The Disastrous Marriage of Public Schooling and the National-Security State
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Among the biggest disasters in U.S history has been the adoption of public (i.e., government) schooling and the national-security state and the subsequent marriage of these two governmental apparatuses.
Public schooling has inculcated a mindset of conformity, regimentation, and deference to authority within the American people. That was its purpose. That’s why governments throughout the world, including those in communist regimes, take control over the education of children and insist that parents submit their children to state-approved schooling.
By the time a child reaches the age of 18, the natural awe of the universe, the curiosity, and the thirst for learning that characterized his life from birth to 6 years of age have been smashed out of him. The ability to engage in critical thinking and to challenge authority have been destroyed. In the eyes of the state, he has become a model citizen, one whose mindset automatically conforms to whatever the authorities say and that is intellectually unable to challenge government wrongdoing at a fundamental level.
By the time the national-security state was grafted onto America’s federal governmental system after World War II, the public-school mindset of conformity and deference to authority had enveloped the minds of the American people. It simply did not occur to people to challenge what they were being told — that it was necessary for American to adopt a totalitarian-like structure — i.e., the national-security state — to wage a “cold war” against communism and the Soviet Union. It never occurred to them to challenge authority in such a fundamental way — to ask why it wouldn’t be better to fight collectivism and totalitarianism with freedom rather than with collectivism and totalitarianism. Their mindsets automatically conformed to what the authorities were saying.
That deference to authority and inability to engage in critical thinking later manifested itself in the Vietnam War. That’s why so many Americans automatically believed the two biggest crooks and liars in U.S. presidential history — Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, the two presidents who sent hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers into Vietnam, most of whom had been conscripted — forced — to go.
If U.S. troops had never been sent into Vietnam, how many Americans would have gone to Vietnam to help the South Vietnamese people win their civil war against North Vietnam? None! Notwithstanding the mindset of so many Americans today, including military veterans, not one single American would have gone to Vietnam and joined up with the South Vietnamese army to kill and die to “defend our freedom” and “to serve our country.”
Indeed, ask yourself: how many Americans, including veterans, are voluntarily traveling to Iraq to join up with the Iraqi forces who are fighting ISIS? Not one! Not one single American, including all those blowhard congressman who are saying that ISIS poses a grave threat to “national security.”
One thing is certain. No one can deny that Lyndon Johnson was a liar and a crook. He illegally had ballot boxes stuffed in South Texas in his 1948 race for the U.S. Senate, which is what enabled him to win the race. Everyone also knows by now that if President Kennedy had not been assassinated, Johnson almost certainly would have been criminally prosecuted for official corruption for his crooked dealings with Billie Sol Estes and Bobby Baker. We also know about Johnson’s intentional lie about the fake and bogus North Vietnamese attack at the Gulf of Tonkin, which he fraudulently used to secure congressional authorization to expand the U.S. war in Vietnam.
It’s no different with Nixon. He was a liar and a crook. We all know that from Watergate.
Yet, all too many Americans, including many Vietnam veterans, venerate these two liars and crooks when it comes to the Vietnam War. If Johnson and Nixon said that they were sending American men to Vietnam to “defend our freedoms” here at home, then it must be so. Those two liars and crooks might lie about other things, the conformist mindset goes, but they would never lie about why they were sending American men to kill and die in a land thousands of miles away.
Even when you confront such people with reality — that the North Vietnamese never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so — and, therefore, that the freedom of the American people was never at risk — they simply do not want to hear that. In their minds, they are convinced that 58,000 plus American men and more than a million Vietnamese died so that Americans could be free.
That’s what public schooling has done to people. That’s what a mindset of conformity, regimentation, and deference to authority does to the human mind. The conformist mind automatically accepts whatever two established liars and crooks said about invading and waging war against a country that never attacked the United States. The conformist mindset automatically makes the pronouncements of liars and crooks its own.
The marriage of public schooling and the national-security state has warped and perverted the values, principles, and consciences of the American people. Right and wrong no longer exist. All that matters is thanking the troops for their service because they have defended our freedom. Reality is whatever the president and U.S. national-security officials say it is.
Consider the brouhaha over television newscaster Brian Williams’ statement that he was in a helicopter that got hit by enemy forces in Iraq. It was a lie. But my hunch is that for Williams it wasn’t a lie until it got shown to be a lie. My hunch is that he had convinced himself that it was true. His making the lie his own reality was no different from what many Americans did with respect to the Iraq War itself — they convinced themselves that this was a war in which U.S. soldiers were killing and dying “to defend our freedoms.” They’re still convinced of it today, notwithstanding the fact that Iraq never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so.
The real reality is that the invasion of Iraq was for regime change — that’s all — the ouster of Saddam Hussein, who had been America’s partner and ally during the 1980s — from power and his replacement with a pro-U.S. regime.
That’s what the sanctions against Iraq were all about during the 1990s — regime change. When U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright told “Sixty Minutes” in 1996 that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children were “worth it,” she was referring to the effort to replace Saddam Hussein with a pro-U.S. regime through the use of sanctions. She was saying that the deaths of innocent children — half-a-million of them — was worth regime change, which has been the driving force of the national-security establishment from the time it was grafted onto our federal governmental structure after World War II.
Thus it was always easy to see that the military invasion of Iraq was just a continuation of the sanctions. Since the sanctions had failed to achieve regime change, President Bush and his national-security officials knew that the 9/11 attacks gave them the opportunity to initiate a military invasion against Iraq to achieve what the sanctions had not achieved – regime change.
But Bush felt he couldn’t say that to the American people. How could he tell them and his soldiers that the U.S. was invading Iraq for the purpose of regime change? How many Americans want to support a war for regime change? How many soldiers want to kill people for the sake of regime change? How many soldiers want to die for something so inglorious (and even so dishonorable) as regime change?
So, Bush knew what he had to do, the same thing that those two liars and crooks, Johnson and Nixon, did. Bush simply couched his regime-change operation in terms of “defending our freedom” from Saddam Hussein, who was supposedly coming to the United States and deploying the WMDs that U.S. officials had given him during their partnership during the 1980s.
The public-school mindset kicked in and automatically conformed to Bush’s pronouncements. “We have to trust the president,” the statists said, “because he clearly has information that we don’t have. The troops can blindly trust their commander in chief because presidents never lie about such things. The troop can kill Iraqis with a clear conscience. The American people can surrender their consciences to the state and unconditionally come to the support of the troops. God bless America.”
What better argument for separating school and state and dismantling the Cold War-era national-security state than that? Aren’t principles, values, and conscience more important than conformity, regimentation, and deference to authority, especially when the latter are destroying countries abroad and our own country from within?