The dumbing down of America began with an attack against traditional education. This attack came in the form of the progressive education movement. Progressive educators altered curriculum and lowered academic standards. Then they used young students to experiment with their new curriculum.
From Rousseau to Dewey
John Dewey is the father of American progressive education movement. The Swiss philosopher Rousseau influenced Dewey.
Rousseau believed people are good by nature, and society is responsible for moral decline. He said everyone was free and equal at birth. Left on their own without the influence of society, they would achieve greatness. Inequality, privilege, exploitation, and the loss of man’s innate kindness were products of society. Rousseau advocated a model of “negative education.” Children need to learn on their own, free of religious, moral, or cultural teaching.
In fact, humanity has both benevolence and wickedness. Without nurturing benevolence, human nature’s wicked aspects will dominate
A century later, Dewey picked up where Rousseau left off. Dewey taught that education must be separate from religion, allowing children to adapt to their environments. Dewey was a pragmatist and moral relativist. He did not believe in an absolute moral code. Instead, people were free to act and behave as they saw fit.
Dewey signed the Humanist Manifesto in 1933. This is not the same humanism of the Renaissance. Modern humanism is rooted in atheism. Humanism regards the universe as self-existing rather than created. And human beings are the product of a continuous biochemical process—this theory of education molds and guides students to the educator’s wishes.
In 1921, the Soviets produced a pamphlet from Dewey’s Democracy and Education. Albert P. Pinkevich wrote, “Dewey comes closer to Marx and the Russian Communists.”
Progressive educators make no pretense about their goal to transform students’ attitudes toward life. They changed teaching materials and methods, class structures, and the relationship between teachers and students to achieve this. They taught that personal experience is superior to knowledge learned from books. Activities replaced lectures.
The conservative website, Human Events, said that Dewey’s work was destructive to education. Dewey ridiculed education that focused on character development and challenging knowledge. Instead, he encouraged teaching thinking skills.
Dumbing Down by Indulging Students
According to Rousseau’s theory of education, humans are born good and free but are made bad by society. Therefore, the best education method is to give children free rein and yield to their own whimsical development. Under Rousseau’s influence, progressive educators echoed the following ideas.
One should not force the values of parents or teachers upon students.
Children should be allowed to make their own judgments and decisions while growing up.
This indulgence of students, however, only produced laziness and immorality. An ancient Chinese saying says, “A strict teacher produces outstanding students.” Studies in the West have found that strict teachers get better results in the classroom. They also have a more positive influence on their students’ conduct.  Unfortunately, progressive education caused laws that undermined the authority of parents and teachers. This made teachers afraid to discipline students. When discipline is absent or delayed, moral and academic performance declines.
Dumbing Down through Student-Centered Education
An essential function of education is to pass on traditional culture. Dewey’s progressive education, however, removed respect and authority from teachers. When students do not respect their teachers, they do not learn. Thus, Dewey’s progressive education is anti-intellectual and anti-education.
One of the planks of student-centered instruction theory is that students should choose what they learn. Every teacher wants students to enjoy learning. Unfortunately, children and youth are unable to know what is essential to learn and what isn’t. Teachers must help students broaden their interests and understanding. Fulfilling students’ interests only leads to their permanent immaturity. Adopting student-centered instruction is irresponsible.
Studies show that American adults stay in a state of adolescence longer than in other populations. The National Academy of Science now defines adolescence as a period from twelve to thirty years of age. The MacArthur Foundation research went further. It said a person is not an adult until age thirty-five.  The media and education are responsible for this extension of adolescence.
Progressive educators offer a lame excuse for lowering academic standards. They claim that standards cannot remain the same because there are more students in the system. This does not make sense. The object of public education is to allow students who do not have the means to receive an excellent education to do so. Lowering standards causes everyone’s learning to suffer.
Progressive education claims to replace “useless” classical courses with more current courses. This causes schools to fail to offer in-depth math, science, economics, and modern history courses. Progressive education deceives students into believing their good grades make them competitive when, in fact, they do not.
The progressive education movement ruined American education. Lowering standards for the sake of students’ self-esteem is detrimental to society. The origins and outcomes of progressive education prove it is harmful to American liberty. The real losers are our children who will not be able to compete in a cruel world.