The American Experiment: Can education save it or will Marxism and gender ideology destroy It?

The United States is rooted in a brand of liberalism which arose from the Enlightenment period of the 17th and 18th centuries. John Locke’s beliefs in natural rights, limited government, and the consent of the governed — indeed of life, liberty, and property — were melded together by the Founding Fathers to create a constitutional republic based on these same principles. Whether our diverse, pluralistic society can maintain these values and survive the test of time is an ongoing question known as the American experiment.

There is a growing sentiment in American society that America is in decline. Former President Donald Trump has made this a central theme of his re-election campaign. In doing so, he implies that through his re-election, he can return America to the mythological Golden Age. He doesn’t quite say it in those words, but that is the underlying message behind “Make America Great Again”.

The idea of restoration or the return of the Golden Age is a recurring theme throughout history, and it is often used by political leaders to rally their followers behind a promise of returning to a past era of prosperity. Yet, Golden Ages are rooted in classical literature, not political campaigns.

The ancient Greek poet Hesiod in Works and Days wrote that the first stage of man is the Golden Age, an age of human virtue and righteousness. From there, man “progresses” through time until he reaches the Iron Age, a time of war, strife, and hardship. Meanwhile, in Aeneid, Virgil writes of Aeneas and his journey to find a new home following the fall of Troy. Aeneas is led by the spirit of his father who promises a future where “men will restore the Golden Age and regain their ancient virtues,” something Aeneas ultimately realizes by founding the city of Rome.

Similarly, John Milton’s Paradise Lost describes the fall of man and his longing for a return to a perfect state, one which he believes is possible in the future. Even the Bible contains its own Golden Age theme through the story of the Garden of Eden and the fall of man through temptation. The Christian faith symbolizes humanity’s longing for a return to a Golden Age, which Christians believe can only be attained through redemption and salvation, ultimately leading to going to “Heaven,” a place of virtue and righteousness, and eternal life — a Golden Age.

Thus, Mr. Trump’s message of bringing back lost prosperity and traditional values is essentially a modern version of this recurring Golden Age theme. However, the question of whether the American experiment is failing or will endure the test of time relies on public education, and education “is basic to the preservation of a democracy,” as President John F. Kennedy declared on May 18, 1963, in a speech at Vanderbilt University. Most people would agree with the importance of public education. However, what education should entail is another question entirely.

Public education should serve a public good. Part of that public good is to develop just and virtuous citizens who are willing to sacrifice their lives for the preservation of a just and virtuous society, as Plato describes in The Republic. This means that education should not only focus on academic excellence but also on character development. It should instill in students the importance of contributing to society, of public service, self-sacrifice for the common good, of honor, integrity, and of duty. This is how public education can serve a legitimate public good, as students will complete their schooling with the necessary virtues to keep the American experiment alive, which, by extension, preserves our constitutional republic and the freedoms we enjoy as citizens.

While literary works can be thought-provoking and well-written, and offer its readers different perspectives and creative inspiration, this does not serve the purpose of developing just and virtuous citizens. Some works promote individualism and self-centeredness, encouraging readers to prioritize their own self-worth and importance over the needs of society. Therefore, educators must be mindful of the messages that literary works convey and carefully select those that contribute to the development of just and virtuous citizens. Unfortunately, many public schools have shifted their focus away from teaching virtues and developing character to promoting gender ideology. Gender ideology asserts that gender is a social construct and that individuals are not obligated to conform to traditional gender roles.

This ideology is rooted in Marxist theory, which views gender as a product of the social relations and power dynamics inherent in capitalist societies. It teaches that individuals are not bound to conform to traditional gender roles. It further encourages people to break free from gender norms and constructs, promising a greater sense of personal liberation and a greater capacity to contribute to the revolutionary struggle against capitalism. Even though the end of capitalism in the United States would represent the failure of the American experiment, the fall of our constitutional republic, public schools nevertheless encourage youth to question the worth of conforming to societal norms, gender roles, and other expectations through the promotion of gender ideology.

The collapse of our constitutional republic cannot be in the public interest. If our current public education system is failing to cultivate virtue needed to preserve that republic, and instead promoting ideologies that undermine societal norms and expectations, how that public education system be serving a legitimate public interest?

There is no doubt that embracing this form of gender ideology may very well cause some individuals to feel a greater sense of personal liberation. However, this greater sense of personal liberation comes at the expense of the greater good of society. If public education should function as a public good or at least the interests of society, no argument can be made that public schools should encourage students to deny their biological sex in pursuit of sensations of personal liberation, and school curricula ought consist predominately of content that instills in children the types of virtues that develop boys and girls into just and virtuous citizens who will be ready, able, and willing to engage in public service and even sacrifice their lives for the preservation of the republic, in order to keep the American experiment alive.

Clearly, this is an argument for some level of censorship in public schools. As Plato writes in Republic, that which children observe in literature “in early youth and continuing far into life, at length grow[s] into habits and become second nature, affecting body, voice, and mind.” Likewise, today we understand that the minds of youth are impressionable. We can expose children to literature and example that teaches of virtue, heroism, and courage, or we can expose them to literature and ideologies that takes advantage of their rebellious nature and leads them to question societal norms, gender roles, and traditional values. One will produce the next generations of guardians who share the values of the American experiment and who are prepared to sacrifice themselves for its survival. The other will not.

I fear that the American experiment — and by extension, the future of our free society — is in danger because the next generation of Americans will lack the type of virtue needed to keep it alive and lack the boys and girls who grow up to be virtuous men and women willing to defend it and even die for it. Censorship is admittedly an affront to personal liberty, free speech and the free expression thereof, but perhaps too much personal liberty is a free society’s own worst enemy. We must weigh the cost of freedoms in the now against the survival of freedom in the future and understand that the survival of the American experiment is the more desirable result in the long run. Unless we truly want the sun to set on America’s Golden Age.


Published by Louis Marinelli