You have often heard a politician, when clamoring for education reform, appeal to the sentiment “children are our future!”. While rhetorically shallow as a stand-alone argument, it is true that our children are our future.
Cultures in different times and places have concentrated on passing down their way of life to their young. Religion is usually the responsible agent, as it has been the most comprehensive tool in helping a group understand the world. The wise have recognized that children who have had a way of life purposefully instilled in them have a better chance of maintaining that way of life. In modern times, we have seen various agents understand the value in this wisdom.
In her book, School For Barbarians: Education Under the Nazis, Erika Mann uncovers in great detail perhaps the most influential component of the Third Reich: youth education.
Mann explains that a thorough campaign was set upon within Germany’s borders to manufacture youth who are physically, intellectually, and spiritually conditioned to advance the Nazi cause of Jewish annihilation and German domination of Europe. She was a first-hand witness to the multi-faceted tactics created to overwhelm young people, starting at kindergarten-age, with Nazi ideology, and observed its effectiveness. It was the strength of these tactics that caused Hitler to say in a 1933 speech:
“When an opponent declares, ‘I will not come over to your side,’ I calmly say, ‘Your child belongs to us already. … What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.’”1
Mann’s chilling book reads like a playbook of German strategy on how to force the old way of life to wither away through raising a young “new community”.
The modern Christian should see the analogy to today’s culture and its militant insistence on raising youth who are physically, intellectually, and spiritually conditioned to advance its causes: radical individualism, secularism, and hedonism. It is the Christian faith that is now the old way of life that must wither away. If this seems too strong a charge, if it seems an alarmist exaggeration to compare today’s culture to a murderous dictatorship, let me remind you that although the Nazi consequence was war and death, our culture’s ideologies lead to a breakdown of morality, responsibility, community, religious devotion, and a basis for meaning.
The Educational Campaign
Erika Mann begins her book with a story when she first realized the totality of the Reich’s control over a child’s raising and the futility in resisting the Nazi campaign. She is interviewing a German woman, whom she calls Mrs. M, who is fully Aryan and who wishes to leave Germany. When asked why, Mrs. M says because of her son, who is also fully Aryan. After discussing the lack of needed resources like food — especially butter — in Germany, Mann protests to Mrs. M that although it was difficult, she survived the first World War.
Mrs. M. interrupts me here. Her voice trembles with impatience. “What are you talking about? As if you didn’t know the difference! As if you didn’t know how sensible things were, comparatively, during the War! Germany was really threatened then, from the outside, and we did without things then for a good and sufficient reason. But now, in peacetime, so that we may threaten and bluster and our fine Herr Führer may rattle his saber and act like a madman until the world is in panic? Really, it isn’t the lack of butter that makes me decide — it’s all the other things. I want the child to become a human being, a good and decent man who knows the difference between lies and truth, aware of liberty and dignity and true reason, not the opportunistic reason ‘dictated by policy’ which turns black white if it’s useful at the moment. I want the boy to become a decent human being — a man and not a Nazi!”2
The concern is that the overwhelming indoctrination mandatory of children and youth in Germany is inescapable and will ultimately destroy the soul of Mrs. M’s son; even if his body is well protected.
For those of us who wish our children to mature in the way of Christ and to maintain a humanity able to accept a spiritual world filled with morality and meaning, we face a similar atmosphere in our culture.
For instance, the growing prominence of Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH), events in which adult drag queens read stories to children, are a calculated tactic to get children to reject gender norms and embrace “gender fluidity” – a fancy term for choosing to be or look like whichever sex one might wish. In collaboration with public libraries, the point of DQSH, according to its website, is not just entertainment, but a place where:
kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where people can present as they wish, where dress up is real3
They push this on children, even though many clinicians seriously doubt medical gender transitioning techniques and a report by the FDA claims that hormone-blocking treatments have led to the death of up to 6,000 children. The truth is, they care little about an individual’s well-being and only care that society gradually accepts all ways of life, including their backwards, over-sexualized one.
In the progressive state of California (my home-state), legislators wish to make Ethnic Studies mandatory for all state education. Many fear this mandate would push Critical Race Theory, which is the ideology that says that all white people are oppressors against all other races. Rather than teaching children about MLK’s dream of black and white children being judged by the content of their character, California wishes to teach that whites, even today, are already judged guilty of racism and oppression. Teens will be made to know that race does not mean skin color, or even culture, but rather, it means power. The goal being that children should be foot soldiers of activism and seeing race equivalent to social, commercial, and political power.
California’s 2019 revision to its Health Education Framework, a recommended curriculum to fulfill the state’s mandated Sex Education, ensures that children know all about non-traditional sex and gender ideologies. For example, third-graders teachers are counseled:
When providing instruction on sexual and reproductive organs, teachers can introduce the concept that gender does not always match the sexual and reproductive organs described.
While students may not fully understand the concepts of gender expression and identity, some children in kindergarten and even younger have identified as transgender or understand they have a gender identity that is different from their sex assigned at birth.
It was only after some push-back that books like “My Princess Boy”, which normalizes boys wearing dresses and tiaras, have been removed from the framework.
These efforts by major institutions, like public libraries, education institutions, and state governments, represent the public campaign to push modern ideologies on our youth; and we have not even mentioned the participation of higher education institutions.
Turning A Culture Upside-Down
How does this happen? How do well-educated people in positions of power trade obvious truth for nonsense? The fear of dissenting and the consequences it may bring is enough to keep sensible people from speaking sensibly. Erika Mann comments that many German educators at first resisted the Nazi overhaul of education that, in the Fuhrer’s words, was to “create political soldiers”. However, over time:
The teachers, who might as a group have originally had many mental reservations toward Nazism, have fallen completely under its control, and tens of thousands of them — men of science and of the spirit, men with pedagogical experience and a sense of responsibility — are unresisting now, tools to the new leaders’ hands.4
By 1937, 97% of all teachers belonged to the National Socialist Teachers Union (NSLB). A good portion wore the honor badge of the Nazi Party, meaning, as representatives of the Party, “they cannot be attacked, no matter how they function as teachers.”5.
In our time, teachers, librarians, congressmen and women, professors, and school board members have largely given in to the modern ideologies. If you are not following the radical ideologies of transgenderism, race theory, liberalism, and if you hold strongly to religious values, you are the enemy.
At a certain point, the German education system instilled a new set of values (and new curricula, if you will). Everything from math and science, to history and politics had been wrapped around the German ideology of Aryan dominance. These lessons in “National Socialist Meanings” proved to be the point of their education system; to build allegiant Germans to an inhuman view of the world.
Likewise, today, every subject, it seems, is now aimed at seeing the world in racial/sexual terms and in order to shift power and induce radical individual liberty. Look at how one Seattle public schools turns math into a subject about race and power. Look how in New Jersey, the head of the English Language Arts for a public school district deems literary classics as worthy of being thrown in the trash. This because classic literature represents “white supremacy” in the minds of many academics. It’s one thing to deny works like Paradise Lost or The Divine Comedy in the classroom for their religious themes; it’s another to deny Little House on the Prairie legitimacy because its themes are “non-inclusive”.
A Militarized Childhood
The family usually presents the strongest ties to a way of life that a child knows. However, once the vast majority of Germans accepted Nazism, the rest of society simply fell in line to encourage the Nazi Weltanshauung (view of the world); even the family was often too afraid to resist:
“The lives of all German youths belong solely to Hitler,” shouted Baldur von Schirach, now Reich Youth Leader. If a child asks its mother, for reassurance, “Am I yours?” the mother will have to answer, “No. You belong to the Führer.” And if the father breaks in, impatiently, “Don’t teach the child nonsense, dear … Of course you belong to us,” trouble begins.6
This reminds me of the judge who removed the parental rights and custody of a transgender child from her parents because they would not allow her undergo hormone treatment. In the new modern regime of individual freedom, a minor must be allowed to take harmful elective medication against her parents’ wishes. To tell your child, “no, that’s crazy, you are not a boy, you were born a girl with female anatomy!” is to invite trouble.
Mann recalls how most children’s’ young lives were so inundated with ideology, that they simply had no time for childhood or childhood ideas. Peering into her son’s room, the German mother observes:
The dark room hardly looks like a playroom. The boy is ten. But where are the toys, the Indian feathers, the games and story-books, full of adventure and spellbound princesses? The titles that catch the light from the door are those of the books read during the long “Comrades’ Evenings”: Aviator’s Nest in the Elder-Bushes, Life Stories of German War Aces, The Infantry Marches On, The Book of German Colonies for the Young…7
Today, many of our youth feel the weight of identity politics, social concerns (real or construed), oversexualization at younger and younger ages, and the imposed destiny to “follow your dreams” and “seek your passions”. The steady onslaught of sermonizing from the likes of Disney and the rest of pop-culture to take charge of the future and be whatever you want is done cleverly.
Like the German children’s book, Trust No Fox on Green Heath! And No Jew on His Oath!, which depicts Jews as sly and mischievous and the German as naturally triumphant, our children’s stories portray fathers as doofus, religion as backwards, and glorify the Ice Princess that has embraced her individual autonomy.
I feel sorry for the Greta Thunberg’s, who have not had their childhoods robbed, but rather, have given their childhood to politics. They have bought the lie that the value of their life is in their activism.
I feel bad for the boys that just want to be boys, and play rough and get dirty, but can’t play football, or tag, or dodgeball at school. I am glad to see boys who ride their bikes and climb rocks instead of sitting, dead-faced, with the faint blue shade of iPad light on their face. Rather than telling boys to chase their dreams, I hope we encourage boys to simply love God, be a productive worker, and care for their family and community.
I feel bad for little girls who just want to be pretty, and wear dresses, and play with cute dolls, but instead, get told they should be Jedi Knights, or be tough like those grotesque women’s UFC fighters, or have to play with a Barbie that is neither a boy or a girl or is both (I guess). I am filled with delight, when I hear a girl sincerely say she wants to be a mother when she grows up. I applaud efforts that allow girls to develop female bonds, and are not always pushed to “keep up with the boys”.
Can he enjoy living like this?
Once again, Erika Mann peers into the mind of a German mother wondering of her boy:
She stands there, unable to walk away from her little sleeping son. What odd children, she thinks, what curious, strange children! He was five when Hitler came in; now he knows nothing but Hitler’s world that has swallowed us all. Can he like it? Can he enjoy living like this? But none of the children know any other way. They don’t play; they don’t understand what playing is. All their imagination is made use of to one end: war and conquest.8
Surely, our children cannot enjoy living in modernity. Studies have shown a near double in teens with mental health disorders in the last 10 years. The freedom, the narcissism, the weight of politics is too much for them; especially as more abandon faith.
If we are not watchful and vigilant, will we notice that our children can be (or already are) swallowed by the raging tide of modernity? Will we be able to spot the subtle and gentle pushes toward an irreligious and atomized view of the world. One in which there is no meaning to any of this world, apart from our own pleasures.
The efforts that churches and families have made to present the Gospel and truth to their young is encouraging. But also, our faith must be lived out on a moment to moment basis. In a German periodical meant to defend children’s propaganda with illustrations of Jews and Germans, it was said that “a child is likely to have keen vision”9. With their keen vision, our children must see the outcomes of our faith. They will not believe mere words.
It is not impossible to unplug from our culture (metaphorically and literally). What else must you know about our culture to see its devastating effects on our children, whom we pray will be able to filter out all the falsehood and hold fast to what is good10.
My plea to you, dear reader, is that we are bold enough to see our modern culture as Mrs. M saw the German state; as a place where, without radical intervention, one could not grow to be human.
- Speech, Nov. 6, 1933
- Mann, Erika. School for Barbarians: Education Under the Nazis (Dover Books on History, Political and Social Science) (pp. 14-15). Dover Publications. Kindle Edition.
- Mann, Erika. School for Barbarians: Education Under the Nazis (Dover Books on History, Political and Social Science) (p. 50). Dover Publications. Kindle Edition.
- Mann, Erika. School for Barbarians: Education Under the Nazis (Dover Books on History, Political and Social Science) (p. 52). Dover Publications. Kindle Edition.
- p. 29
- Ibid, p. 31
- Ibid. p. 32
- Ibid. pg. 47
- 1 Thessalonian 5.21