Did you know that the Pledge of Allegiance was a placeholder to help people move forward when Christianity was removed from America’s public schools? Do you think there is more hope for an excellent Christian education now than in the 1970s? Pete Hegseth (of Fox & Friends) and David Goodwin (President of the Association of Classical Christian Schools) reveal surprising truths about the history of the American public school system and give listeners hope for where education is headed in our present age. You won’t want to miss a moment of this gripping episode of Veritas Vox!
You can dive even deeper into the fascinating history discussed here by reading Pete and David’s book, Battle for the American Mind.
Note: This transcription will vary from the original words used in the recorded episode for readability purposes.
Hello again. This is Veritas VOX, the voice of classical Christian education. Today, I have some guests that you may have seen before. Pete Hegseth spends a lot of time on television at Fox News doing Fox and Friends on the weekends and with special assignments during the week as well - and maybe even more that I’m not familiar with. And David Goodwin, who is the editor of the Classical Difference and is the president of the Association of Classical and Christian Schools, an organization that I know a bit about because I served on the board of it for 22 years. David and I probably overlapped as board members for at least ten of those years, so we got to know each other quite well.
It's good to see you again.
Great to see you.
I am excited, David, to interview you in the future about the history of ethics and other things that are going on currently. I’ve got to tell you guys; I was blown away by the fact I learned this morning - I had updated my notes as of late last week about where your book stood (and I'll introduce that book in just a minute). But right now, you all are the authors of the number one book for the last week, beginning on June 19, in nonfiction on Amazon. And I understand also the number one seller on The New York Times best-seller list! That's incredible!
Thank God. We're blessed. Indeed. I'll say you know the New York Times did not want to do that one. They really, really did not. And David and I both knew we had to blow it out of the water if they were going to acknowledge that we had the top-selling book. We are just grateful.
Yeah, that is remarkable. The book, of course, is called Battle for the American Mind...What are you trying to do with this initiative?
00:02:51:04 - 00:03:10:01
Yeah. First of all, I want to thank the two of you. This initiative is about what you guys have done and what the classical Christian movement is. I mean, that's when we started working together, David and I; that was the goal from the beginning. I mean, first, to glorify God through this work. And that is truly what we want to do.
But second of all, to elevate what classical Christian education is. To expose more people to it and break down misconceptions. Hopefully, to help put one more shoulder to the plow in the movement so that more people are exposed to the absolute wisdom and beauty that is classical Christian education. So without what you guys have done at ACCS and others before you have done, planting and creating and building and growing these schools, none of this is possible.
So this book is simply, we hope, a part of the next chapter of raising awareness - to use a phrase from the left - around what it is so that parents will look for it and choose it. So the film was the goal, and the book came in after the film but was in partnership with the film. It was all part of that effort.
And I can't thank David enough. I mean, without David, this couldn’t have happened. He's the brains behind it, and he knows it back to front. I'm coming at this much more recently as a parent and trying to explain it in a way that our viewers and others will want to know what classical Christian education is all about.
Yeah, that is incredible. I was fascinated by a number of things. One of the things was the connection of deisim, and it producing fertile ground for what you have found objectionable in the progressive approach to education.
So before we jump into the elements of progressivism that you're addressing, tell me how deism accelerates those ideas.
The idea is that we get our history from the progressives. So basically, a lot of what we believe is what they told us. And one of the things I believed was that deism was sort of a neutral ground that the Founding Fathers had come up with to sort of make everyone welcome or some such thing.
But when we started work on this, when I was looking at the work of Lawrence Kremen, who was the basis of a lot of the sources in this book. Deism, was more than that. It was really an intentional shift away from Jesus Christ. It was meant to say, “We don't want to accept the truth of the Bible or any of the true tenets of Christianity as givens. We're going to strip those out of our “paidea” as we refer to it in the book, and we're going to replace it with something of a toothless God, this diestic God, who doesn't really have anything to say because he doesn't have a Bible and doesn't really have anything to do because Jesus Christ doesn't come in that schema.”
So basically, it [deism] strips away the essential meat and center core of the American paidea. At that point, it took years to get there, but that was the basis of it.
Did Patrick Henry and John Jay, and others that would have shared biblical faith in this process not see that as a concern, or was it simply the need to build a consensus around something, and they just needed to let it go at that point?
Yeah, I think there was a nexus, and we talk about this in the book. We actually list out various founding fathers in there. There was a nexus of people. And, you know, a lot of us have read the Federalist Papers. There are, of course, also the Anti-Federalist Papers, which few of us do read. There was a lot of debate and contention.
This is why Franklin said, “It's a republic if you can keep it.” It was a battle, and everybody had to give up something. The Enlightenment gave us deism in people like Thomas Jefferson and Madison. And then there's John Jay and Patrick Henry and Governor Morris and a few others who were strong Christians.
But everybody got something, and that's why we got the amendments to the Constitution. It was the restrictive influences of Christians who said, “Government is dangerous, we need to contain it.”
Right. So, well, let's bring this into the here and now. What were some of the things that you see happening in America that inspired you to write the book?
Besides everything?! To narrow it down from, you know, everything happening in America right now - you know I'd always I've always been passionate about education. I was a public school kid; my dad was a public school teacher. I assumed my kids would go to public school as recently as five or six years ago. The experience of school sports, that kind of the Americana, was something I wanted my kids to have. Good enough for me, good enough for them.
And then more of it started to trickle out. I was introduced to classical Christian through a school in Minnesota and then through meeting David, it just became clear it this was the way to go. It was kind of like a light bulb went off that not only are we doing this wrong, but there is a solution out there, and it's growing, and it's something not only can my kids can access, but hundreds of thousands and hopefully millions of kids can access eventually, and it’s is the key to saving our country.
We called it the Covid 1619 moment at the beginning of the book. COVID-19 provided this moment when the classroom came home. Our foundations are being changed, and gender pronouns are being assigned to eight-year-olds. And suddenly, parents started saying, “Whoa, where in the world did this come from?”
That moment happened while we were writing the book. So the book and the film were conceived before the pandemic. And then, as we're writing it, it's like we can't write this stuff down fast enough. The modern manifestations of the failing of education. And the way I've described it is the way Ernest Hemingway described it; he was talking about bankruptcy, but he was saying, “Things happen gradually until they happen suddenly.” And that, I feel like, applies to this timeline, this 100-year progressive takeover. It was all very gradual, much of it under the surface. Only a few people noticed it, and even fewer people did anything about it. And now it's in front of everybody, and people are looking for an alternative.
The only thing I would add is just to note the providential nature of it all. I mean, God obviously had the biggest hand to play in this. When Pete and I started, just as he said, we were working on a much smaller project. And with this book, how did it get to New York Times #1? It got there because the culture was ready for it, and that was purely outside of our hands.
Pete's the real deal. He really believes in it, which is something you don't see very often in people who are, you know, on TV and get some attention. I think his passion has just shown through in the publicity that's happened. There's a lot of marketing that is not genuine, and I think genuine belief in our message is what has carried this book. But who could have made this a success but God?
The cool part is that it's not about selling books. The response from educators who have been a public school teacher for 30 years or so… It has been overwhelming, as they say. [Teachers have been saying] “I've been seeing what's on the surface [of the schools], and it's been changing for years. And I had no idea the undercurrent and where that came from. You've blown my mind and totally changed the way I view education.”
That's pretty, pretty edifying for just a couple of dudes who are probably the least qualified to write this. Well, at least I am. David is incredibly qualified.
No, we're the least.
I don't know Pete well enough yet, but, David, you're not the least qualified. How did you all meet? How did it come together?
We tell the story a little bit in the book, but I was at a Fox and Friends diner in Carthage, North Carolina, and a beautiful young couple was sitting at a table with their two young daughters in uniforms. And I went over to talk to them, and it turns out they went to the Sandhills Classical Christian School there, and they were about to go to school.
The wife’s name is Amita, and she's a board member there now. I think she's the chairman of the board, but she just went on and on about this amazing school and how great it was. I had been exposed to classical Christian education, and I knew what it was. But then she said, “You’ve got to talk to this guy, David Goodwin. We're a part of the Association of Classical Christian Schools.” And so she connected me over email, gave me David's email, and I reached out.
David had done a lot of research already about education, especially the Christian side of it and the progressive takeover in the early 20th century. He started sharing that information with me. I had questions, he had answers. We kept pinging back and forth. And then I just remember a moment when I turned to my wife and said, “Babe, we’ve got to tell the story. The Carey Plan, the Bellamy salute. Like this stuff is unbelievable. How did I not know this?”
Without that woman and a few other people at Fox Nation, this project never could have gotten off the ground. Then, it still was a moment where it was like education really isn’t that sexy of a topic, but it turns out two years later, providentially, it's front and center for everybody.
But David had already done the work, and we were direct. I mean, it really was the hand of God and two humble souls. And David, there's no better person to work with. And it's been an absolute joy. I learn something every time.
If I could just add, though, real quick, Marlin, again, in the providential context, my work largely dealt with the early 20th century. We don’t talk about it a lot, but Pete's a pretty well-educated guy and especially in government politics, and he has a lot of background there. He carried the story from the 1950s forward. And really, I don't think it would have landed the way it did without his work because it really makes sense out of things like critical race theory, critical theory, all of that.
Pete just simply picked up where I left off and carried it all the way forward. So it's good collaborative work.
Can you list for me the progressive issues by category that you have been able to identify in the American education system?
I'll take a quick stab at it. When you meet all of the characters of over 100 years ago, and you start to list the attributes of those who started to reshape school, almost universally, they are atheists, socialists, humanists, and eventually Marxists. So this is a battle for the American mind by a very distinct ideology that rejects God, that rejects the West, that rejects the human condition. So it actually is much more simple to understand. It manifests today as things like equity - the new word they use, which is effectively a Marxist idea. It's the latest manifestation of the Marxist view of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. And we level it all out in the class warfare used in a racial context in America. But you'll meet a lot of the familiar characterizations that we thought were confined to academia or the fringes of a political party. And you'll realize they've been at the center of remaking the educational architecture in our country from the very beginning.
Sometimes when we identify who we are as opposed to– our enemy, it is easy to categorize things in black and white terms. Is it that simple here? Were they meeting in clandestine environments, being strategic, thinking it out, and finally executing it in subtle but clever ways? Or is it a little messier than that, as is typically the case?
It's a little bit of both. It was conceived collectively by a group of progressives that were real activists. About 1915, John Dewey was the one who led the educational front. There were, of course, others in the mix, but it was not hidden. It was out in the open. If you think about it, when a movement first gets underway, they publish magazines that they don't think anyone is going to read but themselves. And so the way I found out about this is I actually, without any metaphor involved, knocked the dust off– and there was quite a pile, of those magazines. I think the librarian had to clean up after I left. But the story is all there. It's just told in the dialog as the writers go back and forth. In a time when there wasn't Twitter and email, they wrote it down in magazine pages, and now we can go find it.
Yeah. I agree with what David said. We don't call it a conspiracy in the book. Per se, it is a bit, but they ultimately dressed it up as something more benign. So it was always, “The shift in education is because of a need for more vocational training or an industrial economy.”
There was always an activist class that, of course, added another element or variable to it. And what they openly debated is, “How do we use step one to get to step two?” Step one always seemed publicly a lot more benign or beneficial to the economy or the country. So there's a sleight of hand there.
To my knowledge of, John Dewey, in education, was applying his school of philosophy and pragmatism to it. He was interested in making better citizens, at least according to the common reading, and helping people be educated to get a good job. And what you're saying is it's a whole lot deeper than that.
Of course, your book is naturally footnoted. And you're referring to these sources that would be available to people. How much does the book get into the detail of these kinds of things?
And all of the things going on in our nation lately seem to be connected in ways that are hard for me to, quite honestly, put a narrative around. Can you help me?
Yeah, I mean, they had to improve civic life for Dewey's pragmatism. What they wrote about it openly in The New Republic and other publications was, “We have to get the immovable object out of the way,” Which is God and objective truth.
And if you can get rid of that, then everything else becomes possible through the way you advocate for social change. David came up with the idea of it being like a pressure plate. You know, you've got a treasure on a pressure plate, and if you take it off, you've got to immediately replace it with something else, or else the alarm is going to go off. Well, if you took God out of the schools right away, the cultural alarms of the early 20th century would have gone off in communities and with parents.
So first, it was a pull-out period where you do religious instruction off-site and this was a new type of school called the Gary plan. Of course, if you pull God out, you have to replace Him with something else that people revere. And in this particular case, it was a flag and a pledge. A pledge written by a socialist that did not say “under God” when it was first written. That was added later on.
In simple terms, the cross and the Bible were replaced in the front of the classroom with the flag and the pledge, which we revere - even which I revere as a patriot and a conservative today. But the left always used it as a placeholder, and now they're happy to get rid of it.
It’s not like John Dewey sought this outcome in the early 20th century, they didn't know where it would lead, but they knew where it wouldn't lead. And it wouldn't lead back to biblical wisdom, God in the classroom, or reverence for our founding ideals. It's more about what they were against.
You see that in the emergence of critical theory in the 1930s at the Frankfurt School at Columbia University, the most prominent teachers' college in America. The whole premise of critical theory is to deconstruct the patriarchy and the hierarchy of Western civilization. And when you do that you reveal other forms of justice. They were at it and they were open about it.
Wow. That is really well put. And that helps me understand sometimes we set out on paths we don't know where they're going, but we know where we don't want them to go. And we've been able to safeguard from that and make progress.
I think Dewey kind of gets off the hook easily because his pinnacle work that most people cite is On Education- in the late 1920s is when he wrote it. It is a little more neutral. But if you go back to his original work in 1899, the School and Society, that's when he first targeted school as a social instrument by which the progressives can take control of society and move it where they want to move it.
And then later, in the 1930s, the signs on to the Humanist Manifesto, which of course, is quite direct in what it's trying to achieve in our society. So I think we just have to rethink Dewey based on the evidence rather than on what he told us we should think.
Yeah, I couldn't agree more. It is to be commended to be so strategic and so long-term, but to be strategic and to be long-term and to be under the authority of Scripture and in the context of what we know to be truth has a whole different impact. Unfortunately, today, we tend to rely on the truth of what we know and not to be as strategic as we ought to be.
And I think it's time for us to really think in the long term. I get frustrated about that. David, you and I were involved in some strategic planning that talked about that very thing many years ago. And I've seen some good fruit from that kind of thinking. I think it's time for more of it. What would you hope might see happen in a 5-10 year time fram as the result of your book?
We're recording this right in the wake of some interesting Supreme Court rulings. Roe v. Wade has just been set aside. That's the beginning of something that could be very good. I've recently become aware that Arizona and Maine now have vouchers available for education that can be used for Christian education. What do you think? What do you dream for, or what do you pray for?
What would you hope we might see happen in a 5-to-10-year time frame as a result of your book?
Well, our book would only be a small piece of that, but we dedicated the book at the beginning to the parents who pioneered the classical Christian renewal. Now, 40 years on and one of the things I'm encouraged by, we talk about an educational insurgency inside the book that in a military context, the first thing we have to do is tactically retreat from government schools because, at least in our immediacy, they're not salvageable for the kids in them right now. Though we hope to change that. And that's part of the plan that we lay out. But retreat.
And then, we lay out three phases, Mao's three phases of insurgency that we studied in the military and where we are in that. And I would argue we're 40 years into an insurgency, thanks to the work of you two gentlemen and so many others who have been building a network of schools that, as David points out, was almost completely buried in the 1970s.
They tried to outlaw homeschooling as well as most forms of private schooling. So our darkest days are actually behind us. So I would argue we might be 40 years into 100 years of our own take back because of what you guys have built.
Now we're in the middle of phase one. This has raised alarm bells and raised awareness. Parents need to know that it's out there. We need to break down the assumption and default of public school. I mean, what the unions did during COVID was massively important in exposing what they really represent, what they really stand for. So to use a term of the left, which I've already mentioned, I mean, this is raising awareness.
This is what we hope to do, have people engage with the book and engage with the context and take off the rose-colored glasses about your public school. It's not somebody else's school. It's not the school. It's your school. It's my school. It's all of these institutions that we once revered. We need to break down that view.
So I hope in ten years, classical Christian schools have exploded with growth. That they've been planted there in even more communities, vastly more communities than they are right now, that homeschooling and online schooling are exposed to the point where unions and public educators start to take notice. They won't be immediately under threat. When you look at the size and scope of government schools, I mean, I don't know. What is it, David?
We talk about it. The largest army in the world is driven by school bus drivers in yellow school buses. I mean, it dwarfs the size of any other state-run institution. So get to the point where they're noticing it, and they're saying, we've got a problem here, but we've got the benefit of kind of being under the radar at some level.
I mean, yeah, we may be New York Times number one, but there is still only a certain section of the public that's engaging with this content. And we want to broaden and broaden and broaden that. And then school choice is huge.
You can use vouchers to go to religious institutions as well. Arizona just passed a bill for $7,000. A parent with no income threshold to go to any school of your choosing in Arizona. I mean, that's a dream. It almost feels like it wasn't possible ten years ago. So if you combine that, and that's where I think you guys are going to have a better opinion of this than me.
To me, I come at this as just a zealot who would love to do everything right away. You know, that kind of money creates an opportunity for more institutions to be built. Classical Christian schools. As long as the dollars are following the parents and not coming from the government with strings attached, you can now meet that demand with new institutions where the tuition money is effectively built-in at some level, at least at a minimum level.
Man, there's an opportunity there. So I hope this is just the beginning. But we did not start this. This is fully in recognition of what gentlemen like you have been doing for decades that I think has a chance to really bear fruit. And we don't have to be at the size of the public system in ten years or in 150 years. You just need to produce 3%, 4%, 5% 6% of graduates in this country who really get it. It's always been the world changers.
That percentage doesn't surprise me. What it takes is effective leadership, and it comes out of that kind of percentage easily. Yeah. There's been a fear that if the money comes from tax-related organizations like the state or the federal government that “he who takes the king's gold becomes the king's man” over the long term. Any thoughts on that?
Yeah, well, it's certainly a box trap you and I have talked about many times, Marlin, and we've got to watch out for it. I mean, if we cluster all the private schools in under a government program and they suddenly, you have to start doing things their way or they're going to drop the trap on you, we're going to be in trouble.
I think there's a military saying, “The strategy goes out the window in the first shots fired,” or something like that. I think we're going to have all kinds of changes in the environment coming up. This is what we hope to spur with this project.
We were trying to let people know that this is a category [classical Christian education]; it's a thing. It's not just a variation or a niche thing or a weird form of Christian education. It's its own thing. And I think we've made that point. I hope it resonates with people.
And, you know, plan survives first contact with the enemy is exactly right.
And that's the phrase.
But I mean, we are seeing the tilt and listen, the core can change. I mean, when you watch the thing, swing back to three seats and, you know, in a decade and all of these things are poof, you know, I mean, that's the scary part of and when you look at the types of lawyers we're pumping out of so-called elite law schools, I mean, they're loony bits. It is complete. No, they are. They're so I'm.
Laughing because it's so hard to believe some of the things that our revered institutions have bought into. Absolutely.
So that's why the central point is to build your own schools that don't rely on the king's gold. Build demand and an outcry. And that will make David's job really hard - so he has to figure out how to build more schools and accredit more schools because the demand is so robust. That's the core strategy.
You can't rely on educational tax credits or school choice. We've tried that. That's basically been the Republican talking point for like 30 years, to no avail. And it's if you have a choice to go from one woke school to another slightly less woke school, that's not really a good choice. And we're trying to make the counterargument.
But it is a hard thing for most parents to pay for education twice. Once with their tax dollars and another with their after-tax disposable income. And it has held back private education in many respects. Maybe this event, your book, and the conversations around it will inspire some of the benevolence available from very wealthy Christian circles in America to see opportunity there too. I know that’s been a part of the conversation as well.
There's nothing that breaks my heart more than not being able to see somebody get this education - particularly those that will do everything that they can but just can't afford it. I can't tell you how many times my wife, who's my business partner at Veritas Press, has come home and said, “We're going to give them tuition.” Not asking, but tell. I know who's boss when it comes to that!
We had a situation during COVID with a single mother in New York City working two jobs. She said, “I have to have this for my kids, but I don't know how to really do it. I'm going to have to get a third job, probably.” My wife said, “No, we're giving it to them.” We can't do it everywhere. And the bottom line is money will hold us back if we're not careful because we have got to pay our teachers.
I don't know what it's going to take to get people to leave the public schools, but these public schools are government-run schools, and they're not doing us any favors. What you’ve got here is a tiger by his tail and I hope your book really unleashes some things that are very needed. Thank you so much for what you've done.
Thank you for getting us to this point.
I know we need to close this. I really believe what you've done has been a boost that classical education needed this time. I think we will see this take things to a whole new level. So thank you for your tenacity in your work and your forward thinking about how to communicate it, not only the problem but the solution. Thank you.
I do have a very serious closing question. Tell us about your NASCAR racing experience.
It was on my bucket list and we were able to do it. By the way. You can do it, Marlin. You know that, right? Yes. This is a real thing. Is NASCAR racing experience? Is that any pretty much any NASCAR track? You know, if you throw down whatever amount of money for certain amount of minutes and I'm telling you, I can't believe they do it.
And I hope the lawyers never get a hold of it because you get in there, you show them your driver's license, they show you a 20-minute video, and then they strap you in a real NASCAR and you get to drive around the track. And if you pay, you know, it's some exorbitant amount of money. You can do 30 minutes or whatever and there is a governor on it.
So they try to keep you under a certain but I, I went 155 miles an hour in a NASCAR around the Daytona 500 superspeedway and there's no one else in the car. There's no robot controlling it. It's you on the gas all the way on this. And the only thing they say is, oh, make sure you don't slow down in the corners.
And so you're flying at the corner and it looks like this, you know, if I'm supposed to. And they said and so you accelerate through that turn and you feel the G-forces. And I just thought there's no there's no way I'm qualified for this. This is entirely unsafe. And I have so I got to do it for Fox and Friends. It was super cool. I think you should do it. It was worth it.
I get you, Daytona.
You sold me. I got a kid who lives near there, and we're going to go do it.
Do it, do it. There's a website. Check it out. You go out there, it's a load of fun and pay. You know, you pay for the additional, you know, 10 minutes if you can, because it's worth it once he takes you a while to figure out you can actually do it.
Well, back to the topic at hand, guys. I know we need to close this. I really believe what you've done has been a boost, that classical education is needed at the right time. And I think we will see this take things to a whole new level. So thank you for your tenacity in your work and you're forward thinking about how to communicate it, not only the problem but the solution.
This is great stuff. Thank you.
Well, we appreciate you. Thank you.
Folks, this is Veritas Vox, The Voice of classical Christian education. Thank you for joining us with Pete Hegseth and David Goodwin. And go get the book Battle for the American Mind. It is important and timely and something we've got to pay attention to. God bless you all.
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