BOOK REVIEW: 'Don't Let the Kids Drink the Kool-Aid': Does a Gigantic Left Wing Conspiracy Control Education in U.S.?

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'Don't Let the Kids Drink the Kool-Aid': Does a Gigantic Left Wing Conspiracy Control Education in U.S.?
Don't know much about history
Don't know much biology
Don't know much about a science book
Don't know much about the French I took
 -- Sam Cooke, "Wonderful World (Don't Know Much)"

Maybe Marybeth Hicks should have used a title that today's undereducated but thoroughly indoctrinated students could understand rather than "Don't Let the Kids Drink the Kool-Aid" (Regnery, 224 pages, $24.95), her scathing indictment of the education/industrial complex (my shorthand coinage for the nation's failed attempt to educate young people, but the wildly successful effort to brainwash them). The reference to the powdered drink -- Kool-Aid -- of course refers to cult leader Jim Jones and his so-called "Peoples Temple" followers who were killed with poisoned Kool-Aid in the jungles of the South American country of Guyana in 1978. (

Riffing on the familiar phrase, "Do you know where your children are?" Hicks substitutes: "Do You Know What Your Kids Are Thinking?" adding that you might be surprised. She says, and provides copious examples of how a generation of (I was tempted to borrow Philip Wylie's great title "A Generation of Vipers") young Americans have indoctrinated rather than educated. Don't assume that this generation is like any other, Hicks says. They're not. "Not even close... Numerous polls show the same result on issue after issue. Frightening percentages of our kids believe that"

.  Socialism is better than the free market 
. Christianity is judgmental, and just plain mean
. America is the villain of world history
. Family does not mean marriage
. Human greed is destroying the Earth
Hicks adds: "And, of course, we all need the government to take care of us."
Marybeth Hicks
Marybeth Hicks

While she says that the far left demonizes our Judeo-Christian culture, the same haters of religion go out of their way to kiss up to Islam. On pages 141-143, she describes  how a pro-Islam series, "History Alive," distorts the message of radical Islam in an attempt to reach out to school kids. Why teaching Islam is OK, while teaching Christianity or Judaism isn't is not explained in a textbook approved for  use in California, Texas (the two states that set the standards for the rest of the country), Illinois, Florida and Washington state. My personal view is that an objective course in comparative religion would be a great idea in high school or even middle school, but how to go about that enormous task! It's impossible to be objective about religion, in my opinion.

People on the far left, including and especially Friend of Obama and supposedly recovering Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers, who recently retired from the University of Illinois Chicago as a professor of education, have won the indoctrination battle, Hicks says. The far left collectivists mounted  relentless attacks on the American character and culture  and have finally succeeded, and are ushering in the first authentically socialist generation of Americans who believe they will need and are entitled to a lifetime of government care, the author adds. 

Hicks: "It’s not just that Leftists are attempting to instill their radical beliefs in the minds and hearts of children. It’s that our children have swallowed these lessons hook, line, and sinker. Polls prove that on issue after issue, American young people are buying what the Left is selling."

Needless to say, Hicks has few good words to say about the National Education Association (NEA), the most powerful union of public school teachers, and, she notes, the union uses the word "bastards" to refer to right-wingers like Hicks. I didn't see any mention of the competing American Federation of Teachers, which is a pygmy compared to the NEA, which represents 2.3 million teachers and nearly another million support workers, college teachers and retirees. The NEA is the Bigfoot of American labor unions, representing more than half of all the nation's union members.

I wish Hicks had covered the right wing folks -- including religious fundamentalists -- and their influence on education. My view, from a libertarian stance, is to say "a plague on both your houses" (how many of you out there know where that phrase came from? Answer at the bottom of this review). I'm just as opposed to the right wing's so-called "Intelligent Design" and "Creationism" as I am to the full-blown collectivist indoctrination of the lefties. As a resident of Texas for the past three years (I lived in California from 1976 to 1992) I'm fully aware of the often baleful influence of these two megastates on the textbook industry and I'm just as opposed to right-wing propaganda from Texans as I am to the left-wing variety from Californians.

Hicks mentions textbook critic and academic Diane Ravitch in her book. To show that I'm not blowing smoke from every orifice, here's an excerpt from my review of Ravitch's "The Language Police" (link: 

"What started out as a legitimate redressing of sexist and racist stereotypes in the 1960s has become a dead hand on learning, Ravitch argues. And it has undoubtedly contributed to the dismal state of education in the U.S. today.  Ravitch, ... thoroughly examined the K-12 textbook production and selection process, .... She finds the content of her research discouraging. Censors and pressure groups on the right and left have formed a de facto unholy alliance to dumb down textbooks, leaving a large majority of them are worse than useless-they are harmful.

She writes: ...Right-wing groups exert more influence on general books while left-wing groups concentrate on textbooks. Both have lined up to attack such literary classics as Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." Fundamentalist groups are well known for attacking textbooks that discuss evolution without balancing Darwin's theory of evolution with biblical creationism."

Another academic, James Loewen, spoke out against indoctrination in a 2005 book titled "Lies My Teacher Told Me" (for my review: Here's an excerpt from that review:

“Lies My Teacher Told Me” is a scorched-earth look at the way history is presented to adolescent minds. Biology and mathematics are taught in a fairly straightforward manner, although I think the latest flap over Darwin, creationism and Intelligent Design might make the point about biology questionable. Loewen blasts everyone involved, but has special scorn for publishers and state textbook adoption groups who take all the reality out of history and drive students to distraction. 

Illinois native Loewen had first-hand experience with bland textbooks when he co-authored one in 1974 that told the truth about Mississippi, where he was teaching, in a book – “Mississippi: Conflict and Change” – that was rejected by school boards in the state. His book finally – after a lawsuit – was adopted by a few school districts in the state, he relates. 
As anyone who has taken a look at textbooks today, they’re crammed with illustrations, factoids and propaganda, almost like a 1,000 page USA Today gone amok on coated paper. Loewen calls much of the facts in textbooks “twigs.” (As in “can’t see the forest for the trees”). I have a gut feeling that history textbooks the world over are not much better than the Dirty Dozen he examines in “Lies…”

In fact, the Japanese have been bitterly criticized by China for their history textbooks’ distorted view of the events leading up to and including their brutal, racist conduct during World War II, including the Rape of Nanking in 1937. 

While the message in "Don't Let the Kids Drink the Kool-Aid" is serious, the writing style is fast and funny. I liked the book, with the above caveats about the lack of material about right-wing, fundamentalist brainwashing.

The answer to my quote about a plague on both your houses"....Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," of course, Act 3, Scene I: Mercutio cries out after being stabbed by Tybalt: "I am hurtA plague o' both your houses!" (referring to the Montagues and the Capulets).

About the Author
Marybeth Hicks is a weekly columnist for the Washington Times, the editor of Family Events, a guest on many radio and TV shows and a frequent speaker. A former writer in the Reagan White House, she is the author of Bringing Up Geeks and The Perfect World inside My Minivan. A  graduate of Michigan State University, she and her husband Jim Hicks, a law professor, make their home in East Lansing, Mich. and are the parents of four children. Her website:

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