John Henry Newman once observed that “false views of things” can have great power if not properly countered by the truth. In America today, we face a crisis of lies ruling every facet of society and government—and precious few individuals and institutions are teaching the truth. That has to change.
St. John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890), an English cleric and multi-talented intellectual, wrote his book “The Idea of a University” to describe what he thought Catholic higher education should be as a Catholic university was established in Ireland. Some of Newman’s observations in the preface to his book can apply, however, to Catholic education, to Christian education in general, and even to secular education as it used to be in America some hundred years ago. One passage in particular from the preface struck me recently as describing both why our “education” system in America is so pernicious now, indoctrinating rather than teaching, and why good education is so terribly important, both in school and through various media.
[A]s far as effectiveness goes, even false views of things have more influence and inspire more respect than no views at all. Men who fancy they see what is not are more energetic, and make their way better, than those who see nothing; and so the undoubting infidel, the fanatic, the heresiarch, are able to do much, while the mere hereditary Christian, who has never realized the truths which he holds, is unable to do any thing. But, if consistency of view can add so much strength even to error, what may it not be expected to furnish to the dignity, the energy, and the influence of Truth!
There are the two tasks for which education should prepare the student: firstly, recognizing, analyzing, and defeating lies and errors; and secondly, understanding the truth and bringing others to understand it too. Both are good, and both are necessary. These principles apply not only to schools—which need serious reforming in America now—but also to learning in adulthood, whether self-taught or though books, movies, articles, etc. Anything that is meant to be instructional at all should expose falsehood and present truth. The trick is to do so effectively, and without being preachy or dull.
There are those who are enthusiastic for the truth but have never learned how to analyze and take apart someone else’s argument; nay, they do not even know how to take apart and understand well what they themselves believe (this, by the way, seems to be a major problem among both Christians and conservatives today). There are others who spend so much time refuting or “destroying” arguments that they forget to propound the truth (some even fail to ask themselves what they believe, as they are so busy mocking what others believe).
This all sounds very abstract, but it’s highly applicable to politics and religion today. For instance, despite all the evidence on the fact that abortion murders a baby and is terrible for women (putting them at much higher risk of suicide, depression, substance abuse, etc.), particularly victims of rape and sexual assault, most Americans believe in allowing exceptions for abortion. The pro-abortion activists have been so incredibly effective in their lies that millions of good people, including many who identify as pro-life, never notice the obvious fallacy of recognizing something as murder (i.e. killing an innocent human life) and then providing “exceptions” for that murder.
Or look at “gun control.” The cities with the strictest gun control laws in America are often the cities with the most violent crime, such as Chicago, which has a disturbingly high number of shootings and murders. Indeed, Chicagoans have a 1 in 15 chance of being shot by age 40. Not only that, but between 1950 and May 2022, 96% of mass shootings in America occurred in gun-free zones. Yet how many Americans really believe that banning AR-15s or imposing stricter “gun control” laws will help protect people from violence!
Or, to look at something more specifically relevant to the classroom, let’s do a third example, this time from history. The U.S. Constitution had no barriers for voting based on sex or race from the start; that was left up to the states. Free black Americans could and did vote when the Constitution was first ratified (depending on the state), and black Americans were able to vote in some states, at least in local elections, into the 19th century. North Carolina, for instance, banned black Americans from voting in state and local elections in 1835, per Ellis Island’s museum.
But these facts have been so buried by leftists who wanted to rewrite history that even most conservatives don’t know them. Even one of my most brilliant, well-educated, and conservative professors in college (and on most subjects he knew more than I will ever know) told my class that the Constitution banned black people from voting!
These are just three examples to illustrate how badly truth-tellers have failed in the realm of education. Communists and atheists took control of our grade schools and high schools and universities. Now that radical critical race theory, Satanism, lewd LGBTQ ideology, and Marxism are very obviously entrenched in our schools, we are horrified. We failed to fight lies, and we must do so now, to stop the poisoning of young minds. But we also need to provide alternatives. It is not enough to identify the problem if we have no solution.
Whether that involves homeschooling, starting more private schools, donating to help good schools, providing scholarships to better schools for poorer children, voting in politicians who support school choice, or even providing online educational resources, there are many ways that ordinary citizens like you and me can fight back against the lies. It is vital to the survival of America that we do so—we can save this country, one child or friend at a time. For, as Cardinal Newman noted, while “false views of things” can have great power, nothing can compare to “the dignity, the energy, and the influence of Truth!”