Under the communism admired by the Progressives, what is the political fate of those who know next to nothing and who cannot think? The conformists will obey the state. The whim worshippers, unable to formulate principles—including political ones—will give up in despair or will be crushed by the state. Or they will learn to obey, now following the caprice of the dictator rather than their own.
Counts was explicit about the political goals of the Progressive education movement. In his book Dare the Schools Build a New Social Order?, as Ravitch notes, Counts “forthrightly called for elimination of capitalism, property rights, private profits, and competition, and establishment of collective ownership of natural resources, capital, and the means of production and distribution.”
To indoctrinate children, he called for a consistent socialization of the classroom. He accused the “child-centered” Progressives of having no social theory “unless it be that of anarchy and extreme individualism,” repudiated the notion that education can “build its program out of the interest of the children,” claimed that America must become “less frightened than it is today at the bogeys of imposition and indoctrination,” and openly acknowledged that his socialist vision required indoctrination.
This was the Depression era, and Counts’s message was well received. Ravitch points out, “Virtually every prominent progressive in the 1930s agreed that the traditional academic curriculum reflected the failed capitalist economic order.”
Academic subjects in education and capitalism in economics are inextricably linked. One teaches cognitive independence, the other protects political independence. If one wishes to destroy political independence, it is first necessary to destroy cognitive independence; independent thinkers will govern their own lives and will not live as suckled wards of the state. To build a citizenry obedient to the state requires a classroom that inculcates conformity to the group.