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  • Writer's pictureAction Idaho

Idaho Native Co-Authors Best-Selling Book with Pete Hegseth

David Goodwin (on the right), wrote The Battle for the American Mind with Fox News’ Pete Hegseth (center). The book has reached # 1 on New York Times list and on Amazon.

David Goodwin has co-authored The Battle for the American Mind: Uprooting a Centuray of Miseducation with Pete Hegseth of Fox News. As of July 18, 2022, Battle has spent four weeks at the top of the New York Times best seller's list. It also spent several days vying for the top spot on Amazon, rising and falling to #1 by the hour.

The two make an unlikely duo. In 2003 Goodwin, an Idaho native, quit working for Hewlett Packard and became Head of School of what at the time was a fledgling classical Christian school. Goodwin turned that school into The Ambrose School in Meridian, one of the nation's premier classical Christian schools. Goodwin was at the helm of the school for more than a decade, helping to build its beautiful campus on the corner of Locust Grove and Chinden. He eventually left The Ambrose School in mid-2010s to become president of the Association of Classical Christian Schools, where he continues to work. That Association is responsible for accrediting all classical Christian schools around the country.

As Goodwin relates on his blog, he met Hegseth while making a documentary, “The MisEducation of America,” for the online streaming service at Fox Nation. Hegseth had been looking for a key to explain why all conservative attempts to reform our failing education system have failed—and Goodwin taught him that the entire edifice of American public education had been directed against America’s Christian Western heritage. Goodwin is a Sherpa, as Hegseth writes (referring to the Himalayan mountain guides), for Hegseth’s own education about education. The book, written from Hegseth's point of view, describes his journey from rejecting public education to embracing classical Christian education.

Our education system has become hopelessly corrupt and corrupting, taken with an ideology hostile to man, God, and virtue. Schools have students for 16,000 hours from kindergarten to high school graduation. The battle for the American mind takes place during these 16,000, which profoundly shape the minds, loves and affection of students. Many parents, Hegseth included, sense that something has gone wrong in their schools.

They key for understanding what has gone wrong, according to our authors, lies in an old Greek term paideia. By paideia they mean an education that forms habits of the heart and traits of character guided by what children are taught to love and honor. Education is never technical. Education is never simply about value-neutral skills. It always involves promoting a particular way of life. That education promoting of a way of life is paideia. The Spartans had their peculiar ways, very different from the Athenians. Each was very different from the Persians. Similarly, today's Americans are quite different from the Americans of the past.

Currently, our education system--and our country and civilization as a whole--is occupied by those promoting what Hegseth and Goodwin call the Progressive or Cultural Marxist paideia.

A particular kind of citizen is created under progressive paideia. At first the progressive paideia aimed to displace the old Christian paideia with an education that emphasized Americanism--and Goodwin and Hegseth show how the pledge of allegiance and the attachment to the flag were part of the progressive project of Americanism, as World War II came to a close. Yes, Americanism is part of the Progressive project--that is a hard teaching to take for those who love the country.

But later the progressives in the 1960s and especially today aimed at building a paideia hostile to America itself. Instead of an American citizen, it aimed to make citizens of the world. Instead of thinking as Christians, the new man would think people are just matter without a soul. Instead of educating their minds on how to approach the biggest questions in life, the new paideia would encourage students learn facts and “skills” like identifying stereotypes. Instead of being proud of our Western heritage, the student is anti-white and anti-American. Instead of being ready for marriage and family life, the progressive citizen is gender fluid, promiscuous, and unfit for family life generally. Instead of strength, our citizens learn our own weakness to better serve the state.

This progressive paideia, afoot since the turn of last century, at least, has won over teacher's colleges, textbook suppliers, teacher unions, state education bureaucracies, and every other power center in our school system. Some districts and some states are further along on this progressive path, but all are promoting a way of life that displaces what Hegesth and Goodwin call the Western Christian paideia. The anti-Christian, anti-Western paideia is happening in Idaho, and everywhere.

Only by leaving the progressive system behind would parents be able to educate their children toward the truths of Christianity, the glories of our civilization and a sound, stable character capable of great things. Hegseth, convinced by the argument, was pointed to classical Christian education as the most viable alternative to modern progressive education. He removed his children from public schools and enrolled them in a classical Christian school in Minnesota. Only these institutions could convey the alternative Western Christian Paideia.

Victory in this battle for the American Mind is both far away and nearer than we think. The fact that the book has reached #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers list shows that the progressive system itself is tottering and losing legitimacy. People sense that something is wrong. Our education system is creating illiterate fanatics. Trust in our system is waning. The time is ripe, our authors think, for a counter insurgency.

Successful counter insurgencies come in three phases. It starts with #justwalkwaway. There needs to be alternative institutions around which to rally (i.e., classical Christian schools and homeschooling), then the progressive institutions need to be harmed through school choice, defunding teacher unions, breaking up mega-school districts and such, and last consolidating the new system of classical Christian education. “It’s doubtful,” write our authors, “that anyone reading this book in 2022 will be alive when this comes to fruition.”

The education system is taken with an ideology hostile to man, God, and virtue. This is an inconvenient truth--and it requires clear-eyed recognition and then appropriate action. The battle for the American mind is between two visions of what an educated human being is or, as the book argues, two paideias. One has led to our current morass. The other, the Western Christian Paideia, is the source of our civilization's glories. It is a real time for choosing.

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