Editor’s note: Norman Lear’s People for the American Way recently made a lot of noise about Donald Trump’s “hate speech.” Not much has changed in twenty years. This piece was originally published in in First Quarter, 1995 issue of Southern Partisan magazine.

The Associated Press reports that 17 groups, all combatants in the “culture war,” have come together and agreed on a set of rules to follow in the struggle for the soul of the nation. The groups, according to the AP, include everyone “from the con­servative Christian Coalition to the liberal People for the American Way;” and they have “pledged to work to solve dis­putes before they become law­suits, improve communication and respect each other’s posi­tions.”

A spokesman for the National Association of Evangelicals was quoted as saying, “This is not easy. But it is a first step.”

A first step toward what? This could have been a line from Faust.

Anyone familiar with the recent history of American edu­cation knows that two great sea changes have occurred in the last few decades. First, the Left captured the public schools and turned them into opinion mills designed to transform America into a modern secular state whose citizens, to use B.F. Skinner’s phrase, were “beyond freedom and dignity”—that is, willing members of a controlled society, like so many ants or hon­ey bees. In order to accomplish this end, educators reinvented the curriculum. Health and Biology courses began to feature a sex education component that taught young people they had a right to engage in premarital sex regardless of what their parents or clergy said—so long as they used a condom. History courses were heavily laced with anti-American propaganda and femi­nist rhetoric.

And any references to God or religion was banished from text­books and classrooms and cam­puses. A little girl was ordered not to say her rosary on the school bus. A teacher was told he couldn’t leave his Bible on his classroom desk. While the four-letter word for sexual intercourse was being used in some junior high instructional materials, the word “Christmas” was being banned during what the Thought Police renamed “the holiday sea­son.”

The second sea change has just begun to take place. Parents and pro-family activists have launched a counterattack aimed at wresting their schools from the clutches of the brainwashers.

Over the past five years, these traditionalists have made real progress. In several Southern states, they’ve challenged the educational establishment and mobilized widespread public sup­port, for the first time vastly out­numbering left-wing groups who have been hustling school boards for decades.

Now all of a sudden, the edu­cational establishment, led by Secretary of Education Dick Riley, is promoting the gathering of these 17 groups, endorsing their non-aggression pact, saying that we all “need to lower our voices.” Apparently the leaders of Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition agree and so does the spokesman for the National Association of Evangelicals. They attended. They also signed.

But folks, they’re wrong. Organizations like People for the American Way didn’t politicize American education by lowering their voices. PAW went into Texas and Alabama, produced noisy, well-staged press confer­ences, loudly called their oppo­nents “censors” and “religious bigots,” threw abusive rhetoric around like confetti, and swarmed all over local school boards.

Remember that this organiza­tion was founded by Norman Lear to silence the voice of Christian conservatives. And People for the American Way has been one of the biggest bullies in the school yard for the past ten years. Now, when Lear has the schools almost the way he wants them, here comes a bunch of Archie Bunkers with ideas of their own. Is he ready to make peace? You bet he is! All he and his allies need is for everyone to quiet down, to seek common ground, to exchange love notes.

Apparently some conservative groups—for example, Ralph Reed’s Christian Coalition—are willing to dip soup out of the same pot as Norman Lear, albeit using a long-handled spoon. Such people are at best poor witnesses for the people they represent. Soon enough they’ll be enticed into the soup pot and gobbled up by Lear and his battle-hungry cohorts. On the other hand, the Associated Press reports that James Dobson’s Focus on the Family did not sign the statement of principles. Good for the Dobson folks. They know that when the barbarians are at the gate you don’t lower your voice and invite them in for a hot meal. You grab your swords and pistols and pitchforks—and shout “bloody murder!”

Thomas Landess

Thomas H. Landess (1931-2012) was an author, essayist, and political commentator who taught literature and creative writing for 24 years.

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