University arts students of the 1970s all saw Marxism dominating the world of academic respectability among ambitious young scholars – the Herd of Independent Thinkers – despite Communism’s repeated seven-and eight-figure slaughters (such as Stalin’s four to seven million Holodomor dead, Mao’s 30 to 50 million Great Leap Forward dead, and Pol Pot’s more modest two million Killing Fields dead). But the bloom started coming off the Marxist rose in 1968, when Soviet tanks crushed the short-lived Czech democracy. The glorious Prague Spring had enjoyed rock festivals in the city squares, and the Young Left here could not abide anyone censoring their music.
Post-1968, classic Marxism was now no longer chic for utopian socialists, so they needed a new ideological warrant. Again, a fallback was already prepared by Herbert Marcuse in his 1955 Eros and Civilization. Once a pariah among real revolutionaries, Marcuse’s Neo-Marxism became a hit, post-Woodstock, by grounding utopian economic socialism in sexual liberation. Since technology has solved "all questions of material existence, moral commands and prohibitions are no longer relevant." Liberated from necessity, human beings can now explore the vast and sundry options of experimental intercourse. Etiquette was apparently thought unnecessary in negotiating the experiments, hence the date-rape alarm now prevalent on campuses.
Marcuse was followed by a flood of contending critical philosophers, particularly Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault. Jean Francois Lyotard’s Postmodern Condition (1978) was in fact commissioned by the Conseil des universités du Québec, to address the question, What Next? (Ponder that conceit!) They disagreed how the future would look, but all agreed that the destruction or “deconstruction” of all existing norms and social order would spontaneously bring something infinitely better. In this assumption, post-war intellectuals were astonishingly oblivious to the immense effort, self-sacrifice and cooperation that had been needed, generation after generation over the previous three millennia, to give them their warm university offices, soft academic chairs, and freedom to complain about their oppression. They were strangers to any gratitude for life.
Neo-Marxists had a revolutionary aggression toward “reactionary” perspectives and real evidence, so they employed all the weapons of academic warfare: journal censorship, career-blocking, reputation-smearing and open mockery. By the 1980s, they had a lock on education faculties across the land. Testing experts who warned that the new Pedagogy was creating a disaster in math, critical reasoning and language skills, now fell silent, fearing for their jobs.
With internal dissent suppressed, the vanguard agitated against testing as such, protesting that it was artificial and oppressive. Education’s new mandarins announced, against all evidence (and ignored by our democratic representatives) that the new “discovery” methods achieved the traditional purpose of education better than the old “instructional” methods. But in reality, they were upending the purpose of education: not personal competence and social responsibility, but personal preoccupation and boundless self-expression. It was not science. It was ideology: politics masquerading as science.
Since the dawn of history, the world has understood that happiness arises in family and friendship, community and solidarity. Friendship means willing self-sacrifice, dedication, and self-control of our selfish appetites and angers. Kids must be taught good habits. They must learn to be friends, before they can have friends. They must learn to respect others, before they can earn respect. They must learn the discipline of an art, if they hope to be truly creative.
Likewise, three millennia of poetry, drama and pop music – from the Iliad to the Everly Brothers – testify that our sexuality is our least disciplined and potentially most destructive passion. Yet Postmodern Gender-Marxists insist everyone will find happiness by stoking this blistering flame.
There are always some who try to live like this – dozens of dead young rock stars in the Sixties – but in 2,500 years of human reflection, no one, not even the Epicureans, ever seriously proposed such an adolescent, self-destructive theory of happiness as our cultural norm and Common Good — not until Marcuse, Foucault, Derrida. They all sang along with John Lennon: “Imagine there’s no countries… Imagine there’s no purpose… Imagine we can get whatever we want, just by imagining.”
Into the new millennium, the growing obsession of the new pedagogues with sexual liberation – the War on Innocence – has been disastrous for our kids’ intellectual achievement. Psychologists once defended, but now ignore, Freud’s discovery of the “sexual latency period.” This is important. From late-toddlerhood to early adolescence, a child’s brain becomes a veritable sponge, soaking up reading, writing, arithmetic, music, history, science and poetry in colossal amounts — provided they’re undisturbed by precocious sexual stimulation. The enormous cultural achievements of China, Persia and the West arose from family solidarity in preserving childhood chastity. Today, single-sex classrooms still prove the academic benefits of keeping kids innocent for as long as possible. And, for troubled kids, scholarly achievement has always been their one real hope for outgrowing their emotional issues – intellectual growth being real liberation. But now, deliberate, the institutional sexualization of pre-pubescent kids magnifies all the fixations of liberation and self-esteem – at the expense of their thinking.