John W. Whitehead
How do you persuade a nation to march in lock step with a police state? You start by convincing them that they’re in danger, and only the government can protect them. Key them up with constant danger alerts, distract them with wall-to-wall news coverage about disappearing planes and pseudo-celebrities, use blockbuster movies and violent video games to hype them up on military tactics, and then while they’re distracted and numb to all that is taking place around them, indoctrinate their young people to your way of thinking, by way of the public schools.
As I show in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, far from being bastions of free speech, today’s public schools are microcosms of the world beyond the schoolhouse gates, and increasingly, it’s a world hostile to freedom. Indeed, within America’s public schools can be found almost every aspect of the American police state that plagues those of us on the “outside.” In this way, young people in America are first in line to be transformed into compliant citizens of the new American police state.
Zero tolerance policies, which punish all offenses severely, no matter how minor, condition young people to steer clear of doing anything that might be considered out of line, whether it’s pointing their fingers like a gun, drawing on their desks, or chewing their gum too loudly.
Surveillance technologies, used to track the activities of students, accustom young people to life in an electronic concentration camp, with their movements monitored, interactions assessed, and activities recorded and archived. The Department of Education has created a system to track, archive and disseminate data on every single part of a child’s educational career with colleges and state agencies.
Metal detectors at school entrances and police patrolling school hallways acclimatize young people to being viewed as suspects. The problem, of course, is that the very presence of these police officers in the schools results in greater numbers of students being arrested or charged with crimes for nonviolent, childish behavior.
Weapons of compliance, such as tasers, teach young people to fear the police and that torture is an accepted means of controlling the population. One high school student in Texas suffered severe brain damage and nearly died after being tasered. A 15-year-old disabled North Carolina student was tasered three times, resulting in punctured lungs. A New York student was similarly tasered for lying on the floor and crying.
Standardized testing and Common Core programs, which discourage students from thinking for themselves, create a generation of test-takers capable of little else, molded and shaped by the federal government and its corporate allies into what it considers to be ideal citizens.
Overt censorship, monitoring and political correctness, which manifest themselves in a variety of ways, from Internet filters on school computers to sexual harassment policies, habituate young people to a world in which nonconformist, divergent, politically incorrect ideas and speech are treated as unacceptable or dangerous. In such an environment, a science teacher criticizing evolution can get fired for insubordination, a 9-year-old boy remarking that his teacher is “cute” can be suspended for sexual harassment, and students can have their posts and comments on social media analyzed by an outside government contractor.
So far I’ve only mentioned what’s happening within the public schools. It doesn’t even begin to touch on extracurricular activities such as the Explorers program, which trains young people to be future agents of the police state. Then there’s the military’s use of video games and blockbuster movies to propagandize war and recruit young people.
What’s really unnerving, however, are the similarities between our own system of youth indoctrination and that of Nazi Germany, with its Hitler Youth programs and overt campaign of educational indoctrination. I’m not suggesting the U.S. is attempting to raise up a generation of Hitler Youth. However, our schools and society at large are teaching young people to march in lockstep with the all-powerful government—which may be just as dangerous in the end.
Don’t take my word for it. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum provides some valuable insight into education in the Nazi state, which was responsible for winning “millions of German young people … over to Nazism in the classroom and through extracurricular activities.” The similarities are startling, ranging from the dismissal of teachers deemed to be “politically unreliable” to the introduction of classroom textbooks that taught students obedience to state authority and militarism. “Board games and toys for children served as another way to spread racial and political propaganda to German youth. Toys were also used as propaganda vehicles to indoctrinate children into militarism.” And then there was the Hitler Youth, a paramilitary youth group intended to train young people for future service in the armed forces and government.
Hitler himself recognized the value of indoctrinating young people. As he noted, “When an opponent declares, ‘I will not come over to your side, and you will not get me on your side,’ I calmly say, ‘Your child belongs to me already. A people lives forever. 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.’”
We’re certainly not doing ourselves or our young people any favors by allowing them to be indoctrinated into a police state mindset from early on, with no knowledge that they have any rights or any sense that they are the descendants of revolutionaries who stood up to tyrannical regimes.
Yet if there is one glimmer of hope for this younger generation, it may be found in the unlikeliest of places: young adult literature, specifically dystopian literature, which is all the rage among young people today. Serial books such as Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, The Bone Season and The Giver all speak to a growing awareness among young people that the future awaiting them is far from secure, and that freedom ultimately rests in their ability to take on the powers-that-be.