Author - Speaker - teacher

Big Ideas are hard to kill:

The Sovietizing of American education

April 2, 2002

The Soviet Union allegedly collapsed in 1990, just weeks after an American educator heaped praise on its education system.

For more than seven decades, USSR dictators systematically held their widely-dispersed and divergently-cultured citizens captive under oppressive rule; their efforts had to fail. The Big Idea of a dominant Soviet economy had become bankrupt.

The Big Ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin had murdered millions of people and subjected millions more to a life of physical and spiritual poverty. Marxism is and was a Big Idea with big, negative consequences.

In November 1956, Nikita Kruschev told Americans that, “We [Soviets] will bury you.” To bring about his prediction, he insisted on overhauling Soviet education. Thus he set in motion a revolutionary educational program for the masses of Soviet students. They labeled it “Polytechnical Education.”

Robert Beck, a University of Minnesota researcher, as part of a $4 million dollar American federal grant (our tax dollars) studied everything he could about Soviet polytechism. He published his findings in a report that preceded the collapse of the Soviet gravediggers by mere months.

Beck wrote, “Refined from Marxist writings, polytechnism means, in brief, combining teaching and learning about economic production with practical work experience. The aim of polytechnical education in the USSR is to prepare youth for a life of productive labor in society and contribution to the construction of communism.”

Beck felt that American schools needed to move in the same direction as these fabulously successful Soviet schools. Beck lamented, “Of course, the ideological costs of such a high degree of conformity [in the Soviet system] may make it unacceptable in a country where public education is locally controlled and where educational variation, real or fancied, is esteemed.

Influential American educators in the late 1980s, saw that the time had arrived for America’s schools to do as did the Soviets. They also saw they could accomplish their goals even though it required a Soviet-style conformity that had been, until then, “unacceptable in a country where public education is locally controlled and educational variation … is esteemed.”

The perfect vehicle to marry education to jobs—the Marxist program that failed the Soviets—would be created by federalizing American education. Simply overcome local school control and educational variation, that is, the education of independently-minded individuals, by mandating how schools would operate. Let Washington, D.C. educrats become the American Soviets.

And so began Goals 2000 early in the 1990s, followed by School to Work and most recently, the Workforce Investment Act.

Just like Soviet polytechism, the newly federalized American education system sees its goal as training American children how to work. It is, after all, for the good of the state. How to be productive, how to master a trade approved and chosen by unelected regional workforce boards, these are the goals of America’s polytechism.

Entrepreneur Pierre Dupont observed in 1812 that American farmers often recited DesCartes, so well educated were they. Today’s farmers, so goes modern educratic thinking, need only to know how to read a seed label or fix a broken combine. Classical education gets in their way and besides, as John Taylor Gatto puts it, the purpose of modern education is to create, “little Egyptians who know their place in the pyramid.”

The educational reforms sold to the American public under the cover of slick marketing may well accomplish their goal of creating a “workforce” ready and willing to do whatever their masters desire. These new Americans will be a malleable “human resource,” ready to do what is best for the State. Once they find their lifelong job has been eliminated due to the rough realities of market forces, they will demand that “someone do something,” that is, “the government must solve their problem.”

Government schools have already nearly replaced the family and church as the primary place of learning. Beck gave us ample warning in his observation of polytechism when he wrote, “Observers of Soviet culture know that the home, media, and any other institutions of socialization, are expected to cooperate in the upbringing of a ‘good’ Soviet citizen.”

I notice that Beck forgot to mention “the church” as an “institution of socialization.” Then again, religion had been banned from all public Soviet discourse, kind of like in modern America. Who needed God when Soviets had the Big Idea? Marxism would save them.

Beck must have felt foolish when the Big Idea utterly failed. Perhaps polytechism had not yet penetrated Soviet society as he had hoped. But Beck should not worry. His idea is alive, well and metastasizing here in America’s schools. There is still hope for the failed Soviet system right here in his own back yard.

For more detailed information on America’s march toward Marxist education, see

 Polytechnical Education: A step”

By Robert H. Beck

University of Minnesota

National Center for Research in Vocational Education

University of California, Berkeley

1995 University Avenue, Suite 375

Berkeley, CA 94704

Sept. 1990