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Once Upon a Mind in America: Builders or Activists?

Once Upon a Mind in America: Builders or Activists?

Posted by Ed Straka on 03/21/2024

Once upon a time, education meant that children were taught to read,[i] write, and count so that they could function in a world of adults and provide a living for themselves, and their families along with being a benefit to society. It was nothing new! Whether one dealt with the age-old apprenticeship methods of education [ii] or the institutionalized method of education[iii] – it was understood that those who did the training and those who were undergoing the training were in their place for the purpose of maintaining a civilization. [iv] This was facilitated through intellectual activity at both the academic level and the hands-on practical level of the trades, as Thomas E. Woods noted in his facinationg book, How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization:

"They not only established the schools, and were the schoolmasters in them, but also laid the foundation for the universities. They were the thinkers and philosophers of the day and shaped the political and religious thought. To them, both collectively and individually, was due the continuity of thought and civilization of the ancient world with the later Middle Ages and with the modern period… Among other things, the monks taught metallurgy, introduced new crops, copied ancient texts, preserved literacy, pioneered in technology, invented champagne, improved the European landscape, provided for wanderers of every stripe, and looked after the lost and shipwrecked. Who else in the history of Western civilization can boast such a record?[v]"

The Protestant schools were no different. They likewise believed education was built upon a foundation of the past wherein it was understood that the learning of the ancients gave wisdom to those who hoped to build for the future. Take for example the following mission statement from William and Mary College in 1727 and its reference to both classical learning and Christianity:

"Toward the cultivating the minds of men, and rectifying their manners, what a mighty influence the studies of good letters, and the liberal sciences have, appears from hence, that these studies not only flourished of old amongst those famous nations, the Hebrews, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans; but in the latter ages of the world likewise, after a great interruption and almost destruction of them, through the incursions of the barbarous nations, they are at last retrieved, and set up with honor in all considerable nations. Upon this there followed the reformation of many errors and abuses in the point of religion, and the institution of youth to the duties of Christian virtues and civility; and a due preparation of fit persons for all offices in church and state.[vi]"

These schools were logical because they were based upon logic[vii] and how the world worked. People knew that if you wanted to survive you had to work. They actually wanted to learn how civilization worked so that they could not only maintain it, but build upon what that they had received from their forebears. This was known as civilization building; it was future oriented and built upon a foundation from the past. Such an education was known as A “Liberal Arts” education as it taught men how to live free.

In the Present

By the late 1700s and the early 1800s, the Ivy League schools had forgotten their religious roots[viii] and societal obligations and eventually focused upon a small elite group of students from well to do families, contrary to the person who came from a small town still holding small town values.[ix] Eventually these schools became intellectual think tanks[x] designed to build men and women that would rule the world in business, education, finance, government and so on.[xi]

In the name of freedom, the Liberal Arts Education, “died not from old age, nor only from neglect and not exactly from murder, but from self-inflicted wounds that look a bit like suicide.”[xii] One author has suggested that said “suicide” was done in the name of a “freedom” from faith, family, tradition, and our history all the while marching toward a brighter, rainbow-colored Marxist future.[xiii] Academia had committed themselves to failed ideologies or history written by intellectual hacks such as Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States, who never bothered with footnotes or accurate quotations containing all of what someone wrote.[xiv] But there is a world to win, and a vision to embrace regardless of results.[xv] The modern intelligentsia was now committed to spouting specious intellectualism[xvi] such as former Harvard University president Claudine Gay[xvii] who had the shortest tenure in Harvard’s history of under 7 months.[xviii] Yet, we should not be surprised. If one is only taught drivel, surrounded by drivellers, and encouraged to be a driveling driveller – the results will be obvious to all.[xix]

What is not understood by the modern Homo sovieticus[xx]denizens of the modern educational system, is that revolutionary educational methods that attempt to both force-feed and perpetuate ideology as education miss the entire point of what education was meant to accomplish.[xxi] In a strange psychological manifestation of irrationality, the modern ideologues have posited themselves as the elite guardians of civilization all the while spouting ideas that when applied in the past have brought only destruction, and will probably do the same in the future. As the saying goes – “if you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten.”[xxii]

But that is the great mystery of modern education that attempts to ignore the past and remake man into something “new” as Stalin did: they actually believe the purge of the old society will not include them or their property. The truth is what the Conditioners say it is and if you do not agree with them you will be exiled to Siberia (Cancelled?..) in true Soviet fashion and lose your job or your enrollment at school (and people say America won the Cold War?...).[xxiii]

Moving Forward

We began this brief essay by discussing education as it was in medieval Europe and its inherent purpose to be intellectually stimulating and practical to the needs of the time. Also considered was the 1727 William and Mary College mission statement with its clearly stated purpose “to fit persons for all offices in church and state.” We noted how it connected classical learning and Christianity.

It is clear that for our educational forebears, their purpose included civilization building linked strongly and purposely with the Christian faith. This would change in the 1800s when the Ivy League schools set aside their religious roots and vision and became finishing schools for elite families that wanted to claim and maintain their grip on the levers of power in society. In time that too changed when Liberal Arts education was abandoned in favor of political activism with the stated purpose of undoing the foundations of American civilization and its historic Christian moorings.

To the casual observer, it may seem that education has “naturally evolved” without a guiding hand.[xxiv] However, this is to disregard both the creative purposes of God and the destructive intentions of the Father of Lies. Each generation of thinkers, whether faithful or faithless, will build on the past and push their endeavors to the limits available to them. While the victory of the Gospel in history is unquestioned, the immediate battle for the heart and soul of our nation will be won by those who learn from the past, understand the present times, and make life decisions accordingly. Rather than looking for something new they must turn to something old: hard work in the academic realm and a return to the vision of Christian civilization building.

At Christian Liberty Homeschools, our purpose is to serve both families and individuals by providing a Scripturally sound curriculum, intended to teach successive generations to build a free and virtuous society to the glory of God and His Christ (Col. 3:17; I Cor. 10:31; 2 Cor. 10:5).

We are grateful to partner with all our CLH parents and those yet to join us in this vision!


[i] Jordan Peterson & Victor Davis Hanson on the downfall of Ivy League Schools:

[ii] Another reason the Jewish method of education was so superior is that children did not wait until they were 25-26 years old to learn to work. They were working with their parents since they were young. See Christian Philosophy of Education, Tape # 1 by Dr. Kenneth Talbot, class of Whitefield College (World View Productions: Lakeland, Florida).

See also comment by Rushdoony on American society today contra the past: “Children are currently held back to the point that even in their adulthood, they are unprepared, undisciplined, and thus unready for the real world unlike the children prior to the Civil War. An era which prepared children to enter college in their early teens and run businesses, lead armies, or work as ship captains by age nineteen.” Dr. Rushdoony, Tapes 11 of World History II, Whitefield College (World View Productions: Lakeland, Florida).

[iii] “Most of us who were taught in a graded classroom are all too familiar with the Scope & Sequence method. The first assumption of this method is that there is an encyclopedia of information which all children must learn. The second assumption is that we can divide this encyclopedia down into efficient little increments according to twelve grade levels and 180 daily installments. Then, like an automobile assembly plant, as each child goes down the conveyor belt, he has various parts attached along the way, and he comes out of the twelfth grade a completed product.” Harvey & Laurie Bluedorn, Teaching the Trivium, Vol. II, (Muscatine, Iowa: Trivium Pursuit, 1994-5), p. 15.


[v] Thomas E. Woods, How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, (Regenery Publishing: Washington DC, 2005), p. 45.

[vi] Richard Hofstader, ed., American Higher Education Vol. 1 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), p. 39.

[vii] How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, p. 56.


[ix] Jordan Peterson & Victor Davis Hanson on the downfall of Ivy League Schools:

[x] “Intellectuals are naturally attracted by the idea of a planned society, in the belief that they will be in charge of it.”
See: Sir Roger Scruton, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left

[xi] John Taylor Gatto, The Underground History of American Education, (New York: The Oxford Village Press, 2000/2001), p. 367 – 380.


[xiii] “When Thomism—or, more commonly, the Scholastic tradition that grows out of Thomism and propounds the theory of natural law—ceases to be the predominating philosophy of a university, the university simply ceases to be. This is easy to see in the way courses are taught, many of which have adopted a “neo-Marxist” philosophy: “Thomism is meant to advance actual knowledge, neo-Marxism is meant to advance propaganda, which is true to Marx’s goal of putting change (revolution) above understanding (wisdom).” Whereas one philosophical system espouses the intellect and reason, the other system emphasizes feeling and action. It’s no mystery which one is the easier sell to young adults.” Quotation taken from online article found below:






[xix] Watch AOC on the end of the world in a decade or so:

[xx] Publishing Prejudices – Theodore Dalrymple (

[xxi] “[I]t is to the Middle Ages that we owe one of Western civilization’s greatest – unique – intellectual contributions to the world: the university system.” How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, p. 47.

[xxii] Herbert Schlossberg, Idols For Destruction, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1983), p.63-64.

[xxiii] Publishing Prejudices – Theodore Dalrymple (