The following is authored by former US Congressman Bob Schaffer and is posted with his permission. In light of the fact that Marc Tucker has been invited to advise the Utah legislature on education at this week’s two day education conference, it seemed important to remember the history behind the changes that are culminating now, which Tucker and Hillary Clinton detailed in motion in the 1990s. Thanks to Bob Schaffer for his timely update.
I am grateful for your inquiry and certainly wish you well in your patriotic efforts in Utah. Incidentally, your readers can find PDF files of each page of Marc Tucker’s “Dear Hillary” letter in the 1998 Congressional Record through these links: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7.
The “Dear Hillary” letter is as relevant today as it was in 1992. Though I doubt anyone in the halls of government much remembers the letter itself, it is the concise, clear, and intentional nature of the letter that is instructive to those of us who still find value in the idea of a constitutional republic self-governed by free and intelligent citizens. Tucker’s sweeping 1992 blueprint for nationalizing the American public-education system is especially pertinent now because, at least since the day it was penned, it has been brilliantly executed with virtually no deviation.
It is instructive to note Tucker’s blueprint does not stop at nationalizing primary public education. It entails merging nationalized primary-education goals with a nationalized higher-education system and a nationalized labor-administrative function. Think of the 1990s doublespeak “School-to-Work” and you get an accurate picture. School-to-Work, as you know, was the apt title of the Clinton-era initiative setting the Tucker letter into actual national public policy. More practically, think of the “Prussian-German, education-labor model” because it is the same thing. Tucker actually says so in the letter itself: “We propose that (President-elect) Bill take a leaf out of the German book.”
Truly, Tucker’s ideas are not new. They were formalized by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, refined by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, embedded by Hegel in the German university structure, then exported throughout the world including to virtually every “teachers college” in America. Specific to the perpetual, anti-intellectual quest to undermine the traditions of “classical” education, Rousseau’s “social-contract” ideas (wherein individuals are understood as subordinate to state interests and royal continuity) were perfected for European classrooms by heralded social engineers such as Heinrich Pestalozzi and Friedrich Froebel. These ideas were most powerfully applied to American classrooms by John Dewey. Despite being deeply embedded in the curriculum of modern American teacher’s colleges, these collectivist ideals and progressive-romantic philosophies have been held in marginal abeyance by the brilliant American design of decentralized, independent, sovereign states each in charge of its own public-education system.
Accordingly, this is where Tucker’s “Dear Hillary” letter earns its notorious repute. An acolyte of the worn Rousseau-Dewey, progressive-romantic line of thinking, Tucker eloquently maps in his 1992 letter to the new First Lady a sharp and detailed political plan for mutating American primary education, secondary education, and labor policy in ways that can breach the pesky firewalls of the Tenth Amendment if not the core revolutionary ideal of federalism itself. Hegel would have been elated. Dewey’s, Pestalozzi’s, and Froebel’s names are already painted on the ceiling of the Library of Congress – main floor, at that.
Though eight years of the Clinton administration have come and gone (maybe), the tactics of the “Dear Hillary” letter roll onward. Not a single manifestation of “Dear Hillary” policies was curtailed during the Bush presidency. In fact, many were accelerated through “No Child Left Behind.” The Obama administration has effectuated “Dear Hillary” objectives to nearly complete fruition.
As to your curiosity about why I petitioned the House of Representatives in 1998 to allow me to preserve the Tucker letter as I did, my best explanation follows.
After discovering, studying and digesting the transformational implications of the “Dear Hillary” letter, and concluding it carried credible political heft, I thought it important to enshrine the missive via The Congressional Record perhaps as a self-explanatory and incontrovertible marker as to whom, when, where and how the United States of America finally and completely disconnected itself from the proven ideals of classical education – the kind of education the country’s Founders received. As a youngish, backbench first-term Member of Congress in 1998, I thought someday maybe someone working on a Master’s thesis would like to pinpoint the moment our former republic opted instead for the amply disproven, constrained and anti-intellectual objectives of formalized “training.” Maybe my Congressional-Record entry would be of good use to an aspiring scholar or two.
Indeed, history is replete with examples of classical education leading to strong, powerful individuals; and formalized training leading to a strong, powerful state. I regarded this letter as a signal of an epic American turning point. I actually did imagine the letter would one day be regarded as an important historic document worthy of being singled out and remembered. I maintain that belief even now, and am delighted you are among those who recognize its significance.
It seemed to me at the time, the “Dear Hillary” letter was the most concise, honest and transparent political document of its kind. It reminded me of the moment Gen. George McClelland at Sharpsburg came into possession of Gen. Robert Lee’s plans for an offensive at Antietam Creek. Here in these plans, one actually reads a credible battle strategy for overcoming American federalism. Tucker’s war cannons were fully charged and tightly packed with progressive-romantic canister, aimed directly upon the Founder’s revolutionary idea of republican, self-government and our traditions of states’ rights.
I had anticipated my colleagues in the Congress and various state-education leaders would benefit from knowing, in advance, of Tucker’s offensive strategy especially as his battle plan was specifically addressed to, and received by, the occupants of the White House. The last thing I ever imagined at the time (and I am heartbroken to realize it now), is how political leaders in the several states have stood indolently for it. Never did I picture the baleful scene we are witnessing today – state leaders themselves dutifully lowering Tucker’s linstock to the touch hole of statism.
At least for the past couple of decades, the vast majority of elected leaders in both political parties have clearly – if not enthusiastically – worked to outdo one another in applying Rousseau-Hegel-Dewey ideas to public education. They offer little, if any, impressive resistance to policies, laws, rules, and mandates relegating American education to a job-training enterprise despite the prescient warnings of Albert Jay Nock, E.D. Hirsch, Tracy Lee Simmons and others who have underscored the crucial difference between classical education and anti-intellectual training. As such, Tucker’s letter and goals, though overtly political, cannot be fairly regarded as a partisan. No, the epic transformation of American culture and national character is being achieved rather quickly due to an overwhelming advantage of spectacular bipartisan cooperation.
Henceforward, when intelligent people scratch their heads and wonder how it was that the citizens of the United State of America inexplicably stood by and unwittingly participated in the systematic demise of their blessed republic, at least they’ll find one comprehensive and compelling explanation, assuming it survives the censors’ notice, in The Congressional Record on September 25, 1998.
Thank you for finding me, reaching out to me, and granting me an opportunity to underscore the perilous certainties of the country’s education system.
Very truly yours,
On a related note, I invite the officials who will be participating in so-called “guided” discussions at this week’s conference to truly arm themselves against the manipulative “delphi technique” that is used to force consensus, as outlined by Jenny Hatch here.