The Hegelian Principle in Education

What is the Hegelian Principle (also known as the Hegelian Dialectic) and how does it work?

The Hegelian Principle was formulated by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, German philosopher.  It is a process intended to produce Oneness of Mind through a process of 1) thesis:  embodying a particular view or position; 2) antithesis:  providing an opposing or contrary position; and 3) synthesis:  which reconciles the two previous positions and then becomes the basis of a new thesis…in accordance with the laws of dialectical materialism (Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary).  In theory, through a continual process of evolution, Oneness of Mind is achieved.  This process can also be used to 1) create crisis, 2) opposition to crisis, to 3) effect the wanted solution.

How does this relate to education?  In several ways.  John Dewey, father of progressive education — what is happening inside the local school house doors, was a disciple of Georg Hegel.  John Dewey stated that literacy was the greatest obstacle to socialism.

If, in 1965, the government had come forward and told parents, "We are going to implement a new education system; there is really nothing wrong with the old education system, but we need this new education system to produce children who think differently and view the world differently than you do, who believe in socialism," the parents would have hung the offending individuals from the nearest yardarm, which the offending individuals knew.  Society would not have been accepting of something so obviously counter to the very tenets on which this country was founded, that would enslave and oppress the people.

The conditions had to be created in which society would accept such a system.  Education began a downhill slide.  While the roots go back much further, those of us researching education reform can pinpoint the beginning of the noticeable downhill slide at about 1965 with the advent of the ESEA — the Elementary and Secondary Education Act — when the federal government began giving out money to those states and school districts that would accept the strings attached.  Slowly but surely the carrot got bigger until the states and schools could no longer function without the federal dollars — the states and school districts were 'hooked', they were addicted.

The programs implemented under the ESEA were social programs, not academic programs.  As they more and more displaced academic programs, the test scores continued to drop, juvenile problems began to increase as children became more and more illiterate, and the voices of the parents and public became louder.  Several attempts were made to "fix" the problem, but the thrust of those attempts always resulted in more social programs, not in the fact that children were learning less.  Parents were blamed for poor parenting skills, schools were blamed for not educating the children.  In 1983, with the publication of A Nation At Risk, the voice of parents and public reached a fevered pitch — step two of the Hegelian Principle was working effectively.  The situation was allowed to ferment until 1989 when Bush proclaimed himself the "education" President, and he and the nation's governors supposedly hammered out the six national goals.  Why I say supposedly is because the goals were already in existence.  The Governors' Task Force on Education that worked with Bush in this "endeavor" represented an interesting lot:  Booth Gardner (WA), Bill Clinton (AR), Roy Romer (CO), Carroll Campbell (SC), Evan Byah (IN), Terry Branstead (IA), and John Ashcroft (MO).

With this exercise in deception, the 'solution' was officially recognized:  education reform was officially sanctioned.  "The people have been heard; we must do something about our ailing education system."

Step three of the Hegelian Principle is upon us — the 'solution' to the problem created in step one has been proposed and implemented — progressive (aka socialist) education.

Interestingly, the agenda is not new.  The blueprint for the new "American" education system can be found in a document written in 1973 for the United Nations by George Parkyn, entitled A Conceptual Model for Life-Long Education.  The plan is fleshed out in another document, written in 1975, entitled Foundations of Life-Long Education, also bearing the United Nations signature.  Beyond this, the philosophy goes beyond John Dewey to European philosophers of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

In the 50's and 60's, the instructional process, exacting the wanted behaviors based on the Hegelian Principle, was laid out in the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, book one being the cognitive domain; book two the affective domain; collectively known as Bloom's Taxonomy — mastery learning, outcome-based education, the pedagogy of progressive education.

While parents and public were busy decrying the declining education system, advocates of progressive education were busy formulating, refining, and putting the finishing touches on a new system of education.  The "solution" to the dilemma created in American education was waiting in the wings for the right moment to surface.  That right moment came in 1989.  The people were so frustrated with the existing system that they were willing to let down their defenses and take a chance on this new system (Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky).  Reform walked through the door without so much as a whisper of opposition.

Now the task was to get the American people to accept the new education system when they saw the intricacies of it.  Again, the establishment was prepared.  Back in 1973, Ron and Mary Havelock, under contract to the U.S. Department of Education, and working through Northwest Regional Educational Laboratories, Portland, Oregon, wrote two manuals:  Training for Change Agents, and The Change Agent's Guide to Innovation in Education.  The second manual, The Change Agent's Guide, was updated and republished in 1995, authored by Ron Havelock and Steven Zlotolow.  The foreword to this book, written by Mathew B. Miles, makes this statement,

…not until the late 1940's, when American behavioral scientists began exploring and developing the ideas of the émigré psychologist Kurt Lewin, did we really have anything like a systematic science and practical craft of planned change in the kinds of social systems that matter most—families, small groups, organizations, communities."

The book goes on to outline the very process used on communities nationwide to facilitate them into ownership of predetermined outcomes.  The book stating, in the foreword, "The secret of success in change is involving everyone," vs "You can never please everyone, so just push ahead and do it."  Here again, the Hegelian Principle is being employed as the consensus process.  The book also outlines how to marginalize and/or neutralize those who will not buy in, how to get the local businesses and ministers on board, how to get the buy-in needed to implement the change.  Two other books mirror this book — The Community Action Toolkit, put out by Northwest Regional Educational Laboratories in 1994 under contract to the U.S. Department of Education; and Organizing for Social Change — the training manual for the Industrial Areas Foundation and the Midwest Training Academy.  The founders of the Midwest Training Academy are former members of the Students for a Democratic Society which has direct ties to John Dewey.  Saul Alinsky, founder of the Industrial Areas Foundation, who, in his book, Rules for Radicals, stated,

Few of us survived the Joe McCarthy holocaust of the early 1950s and of those there were even fewer whose understanding and insights had developed beyond the dialectical materialism of orthodox Marxism,

is quoted in the 1995 edition of The Change Agent's Guide.  The change agents (facilitators) were already trained, experienced, ready to implement facilitated change nationwide.

Education reform has been billed as grassroots, local in flavor.  It is neither.  Nor is it anything new as shown by the 1973 United Nations documents.  At the bureaucratic level, the agenda is being forced on the states and school districts.  While federal, state, and local officials have touted Goals 2000 as being "voluntary," HR 6, the reauthorization of the ESEA (renamed the IASA — the Improving America's Schools Act), and the funding mechanism for Goals 2000, states very specifically that any state or school district which takes federal funds will conform to Goals 2000 as condition of receipt of money.  Goals 2000 just became mandatory.  But at the local level, as repeatedly stressed in the Community Action Toolkit, public participation and ownership of the reform process is vital to the evolution to Oneness of Mind.  If people do not accept ownership, if people become educated about education reform, then wholesale rebellion will result, and the socialist agenda of Goals 2000 will not come to pass, nor will the quiet revolution.  We need only look to Pasco, Washington, to see how far reform advocates are willing to go to implement their agenda — to see the corruption, coercion and deceit that surround education reform.  Too many school districts sport similar stories.

In final analogy, what we are talking about, in discussing education reform, is not Sputnik, seat time, clock time, and the Taylorian education system; we are talking about a change in philosophy — from the Traditional paradigm built upon and conducive to the tenets upon which this country was founded, to the Progressive paradigm — the collaborative, cooperative, collective man willing to work for minimal compensation for the good of the collective whole, for the state.  This is the very essence, the very tenets of socialism.  Under the Traditional paradigm, education was the acquisition of knowledge with the child being challenged to use the scope of that knowledge to formulate a reasoned conclusion as an individual.  Under the Progressive or Transformational paradigm, education is for the purpose of socializing the child, producing the collaborative, cooperative, collective child.  Remember that John Dewey said that literacy was the greatest obstacle to socialism.  The only way to create illiteracy is to remove knowledge.  Progressive education does just that — knowledge is incorporated as it is used and applied in addressing social or life-related issues.  To soften the tone, parents are told that education must be relevant, centered around life-role situations, what the children will encounter when they get out into the real world. 

All the social programs, centered around Third Force psychology and practices, implemented to make life better, the future better for our youth — have had just the opposite effect, creating more juvenile crime, teenage pregnancy, etc, taking more and more of the time needed to educate for literacy.  But instead of putting a stop to it, instead of holding accountable those instigating and implementing these social programs, we have allowed ourselves to be duped by the "expert" mentality, by the psychologists, sociologists, psychiatrists, behavioral scientists, people we should have been able to trust but who belied our trust in the interests of this great "social" experiment where the world was truly their "oyster."  And we have listened to, and believed, the worn out rhetoric of "bad parents", "bad schools." 

Our country has become the victim of the same self-perpetuating philosophy that took Germany down the road to Hitler.  Are we smart enough to stop it?  There is one thing for sure — we won't if we don't educate ourselves, if we refuse to look past the rhetoric to the reality.

© March 1996; Lynn M Stuter