuals can experience overlapping and interlocking systems of discrimination and disadvantage that cannot be understood or addressed by examining each identity in isolation. For example, a black woman may face unique forms of discrimination that arise from the intersection of racism and sexism, which cannot be fully understood by solely analyzing race or gender independently.
Intersectionality aims to analyze the complex ways in which power structures, social hierarchies, and systems of oppression operate. It acknowledges that individuals possess multiple social identities that intersect and create distinct experiences, which are shaped by social, political, and economic factors.
It is important to acknowledge that while Crenshaw is credited with developing the concept of intersectionality, she derived “inspiration” from The Combahee River Collective's statement published in 1977, which focused on organizing around the intersections of race, gender, and class. The Collective criticized mainstream feminism for neglecting the unique struggles faced by Black women and emphasized the importance of addressing the specific issues faced by marginalized individuals.
The statement begins by highlighting the unique position of Black women within the feminist movement, emphasizing that their experiences are shaped by both race and gender. It criticizes mainstream feminism for its failure to address the particular struggles faced by Black women and for its tendency to prioritize the concerns of middle-class white women.
In the statement, The Collective discusses the importance of organizing around the intersections of race, gender, and class. They advocate for a politics that centers the experiences and needs of the most marginalized, recognizing that liberation for all can only be achieved by addressing the specific issues faced by those at the margins.
The Combahee River Collective statement drew influences from various ideologies, including Marxism and Marxism-Leninism. Additionally, James Lindsay suggests that the Collective drew inspiration from Herbert Marcuse, a figure associated with the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory, who advocated for identity politics as a solution to establish a new proletarian class for a cultural revolution. The Combahee River Collective and subsequently Crenshaw, with her theories of intersectionality, heavily relied on Marcuse's teachings.
James Lindsay describes Intersectionality on his New Discourses blog as follows:
a means of yoking together divisive identity politics (Identity Marxism) to achieve some kind of social, cultural, and political transformation directed by the cultists who think this way. It is a program to bind Marxian identity politics together to bring society to heel under the discipline of a new standard called “equity,” which it sees as a measure of and precursor to “Social Justice.”
One might be tempted to dismiss the preceding paragraph as an impassioned criticism originating from a white cisgender male who benefits from the existing power structure in society. However, this would be falling into a predetermined trap.
Woke ideologues have constructed a system that discourages dissent. Building upon Crenshaw's work on intersectionality, Robin DiAngelo, an American academic and author known for her contributions to critical race theory and whiteness studies, has extensively written about the concept of individualism versus collective experience, particularly in relation to race and racism.
DiAngelo's book, "White Fragility," published in 2018, enjoyed a prominent presence on the New York Times Best Seller list for over 100 weeks. The book serves as a guide on how to suppress any disagreement. According to DiAngelo, if one does not agree with her assertions, they are automatically labeled as racist. DiAngelo states:
However, a positive white identity is an impossible goal. White identity is inherently racist; white people do not exist outside the system of white supremacy.
Irrespective of James Lindsay's perspective, DiAngelo and Crenshaw argue that opposing views should not be entertained, as doing so would be considered racist.
DiAngelo dedicates numerous pages to outlining potential critiques of her writing, dismissing those critiques as further instances of racism to silence any dissenting voices (after all, who wants to be labeled a racist?). DiAngelo developed the following list of “claims” which she asserts are racist when used in the context of white fragility and systematic racism discussions:
I marched in the sixties
You are generalizing
That is just your opinion
I disagree (I love this one, you disagree = racist)
You are elitist
Moreover, DiAngelo presents a list of “behaviours” that she deems racist within the context of discussing white fragility and systemic racism:
Focusing on intentions
Additionally, DiAngelo compiles a list of “emotions” that a white person may experience during a discussion on systemic racism and white fragility, labelling these very emotions as racist:
DiAngelo covers all possible angles, asserting that if you are white and straight, you are inherently racist and have no connection to the truth. Hence, the expectation is that you should passively accept everything she says. It’s also important to note that DiAngelo herself is white.
Our Maoist Education System
Both Freirean pedagogy and intersectionality can be attributed to Marxism, specifically Maoism.
Mao Zedong, the paramount leader of China during the Cultural Revolution, heavily relied on Marx's theory as the foundation for the Chinese Communist Party's ideology. Mao developed a distinct interpretation and adaptation of Marxism known as Maoism. Maoist education included the following key themes:
1. Political Indoctrination: Education during the Maoist era primarily aimed to instil loyalty to the Communist Party and socialist ideals. This was achieved through political education and propaganda. The curriculum extensively covered Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought.
2. Class Struggle: Class struggle played a pivotal role in Maoist thought, extending its influence to education. Students were taught that class struggle was a driving force in society.
3. The Cultural Revolution and Education: The education system in China underwent radical transformations during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Higher education institutions were effectively shut down for several years as universities were viewed as breeding grounds for bourgeois elitism. Instead, students were encouraged to participate in "socialist education," which often involved manual labor and political indoctrination, commonly referred to as "re-education."
The parallels between Maoist pedagogy and the current Freirean pedagogy observed in North American education today are disconcerting. In China, the Maoist ideology resulted in a devastating famine and widespread loss of life, estimated to be as high as 70 million Chinese citizens. The consequences of Maoism were catastrophic. It begs the question: Why are we repeating history?
Back to the beginning
By now, you may be wondering why I shared the story of my wife's replacement after she retired from teaching. You may recall the disagreement over a school performance centered on a Hawaiian theme, where the students were planning to wear grass skirts. Eventually, the performance was disallowed under the grounds of "cultural appropriation."
According to postmodernists, cultural appropriation is considered a micro-aggression. Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay delve into this topic in their book, Social (In)Justice:
..but from the 1990s, intersectionalists became increasingly dominant, incorporating significant amounts of postmodernism into what was by then recognized as critical race Theory. Over time, the postmodernists came to focus on microaggressions, hate speech, safe spaces, cultural appropriation, implicit association tests, media representation, “whiteness,” and all the now familiar terms of racial discourse. (Pluckrose/Lindsay 2022) (emphasis mine)
Why, why, why?
The question arises: Why would anyone seek to transform our democracy into communism? Why would we willingly step backward into a failed system that has caused immeasurable harm and death? While I don't have the answer, the crucial question is: Now that you are aware, what will you do about it?
Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this content checkout the Great Illiberal Subversion series of essays for Woke Watch Canada.
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