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Woke Schools Are Indoctrinating Your Children

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Schools are indoctrinating your kids into the woke agenda. How did we get here? Noelle Mering, author of Awake, Not Woke, reviews the history that brought our educational institutions to their current crisis. Why did we go down this road, and can we recover?


Cy Kellett:

How did we get to the point where schools are actively indoctrinating children? Noelle Mering is next.

Cy Kellett:

Hello, and welcome to Focus, the Catholic Answers podcast for living, understanding, and defending your Catholic faith. Our friend Noelle Mering in her book, Awake, Not Woke, has a chapter on education and how education became, in many ways, indoctrination over the course of the 20th century. We get into that with her in this conversation. Some of it can maybe animate you a bit to realize that what’s going on in schools today has a long history, and much of that history is anti-Christian. Here’s what Noelle Mering had to say.

Cy Kellett:

Noelle Mering, author of Awake, Not Woke: A Christian Response to the Cult of Progressive Ideology, thank you very much for being here with us.

Noelle Mering:

Thanks for having me.

Cy Kellett:

You’re part of the folks who do the Theology of Home.

Noelle Mering:

That’s right.

Cy Kellett:

You all talk about how beauty is evangelical, and that’s why I wore a jacket. I never wear a jacket on this.

Noelle Mering:

You wanted to be beautiful.

Cy Kellett:

I wanted to be more beautiful. I beautied it up for you.

Noelle Mering:

You’re evangelizing me right now.

Cy Kellett:

Exactly right. Awake, Not Woke, that’s a work that you do together, you and Carrie Gress and some other folks.

Noelle Mering:

Theology of Home is. Right.

Cy Kellett:

Theology of Home. Yeah. This is your work.

Noelle Mering:

Yes.

Cy Kellett:

Awake, Not Woke. Very well-received. I think a lot of people are like, “We needed somebody to say these things,” because it’s a very baffling thing to live in a world where really very positive things are twisted in a way that’s destructive and damaging. The idea that, well, you want to be for justice, you want to be for a just and fair and equitable society, but a lot of that is so subtly twisted that you’re like, “Wait, I need some help here.” I think you gave people that help in this book.

Noelle Mering:

Yeah. No, I think that that’s part of the clarity that people are looking for. I hear all the time, people will say, “There’s something that’s off about this, and I’m not sure what, but I certainly want to be on the right side. I want to fight against injustice and, certainly, racism.” I think one of the things that’s happened is that there’s no daylight now between that desire to fight for justice and the way the ideology demands the manner in which it has to be implemented. They’re basically saying, “If you don’t fight against injustice in the way that we are telling you to do it, then you’re not actually having that right instinct and that right desire to fight against injustice at all.”

Cy Kellett:

Right. You’re one of the unjust ones, even though your desire is for justice, but you didn’t do it right. You’ve got to do it the right way.

Noelle Mering:

That’s right.

Cy Kellett:

It seems almost totalitarian. It’s very controlling.

Noelle Mering:

It’s very controlling. Yeah. I think that it’s a bullying, coercive tactic, because I think people really… Most normal people, it’s a horrifying proposition or prospect to be called or told you’re a racist or told you’re a bigot, or told that you’re not on the side of progress or that you’re backwards, all these things. I think that that gets a lot of people who have the right instincts, Christian precepts to be compassionate, walk with people who are suffering, all these things, and it manipulates that desire.

Noelle Mering:

I think the more that we can identify, “Well, is this actually helping people? Does this movement help the people that it claims to?” And I think I felt as I researched it and started looking at it more, that it definitively does not. I think it weakens everyone, particularly the people that it aims to help. Then once I think people see that, then they can feel more courage and more emboldened to say, “No, this isn’t actually helping people, so I’m not going to support this ideology that I think is actually diminishing.”

Cy Kellett:

Right. It’s very hard in an atmosphere where there’s this, I don’t know if censorship is the word, you’ll have to tell me, but you have a kind of stacking up of the mainstream media companies with all the New York, Washington, D.C., the New York Times, the Washington Post, and then all the cable news, with an exception here or there, and then you have the social media outfits like Twitter who will say, “If you say things like a man is not a woman, or someone is a biological male, when that is an actual fact about a person, but it’s not one that that person acknowledges, so you’re not allowed to say it,” there’s a sense of being censored. Whether or not that is censorship, I don’t know. I think a lot of people feel censored, like, “I can’t stand up to all that.”

Noelle Mering:

That’s right. Yeah. No, I think that the movement really operates with two fundamental tactics. It makes us suspicious of each other, really divides people, and then we start to… It deflects from the rising tyrannical elements of the ruling regime, is by making the people hate each other. Then it also makes us suspicious of our own ability to access the truth. I think it’s really disorienting in that way. Even the example you gave about how… A CNN reporter said recently there’s no scientific consensus on whether or not a baby is a boy or a girl at birth, and just asserted it like, “Duh, this is just a truism.”

Cy Kellett:

I don’t feel shocked by much that CNN says, but you viscerally feel shocked by it. Why do you need a scientific study on this?

Noelle Mering:

Right. Everyone knows. Every child knows. It’s just obvious. I think that’s part of… It’s daring you to challenge such as an absurd statement. It’s like, “We can say the most outlandish thing, and you can’t even question it.”

Cy Kellett:

Right, because if you do…

Noelle Mering:

Even that’s a power play.

Cy Kellett:

It is. Right. That’s a power play. The CNN reporter reports as if this is news or something. It seems to me that science is also drawn into this, into this whole… Well, all the social media companies are on board and all the old-line media companies are on board, the universities and the science departments. I don’t actually think a lot of scientists necessarily are. I think most scientists would go, “Yeah, there’s pretty obvious difference between a boy and a girl at birth.” But science is somehow co-opted into this whole thing.

Noelle Mering:

Yeah. I think there’s a lot of financial incentives, and also reputational, career incentives to maintain the party line in ways that are deeply corrupting of the things that should be immune to that type of politicization. But it creates this wall of knowledge, this established cannon of what is true, just by the sheer force and how broadly it is endorsed across all those platforms you’re talking about from D.C. to New York, to media, to medical establishment, to the academy, all these, and to our popular culture certainly.

Cy Kellett:

Right. Then the individual ends up feeling powerless and isolated-

Noelle Mering:

And crazy.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Right. That’s right. What I wanted to talk to you about this time a bit was, in your book, you break it into various sections, and you go through the origins of where the whole woke ideology started and then what are the dogmas of it. But there’s a section on indoctrination I wanted to ask you about because of what we’ve seen in the last maybe six months here in the United States, I don’t know what’s happening around the rest of the world, a sense of parents being shocked at what their children are being taught in the schools that the taxes are paying for.

Noelle Mering:

Yeah. No, it’s been an interesting phenomenon of seeing all these school board meetings. It really feels like this grassroots movement. I wrote an article actually for The American Mind recently about this. I think one of the reasons why so many parents are galvanized in this way… And non-religious parents, by the way, too, and also non-conservatives. There have been a real cross section of parents that have been outraged by all of the CRT and the gender ideology and all of this being instituted in schools, across public, private, even religious schools.

Noelle Mering:

One of the things I compared it to is that it’s almost like if you’ve been manipulated or you’ve been abused a certain way, you can maybe put up with something, and then once you see it directed at your child, then that might wake you up, where you say, “No, no, no, no, no.” It opens your eyes to the manipulation that’s been at play the whole time, I think. But there’s something, some mama bear element, papa bear element, that really kicks in, I think, when you see this being directed at your child, and you see how manipulative it is. I think that’s what we’re seeing, is just that sort of outrage.

Cy Kellett:

Can I tell you something from my own life? Two of my children went to public high school, and I regret now that I thought that our family catechesis and the Catholic schooling they had gotten and the Catholic family would be powerful enough to be an inoculation. I feel now, looking back on it, was I arrogant and foolish? Because actually, it wasn’t powerful enough. Both of these daughters, through the experience of California public schools, which now I feel almost embarrassed that I didn’t think more deeply about this, they really got morally harmed by what they were taught, and I’m left with regrets about that.

Noelle Mering:

I think that it wasn’t foolish so much as it’s really hard to wrap our minds around that there would be an actual energy and effort trying to indoctrinate children in schools. It sounds wild. It sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it’s right there in the literature if you follow the lineage of the movement, when they realized they were not going to have an actual revolution in the streets, decided, “Well, we’ll just move over to the K-12.” Well, to many multiple institutions, but the school system was really particularly targeted. I think we’ve gotten used to that in colleges, but I think it took us a long time to realize that this was actually happening in K-12 too, and aggressively so.

Cy Kellett:

Very powerfully so. It’s not like-

Noelle Mering:

It’s effective.

Cy Kellett:

You’ve always got that teacher who thinks they’re smarter than the parents, and they’re the friend of the students, so they have this kind of influence. But it’s not just one teacher. It’s systematic.

Noelle Mering:

Yeah. It’s training kids to look at the world through a very particular filter that I think is really compelling. You can see how children influenced each other, or teenagers influenced each other towards this, in their own social dynamics. For example, I don’t know, most of us probably haven’t had the experience where someone used some pain or some trauma in their past or some sort of victim identification as being a bit of a bludgeon, where they’ll want to silence you and say, “You haven’t experienced the suffering that I have. You have not walked in my shoes.”

Noelle Mering:

There’s something true there. I haven’t experienced that suffering. Everyone has experienced some sort of suffering to varying degrees, and it seems like a fool’s errand to try to put a metric and a number and a comparison amount to that. But that is a very compelling experience, I think, when you’re silenced, you’re told you don’t have a place to speak because you haven’t experienced that. I think it gives kids an incentive to look for ways in which they can claim that sort of an identity. You have all sorts of-

Cy Kellett:

You’re seduced into it because they see there’s a power in victimhood.

Noelle Mering:

There’s a power to it. Yeah. I think you see… I think that’s a piece, not the whole story, but there is a piece of that in the transgender movement and also the LGBTQ movement. I think a lot of-

Cy Kellett:

Power plays.

Noelle Mering:

… normal kids or wounded kids are looking for some way to distinguish themselves and some way to be different because there is some sort of power in that identity. It feels more exotic, but it also feels like you’ve got a voice now, a platform that you didn’t have before.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. You walk through in that section of the book, in the indoctrination section, some of the ways that that developed. What’s striking when you talk about, particularly, John Dewey is that it’s not as if this is just there’s a decline and a cyclical thing or something. This is quite planned. This is quite intentional by people who were… The minute I say it, people will say that’s a conspiratorial way to talk. But people who were quite anti-Christian and irreligious people themselves, who wanted and saw progress as a matter of overcoming the religious groundings of this society and replacing them with something else. It was quite planned.

Noelle Mering:

It was quite planned. John Dewey had gone and did a bit of Soviet tourism, and he was really taken by the school system in particular, and realized that there was a real power in you can churn out a conveyor belt of activists if you can get to them, inform them in the education system. There’s one, I won’t remember the name, but he was an education activist and scholar, and he says, to your point earlier about your own experience, that an hour in Sunday school, not that you were limiting your formation to that, but he was basically using that as an example, can never compete with five days a week, six hours a day. There’s no way that parents can compete to it, and we’ll have them then.

Cy Kellett:

Right. All that’s happening now, whatever is happening in those six hours, is then reinforced when the child is exposed to social media at home. It’s really a 24-hour full-court press now against the child. I think it was very impressive to see how people reacted when the gentleman running for governor of Virginia said, essentially, “Why are parents thinking that they should tell schools what to teach?” That’s right. I think parents were… I know the accusation is, well, it’s all manufactured. It didn’t feel manufactured at all.

Noelle Mering:

It looked like he was-

Cy Kellett:

You do not want your governor saying that to you.

Noelle Mering:

Right. It seemed like he was lifting the veil, saying-

Cy Kellett:

It really did. It was like, “Whoa.”

Noelle Mering:

… it out loud.

Cy Kellett:

“You just said what you really think.”

Noelle Mering:

It’s symptomatic of this whole rise of technocracy, where we are deferring everything to the experts and feeling that we have no ability to form and shape our own world and our own microcultures and our families and our communities, that everything relies on this expert class that really has adopted a revolutionary mindset and is trying to instill that-

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, quite revolutionary.

Noelle Mering:

… throughout the institutions.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. To go back to Dewey then, because I was very impressed reading this in Awake, Not Woke: A Christian Response to the Cult of Progressive Ideology, Dewey doesn’t believe in God and has a certain view of a godless progress in society. But he becomes so influential because he trains the people who go back to be the superintendents of… I think you said by 1950, he had personally trained a third of the superintendents in the U.S. They had come to Columbia.

Noelle Mering:

Yeah, through that system. Also, Herbert Marcuse, who was the celebrity intellectual of the Frankfurt School, he was enormously influential. He mentored Angela Davis and several members of the Weather Underground, Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, and then all those people went on to become… She chairs at various universities across America. Bill Ayers, in particular, I think, has had an enormous influence outside of Chicago at Teachers College. But yeah, it’s the same thing. They will bring superintendents and principals, and then they go back to where they’re from and then they disseminate the ideology throughout the school district.

Cy Kellett:

How would you get the young person who wants to be a teacher to participate in this really revolutionary ideology in the classroom? Well, what you would do is you would develop a set of government credentialing standards and send everyone to the same schools to get those standards.

Noelle Mering:

Yeah, where it becomes the standard. Yeah. I think it’s incredibly difficult for teachers to not start adopting it.

Cy Kellett:

Right, because you’ve got to go to these four-year schools that have the right to credential you, and that’s what they’re teaching. They’re teaching the John Dewey stuff, and much more radical than that now. By the time you have your credential, you’ve been fully formed by this.

Noelle Mering:

Yeah. Even if you’re silent, want to slip under the radar, and you don’t really buy into it, at some point you’re being silent for so long that it’s soul sucking in a way. You have to keep concealing what you really think and nod along. Eventually, that stuff is going to break through, or it’s just going to… The joy is sucked out of your vocation at that point, I would think.

Cy Kellett:

Right. The homeschooling movement is one solution that people have. I think that Catholic schools were one. Many parents have sent their kids to Catholic schools with the sense that they will be protected from the excesses of the public schools and be given some connection to God and the Gospel and Jesus. What’s frightening is how many of the Catholic schools have adopted the exact same standards as the public schools. I’ve spoken to many parents who say, “We worked hard to send our kids to Catholic schools. This is what we thought they were getting. This is what they got.”

Noelle Mering:

Yeah. I think that there’s a trust broken. I’ve been hearing from… I wrote an article about this happening in a Catholic school almost a year ago, and ever since then, I just hear from parents all over the country just saying, “This is happening at my school. This is what’s on the website.” They bring in DEI experts, diversity, equity, inclusion. What almost always accompanies that is radical gender ideology. It’s never just usually the race thing. It’s also in the Zooms, the teachers are putting their pronouns in. These are Catholic schools.

Cy Kellett:

Right. Yeah. They’re not teaching the gospel of love. They’re not teaching a gospel of mercy and forgiveness. They’re not teaching a gospel in which all of us are sinners before the Lord. They’re teaching a gospel of a merciless judgmentalism that goes by the name of tolerance.

Noelle Mering:

That’s right. Yeah. One of the things I talk about in the book is that it’s a fundamental shift between how we define a person versus… As Christians and Catholics, we define the human person based on the love of God. For the woke, a person is defined not by the love of God, but by the hatred of mankind. That gives you two very different missions. The mission in critical theory is you need to not spread the gospel of love, but rather spread a gospel of hate, which is you need to give people, not the Good News, but the bad news that raise their consciousness, would be the lingo of the movement, raise their consciousness to the hatred that’s in society, to the misery of their lives, until you become hopeless enough that all you can do, your only option left is to revolt, tear it down, build something new, some new future utopia that never seems to work out that way.

Cy Kellett:

Right, because it can’t. We’re not capable. It always strikes me that the shortest story in the Bible, standalone story, is the Tower of Babel. It’s the story that we repeat over and over and over and over again, “We got this. We’ll do this without God. We’ll do this without the Gospel.” But you don’t have the capacity to do it.

Noelle Mering:

Right. It always involves re-engineering all of reality. We don’t respect or receive the givenness of reality. Rather, your whole goal is to change reality. There’s a violence in there.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. I feel like with my girls, the two that I was describing earlier, I feel like the best parts of them were exploited in a way, that their youthful desire to be just and kind and to treat everyone with a great dignity was exploited to a new kind of meaning, to have a different kind of meaning, which I think is a distortion of reality.

Noelle Mering:

Absolutely. That, to me, is the most manipulative part, is that it really does take those goodhearted instincts and desires, and manipulates them. Part of the horror, I think, of what I’ve been hearing, too, is so many parents who, particularly with college, they’ll send their kids to a college and trust that these are… It’s a revered institution. And they’ll say, “My kids came back, and they hate me now. They just hate everything I stand for. They think I’m regressive. It’s utterly severed our relationship.” That’s really heartbreaking.

Noelle Mering:

But there is something in the movement that really wants… It’s a rejection of history in some ways. It wants to rupture us from our history, rupture us from our lineage. I think that’s one of the things we see with the tearing down of statues, why that kind of iconoclasm becomes so important. But there’s also rejection of our parents. If we want to be on the right side of history, it’s because we actually disdain history. We want to be on the right side of progress. We want the most progressive person to judge us. That’s going to be our measure. That reflects a real disdain for what’s come before, and I think that includes our parents.

Cy Kellett:

Wow, Noelle, that’s very insightful, I think. You cut the child off from the parent. The parent really is the connection to the rest of human history. Our connection materially to all of human history is the parent. You cut off that, and you say, “Well, they’re toxic,” or something like that. You have one of the other modern labels. And you move on into this world which is really a world of heartbreak.

Cy Kellett:

The world of people trying to change from boys to girls, and girls to boys, surgically and all that, is ultimately just a world of heartbreak. Nothing is going to come from that except people with profound… And we’re seeing it. We are seeing more and more people saying how much they regret that when they were depressed, they were maybe even manipulated themselves by mental health professionals and other health professionals into, “Well, here’s what your real problem is, and changing these structures of your physique is what’s going to cure it.”

Noelle Mering:

Yeah, I think that’s right. I think that cutting off from the family, the lineage that you were referencing, really leaves us so rootless and in search of an identity. It used to be, or it ought to be, that we are given an identity in our family. You’re named. You’re known. You’re particular. You’re irreplaceable. If you don’t have that sort of belonging, significance, identity, you’re going to open yourself up to any identity on offer.

Noelle Mering:

They want to feel significant. They want to feel that sort of particularity that comes with being named and known that we receive from our family and from Our Lord. I think that this is, in a perverse way, manufacturing that unique identity, where you can invent yourself in this particular way, even at the cost of mutilating your very own body, and then somehow that’s going to be the solution to your misery.

Noelle Mering:

I think that’s what the woke movement is training us to do, is to take our unhappiness, our woundedness that’s come from dissolution of family life, with the dissolution of these common bonds and these roots, and it’s saying, well, the cause of your misery is some group outside of yourself, the patriarchy or whiteness or something, or the cause is that it’s the moral law, moral law is oppressing you, and so if you transgress the moral law-

Cy Kellett:

You’re going to feel a lot better.

Noelle Mering:

… by becoming a different gender, by becoming sexually promiscuous or whatever, what have you, then in some ways you’ll be able to liberate yourself from that misery and from that oppression. That’s the promise, but of course it just leads to more and more misery. I think people are waking up to it and wanting a different road.

Cy Kellett:

It does feel that we are at some kind of tipping point one way or the other, either into an irreconcilable conflict, where there will be some people who will maintain a connection to history, reality, God, one another, and then there will be others who will utterly reject that and be incapable of anything but conflict with that; or maybe it’s going to be decided one way or the other.

Cy Kellett:

I think a lot of Catholics that I hear from, they’re pretty convinced it’s going to be decided against them, like, “You just wait. They’re going to outlaw the Catholic faith. We’re not going to be allowed to go to church.” It doesn’t seem all that unrealistic anymore that that could happen. I wonder if those people entertain the possibility that the other could happen too, that we could throw off the nightmare of unreality that we’re living in.

Noelle Mering:

Yeah. I’m a terrible prognosticator, but an optimist at heart, so I tend to be on the more hopeful side. But then also just seeing how deliberate and how effective this revolutionary ideology has been, I can certainly understand where the doomsdayers are coming from as well.

Cy Kellett:

Let me just ask you this then before we close… Thank you very much for taking the time with us.

Noelle Mering:

No, it’s been fun.

Cy Kellett:

Say I was starting out with my kids right now, and I’m just starting to raise them. I haven’t thought deeply about these things. I know that I have a discomfort with the division in society and all that. What would you say to the parent about their role in protecting the child from ideologies in education and getting the child a genuine education which forms them as a human being?

Noelle Mering:

Yeah, that’s a great question. I think it’s become clear just as recently as the last couple years that we can no longer assume goodwill on the part of whatever educational institution we’re sending our kids to. I would say you’ve got to do a lot of research and due diligence about the school and also the school culture. It’s worthwhile, I think, moving someplace where you’re going to have like-minded families and shared values and all of these things. Especially with technology, I think even just a school culture where iPhones are not ubiquitous, it’s really hard to find that, but I think it makes a huge difference. Then your kids aren’t feeling like they’re the odd ducks because they don’t have a smartphone in their pocket.

Cy Kellett:

Right, where other families are supporting that. Yeah. Not every family is a homeschooling family, so it feels like there’s got to be something for those families too. It just feels like there are fewer and fewer of those options.

Noelle Mering:

Yeah. We’re very fortunate to have one in our town. There are very good… Classical education tends to be shorthand for “this is going to be a like-minded community.” They are around, but you have to seek them out.

Cy Kellett:

Yep. Noelle Mering, the author of Awake, Not Woke: A Christian Response to the Cult of Progressive Ideology, thank you very much.

Noelle Mering:

Thanks for having me.

Cy Kellett:

Many people have a feeling of unease that these new movements, especially as they’re being taught to our children, are not quite right, something is off with these things, but that we have all these very good things being taught, justice and equality and care for victims, so how could that be off? Well, maybe they’re being twisted just enough, perverted just enough, so that when we talk about justice, it’s not justice that we’re getting, but injustice. When we talk about equality, it’s not equality that’s following upon that; it’s inequality. And care for victims is not really care for victims; it’s more of creating a victim mentality, the consequence of which is separating children from their parents, children from their history, and in the worst case, separating children from the God who became man and walked among us, Jesus Christ our Savior. That’s a really awful outcome, one we want to avoid as much as we possibly can. That means standing up to these ideologies, which use very good words, very good concepts, to actually undermine what’s good and, in some cases, do what’s evil.

Cy Kellett:

Thanks very much for being with us. I know that this will be one that maybe lots of folks will want to comment on. If you’d like to send us a comment, if you’d like to send us a suggestion or a correction, or whatever, you can always email us. [email protected] is our email address, [email protected]

Cy Kellett:

Please support us financially. We need your help to keep doing what we’re doing. You can do that by going to givecatholic.com.

Cy Kellett:

If you’re watching on YouTube, don’t forget to subscribe and hit that little bell there, so you’ll be notified when new episodes are available. If you’re listening on one of the podcast services, if you would like and subscribe, you’ll also be notified when new episodes are out there. If you would, give us that five-star review, maybe a few nice words. That helps to grow the podcast.

Cy Kellett:

I’m Cy Kellett, your host. Thanks very much to Noelle Mering for her very fine work and for her spending time with us. We’ll see you next time, God willing, right here, Catholic Answers Focus.

 

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