What Is Deconstruction?
Unlike the more structured curriculums of high school mathematics or science, the course load and topic choice for upper-level English classes is left largely undefined. For Advanced Placement classes, the College Board only focuses on necessary skills, leaving book choices, lesson plans, projects, and teaching methods up to the teachers.
In recent years, the process of “deconstruction” and “schools of literary criticism” have become popularized among high school English teachers as a means of enhancing and broadening the sphere of literary analysis. Deconstruction in literary analysis originated with Jacques Derrida in the 1960s as a means of seeing text not with an isolated meaning, but instead as a product of the connections between itself and all other texts and exchanges. Deconstruction doesn’t look at the intended meaning of a text but rather the relevant surrounding context.
If deconstruction is the process of breaking down a text, then the schools of literary criticism can be seen as the guide. Schools of literary criticism act as a metaphorical lens through which you can or, often in the case of an English assignment, are compelled to see the world and various texts. Of the many schools employed, here are some of the most blatantly politically coercive:
- Marxist criticism
- postcolonial criticism
- feminist criticism
- critical gender theory
- queer studies
- critical race theory
- critical disability studies
The Issue of Deconstruction in the Classroom
While this approach to literary analysis seems at the surface harmless, it is this coupled with the open nature of the curriculum that provides teachers the ability to sway and promote socialist ideas without ever bringing them up. Rather than directly advocating for ideas such as universal healthcare, universal basic income, diversity quotas, and so on, left-wing teachers can simply emphasize specific schools of criticism while choosing specific books to match which highlight the problems left-wing activists aim to solve.
With websites dedicated to assigning books to schools of criticism, it becomes easy for a Marxist teacher or professor to assign texts that pair well with varying schools of criticism. Radical teachers can infuse the classroom with a politicized view of the world, shaping student perspective and ideological outlooks not by attacking the issue, but by changing the way students think.
Take Marxist criticism for example. Marxist criticism enforces the conception of Marx’s material dialectic and forces readers to ask the question “Whom does it benefit?” Every action and every piece of literature is scrutinized to determine if it benefits the capitalist or working class. Students must then look at classic texts through a Marxist lens, only looking to identify instances of class warfare and the failures of capitalist systems. Rather than deconstructing the texts, as the method of deconstruction seems to imply, deconstruction in terms of literary analysis only enforces the metanarratives teachers adhere to by directing student perspectives.
This is true regarding other forms of literary criticism such as critical gender theory, which seeks to enforce transgender and nonbinary ideology; feminist theory, which looks at modern Western society and capitalism as an oppressive patriarchy, and of course, critical race theory. There is little difference between changing the way someone sees the world and changing how they think.
Propaganda is obvious, loud, and easy to advocate against. This style of indoctrination is greatly evasive, making it a far more pressing issue facing our education system today. Many students may not even realize they are being subtly indoctrinated, slowly trained to see the world as a socialist or “through a Marxist lens.” Additionally, because educators do not directly state support for left-wing philosophy in the classroom, it becomes increasingly difficult to hold them accountable for violating academic neutrality.
It becomes even more difficult for the students themselves to criticize the material and indoctrination presented before them, as teachers can claim to only be working to “expand your thinking.” There is, however, no conservative school of criticism, nor an economic school of criticism; instead students are only presented with a one-sided method of interpreting texts. Furthermore, because this approach can often be assigned, students are not provided the choice to opt out.
The leftward creep of education is by no means a new concept; however, the new methods and approaches to indirectly spreading a left-wing message in a high school or college-level course cannot be overlooked. There are many reasons to encourage the spread of this new approach to literary analysis, and its attractive qualities have made it a dominating force in many English classrooms throughout the United States.
Without any opposition, or widespread understanding of the potential dangers, tens of thousands of students may be subjected to subtle yet deliberate political and ideological influence every day. Education must remain a politically neutral environment to ensure a student is able to develop into an open-minded and curious citizen. A political sway over public education, however direct, is wrong regardless of the direction it comes from.