The New Tower of Babel
By John Martin, September 2017
The advertising brotherhood might disagree, but the slickest selling job on record wasn’t “A Diamond Is Forever” or any other masterstroke of Madison Avenue sloganeering. It was the Serpent’s clever little pitch in the Garden of Eden: “Eat of the fruit of this tree and you shall be as gods knowing good and evil.” That one didn’t just walk off with the gold medal; it shook the world.
It worked so well, in fact, that the Serpent has been using variations of it ever since. And lately he hasn’t only been merchandising the apple, he’s been selling the core — as in Common Core, the educational curriculum aimed at transforming free and easy, happy-go-lucky American children into glum little globalists. Ah yes, boys and girls, right this way to a new and golden future: one people, one world, one government, and plenty of free windmills and solar panels for the whole gang!
No, Common Core won’t do that all by itself, but it’s one more seven-league step along the way, and the campaign waged on its behalf has been so successful that the task facing its opponents is nothing less than to perform a kind of educational exorcism. As Anne Hendershott so concisely and grimly pointed out back in 2013: “The curriculum has been created, the books have been purchased and the standards have been implemented…. Working collaboratively with the Obama Administration, the [Bill] Gates Foundation helped to subsidize the creation of a national curriculum that has now been adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia” (Crisis.com, Oct. 14, 2013).
In point of fact, no one has yet discovered a video of Obama, Gates, and Beelzebub debating the finer points, but whatever the talks may have covered, the result was federal control of a curriculum designed to keep the populace moving in the direction of not just a brave new world but a brave new world order. For unlike the innocent old days, when books were chosen for literary merit or simple historical accuracy, we now have texts, manuals, and even songs that promote and celebrate the twin glories of globalism and planet-worship. What, you haven’t heard about such wonders of the Great Green Awakening as that magic moment in Sunnyvale, California, a few years back, when elementary-school pupils sang the words of the “Peacemakers’ Planetary Anthem” to the tune of “The Star-Spangled Banner”? (We can only hope the Sierra Club is offering a massive reward for information leading to the arrest of the lyricist.)
In any event, it should be pointed out that this heavy-footed march in the direction of a humanity-worshiping paradise, where the band never tires of playing “Nearer Mankind to Thee,” is by no means new. Way back in the early post-Noah days (Gen. 11), there was a similar attempt to establish what might be called the Higher Unity: “And the whole earth was of one language and one speech…. And they said, Come, let us build us a city and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven: and let us make a name for ourselves.” And did they ever.
The name, of course, was Babel, as in the Tower of Babel. Whether the Babelites employed Common Core principles in establishing their new social order and instructing their young is still an open question, but the Lord cast a cold eye on the whole operation: “Behold, the people is one and they have all one language, and now nothing will be restrained from them.” So saying, He “confounded their language that they might not understand one another’s speech and scattered them abroad on the face of the earth.”
The decision proved salutary. Not only did distinctive nations, rich languages, and other good things follow in short order, but the one-world sentiment wouldn’t make a comeback until — well, yes, until the neo-Babelites of the 19th and 20th centuries brought us such things as Marxism, Darwinism, the Ascent of Man, Science the Deliverer, and no end of utopian quacks, crazed educators, and world-saving plutocrats, all determined to remove God from the public square and replace Him once and for all with good old human idols. And, obviously, their heirs are still at it.
Fortunately, except for a failed attempt at Esperanto, the new breed hasn’t yet been able to get us back to speaking one language, and so a merry confusion of tongues continues to exist, often on the same city block. As to the continuing, if endangered, existence of independent nations, let us thank the great and prophetic Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn for making clear just how much they’d be missed. “The disappearance of nations would impoverish the world no less than if all men became alike with one nature and one face,” he said at Harvard in 1978. “Nations are the wealth of mankind, its collective personalities; the very least of them wears its own special colors and bears within itself a special facet of God’s design.”
Indeed, those who cavil at that anti-globalist analysis might find it instructive to look at the words and actions of the prophets on the other side of the issue — i.e., on the side of all those quixotic spirits who have sought to convince us that if we will but follow their yellow brick road, we’ll someday arrive in an Emerald City transfigured by superhuman science and all-sufficient human reason, our souls delivered not from anything as paltry as Original Sin but from the unthinkable horrors of income inequality and underfunded health care. Unfortunately, wars, natural disasters, and simple human greed keep getting in the way, but those are mere details.
No, the utopians go on believing, and, alas, like the poor, they’ll always be with us. Among the more recent ones, we might start our roll call with the ever-benevolent Andrew Carnegie, the philanthropist’s philanthropist, the man who created so many public libraries that none of us should ever go hungry for a bestseller again. Ah, but in an unguarded moment in 1905, Andrew “went global” and founded the Congress-chartered Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. It has since been a major facilitator of global educational projects aimed at doing the usual vague humanistic government-intensive good on behalf of the usual vague humanistic government-intensive future.
Then there was the inordinately influential John Dewey, a no-nonsense pragmatic educator with one eye on efficiency and one arm signaling a left turn. In 1908 he called progressive education “a religious work” and spoke of it as a messianic instrument that would replace dogmatic Christian beliefs, create social unity, and advance the cause of a kind of sacred secularism. Twenty-five years later, as the honorary president of the National Education Association (NEA), he co-authored the first Humanist Manifesto, with its candid heads-up to those who might want to sneak in a little devotion to the God of Christianity somewhere along the line: “Any religion that can hope to be a synthesizing and dynamic force for today, must be shaped by the needs of this age.”
The needs of the age became a little clearer in 1946. Once again it was the NEA at work, but this time it was J. Elmer Morgan, the NEA Journal’s editor, talking about “the United Peoples of the World.” In an editorial crackling with globalist zeal, he declared himself not in favor of just any old world government but a world government that would “need an educational branch, a world system of money and credit, a world police force, and a world bill of rights and duties.” Take that, you reactionary Jeffersonian partisans of small government!
As it happened, a high-energy impetus to the globalist cause was already under way — World War II. That conflict’s colossal death toll understandably made cooperation between nations an idea appealing not only to utopians but also to the down-to-earth wing of humanity. Thus, it was not long after the destruction of Hiroshima that the United Nations sprang into being as abruptly as Athena from the head of Zeus. And while its glass-and-steel New York temple wasn’t quite up to the architectural standards of the virgin goddess’s Parthenon, it had decidedly more worshipers — republics old and new couldn’t join it fast enough.
There was just one problem: The UN could deliver the pieties of global peace but not the thing itself. Though, to its credit, the UN fed hungry children and improved Third World irrigation, it proved to be a kind of Trojan horse filled with the usual world-savers and heralds of the Golden Dawn. The more zealous of them banded together to form the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a shining new super-bureaucracy. Julian Huxley, UNESCO’s first general director, described the organization’s general philosophy as “scientific world humanism, global in extent and evolutionary in background.” Its education program would “stress the ultimate need for world political unity and familiarize all peoples with the implications of the transfer of full sovereignty from separate nations to a world organization.” And its media division would “promote the growth of a common outlook shared by all nations and cultures…to help the emergence of a single world culture.” It was just the helper the NEA needed to rekindle the spirit of those Babel pioneers.
Working side by side, the two organizations not only maintained the global drumbeat but made their influence felt at the highest levels of international misgovernment. And so it came to pass that on June 2, 2006, a day that all but cried out for top hats, swallowtail coats, and flocks of ascending doves, the education ministers of the G-8 (the U.S., the Russian Federation, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom) adopted the so-called Moscow Declaration, a blueprint for not only changing educational values but changing them globally. “The internationalization of education is a reality,” the declaration boldly declared.
It would be only a half-dozen years after that red-letter day that globalism, following a century or so of merely jogging along, would abruptly start moving at Olympic speed, especially in the U.S. Filling the role of Olympic torchbearer was the aforementioned Bill Gates, trailing clouds of Microsoft cash and a 26-page Cooperation Agreement aimed at nothing less than establishing — what else? — Common Core! In it, Gates and his friends at UNESCO spelled out their “core standards” with calm, straightforward ferocity. “Environmental education will be incorporated in formal education,” the agreement declared. “Any value or attitude held by anyone globally that stands independent to that of the United Nations’ definition of sustainable education must change. Current attitudes are unacceptable.” Then came a line worthy of Best-Loved Totalitarian Imperatives: “Education will be belief- and spirituality-based as defined by the global collective.”
Finally, employing the same Soviet commissar tone, the agreement’s authors went all out for greener greenery and purer plant life: “Environmental education will be integrated into every subject, not just science.” And please, comrades, no counter-integration revisionist grumbling!
Wow! They got away with that? And right here in the good old freedom-loving U.S. of A.? Generally speaking, yes. That was because, as it happened, the education departments of most of the states accepted, without groan or grumble, this high-handed takeover of the classroom. And, be it noted, states are officially in charge of prescribing educational content. That’s right. What your neighborhood youngsters learn under the watchful eye of Miss Thistlebottom is supposed to be what the authorities in Utah, Vermont, North Dakota, etc., prescribe, and not the authorities in Congress, the White House, or the U.S. Department of Education. So how did it happen?
Very simply, it happened because the sponsors of Common Core, with a head fake here and a stutter step there, made a successful end run around the federal General Education Provisions Act and two other rock-ribbed legal barriers by using a device as old as sin and as sly as a Masonic handshake — the bribe. Washington simply let it be known that if the states would but discreetly ask to be enrolled in the Common Core plan and then croon over it as if it were their very own love child, billions of dollars in stimulus money would be theirs. And lo, the states asked, crooned, and got.
Ah yes, principle and probity are all very well, but doggone it, sometimes those dirty old federal dollars do make life easier. And that’s especially true when you can make the whole thing appear as if it were a state-led initiative and not Big Brother that inspired the changeover. After all, what’s a little corruption among friends?
Perhaps the saddest aspect of this educational cave-in was the fact that it was by no means confined to the public sector. After all, who among the baptized and confessing wouldn’t have uttered at least one heartfelt J’accuse! on hearing that Catholic educators — men and women presumably steeped in the teaching of such moral giants as Augustine, Aquinas, and John Henry Newman — had followed the compliant example of their secular brethren?
But a dismaying number of Catholic educators had done just that without breaking a sweat, shedding a tear, or hearing a harsh word from the local bishop. School superintendents from more than 100 Catholic dioceses across the nation, “eager to share in the largesse of the Gates Foundation, and the promise of future Federal handouts,” Hendershott reports, “embraced the federal education standards.” Even the National Catholic Education Association has been holding workshops on how to implement Common Core in Catholic schools.
Still, even though the watchmen slept and strangers have entered the city gates, not all has been lost. On the encouraging side, two young Indiana mothers set an example in 2012 that still shines like Shakespeare’s “good deed in a naughty world” in 2017. Appalled at finding that the Common Core math textbooks their children were working with were clearly inferior to the ones they’d superseded, the women took thought, gathered their facts, and hit the Hoosier roads, alerting and inspiring not only similarly aggrieved parents but also their state senators, Tea Party members, and any number of other protest-minded keepers of the old faith. They thereby set in motion the chain of events that would eventually result in an anti-Common Core bill that would pass the legislature and be signed into law by then Gov. Mike Pence — thereafter to stand as a permanent reminder that you can fight City Hall or even Big Brother.
So yes, it could be done, it was done in Indiana, and it may yet be done again if there are committed souls of the sort willing to heed the celebrated advice set forth in Jeremiah 6:16: “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein and you shall find rest for your souls.” Not that it will be easy. If there’s anything harder to cast out than the Serpent, it’s a federal bureaucracy once it has a program in place.
There’s homeschooling, of course, but for those for whom that’s out of the question and who have no present alternative to Miss Thistlebottom’s dumbed-down classroom, may I suggest that some bright soul, or many bright souls, develop not a new curriculum exactly, but an extracurriculum, a body of rich and exciting Catholic knowledge to be taught in the home or parish hall in whatever spare time anyone may have.
I would call it, yes, Catholic Core, and I would include in it not only the mighty fundamentals of our holy and indestructible faith, but much in the way of all that thrills and radically inspires — as the Curé of Ars, as a young boy, was radically inspired by the dauntless missionaries who kept the faith alive during France’s Reign of Terror. And the new resistance movement would almost certainly take heart from learning the stories that speak to us from 20 centuries of heroes and martyrs — from Paul of Tarsus to Joan of Arc to the Jesuit missionary Jean de Brebeuf, so manfully heroic throughout a night of maiming and torture that his Iroquois captors ate his heart for courage.
And so much more. To take only one example from a body of truths that, to put it mildly, is not being taught as dynamically as it should be in contemporary Catholic education — there is the ignorance that walks the earth in those 50 percent of believers who disbelieve in the Real Presence. Their doubts could be answered in the twinkling of an eye were they merely to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the information contained in, for example, Joan Carroll Cruz’s Eucharistic Miracles (1987). Here are wonders to confound the Serpent and bless the believer. Let them be taught, and let Catholic instructors beware not the Greeks bearing gifts but utopians bringing an apple to the teacher.
“Reprinted with permission from NEW OXFORD REVIEW, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley CA 94706, U.S.A.; www.newoxfordreview.org,” September 2017, Volume LXXXIV, Number 7.
John Martin is a veteran professional writer whose career includes stints as a Charlotte Observer bureau chief, a Business Week copy editor, and chief speechwriter for New York State Comptroller Ned Regan. His published books include the novel A Leopard at Maytime (Doubleday), Roses, Fountains, and Gold: The Virgin Mary in History, Art, and Apparition (Ignatius Press), and the sportive The Cat on the Catamaran (Winged Lion Press). His poems and articles have appeared in Chronicles, First Things, The Christian Century, and The Chesterton Review. His plays include A Chosen Vessel: An Evening with St. Paul, which has been performed more than 400 times; The Troll Palace and Macdeath, both mystery thrillers; and the St. Francis musical Troubadour, for which he wrote book and lyrics.