I have written several articles on postings related to Reform in America. A list of links have been provided at bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address additional areas rife for reform. I have written several articles on Education. A list of links have been provided at bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address different aspects on education.
Many Americans agree that for country to attain greatness again we have to reform our school system. Our school system started taking a nose dive in the 1960s. “Socialism, defined on Wikipedia, ‘is a social and economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy,’” wrote Brenner, who serves as the vice chair of the Ohio House Education Committee. “That seems to summarize our primary education system.” Ohio state Rep. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) has raised some eyebrows with a blog post titled “Public education in America is socialism, what is the solution?” Written earlier this month and published on a right-wing news site founded by his wife, his post claimed privatization is the only solution to what he sees as a problematic “socialist” public education system.
The idea of social-reconstructionist education was based on a 19th-century belief in the power of education to change society. In the last quarter of the 20th century there was considerable pessimism, but the idea that schooling could influence either society or the individual was widely held, affecting the growth of tertiary-level alternatives, management strategies, and education of disadvantaged people, in both industrialized and developing countries.
The international concern with assistance to people in the non-Western world was paralleled by the inclusiveness that characterized education in the 20th century. Education was seen as a primary instrument in recognizing and providing equality for those suffering disadvantage because of sex, race, ethnic origin, age, or physical disability. This required revisions of textbooks, new consciousness about language, and change in criteria for admission to higher levels. It led to more demanding definitions of equality involving, for example, equality of outcome rather than of opportunity.
Expansion of American education
Although such principles remained the basis of America’s educational endeavour, that endeavour—like America itself—underwent a vast evolution. The once-controversial parochial schools not only continued to exist but also increasingly drew public financial support for programs or students. The currency of privatization, carrying the idea of free choice in a private-sector educational market, strengthened the bargaining position of religious as well as other private schools. The issue of equality succeeded the issue of religion as the dominant topic of American educational debate.
Conditions varied markedly among regions of the country. Definitions of equal opportunity became more sophisticated, referring increasingly to wealth, region, physical disability, race, sex, or ethnic origin, rather than simply to access. Means for dealing with inequality became more complex. From the 1950s, measures to open schools, levels, and programs to minority students changed from the passive “opportunity” conception to “affirmative action.” Measured by high school completion and college attendance figures—both generally high and continually rising in the United States—and by standardized assessment scores, gains for African American and other minority students were noteworthy from the 1970s.
Although state departments of education used equalization formulas and interdistrict incentives to reach the poorest areas under their jurisdiction, conditions remained disadvantageous and difficult to address in some areas, particularly the inner cities, where students were mostly minorities. City schools often represented extremes in the array of problems facing youth—generally drug and alcohol abuse, crime, suicide, unwanted pregnancy, and illness—and the complex situation seemed intractable. Meeting the needs of a racially and ethnically mixed population, however, turned from the problem of the cities and from an assimilationist solution toward educational means of knowing and understanding the disadvantaged groups. States mandated multicultural courses in schools and for teachers. Districts introduced bilingual instruction and provided instruction in English as a second language. Books were revised to better represent the real variety in the population. The status of women was given attention, particularly through women’s studies, through improved access to higher education (women were now a majority of U.S. college students) and to fields previously exclusive to men, and through attempts to revise sexist language in books, instruction, and research.
A persistent idea in American democracy is that everyone, regardless of condition, should have a fair chance. Such is the tenet that underlay the establishment of the free, tax-supported common school and high school. As science pointed the way, the effort to bridge the gulf between the haves and have-nots extended to those with physical and mental handicaps. Most states and many cities undertook programs to teach the handicapped, though financially the going was difficult. In 1958 Congress appropriated $1 million to help prepare teachers of mentally retarded children. Thenceforward, federal aid for the handicapped steadily increased. With the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975—and with corresponding legislation in states and communities—facilities, program development, teacher preparation, and employment training for the handicapped advanced more rapidly and comprehensively than in any other period. In 1990 the act underwent revision and was renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA); the law was significantly updated again in 2004. Reforms aimed to place handicapped children in the least-restrictive environment and, where possible, to “mainstream” them in regular schools and classes.
At the turn of the 20th century, American youths attended an eight-year elementary school, whereupon those who continued went to a four-year high school. This “eight–four system” wholly prevailed until about 1910, when the “six–three–three system” made a modest beginning. Under the rearrangement, the pupil studied six years in the elementary school and three in the junior and senior high schools, respectively. Both systems were in use, there being almost the same number of four-year high schools and three–three junior–senior high school arrangements. There was a change at the elementary–junior high connection to include a system in which children attended an elementary school for four or five years and then a middle school for three or four years. The rapid growth of preschool provisions—with the establishment of an immense body of early-childhood teachers, day care workers, new “nannies,” producers of learning materials, and entrepreneurs—secured the place of the kindergarten as an educational step for five-year-olds and made available a wide, but mainly nonpublic, network of education for younger children.
In 1900 only a handful of the lower school’s alumni—some 500,000—advanced into the high school. Of those who took their high school diploma during this early period, some three out of every four entered college. The ratio reversed, as high school enrollments swelled 10-fold over the first 50 years of the century, with only one of every four high school graduates going on to higher learning. As even more students finished high school, demands for access to the postsecondary level increased accordingly.
From such experimental programs as the Dalton Plan, the Winnetka Plan, and the Gary Plan, and from the pioneering work of Francis W. Parker and notably John Dewey, which ushered in the “progressive education” of the 1920s and ’30s, American schools, curricula, and teacher training opened up in favour of flexible and cooperative methods pursued within a school seen as a learning community. The attempt to place the nature and experience of the child and the present life of the society at the centre of school activity was to last long after progressive education as a defined movement ended.
Some retrenchment occurred in the 1950s as a result of scientific challenges from the Soviet Union in a period of international political tension. Resulting criticisms of scientific education in the United States were, however, parried by educationists. America’s secondary school attuned itself more and more to preparing the young for everyday living. Consequently, though it still served prospective collegians the time-honoured academic fare, it went to great lengths to accommodate the generality of young America with courses in areas such as automobile driving, cookery, carpentry, and writing. In addition to changes in the form of earlier practical subjects, the curriculum responded to social issues by including such subjects as consumer education (or other applications of the economics of a free-enterprise society), ethnic or multicultural education, environmental education, sex and family-life education, and substance-abuse education. Interest in vocational-technical education was directed toward establishing specialized vocational schools, improving career information resources, integrating school and work experience, utilizing community resources, and meeting the needs of the labour market.
National prosperity and, even more, the cash value that a secondary diploma was supposed to bestow upon its owner enhanced the high school’s growth. So did the fact that more and more states required their young to attend school until their 16th, and sometimes even their 17th, birthday. However, economic strains, the ineffectiveness of many schools, and troubled school situations in which the safety of children and teachers was threatened led to questions about the extension of “compulsory youth” in high schools.
Criticisms were also leveled at the effects and aftereffects on education of 1960s idealism and its conflict with harsh realities. The publicized emphases on alternatives in lifestyle and on deinstitutionalization were ultimately, in their extreme form, destructive to public education. They were superseded by conservative attitudes favouring a return to the planning and management of a clearly defined curriculum. The dramatic fall in scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (a standardized test taken by a large number of high school graduates) between 1963 and 1982 occasioned a wave of public concern. A series of national, state, and private-agency reviews followed. The report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, A Nation at Risk (1983), set the tone. The emphasis was now on quality of school performance and the relation of schooling to career. The main topics of concern were the curriculum, standardization of achievement, credentialing, and teacher preparation and performance. In order to clarify what was expected of teachers and students, states increasingly detailed curricula, set competency standards, mandated testing, and augmented the high school diploma by adding another credential or by using transcripts to show superior achievement. Curriculum reforms accentuated the academic basics—particularly mathematics, science, and language—as well as the “new basics,” including computers. Computers became increasingly important in education, not only as a field of study but also as reference and teaching aids. Teachers were using computers to organize and prepare course materials; children were taught to use computers at earlier ages; and more and more institutions were using computer-assisted instruction systems, which offered interactive instruction on a one-on-one basis and could be automatically modified to suit the user’s level of ability. In the 1990s the growth of the Internet significantly increased the availability and, in many areas, the quality of education.
The reports on the state of education also expressed concern for gifted children, who tended to be neglected in American education. Until psychologists and sociologists started to apply their science to the superior child, gifted children were not suspected of entertaining any particular problems. Eventually, however, augmented with federal, state, and sometimes foundation money, one city after another embarked on educational programs for the bright child. From the 1970s on, gifted children were directly recruited into special academic high schools and other local programs. American education was still aimed at broadening or raising the level of general provision, however, so neither programs for the gifted nor those for vocational education were treated as specifically as in some other countries.
Federal involvement in local education
Although the U.S. Constitution has delegated educational authority to the states, which in turn passed on the responsibility for the daily administration of schools to local districts, there is no lack of federal counsel and assistance. Actually, national educational aid is older than the Constitution, having been initiated in 1787 in the form of land grants. Seventy-five years later the Morrill Act disbursed many thousands of acres to enable the states to promote a “liberal and practical education.” Soon thereafter the government created the federal Department of Education under the Department of the Interior and in 1953 established the Office of Education in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. As the independent Department of Education from 1980, this agency took a vigorous role in stating national positions and in researching questions of overall interest. Its findings proved influential in both state and local reforms.
Education funding was shared among local districts, states, and the federal government. Beginning with the Smith–Lever Act of 1914, Congress legislated measure upon measure to develop vocational education in schools below the college plane. A new trail was opened in 1944, when the lawgivers financed the first “GI Bill of Rights” to enable veterans to continue their education in school or college.
During the 1960s, school difficulties experienced by children from disadvantaged families were traced to lack of opportunities for normal cognitive growth in the early years. The federal government attempted to correct the problem and by the mid-1960s was giving unprecedented funding toward compensatory education programs for disadvantaged preschool children. Compensatory intervention techniques included providing intensive instruction and attempting to restructure home and living conditions. The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 provided for the establishment of the Head Start program, a total program designed to prepare children for success in public schools. It included medical, dental, social service, nutritional, and psychological care. Head Start grew steadily following its inception, spawning similar programs, including one based in the home and one for elementary-school-age children. In the 1970s, child-development centres began pilot programs for children aged four and younger. Other general trends of the late 1970s included extending public schools downward to include kindergarten, nursery school, child-development centres, and infant programs; organizing to accommodate culturally different or exceptional children; including educational purposes in day care; extending the hours and curriculum of kindergartens; emphasizing the early-childhood teacher’s role in guiding child development; “mainstreaming” handicapped children; and giving parents a voice in policy decisions. Early-childhood philosophy infiltrated the regular grades of the elementary school. Articulation or interface programs allowed preschool children to work together with first graders, sharing instruction. Extended to higher grades, the early-childhood learning methods promoted self-pacing, flexibility, and cooperation.
Changes in higher education
The pedagogical experimentalism that marked America’s elementary learning during the century’s first quarter was less robust in the high school and feebler still in the college. The first venture of any consequence into collegiate progressivism was undertaken in 1921 at Antioch College in Ohio. Antioch required its students to divide their time between the study of the traditional subjects and the extramural world, for which, every five weeks or so, they forsook the classroom to work at a full-time job. In 1932 Bennington College for women, in Vermont, strode boldly toward progressive ends. Putting a high value on student freedom, self-expression, and creative work, it staffed its faculty largely with successful artists, writers, musicians, and other creative persons, rather than Ph.D.’s. It also granted students a large say in making the rules under which they lived.
Such developments in America’s higher learning incited gusty blasts from Robert M. Hutchins, president and then chancellor of the University of Chicago from 1929 to 1951. He recommended a mandatory study of grammar, rhetoric, logic, mathematics, and Aristotelian metaphysics. One consummation of the Hutchins prescription was the study of some 100 “great books,” wherein resided the unalterable first principles that Hutchins insisted were the same for all people, always and everywhere.
The vocationalism that Hutchins deplored was taken to task by several others but with quite different results—notably by Harvard University in its report on General Education in a Free Society (1945). Declaring against the high school’s heavy vocational leaning, it urged the adoption of a general curriculum in English, science, mathematics, and social science.
In the great expansion of higher education between about 1955 and 1975, when expansionist ideas about curriculum and governance prevailed, colleges became at times almost ungovernable. New colleges and new programs made the higher-education landscape so blurred that prospective students and admissions officers in other countries needed large, coded volumes to characterize individual institutions. The college curriculum, like that of the high school, was altered in response to vocal demands made by groups and had expanded in areas representing realities of contemporary social life. Internal reviews, undergraduate curriculum reforms, and the high standards set by some universities demonstrated to some observers that quality education was being maintained in the university. Other critics, however, felt that grade inflation, the multiplication of graduate programs, and increasing economic strains had led to a decline in quality. Financial problems and conservative reactions to the more extreme reforms led some universities to place a strong emphasis on management.
Probably the most significant change in higher education was the establishment and expansion of the junior college, which was conceived early in the century by William Rainey Harper, the first president of the University of Chicago. He proposed to separate the four-year college into an upper and a lower half, the one designated as the “university college” and the other as the “academic college.” The junior college was sometimes private but commonly public. It began as a two-year school, offering early college work or extensions to secondary education. It later expanded to include upper vocational schools (including a wide range of technical and clerical occupations), community colleges (offering vocational, school completion, and leisure or interest courses), and pre- or early-college institutions. Junior colleges recruited from a wide population range and tended to be vigorous innovators. Many maintained close relationships with their communities. Colleges limited to the undergraduate level, especially in articulated state systems, might not differ much from well-developed junior colleges.
American educators began to organize as early as 1743, when the American Philosophical Society was founded, and continued to do so in increasing numbers. Not a few of their organizations, such as the American Historical Association, the Modern Language Association of America, and the American Home Economics Association, were for the advancement of some specialty. Others were more concerned with the interests of the general educational practitioner. Of these, the National Education Association (NEA) was the oldest. Founded in 1857, it undertook “to elevate the character and advance the interest of the teaching profession.” Despite its high mission, it had little influence until the 1870s, when it began to grow and prosper. With headquarters in Washington, D.C., the NEA conducted its enormous enterprise through a brigade of commissions and councils. A youngster by comparison, the American Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, was formed in 1916. Through collective bargaining and teachers’ strikes, it successfully obtained for teachers better wages, pensions, sick leaves, academic freedom, and other benefits. The distinction between a union and a professional organization became neither as clear nor as important an issue as it was in earlier days.
Such bodies as the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the American Association of University Professors, the American Educational Research Association, the National Commission on Teacher Education and Professional Standards, and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education labored industriously and even with a fair success to bring order and dignity to the teaching profession. Nevertheless, teaching became an increasingly arduous profession in the United States. Even the security formerly associated with the profession was in question as waves of teacher shortages and surpluses generated frantic responses by educational authorities. Educational reviews addressed teaching inadequacies by encouraging prospective teachers to earn degrees in other subjects before beginning studies in the field of education. They recommended establishing proficiency tests, regular staff-development activities, certification stages, and workable teacher-evaluation and dismissal procedures. They insisted on the necessity for the reform and evaluation of training programs, and some questioned the institutional context of teacher training.
Since the 1960s Leftists, Progressives, Socialists, and Marxists have migrated to, and have taken positions in every level of public school and college education, including in the National Education Association (the national teachers union), public school teaching positions, public school administrator positions, college professorships, college department heads, college deans, members of Boards of Regents, and in government positions at every level of The Department of Education.
In 2007, four U.S. Communist groups formed an alliance in order to work toward taking control of the Democrat Party in California, and then in other states, with the ultimate goal of taking control of the National Democrat Committee. The long-term plan included the indoctrination of students at all levels of public school education, and in colleges around the country, in order to convince millions of students that the Constitutional Republic had been a massive failure, while at the same time, painting a positive image of Socialism. The goal was to gain the support of generations of naïve students, with the expectation they would eventually help the Communists gain control of local, state, and the federal government. Their detailed plans are outlined in the attachment, labeled The Inside/Outside Project.
“Give me just one generation of youth and I’ll transform the world.” – Vladimir Lenin
Traditionally, for over 200 years, the curriculum in public schools and in state colleges was developed and controlled by local school boards and individual state Education Departments. In 2008, then Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano led a Common Core Task Force composed of commissioners of education, governors, corporate chief executive officers, and recognized experts in higher education. In December 2008, that Task Force developed what became known as the Common Core State Standards, those state standards were then adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.
The Common Core Curriculum State Standards became the mechanism by which the Federal Government took control of public education. The Obama administration required states to adopt Common Core State Standards, implemented by the Department of Education. The 50 state Education Departments were informed that it would be much easier to receive federal aide to state education, if the states adopted the Common Core Curriculum for their public schools.
The newly adopted Common Core Curriculum erased much of the US History once taught in public schools for over 200 years. That required the revision of the accurate US History textbooks once used in public schools. The revision of US History textbooks was funded by front groups, controlled by George Soros. The new US History textbooks disparaged the remarkable history of the Republic, portrayed Socialism as beneficial of the masses, while stating The Free Enterprise System was unfair; yet The Free Enterprise System has been the most successful economic engine in the history of mankind.
The new US History textbooks eliminated events, misrepresented facts, inserted new individuals who were unimportant, defamed the Founding Fathers, criticized the US Constitution, falsely reported the massive genocide of Native Americans, covered up the fact that the US fought wars to free millions of enslaved people, and invented an inaccurate and wholly negative impression of the Republic, as being cruel, racist, oppressive, violent, and discriminatory. US History textbooks now enumerate the contributions of Sikhs, LGBTs, Filipinos, Japanese, Chinese, Mexicans, black Americans, Hindus, and many other group—it’s a modern Socialist handbook.
It became obvious that failure to adopt Common Core State Standards would make federal financial aid to states more difficult to obtain, and/or would delay financial aid to states an unreasonable long period of time. Implementing the Common Core Curriculum also required states to purchase approved textbooks for each course, including a newly revised US History textbook.
The Common Core Curriculum’s re-educated America’s youth, by not only misrepresenting the US History of the Republic, but by misrepresenting the character of Socialism. American students have never been informed that Socialism has failed miserably in 37 countries over the last 100 years, and that it was responsible for the murder of 60 million formerly free citizens in most of those 37 countries. Students are not taught that the current example of a Socialist government is Venezuela and Cuba.
The Common Core Curriculum eliminated Civics Courses previously taught in public schools for hundreds of years. The concepts of Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, and The Right to Bear Arms are regularly attacked and restricted on the grounds of college campuses, in college lectures halls, and in college classrooms.
Today multiple generations of students are not taught the importance of, nor do they understand the Declaration of Independence, US Constitution, Amendments to the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, how the three branches of government interrelate, why the Electoral College is so important, the Judicial System (the Supreme Court, the 13 Appellant Courts, 94 Federal District Courts, 3 Territorial Courts, etc.).
Civics in public schools has been replaced by Ethnic Studies. Now grammar, middle, and high schools across the nation are provided with classroom instruction in Ethnics Studies that has been destroying the positive culture of America’s society. Students are being taught that race, class, gender, sexuality, and citizenship status are tools of oppression, power, and white privilege. Students are being misled about state violence, racism, male toxicity, intergenerational trauma, heteropatriarchy, and that there is a common thread that link them.
Students are being graded on how well they apply the above listed concepts they are being indoctrinated with in classroom instruction and are being evaluated on how they apply those concepts in their writing assignments, classroom discussions, and in their community organizing projects. Teachers around the country are offering Ethnic Study classes, units, or lessons on their own initiative, citing a growing urgency to confront racism, sexism, homophobia, white privilege, and other entrenched social inequalities. There is a national movement to require students to have a passing grade in Ethnic Studies, in order to graduate from high school.
Since the Common Core Curriculum courses in US History misrepresents and denigrates the accurate US History of the Republic, the curriculum must be revised. The inaccurate, perverted, and misleading US History textbooks must be rewritten to present an accurate and positive history of the Republic. Since 2008, many generations of America students have never been taught, or have little knowledge of the accurate facts about US History, but have been indoctrinated in how beneficial and superior to democracy, Socialism is for the United States.
Civics must again be taught to all American students as it once was taught to them for hundreds of years. Having a knowledge of the Declaration of Independence, US Constitution, Amendments to the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, how the three branches of government interrelate, and the US Judicial System, would give students an appreciation of the Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, and that all law- abiding citizens have a Right to Bear Arms.
Ethnics Studies demeans the United States and misleads American students to believe the US is racist, violent, oppressive, supports white privilege, homophobic, supports male toxicity, a heteropatriarchy society, etc.; that type of daily misleading vilification of the US being taught in millions of classrooms daily, to American students, must cease. Instead Ethnic Studies should support Freedom of Speech, support Religious Liberty, eliminate Political Correctness, support interracial cooperation, support legal immigration, oppose voter fraud, support Law Enforcement, promote patriotism, promote support for the US Armed Forces, and so much more that is positive.
Unfortunately, many public schools, especially in major metropolitan centers, have been turned into indoctrination centers, and many refugees and Illegal Alien public school students refuse to assimilate, do not agree with US values, and are bad bet for adjustment in the United States, like legal immigrant have been for 100 years. The US Census Bureau released it’s Annual Community Survey, it found that 22 million of the 44 million foreign-born US residents are not U.S. citizens.
Degrading the US History of the Republic, while promoting Socialism to America’s students since 2008, resulted in 51 % of American’s youth preferring Socialism to Democracy. Now 72% of voters between 18 and 34 prefer receiving basic government income (Hill-HarrisX poll), and millions of millennials have demonstrated their support for Bernie Sanders’, Elizabeth Warren’s, and the Democrat Socialist Party’s Radical Socialist policies.
A quote from the late Czech college professor and Communist Party lawmaker, Milan Hübl, Ph.D. explains what the four Communist groups have been working to accomplish, since they created their Inside/Outside Project, in order to gain control and support of many generations of naïve students.
Professor Hübl stated, “The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory, destroy its books, its culture, and its history. Then have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long the nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was. The world around it will forget even faster.”
“If only today’s schools still presented America as a nation of great ideals and progress, instead of a racist failure.”
How To End Socialism in America’s Schools
Many parents recognize that something is amiss in the government-run school system, but they feel trapped because they cannot afford to transfer their child to a private school or don’t have the time or money to homeschool.
It doesn’t have to be that way, however. Parents can break this broken model by demanding universal education choice, which can best be provided through a universal education savings account program.
ESAs allow parents to remove their children from socialist classrooms by providing them with a tax-free account that can be used to pay for education-related expenses at other public schools, private schools, or even for homeschooling. ESAs, which are funded using the money already allotted for public schools, would empower parents to enroll their children in schools that teach our nation’s founding principles of freedom, self-reliance and limited government.
Giving parents and students education freedom would finally bring robust competition to the education sphere, forcing government-run schools to rethink the wisdom of maintaining their socialist-driven curriculum programs, including those linked to Common Core.
The best way to stop the march toward socialism in the United States is to provide all parents the opportunity to choose the educational path that most aligns with their values. Until parents have the freedom to choose their children’s education, students will be unable to escape these socialist indoctrination centers.
As President Ronald Reagan so eloquently warned us: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. The only way they can inherit the freedom we have known is if we fight for it.”
The fate of freedom hangs in the balance. Unless Americans demand education freedom, Reagan’s warning will become reality: “you and I may well spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.”
‘Teachers Are Fed Up’: Ban Cell Phones In Class Once And For All
Five Ideas For Fixing American Education
It has taken a while for most thoughtful educators to finally arrive at the conclusion that phones need to be banned in the classroom—no middle ground, no nuance, no appeasement. Classrooms would be transformed overnight and our children might just rediscover what they can achieve if they are not perpetually distracted.
Last week, I was a guest on The Charlie Kirk Show. At one point in the interview, I casually described one of the seismic changes to classroom life since the birth of the cell phone era. I explained when students are given a few minutes of free time at the end of the class period, the classroom doesn’t erupt into juvenile chatter, nervous movement, or youthful gossip aplenty. Instead, it is transformed into a silent void.
No, when the phones come out silence is suddenly ascendent in the classroom. However the same goes for birthday parties, dates, and family dinner outings.
In a 45-minute interview, this observation seemed to really strike a chord. Many people contacted me afterward to express their surprise about my remarks. And yet, for those who teach, nothing could be less shocking. This response reinforced the vast chasm between what teachers observe and what the broader public seems to understand about what’s happening inside their schools.
But this fall there is good news.
At last! As educators and students begin returning from summer vacation, more and more teachers and schools have arrived at the conclusion that cell phones in the hands of teenagers (and pre-teens) is nothing less than a metastasizing generational cancer.
Anecdotally, in my own orbit, teachers are fed up. They are tired of students playing video games and watching TikTok videos in the middle of class. They are sick of incessant cheating. They are sick of students who feign engagement but still have earbuds playing music throughout the entire class period. They are exhausted from having to repeat themselves multiple times because attention spans have been hijacked.
In the central valley of California where I live, Bullard High School in Fresno has just instituted a policy that requires students to lock up their devices in a ‘Yondr pouch‘ (a magnetically sealed pouch) during the school day. In Michigan, there is currently a bill that would ban phones on buses and inside classrooms.
Cell phones have rewired brains and rearranged the entire social universe of young Americans. Young people often struggle to make eye contact. They are perpetually distracted. Homework that should take 30 minutes now takes hours. Many would rather text than talk. They don’t go to movies and sporting events like they used to. They don’t want to come out of their rooms or talk to their friends and families. An entire book could be written about the tunneling effect social media has on ambition itself — how young people now often crave the shallow sheen of celebrity more than the time-honored quest for achievement itself. Why build a bridge when you can be an Instagram influencer instead?
In short, much of the human interaction that enriches life and supplies it with the drama of existence is woefully absent for this generation of young Americans.
Of course, schools cannot act as correctives. Only parents can confront the off-campus digital consumption of casual vulgarity, the emotional damage spurred by cyberbullying, and the harmful effects of sexting or exposure to pornography.
But what schools can do is craft policies that help to offset the problems associated with pixelated addiction and truncated attention spans. Schools can create a space — yes, a safe space conservatives can actually get behind — where constant pings, buzzes, and notifications are pacified, if only for a few hours.
Adults often do not understand or appreciate the parade of anxiety experienced by children who live most of their lives online. As Emily Weinstein and Carrie James brilliantly explain in their new book “Behind Their Screens: What Teens Are Facing (and Adults Are Missing),” many of these stressors are a consequence of teenagers having to “fight to regulate digital habits amid powerful design pulls and developmental sensitivities.” Some of these include:
- When they care about a friend but also want to disconnect.
- When they care about a civic issue but recognize the perils of posting and of staying silent.
- When they feel trapped in unwanted filter bubbles that determine what they see.
- When they are told to take care of their digital footprints, but they can’t prevent peers from posting things they would never want online.
- When they fret about privacy risks but face a reality where control of the precursors to those risks and outcomes are out of their hands.
Not that long ago, teachers like myself concluded that banning cell phones from class was a lost cause, that it was far wiser to utilize phones as a complementary tool of class work and to meet the students on their own pedagogical turf. That Faustian bargain turned out to be fatally flawed.
I was wrong.
Anyone who has taught in an American classroom the past two decades knows the seminal book “Teach Like a Champion” by Doug Lemov. Recently, Lemov came to the same conclusion about cell phones in an essay entitled, “Take Away Their Cellphones,” in which he eloquently observes:
It’s magical thinking to propose that an epidemic that has doubled rates of mental health issues and changed every aspect of social interaction among millions of people is going to go away when a teacher says, “Guys, always use good judgment with your phones.” We’re not really wrestling with the problem if our response assumes that the average teacher, via a few pithy lessons, can battle a device that has addicted a generation into submission. Restriction is a far better strategy.
Banning phones will undoubtedly boost academic achievement. It will lead to a renaissance of school spirit. The conversations between students will be richer, the engagement more authentic, and the learning more intensive. Teachers will not feel they are constantly competing with the social media universe for their students’ attention. As teacher Daniel Buck has observed about schools with strict phone policies, “They speak freely, making eye contact at lunch. They play more games at recess. A few even crack a book when there’s nothing else to do. It creates community again.”
Let the adults set the expectations. We might be surprised how quickly our children rise to the challenge.
We Must Make Teaching An Attractive Profession Again
Five Ideas For Fixing American Education
Americans don’t want their own children to become school teachers. This is a sudden and troubling development and is one of the most important issues we must address if we are going to fix our schools and educate our children.
Last week, a disturbing poll about the state of the teaching profession was released.
One of the questions asked in the PDK “Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools” was, “Would you like a child of yours to become a public school teacher in your community?”
Only 37% answered yes.
To give this number some historical context, consider that when the same question was asked in 2018, 46% answered in the affirmative. In 1969, 75% positively responded.
So, what’s going on here? And what does it say about the current state of American education?
To discover what’s at work, it is important to note that in the exact same poll Americans’ rating of their community public schools reached an all-time high in the 48-year history of the poll. A whopping 54% would give their community schools a grade of an “A” or a “B.” This fascinating duality of a public that gives high marks to a profession they wouldn’t want their own children to enter presents a crystal-clear reality: the job has become both unpleasant and unappealing.
Only 29% of the respondents cited poor pay as a reason for wanting their progeny to avoid the profession. Instead, they cited “the difficulties, demands, and stress of the job,” “a lack of respect or being valued,” and “a variety of other shortcomings.”
In Ohio last week, teachers went on strike, not in the oddball ideological tradition of the Chicago Teachers Union, but because they simply wanted air-conditioning and better working conditions. When I travel and speak to teachers across the country, their complaints are about aberrant student behavior, poor working conditions, and disrespect from the public more often than paltry pensions or subpar pay.
Jake Miller, an award-winning teacher who quit the teaching profession last year, powerfully explained in an op-ed:
Maybe it was the in-service where my colleagues and I wanted time to catch up on emails, grading, parent phone calls, and other things lost in the substitute shortage shuffle. Instead, we were finger painting.
Maybe it was the day prior when I found 3 inches of urine flooding out of the boys’ bathroom.
Or the day when a student hurt themselves and, after reporting the situation, they didn’t get the help they needed and returned to class the next day.
Mr. Miller isn’t being dramatic or engaging in rhetorical bravado. He is telling the truth and we conservatives would be wise to listen.
Students are overdosing in bathrooms. Violence toward teachers has increased in recent years. The pernicious obsession with cell phones has robbed students of anything resembling a healthy attention span. Fellow citizens — and yes, I am sadly thinking of a great many of us conservatives — mistakenly equate all teachers with teachers unions and the broken-souled educators on Libs of TikTok.
We can scream about CRT and the 1619 Project (I have), but really, at the end of the day, I just want my students to be able to make eye contact, learn how to take lecture notes, understand why they can’t listen to music through earbuds when class is going on, and maybe gain a revitalized eagerness to learn in so doing.
Far too many of our students — especially the most at-risk — don’t sleep well. They don’t eat well. They don’t exercise. They don’t socialize. They are utterly stressed out and plagued with “anxiety.” They do not have adult exemplars in their lives. They live their lives untethered to the nourishing power of high expectations and real accountability. Violence and drug use surround them. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how good a pitcher is if the rest of the team is off the field.
Of course, in an ideal world, schools would be palaces (with air conditioning). The most educated and talented people in America would enter the classroom because a democracy cannot survive if its citizens are not educated and imbued with the skills of reading, writing, and critical thought. Vacant teaching positions would garner multiple applications. Parents and teachers would work together instead of seeing each other as potential adversaries.
This is why Americans don’t want their children to teach. Not because it isn’t noble. Not because it isn’t important. Not because we want our children to take a vow of poverty. No, it’s because the long-term habit of our policymakers is to view schools as meccas of social intervention and as hubs of public policy triage for a broken society. And to a certain extent, that makes sense. All of the social pathologies and community dysfunction present themselves on a daily basis on the frontlines of the American school system.
Teachers don’t need a million-dollar salary. They need to know that when they send out a disruptive student, that student won’t be back in class 20 minutes later. They want air-conditioning. They want a computer that isn’t over 10 years old. They want to be able to abolish cell phones in their classrooms without mom and dad breathing down their necks.
This isn’t rocket science. It’s common sense. Sadly, common sense isn’t so common these days.
How Progressives Have Ruined School Culture And Created A Mass Teacher Exodus
Five Ideas For Fixing American Education
School culture is the life force of a school campus. It is one of the most underrated elements of a strong and successful school. Here’s what happened to school culture in the last few years and what we can do about it.
The students call it a “vibe.” Adults might use the word “ambiance.”
Schools have an “ambiance” and a “vibe” just as much as any other workplace. Is the campus clean or littered with trash? Are the students smiling or looking down at their devices all the time? Do teachers exude crankiness, or is there a pulse of positivity? Do people seem to feel essential or incidental to the school community?
In the best schools, there is a palpable electricity that can be detected by visitors. There is an energy, a benign sense that this is a place where extraordinary things can happen — it can be felt in the classroom, on the stage, or on the playing field. When I was in high school, everyone went to Friday night football games. Our academic and artistic teams were all competitive, or at least aspired to be. Rallies were eagerly attended, and class competitions bristled with urgency.
This didn’t happen by accident.
A school’s culture is a consequence of a number of variables, but almost all of them are anchored in fostering positive and meaningful relationships between the school’s staff and the students and their parents. It is the consequence of a vision that has been discussed from its inception all the way down to the finer points of its execution. It is making sure students and staff stay committed to praising what is praiseworthy and are crystal clear about those pesky old-school things called “expectations.”
The list of academic harms associated with COVID is too long to fully enumerate. But talk to American teachers and they will tell you one of the most obvious casualties of the past two and a half years was a transformation of school culture defined by potent levels of student disengagement. Events became poorly attended. Participation in after-school activities like sports and clubs atrophied. School dances and other events, even when they weren’t suddenly canceled or severely modified, felt flat and hollow. And who could possibly blame the students? COVID policies made a virtue of both disengagement and distance — some might say it was safetyism in excelsis.
More than likely, students simply got out of the habit of active school life — its rhythms, its expectations, and, yes, its occasional uncomfortable demands. Tell young people they can stay in bed all day, scroll on their phones during class, turn in work whenever they please, and take nothing but open-note tests and guess what will happen — they won’t want it to ever end. A system modeled on the world of Peter Pan might be great in the moment, but in the end, it results in a colossal degradation in school culture and the death of school spirit.
But to understand the gale of teacher departures, the 148% increase in resignations in the education sector, and the rock-bottom morale of American teachers, it is important to go beyond the annoyances and disruptions of these COVID years. For almost a decade, American schools have pivoted away from “zero tolerance” policies and embraced an alternative to suspension known as “restorative justice.” According to a Brown Center Report on American Education, restorative justice typically features a “meeting of victims, perpetrators, parents, teachers, administrators, and a counselor or psychologist. The goal is to get misbehaving students to take responsibility for their behaviors and the consequences that others have suffered.”
In short, have students take responsibility for poor behavior without suspending them.
To be clear, the rationale for this change of policy is well-intentioned. According to research in Education Next, excess suspensions are correlated to future rates of incarceration. Suspensions are disproportionately doled out to students of color, even when free and reduced meals are held as a constant variable. More suspension means alienation from a student’s learning community, resulting in lower performance. As much as progressivism is often associated with doe-eyed utopianism, this particular policy initiative is not.
But here is the problem: There is scant evidence that this new approach is improving school culture or academic performance. Of course, suspensions have decreased; but if the policy is a prima facie rejection of suspension as a legitimate first option, then that really isn’t saying anything. Having a policy that doesn’t suspend students and then celebrating when students aren’t suspended is about as silly as refusing to enforce the law and then celebrating when there are fewer arrests. As for academic performance, one study that focused on the use of restorative justice practices in the Pittsburgh Public Schools district found that “academic outcomes did not improve … and actually worsened for grades 6–8,” with certain subject areas and student groups more affected than others.
What about the students who are behaving and trying their best to get a decent education? Brookings Institute reported that “misbehaving students take a toll on the education of others. A 2014 report from Ofsted, the United Kingdom inspectorate of schools, estimated that each year, British teachers lose the equivalent of 38 days of instruction dealing with even low-level misbehavior.”
And what about the teachers? Asking educators to act as quasi-counselors and therapists — roles for which they are not trained and will not be trained for in just a few professional development sessions — is just the tip of the iceberg for why such policies are problematic. Furthermore, teachers are often asked to stop class for a disruptive student in order to implement these restorative justice practices. According to findings from a survey of teachers — and this should come as no shock — “sparing 20-plus minutes for circles to build community or respond to conflict in the classroom seemed an insurmountable challenge to some.”
Outsiders to the world of education — and even “reformers” who believe there is a magical and elusive policy elixir — are mistaken if they believe asking teachers to take on the brunt of civil society’s failures won’t have a pernicious effect on both their morale and the culture of a school. But here is the real issue at hand: We can agree to decriminalize, destigmatize, and uncouple poor behavior from serious consequences as much as we please, but if we refuse to talk bluntly about the need for better character, morality, and respect from our young people, then none of it will matter.
And our schools will be the worse for it.
Why Literacy Is The Biggest Crisis No One Is Talking About
Five Ideas For Fixing American Education
“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” – Frederick Douglass
Imagine the next two sentences are bolded, in red, italicized, underlined, and urgently flickering akin to emergency strobe lights.
As early as the third grade, a child’s reading level can often predict the likelihood of dropping out of school, ending up incarcerated, or reaching a certain income threshold. Now consider this: in California, 60 percent of students are already reading below their grade level by the time they reach the third grade and nationwide only 35 percent of fourth graders are proficient.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Bad news about American levels of literacy, especially for the very young, seems to be in infinite supply. Studies show reading skills are at a 20-year low. Even when discussing American adults, the news seems especially bad. Only 54 percent are proficient in reading and some estimates suggest such illiteracy costs the American economy roughly 2.2 trillion dollars a year.
Forget transgender bathroom debates, Critical Race Theory (CRT) objections, and the perpetual animosity between teacher unions and charter school advocates. For all the talk about income inequality, all the hot air expended discussing systemic oppression, or the digital space that is occupied while screaming about Donald Trump and Joe Biden, nothing—absolutely nothing!—is more of an education crisis with long-term implications for American democracy than the crisis of low literacy levels in American schools.
But it gets worse: this crisis is more likely to adversely affect the poor. More likely to affect minorities. More likely to affect children whose parents struggle with literacy. In other words, if someone were looking for a culprit to blame persistent inequality in this nation, if one were probing the social fabric of the nation to discern the cause of generational and cyclic poverty, they should look no further than the crisis in illiteracy. As Senior Visiting Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute Robert Pondiscio potently observes, “Any discussion about ‘equity’ in education that is not first and foremost a discussion about literacy is unserious.”
For years, high school teachers have noticed the death of reading in their classrooms. It used to be a feature of remedial classes that stories, essays, and articles had to be read during class time because students either wouldn’t or couldn’t read on their own. Now this reality affects all classrooms, at all levels, even in advanced and honors courses. Legions of English teachers can attest to the painfully awkward situation that unfolds when trying to discuss a piece of writing no one in the class actually took the time to read. Or, maybe some of the students simply can’t.
How did we get here? What needs to be done? What are the consequences if we stay on our current course?
As progressives are eternally fond of saying, “the science is clear.” There are five domains that must be taught to maximize reading capacity: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension. Unfortunately, for quite some time, a great many schools have embraced an alternative approach to reading instruction known as “balanced literacy” or “whole language model” in which phonics, decoding, and spelling were not systematically taught. As literacy expert Maria Chapman distills the issue, “The majority of kids I’ve seen that struggle with reading, however, struggle because of a lack of proper instruction.”
It turns out that teaching students how to read is not a mystery, nor is there a lack of money available to address the issue.
In California, Gavin Newsom allocated “$500 million over five years for high-needs schools to train and hire literacy coaches and reading specialists, as well as a $200 million grant program for schools to create or expand their multilingual schools and purchase culturally-relevant texts for reading instruction.” At the national level, there is plenty of Covid largesse to address issues of low literacy levels.
The central problem is that teachers are simply not being trained in “phonics and phonemic awareness” and there aren’t enough people to go into schools to do what needs to be done.
To a large and tragic degree, Covid simultaneously accentuated the crisis in literacy while robbing schools of both the manpower and the workplace incentives to do anything about it. Moreover, Schools of Education often do not instruct future teachers about the science of reading nor do they adequately prepare these future teachers for the level of robust hands-on commitment that is required to teach young students to master the linkage between the sounds of English and the words as they appear on the page.
Accentuating these failures is the trendy notion of empowering young students to decide what it is they want to read and doing it at their own pace. But as teacher Daniel Buck has noted, a traditional hierarchical classroom setting with a teacher standing in front of a classroom might be out of fashion. But instructing students, facilitating discussion, and –most of all– deciding which texts the class will read together, fosters a common set of practices and cultivates a strong sense of classroom community. It also ensures texts will have at least a patina of rigor to them.
The depth of this social and educational failure can’t be interpreted as anything less than a tragedy. It is a tragedy because reading is one of the sublime pleasures of the human condition, offering dimensions of life, modes of thought, and flickers of fantastical emotion few of us can produce on our own. There are not enough superlatives to adequately describe the transformative power of reading—how Martin Luther King was inspired by Gandhi, who was inspired by Tolstoy, who was inspired by Christ. How Jefferson’s world-view was shaped by his triad of inspiration—Newton, Bacon, and Locke. How John Adams loved Cicero and Washington longed to be an American version of Cato.
But illiteracy, of course, has a political dimension that is especially relevant in a regime that aspires to be self-governing. The underlying assumption of democracy is that the body politic can collectively establish not just good government, but wise polity established by enlightened leaders. The machinery of liberal democracy operates by the hopeful assumption that the people are sovereign, that in a society in which ideas and information flow freely and abundantly, citizens can determine for themselves who should be leading our institutions of governance.
But citizens who aren’t literate can’t discern the difference between authentic wisdom and demagoguery, genuine leadership and buffoonery. And more to the point, those of us who cannot obtain and filter information for ourselves are far more likely to become informed by the bumper stickers and bromides surrounding us on a daily basis. In other words, an illiterate citizenry is more likely to become tribal.
This is already happening, of course. And if we don’t address this crisis, it is only going to get worse.
It’s Time To Admit The Most Uncomfortable Truth About Our Schools
Five Ideas For Fixing American Education
In this last article in the “Five Ideas for Fixing American Education” series, I share why policy, pedagogy, and procedure can only go so far in fixing what ails the American school system. The simple but uncomfortable truth is this: If we want better schools for our children, we must first provide better homes for them.
I have waited until the end of this “Five Ideas for Fixing American Education” series to write about the most uncomfortable truth regarding modern education. I have tried to offer ideas that are bipartisan, non-ideological, and grounded in the latest research about policy that is both actionable and realistic — including banning cell phones in classrooms, making teaching a more appealing career, improving school culture, and addressing the colossal failures in early childhood literacy levels.
The last idea is both the easiest and hardest. It’s the easiest because it requires a simple recognition, but it’s the hardest because it goes against every fiber of can-do American idealism. And I offer it with full knowledge that, deep down, the greatest teachers tend to be dynamic romantics. Romantic, because they believe tomorrow can be better than today for their students. Dynamic, because they convey that optimism to their pupils with a radiant and soaring sense of potentiality. For these teachers, the classroom can serve as a portal to untouched wonders and unbounded possibilities. It can shape, ameliorate, and shake the slumbered mind of a student, providing a setting for them to encounter ideas and notions powerful enough to alter the geometry of their life.
Not to be a cynic or a crank — because I, myself, learned from transformative teachers and still pray every night to the good Lord that I might have the same magical effect on some of my own students, especially those in need of guidance in their lives — but in the aggregate, schools and teachers have a lot less power than we think we do. And for the record, I desperately wish this were not the case. I wish schools could serve as mighty correctives for all that is lacking in the lives of our children before they step foot on campus every day. I wish we were only one pedagogic trick or one technological advancement away from true educational equality. I wish teachers could make up for absent fathers, childhood trauma, or gut-wrenching poverty.
This isn’t to suggest we shouldn’t confront educational policies that undermine the core mission of our school system. By all means, we conservatives need to be honest about the funding mechanism of our public school system that disadvantages the poorest children and acknowledge the reality that the students who need the best teachers are usually taught by the most inexperienced. By all means, progressives need to appreciate why left-wing political activism by classroom teachers or school districts is finally being called out by legions of American parents who just want their children to be able to read, write, and do math.
In his recent book The Conservative Sensibility, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will shares an interesting statistic that highlights a harsh reality: From the ages of 5-18, students spend roughly 9% of their time on a school campus. Most of the influences that can quantitatively affect the educational capacity of a child are not accomplished in the classroom, but in the home. This includes things like reading and conversing with children when they are infants; insisting on some form of a traditional family meal; creating a familial culture where education and collegiate aspirations are the norm; ensuring there are books in the home for children to access; and modeling for children what it looks like to learn, to debate, and to nourish an intellectual curiosity.
The most important lesson students will ever learn — no matter their age, capacity, or level of academic interest — is how to learn. This is far from an innate capacity and, like most virtues in life, must be modeled for young minds to emulate. The amount of time young Americans now spend around their peers has proliferated in recent years and the amount of time they spend around adults has atrophied.
If ever there was evidence that most learning outcomes are determined before students walk onto a school campus, it is then reality that emotional stability and academic achievement go intimately hand in hand.
Many of my fellow conservative columnists discount or make light of social-emotional learning (SEL) strategies, and while I agree the excesses of SEL can certainly distort the proper teacher-student dynamic or deprive the classroom of its appropriate academic focus, most non-teachers do not fully appreciate how troubled many of our students are in a post-pandemic world.
They do not realize the importance of creating a classroom space where the students are certain the teacher is invested in their emotional and intellectual well-being.
A long-time friend of mine who is now the dean of a high school observed, “If people saw the homes that many of our most troubled students come from, it would radically change their minds about how schools are forced to operate.” A whopping 88% of school counselors polled in May by The New York Times said they noticed students “having trouble with emotional regulation” more often, compared with before the pandemic.
They also “described many students as frozen, socially and emotionally, at the age they were when the pandemic started.” And yet, students’ emotional stability is almost always predicated not on how much a school cares about them, but on a stable and loving home life.
For example, research has shown that the number of school suspensions and students repeating grades has been cut in half in the past 25 years. Moreover, the frequency of schools contacting parents about behavior or academic struggles has declined by about a fifth. These statistics, of course, don’t necessarily mean students are learning any better or behaving any better — in fact, most veteran teachers would tell you it just means we have convinced ourselves it is somehow compassionate to tolerate disruptive student behavior and pass along students to the next grade.
Despite these “improvements,” students from non-intact families continue to be three times as likely to be suspended and twice as likely to be held back. Parental education levels, household income, parental incarceration, and family structure — all variables that schools have zero capacity to alter or affect — have all been shown to have a colossal influence in determining the educational outcomes of children.
This isn’t fatalism; it’s reality. The dreams of Horace Mann and Thomas Jefferson are not dead, and American schools are still slingshots out of poverty for tens of thousands of students each year. But at the end of the day, if we want to have better schools, we need to have better homes.
sonorannews.com, “The Indoctrination of American Students in Socialism,” By Joseph R. John; heritage.org, “What Americans Must Know About Socialism,”By Lee Edwards, PhD.; “The Breakdown of Higher Education,” By John M. Ellis; “Inside American Education,” By Thomas Sowell; huffpost.com, “GOP Lawmaker: ‘Public Education In America Is Socialism’,” By Rebecca Klein; britannica.com, “Social-reconstructionist education,” By Britannica’s editors; westjournal.com, “How To End Socialism in America’s Schools,” By Lennie Jarratt and Chris Talgo; dailywire.com, “‘Teachers Are Fed Up’: Ban Cell Phones In Class Once And For All: Five Ideas For Fixing American Education.” By Jeremy Adams; dailywire.com, “We Must Make Teaching An Attractive Profession Again: Five Ideas For Fixing American Education.” By Jeremy Adams; dailywire.com, “How Progressives Have Ruined School Culture And Created A Mass Teacher Exodus: Five Ideas For Fixing American Education.” By Jeremy Adams; dailywire.com, “Why Literacy Is The Biggest Crisis No One Is Talking About: Five Ideas For Fixing American Education.” By Jeremy Adams; By Jeremy Adams; dailywire, “It’s Time To Admit The Most Uncomfortable Truth About Our Schools: Five Ideas For Fixing American Education.” By Jeremy Adams;
What Americans Must Know About Socialism
Is a specter of socialism haunting America, especially among our millennials? There is disquieting evidence of many young Americans’ sympathy for socialism. Exhibit A: 2.052 million people under the age of 30 voted for democratic socialist Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primaries and caucuses. Exhibit B: Polls find that, not only do a large majority of millennials have a favorable opinion of socialism, a near majority would prefer to live under socialism rather than capitalism. Exhibit C: The no-longer sleeping Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) now boasts 30,000 members, most of them in their twenties and eager to follow the socialist banner.
We’ve come a long way since the 1988 presidential race when George H. W. Bush buried his Democratic challenger Michael Dukakis by labeling him a “liberal.” Socialism is no longer a parlor game for academics but a political alternative taken seriously by millennials who are not put off by the radical DSA platform.
DSA believes in ending the private ownership of industries whose products are viewed as “necessities.” The production of such products, it argues, should not be left to “profiteers.” It also believes that government should “democratize” private businesses — that is, give workers control over them — to the greatest extent possible. “Socialism,” explains a member of DSA’s national steering committee, “is the democratization of all areas of life, including but not limited to the economy.”
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What is happening in America, once the apotheosis of capitalism?
The first part of that answer lies in two words, not “Karl Marx,” but “Bernie Sanders.” The senator from Vermont captured the hearts and the votes of many millennials with his call for single payer health care, free public college, campaign finance reform, and racial, economic, and climate justice. The prime target of his animus was the top 1 percent in America who own, it is true, some 40 percent of the nation’s total wealth — as much as the bottom 90 percent. What Bernie rarely pointed out was that the same top 1 percent paid 39.5 percent of the individual income taxes. Sanders had a ready explanation for how to pay for all of the freebies: increase the taxes on the rich and their corporations. In Bernie’s world, there is such a thing as a free lunch because the bill will be paid by those at the top.
According to one CNN analyst, millennials rallied in the many thousands behind Sanders because they are socially liberal — especially on LGBT rights — saddled with mountains of student debt, disillusioned with the status quo, “and eager to break with traditional [political] models.” Bernie provided solutions to all their problems — without detailing the price or conceding the lessening in individual liberty. Such details were swept aside by the revolutionary spirit of the millennials who “felt the Bern.” As one Bernista said, “You can build a powerful political movement with a base of 2 million true believers.”
The second reason for the shift toward socialism was the Great Recession of 2008. It tore a huge hole in the American people’s belief in capitalism as the way to a better life and sent them looking for alternatives. Many of them, especially younger Americans, found it in a “soft socialism” that was part welfare state, part administrative state, part socialist democracy.
The most startling poll was the YouGov survey that reported that given a choice, 44 percent of young people between the ages of 16 and 29 would prefer to live in a socialist nation rather than a capitalist country. Another seven percent would choose communism. However, the same poll revealed that only 33 percent of the respondents could correctly define socialism as based on the common ownership of economic and social systems as well as the state control of the means of production. What most millennials mean by “socialism” seems to be a mix of our welfare state and what they perceive to be Swedish democratic socialism. But Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries including Denmark favor the free market and are content with private rather than government ownership of their major industries. However, Danish domestic spending including comprehensive health care has a high price — a top personal income tax of 57 percent.
The millennial trend toward an acceptance of socialism is not new. A 2014 poll by Reason-Rupe, a libertarian group, reported that 58 percent of those aged 18 to 24 had a favorable view of socialism. A 2016 Gallup survey found that 55 percent of those 18-29 had a “positive image” of socialism. But 90 percent were favorable to “entrepreneurs” while 78 percent favored “free enterprise.” How can a group be 55 percent socialist and 78 per cent entrepreneurial? Either through cognitive dissonance or plain ignorance. In any case, it is critical for advocates of free enterprise to make the case against socialism because acceptance of socialism by any name places millennials on a slippery slope. Another recession and/or a well-run presidential campaign by a charismatic demagogue could move America farther down the road to serfdom.
A 2016 Harvard poll determined that 33 percent of Americans under 30 wanted socialism. In January 2016, YouGov asked millennials whether they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of socialism. Eight percent replied “very favorable,” 35 percent “somewhat favorable,” for a total of 43 percent, almost the same percentage as in their 2017 survey.
But would these same millennials choose socialism, if in exchange for “free” education and “free” health care, they would have to give up their personal property, such as their iPhone? Would seven percent of millennials declare their willingness to live under communism if they knew the real costs of communism as practiced in some 40 nations over the past century — the denial of free speech, a free press, and free assembly, the imprisonment and execution of dissidents, no free and open elections, no independent judiciary or rule of law, the dictatorship of the Communist Party in all matters and on all occasions?
For the first time in decades, socialists are taking advantage of the Bernie Sanders phenomenon to organize, raise funds, and field candidates from New York City to Oakland, California. A major instrument is DSA — the Democratic Socialists of America — about which the liberal New Republic asked, “Are the Democratic Socialists for America for Real?”
The most dramatic proof of socialism’s new-found political clout was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset victory over veteran Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York, the number four Democrat in the House of Representatives, in the June Democratic primary. Ocasio-Cortez received 57 percent of the vote — to Crowley’s 42 percent — while pledging to back Medicare for all, free college tuition, legalization of marijuana and the elimination of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Attractive and articulate, the 28-year-old socialist announced she would support progressive candidates who challenged Democratic incumbents in primaries. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi cautioned Ocasio-Cortez not to oppose liberal Democrats who had a proven record of results. Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic Party’s vice presidential nominee in 2000, warned that “the policies Ms. Ocasio-Cortez advocates are so far from the mainstream, her election in November would make it harder for Congress to stop fighting and start fixing problems.” He noted that Republicans were already referring to Ocasio-Cortez as “the new face” of the Democratic Party. But an ideologue like Ocasio-Cortez is unlikely to be ruled by conventional politics.
The same can be said of Democratic Socialists. Over 700 elected delegates from around the country attended DSA’s 2017 national convention in Chicago, the historic site of many political beginnings from the 1860 presidential nomination of Abraham Lincoln to the riotous 1968 Democratic National Convention. Veterans of the organization were “blown away” by the enthusiasm of the younger DSA members whose priority is to win elections that advance socialism. Chicago City Councilman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, aged 28, is one of DSA’s elected officials. He advised an ecumenical approach for socialist candidates — to run on the Democratic ballot line because it offers access to people who want single-payer healthcare and a $15 minimum wage. As part of its demographic outreach, Bianca Cunningham, the African-American chair of New York City’s DSA labor branch, helped to form a national Afro-socialist caucus.
Until Ocasio-Cortez’s startling win, DSA and its leftist allies concentrated on elections at the state and local levels; they have had success such as the victory of Councilman Khalid Kamau in South Fulton, Georgia. Kshama Sawant of the Socialist Alternative Party won a seat on Seattle’s city council and pushed through an increase in the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. Running as a socialist, thirty-four-year old Franklin Bynum was elected a criminal court judge in Houston. In Pittsburgh, eight Democrats sought the endorsement of the local DSA chapter in this year’s primary. Even in Tulsa, Oklahoma, one of the reddest of states, four Democrats ran as democratic socialists. “It’s not a liability to say that anymore,” commented DSA activist Jorge Roman-Romero.
As proof of their expanding influence, socialists point to the radical magazine Jacobin, which has about 1 million page views a month, and the leftist podcast Chapo Trap House, which delights in ridiculing politicians and journalists on the center left. Following the 2016 election, for example, a Chapo co-host compared Hillary Clinton to race car driver Dale Earnhardt, joking that both had crashed because they “couldn’t turn left.” (Earnhardt was killed in a 2001 racing accident.) It was unvarnished commentary but no rougher than the frequent media comments about (or by) Donald Trump. Socialist publications like “n+1” and the “New Inquiry” have attracted younger readers with their unremitting attacks on capitalism.
After Trump’s victory, commentators such as Michael Kazin, editor of the leftist magazine Dissent, thought that the Left would be on the defensive as “when Reagan and George W. Bush were in power.” Instead, there is a renewed interest in the radical left and the possibility that DSA “might be able and will certainly try to take advantage of it.”
What does all this — the Sanders candidacy, the national polls, the political organizations like DSA, the intense media focus — add up to? Are they the makings of a national movement or merely a passing fancy temporarily fueled by young people who will soon get caught up in the next political fad? Let’s judge them by the five essential elements of a successful political movement: charismatic leadership, a national constituency, adequate financing, media proficiency, and a relevant philosophy.
In some ways, the “new” DSA is reminiscent of Young Americans for Freedom in the early 1960s. Then YAF claimed a membership of 20,000, backed Sen. Barry Goldwater and his promise to offer a conservative choice and not a liberal echo, raised money with the help of OAFs (Older Americans for Freedom), convinced the media (led by the New York Times) that YAF was the wave of the future, and hoisted the anti-communist flag high at every rally and meeting. It was the height of the Cold War and America was engaged in a deadly struggle with the forces of evil.
Like DSA, YAF leaders were mostly white, male, well-educated, and from middle-class families. They were young men in a hurry, certain they could change history, and so they did — first, with the presidential nomination of conservative Goldwater in 1964, and later the election of conservative Ronald Reagan as president in 1980. Bill Buckley was YAF’s luminous hero, the St. Paul of the conservative movement who went where no conservative had gone before — into the belly of the liberal beast, Harvard.
As for DSA, it has a national constituency, principled if aging leaders like Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, fund-raising potential, strong media interest, and a philosophy attractive to Americans tired of sliding down the economic ladder and wondering what happened to the American Dream. Before dismissing the Democratic Socialists of America — and its compatriots — as idealistic and naïve, it should be remembered that the Tea Party had only 60,000 members in 2010 but won 47 seats in the House of Representatives that fall.
On the road to socialism, DSA and its fellow socialists will seek to convert industries like health care into public utilities; regulate coal mines out of existence; subsidize sectors of the economy like solar energy; and operate corporations like Amtrak and Freddie Mac. They will present socialism as the reasonable alternative to the unchecked greed of the captains of capitalism.
However, as it grows in numbers and influence, DSA will encounter a critical discrepancy — the telling difference between its pure socialism and the soft socialism of popular opinion. DSA purists seek public ownership of the means of production as well as centralized control of goods and services. Soft socialists see a limited role for the private sector à la Sweden. Will DSA be able to fuse the two kinds of socialism as conservatives like Frank Meyer and William F. Buckley Jr. blended traditional conservatism and libertarianism in the 1960s and 1970s?
Which brings us to the urgent need to depict the realities of socialism to Americans who have never heard of the Berlin Wall, the Gulag, the killing fields of Cambodia, the Tiananmen Square massacre, or the daily bread lines in Moscow.
According to the YouGov survey, one-third of all Americans would prefer to live under socialism rather than capitalism. Why? Is it idealism — the desire for a classless society in which everyone is equal and envy does not exist because everything is owned in common? Is it a lack of knowledge? When asked how many people have died under communism, only 31 percent of Americans could provide the correct answer — “Over 100 million.” About seven in ten Americans could not define communism.
Commented one millennial about his peers, “They don’t recognize that much of what they enjoy in life is a result of capitalism and would disappear if socialism were to be implemented. They haven’t seen socialism’s failures firsthand.”
Here are the realities of socialism and its grandmaster, Karl Marx.
- Socialism has never worked anywhere.
Socialism in all its forms — Marxism-Leninism in the Soviet Union, Maoism in China, “state socialism” in India, “democratic socialism” in Sweden, National Socialism in Nazi Germany — has never come close to realizing the classless ideal of its founding father, Karl Marx. Instead, socialists have been forced to adopt a wide range of capitalist measures, including private ownership of railroads and airlines (United Kingdom), special economic zones (China), and open markets and foreign investment (Sweden).
Mikhail Gorbachev took over a bankrupt Soviet Union in 1985 and desperately tried to resuscitate “socialism” (i.e., communism) through perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness). He failed abjectly and was forced to preside over the dissolution of the once mighty Soviet empire on Christmas Day, 1991, seven decades after Lenin mounted a truck in St. Petersburg to announce the triumph of the Bolshevik Revolution.
In the late 1970s, Deng Xiaoping abandoned the rigid excesses of Maoist thought and adopted a form of communism with “Chinese characteristics” that was more capitalist than socialist in several ways. Deng, however, also ensured the Communist Party’s control of any new homeland enterprise or foreign investment.
After decades of sluggish growth and bureaucratic inefficiency, India rejected state socialism in the 1990s and shifted to a capitalist approach that spawned the world’s largest middle class of more than three hundred million (nearly equal to the entire U.S. population). Sweden is often described as a “socialist” country, but is not and never has been socialist. It is a social democracy in which the means of production are owned primarily by private individuals. Among the proofs of its commitment to a market economy is that Sweden ranked number 19 worldwide in the Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Index of Economic Freedom.
Socialism’s failure to deliver on its promises of bread, peace, and land to the people is confirmed by the repeated, open resistance of dissidents: in Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, Poland in 1980 with the formation of Solidarity, China’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, and in present-day Cuba with the resolute Ladies in White who parade every Sunday after mass to call attention to the many jailed dissidents including their husbands and sons.
Socialism failed in America in the early 19th century when the English philanthropist Robert Owen launched New Harmony, a “village of cooperation” on the banks of the Wabash River in Indiana. Volunteers flocked to the socialist experiment, but most were better at sitting in a chair than making one. Within a few years, New Harmony collapsed, and Owen went home.
- The founding father of socialism is the messianic Karl Marx.
Marx was an atheist socialist who insisted that his was the only “scientific” socialism based not on wishful thinking but the inexorable laws of history. The whole of history, declared Marx and his close collaborator and friend Friedrich Engels, is the history of the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The inevitable collapse of capitalism and the victory of the proletariat would end the conflict and usher in a classless society and pure socialism or communism (Marx used both terms interchangeably). He listed 10 necessary measures as steps along the way to his utopia, including a progressive income tax, the abolition of private property, free education for all, and centralization of the means of communication and transport in “the hands of the state.”
Much of the appeal of Marxism was its scathing critique of capitalism and its 19th century excesses, which included 16-hour work days and Dickensian working conditions. It was the early days of the Industrial Revolution when exploitation of workers, young and old, was widespread and horrific. By the end of the century, much had changed. Capitalism was not breaking down under the pressure of industrial concentration as Marx had predicted. To the contrary, economies were expanding and the lives of workers were slowly but demonstrably improving. Rather than developing into revolutionaries (as predicted by Marx), the workers were becoming reformers and even bourgeoisie.
The core philosophical weakness of Marxism was the founder’s insistence that his version of Hegelian dialectic — thesis, antithesis, synthesis — was scientific and without flaw. He asserted that feudalism had been replaced by capitalism which would be replaced by socialism in an irreversible process. But it is now close to 200 years since the publication of The Communist Manifesto, and capitalism rather than socialism dominates much of the global economy. In the Heritage Foundation’s 2018 Index of Economic Freedom, 102 countries, many of them less developed or emerging economies, showed advances in economic growth and individual prosperity. Economic freedom improved globally for the sixth year in a row.
Marx was not the first utopian. Plato had his Republic,and Thomas More his Utopia. They were centrally ruled and devoid of individual choice. More’s Utopia was a highly regimented “paradise” in which all citizens dressed alike and lived in identical houses and where private discussion of public affairs incurred the death penalty. Marx insisted that his socialist Utopia would be different because it would be classless and free of all nationalist sentiment because the nation state would have withered away. Ever melodramatic, he called on the “workingmen of all countries” to unite against the ruling classes — they had “nothing to lose but their chains.”
It was powerful rhetoric, but was Marx’s socialist world any more possible than the utopias proposed by Plato and More and other central planners? How good a historian and how accurate a prophet was Karl Marx?
Contrary to Marx, feudalism broke down, not because of economic contradictions, but because of the new trade routes which helped England and other countries move from a land-based to a money-based economy. Capitalism did not emerge naturally as the antithesis of feudalism but through a series of events including the emergence of the Puritan ethic, inventions like the cotton gin, the individualism of the Enlightenment, and the emergence of classical liberalism in the writings of thinkers like Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill.
Nor did Marx anticipate that workers would become increasingly affluent, independent, and even bourgeois. He did not foresee that capitalists would address problems such as unemployment and inflation, monopolies, Social Security and health care, and the proper balance of private and public control over the means of production.
Furthermore, the working class has not fallen into greater and greater misery. The industrial nations have seen a dramatic rise in the standard of living of the average worker. The middle class has not disappeared but expanded. As the esteemed economist Paul Samuelson wrote: “As a prophet Marx was colossally unlucky and his system colossally useless.”
- Socialism forbids the age-old right of private property.
In The Communist Manifesto Marx says, “The theory of the communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.” He knew that depriving individuals of this basic freedom would not be easy and that dictatorship by the proletariat — and violence — would be required. However, the abolition of private property is necessary, Marx argued, because it is the central cause of the perennial clash between the classes.
But private property is not just any right; it is integral to civilization. There never was a time or place when all possessions were collectively owned. There is no convincing evidence, writes the Harvard historian Richard Pipes, that there were societies that knew “no boundary posts and fences” or ignored “mine” and “thine.”
It is often argued that socialism is a secular version of Christianity, referring to Acts 2-5, which describes the early Christians as having “all things in common.” It is true that following Pentecost, Christians sold their possessions and property and shared the results with “any [that] might have need.” But there is a critical distinction between Christians and socialists: Jesus urged his followers to give up their possessions while socialists want to give away the possessions of others. St. Paul is sometimes quoted as saying that “money is the root of all evil.” What he actually wrote in a letter to Timothy was that “loveof money is the root of all kinds of evil.” His indictment, as the former AEI president Arthur Brooks has pointed out, was of an inordinate attachment to money.
More secular sources about the consequential role of private property can be cited. In The Constitution of Liberty, Nobel Laureate Friedrich Hayek writes that the recognition of private property is “an essential condition for the prevention of coercion.” He quotes Lord Acton as saying that “a people averse to the institution of private property is without the first element of freedom” and Henry Maine as asserting: “Nobody is at liberty to attack [private] property and to say at the same time that he values civilization. The history of the two cannot be disentangled.” In view of the alleged lack of individual liberty in classical Greece, writes Hayek, it deserves mention that in 5th century Greece the sanctity of the private home was so recognized that even under the rule of the “Thirty Tyrants,” a man could save his life by staying at home. The power of private property indeed.
- Socialism insists that human nature is malleable, not constant.
Karl Marx’s attitude toward human nature flows from Enlightenment thinkers like John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who challenged the traditional idea of a fixed human nature bestowed by God. Rousseau wrote, “We do not know what our nature permits us to be.” Locke saw human nature as a tabula rasa —a blank page. Hobbes famously described man’s natural state as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
Marx borrowed from the Enlightenment to say that human nature is intrinsically malleable. The Communist state established by Lenin in Russia in November 1917, wrote Richard Pipes, was “a grandiose experiment in public education” to create an entirely new type of human being — Soviet Man.
Christian theology with its idea of a fixed human nature infuriated Marx, who was not just an atheist but a God-hater who denounced religion as “the opium of the people.” His disciples, led by Lenin, always targeted the churches when they came to power. They initiated without apology a campaign of terror, shutting down churches, executing priests and bishops and violating nuns. The horrors were justified as part of the class-cleansing Marx envisioned.
The Founders of the American Revolution rejected those who believed that man was born without any imprint and sided with those who accepted that man was born in the image of God. As the Declaration of Independence states, all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” The Founders disagreed with those who thought man was perfectible and instead took the Christian position that man’s nature was fallen.
As Madison famously observed, “If men were angels there would be no need for government” and “ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” It is a reflection of human nature, Madison said, that “such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government.” George Washington summed up the Founders’ realism: “We must take human nature as we find it, perfection falls not to the share of mortals.”
The essential difference between the visions of Karl Marx and George Washington, aside from the question of human nature, is that in Marx’s socialist world there is a dictatorship of the Communist Party, while in a liberal democracy like the United States “We the People” tell the government what to do, the government does not tell the people what to do.
- Socialism depends upon dictatorship to attain and remain in power.
Without exception, every socialist leader from Vladimir Lenin to Fidel Castro promised to initiate basic political freedoms such as free elections, a free press, and free assembly. None fulfilled those promises.
Personal experience with this common falsehood has been eloquently provided by six famous intellectuals in The God That Failed. They describe their journey into Communism and their exit when they encountered the gigantic gap between their vision of a socialist Utopia and the totalitarian reality of the socialist state. All of them, points out editor Richard Crossman, chose Marxist socialism because they had lost faith in democracy and were willing to sacrifice “bourgeois liberties” in order to defeat Nazi Germany. Their socialist conversion was rooted in despair with Western values that produced the Great Depression and permitted Fascism.
Their conversion was greatly strengthened by what Crossman calls “the Christian conscience” even among those who were not orthodox Christians. The emotional appeal of Marxist socialism lay in the sacrifices, material and spiritual, which it demanded as well as the unswerving obedience to the socialist line no matter how radically or quickly it changed. A case in point: Communists condemned Adolf Hitler throughout the 1930s until the summer of 1939, when Joseph Stalin and Hitler signed a non-aggression pact. Immediately, all “true” socialists were obliged to reverse course and hail the agreement as a major step toward peace. It was, in fact, a cynical deal that allowed the Nazis and the Soviets to invade and divide up Poland, thereby precipitating World War II.
With the Hitler-Stalin pact, scales fell from the eyes of the six intellectuals, starting with the Hungarian novelist Arthur Koestler, who now condemned the infamous show trials ordered by Stalin: “At no time and in no country have more revolutionaries been killed and reduced to slavery than in Soviet Russia.” The American black writer Richard Wright wrote, “At that [socialist] meeting I learned that when a man was informed of the wish of the Party he submitted, even though he knew with all the strength of his brain that the wish was not a wise one, was one that would ultimately harm the Party’s interests.”
After visiting the Soviet Union, the French Nobel Laureate André Gide said bluntly, “I doubt whether in any country in the world — not even in Hitler’s Germany — have the mind and spirit ever been less free, more bent, more terrorized and indeed vassalized — than in the Soviet Union.” Gide said that “the Soviet Union has deceived our fondest hopes and shown us tragically in what treacherous quicksand an honest revolution can founder.”
The American journalist Louis Fisher, once an enthusiastic chronicler of Soviet economic advances, recounted how much the Soviet Union had changed: “Ubiquitous fear, amply justified by terror, had killed revolt, silenced protest, and destroyed civil courage. In place of idealism, cynical safety-first. In place of dedication, pursuit of personal aggrandizement. In place of living spirit, dead conformism, bureaucratic formalism, and the parrotism of false clichés.”
So it was in the Soviet Union under Stalin; so it has been in every socialist experiment since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. The Soviet-Nazi agreement was the cracking point for many intellectuals in the West, including the American Louis Fisher, who accused Stalin of building an imperialistic militaristic system in which he is, and his successor will be, “the Supreme Slave Master.” How then, Fisher asked, can anyone interested in the welfare of people and the peace and progress of humanity support such a system? “Because there is rottenness in the democratic world?” he asked and answered, “We can fight the rottenness. What can Soviet citizens do about Stalinism?”
It took decades, but the citizens of all the nations behind the Iron Curtain finally threw off their chains in 1989, and wrote finis to Soviet communism. Tragically, there are still more than 1 billion people living today under the Marxist socialist regimes of China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, and Laos.
- Socialism is responsible for the deaths of more than 100 million victims.
If you were asked how many Jews died in the Holocaust, you would probably respond, “Six million.” We learned the correct answer in our schools and universities, through the books and articles we have read, the movies and television programs we have watched, our conversations with families, friends, and colleagues. There is a continuing campaign to remind us of the Holocaust and to declare, “Never again.” And rightly so. The holocaust carried out by the Nazis — their deliberate campaign of genocide — was the greatest evil of the 20th century.
But if you were asked, “How many victims of communism have there been?” You would probably hesitate and respond — “Five million? Twenty million? Fifty million?” Few of us would know the right answer: at least 100 million men, women, and children, more than all the deaths of all the major wars of the 20thcentury. Communism committed the great crime of the last century.
It is a number difficult to comprehend, let alone accept. Surely, you might say, there could not have been that many. But we can be certain of saying that there have been at least 100 million victims of communism because of the painstaking research of the editors of The Black Book of Communism, published by the Harvard University Press. They document that each and every Marxist socialist regime has prevailed by way of a pistol to the back of the head and a death sentence in a forced labor camp.
There is no exception whether in China under Mao Zedong, North Korea under Kim Il Sung, Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh, Cuba under Fidel Castro, Cambodia under Pol Pot, or Ethiopia under Mengistu Haile Mariam.
According to Stephane Courtois, the editor in chief of The Black Book of Communism, the leading mass murderer is Pol Pot, whose attempt to communize Cambodia resulted in the deaths of one fourth of the country’s population. His closest rival is Mao, under whom as many as 40 million Chinese died in just one socialist campaign — the grossly misnamed Great Leap Forward. Of the Soviet Union’s first two dictators, Lenin and Stalin, Courtois says, “The blood turns cold at its venture into planned, logical and ‘politically collect’ mass slaughter.”
What price socialism? We must not limit ourselves to numbers.
The Chinese philosopher Lin Yutang listed the “little terrors” that prevailed in China — making children of 12 subject to capital punishment, sending women to work in underground coal mines, harassing workers during their lunchtime with threats of prison if they were late returning to work.
There were the costs in terror. One Soviet defector wrote about Soviet life: “We lived in a world swarming with invisible eyes and ears.”
There were the costs in thought control. The content of everything in print and broadcast was limited to authorized “truths.” The Soviet press dismissed the 1932-33 forced famine in Ukraine that took the lives of seven million innocents as an anti-communist myth. One Western apologist for the regime, Edouard Herriot, wrote: “I have crossed the whole of Ukraine, and I can assure you that the entire country is like a garden in full bloom.”
There were the costs to the world. There was no crisis anywhere in the world from Southeast Asia to the Caribbean, from sub-Saharan Africa to the Middle East, in which the ideological ambitions of Moscow and its imitators, driven by Marxist-Leninist thought, were not involved throughout the 20th and into the 21st century.
This is the reality of socialism — a pseudo-religion grounded in pseudo-science and enforced by political tyranny. This is the case against socialism — a god that failed, a science that never was, a political system headed for the ash heap of history.
High School Students Need More Sleep and Later School Start Times
After reading a Scientific American editorial on sleep and school start times, students and their teacher wrote to the editors about their experiences. Their district listened, and school will start later next year
In February, while going to the library to check out a manga comic one of my students recommended, I (Thomas Franich) grabbed a copy (as I always do) of Scientific American and read the February editorial “Let Teenagers Sleep.” The editors advocated for delaying school start times based on overwhelming evidence that teens are biologically driven to go to bed later and wake up later than other age groups. The editors pushed for that change because later start times were linked to students’ well-being and possible improvements in academic performance.
I was excited to hear others endorsing what I’ve argued for more than a decade, because, as a high school teacher, I know this is an issue that is important to my students. They are people who rarely (if ever) have input on the policies that shape their everyday lives.
This is why I gave the piece to the students in my physics and biology classes and asked them to read it and compare the claims to their experiences. We had a highly engaging conversation about the subject, and so I asked them to write letters to the editors at SciAm to share their thoughts.
What they wrote was illuminating.
I learned that my students are exhausted from the moment they get up in the morning, around 6:00 A.M. on average, until the moment they finally go to sleep, many at about 1:00 A.M. the next day. They told me that they can’t fall asleep for hours, even though they feel foggy, leaden and tired. But, a few days later, we had a two-hour snow delay. My students got to sleep in. Later in class, they told me they felt refreshed, alert and aware, and they attributed the change to getting more sleep. I noticed changes too. They were more attentive, more engaged and more connected. Ancient as I am to them at 37, even I struggle to get up on time, so if every day was as on point as that one, I’m sure my students would integrate new knowledge far better than they do now.
We need data-driven school schedules, not just at Sandia High School, but throughout the Albuquerque public school district. And, luckily for our students, our district is listening. Sandia students, who have started school at 7:25 A.M. for many years will start next year at 8:40 A.M. The rest of the district’s high schools will also start later, meaning the 23,000 high schoolers in our district will get the extra rest their bodies require.
In general, the students are energized by this announcement. They are highly motivated academically, and they think they’ll earn better grades. They think they’ll be more “chill” next year. Most importantly, they think they will learn better and retain more knowledge. Some are apprehensive about how their extracurriculars will be affected or how their employers will adjust their after-school schedules. A few students are concerned about how their families will adjust to the new schedule because they have siblings who start school at a different time. Yet, while there are nuances to settle, I agree with our superintendent who wrote in a letter to our community: “In a year or in three … there won’t be a push to go back to earlier start times for our … students.”
My students are hopeful for a better future, and I’m eager to see how the data from our schools will change in the next few years. Public policy should be informed with scientific data whenever possible and even though this is decades late, I am so happy that our students’ dreams are finally becoming reality.
Christina Cardiel, 9th grade:
Next year with the school time pushback, I truly believe students will be able to get enough sleep, which is one of the most important times for the body to grow and repair. Even with the new school start time, though, parents could let their kids take a 30-minute nap after school to reenergize and make up for the sleep they may have missed during the night. I’m glad that a decent time was set, so parents can still pick up and drop kids off while still being able to go to work. I think a school day of 8:40 A.M. to 3:40 P.M. is perfect to be able to function and learn throughout the school day and with an early enough ending time to do homework and rest—even with after-school activities.
Alia Carson, 9th grade:
If you’re walking through the hallways of my high school on a typical day, you will almost certainly hear pained mutterings of “I’m tired,” again and again. On an average day, many students have difficulty concentrating in early morning classes, and tend not to absorb the information we will later be tested on. When school start time was delayed an hour or two by weather a few months ago, my peers and I felt much more engaged and attentive. Although a relatively small shift in schedule, this hour could have far-reaching benefits. My own school district has just adopted a delayed start time for the new school year. Hopefully, this can serve as an example to other districts that this change is both possible and desirable. Perhaps being more stentorian about the issues discussed in “Let Teenagers Sleep” and explaining them unambiguously with data-supported urgency to politicians (who tend to bring up issues such as suicide, obesity and low test scores in campaign speeches) will drive policy supporting a healthier school schedule.
Marcos Martinez, 11th grade:ADVERTISEMENT
I believe the idea that giving teenagers more time to sleep, and the data supporting it, is an important step in bettering our education system. I hope that other school districts realize the significance of rest, so that my classmates and I and future generations may lead healthier and happier lives through our teen years. I find myself relieved that my future schedule will allow me to sleep in a little more, and I am not as worried about having to constantly learn while the only thing on my mind is sleep. I was happy to do Mr. Franich’s assignment and write the letter to Scientific American, and I am proud to have a teacher who cares for me and my friends’ mental health. Sometimes trying to make change can be daunting, especially when it comes to policies and procedures made by adults. By having an adult show me how I can make change gives me hope and a newfound passion to make my world better.
Kian Mendoza, 11th grade:
After so many years of research and evidence, it is clear we not only deserve, but need change. I have struggled with a severe lack of sleep throughout middle school and high school, and I’ve observed many of my peers, day after day, talk about how tired they are and how they only slept for so few hours. Not only has lack of sleep affected my mood and alertness at school, but I believe it has affected my academic performance. When I started having sleep problems in middle school, I started experiencing trouble with forgetfulness, depression, and my grades slowly began to decline. This has continued into high school, despite my, my doctor’s and my therapist’s best efforts. Most teens do not party every night or stay up late despite stereotypes. This is not about politics, it’s about teenage health. Our district policy has changed our start time from 7:25 A.M. to around 8:40 A.M. for high school. For a long time, because of bus driver issues, high school had to start earlier, but why can we not have elementary school start times be earlier? Younger children’s natural sleep cycle is earlier than most teens. Our school board members and I acknowledge that this change will affect many ways in which our school system runs, but it should overall benefit the mental and physical health for teens and teachers and push our students an extra step towards a more effective education. I’d like to see this change be national, so that all American youth can have this opportunity for a healthier life and future.
Sakari Morris, 11th grade:
When I get more sleep I have more energy and more than usual, I want to do my schoolwork. I also am in a way better mood and sleep better the next night, too. When we recently had a two-hour snow delay, there was a better atmosphere in classes and in the hallways, plus everyone was doing their work and paying more attention in class. I am looking forward to the next school year because I think it’ll be a lot better for us to start at 8:40 A.M. I also think attendance is going to be better because people won’t be as late or skip first period as much. I feel really proud about my advocacy for later start times because I feel like I’m doing something different for my junior year and that I’ll be part of something that might make a difference. It’s also cool because I feel like I can voice my opinion and it will be listened to and it won’t be treated like I’m just another kid who doesn’t know what they’re talking about or that I’m just overreacting.ADVERTISEMENT
Christian Ramirez-Acabal, 11th grade:
Who knew sleep had such an importance on our mental health? I certainly did not, I just thought sleep was just a way to regain our energy. I was severely depressed from 7th grade to sophomore year. Some days I didn’t want to even get up from bed. My mother would let me sleep an extra hour when it got so severe, I would have mental breakdowns. But that one hour of sleep helped way more than I can express in words; I felt happy, alive, willing to go to school, feeling like I could do anything, write a 10-page essay and breathe. Recently, the board of education passed a new thing where they moved the starting hour of school from 7:25 A.M to 8:40 A.M. A lot of my peers are angry about this, saying that their jobs are more important. Even my mom is upset about this because she is worried about getting to after school appointments. But I feel like this could benefit us greatly in our education and allow our mental health to recover. And if it doesn’t, it was a great experiment to try.
https://common-sense-in-america.com/2020/12/11/to-make-our-country-great-again-we-will-have-to-start-by-reforming-our-educational-system/https://common-sense-in-america.com/2020/08/14/police-reform-three-pronged-approach-legislative-reform-and-training-at-federal-and-state-level/https://common-sense-in-america.com/2020/06/05/government-reform-proposal-february-17-1999/https://common-sense-in-america.com/2020/11/20/government-reform-revisited/https://common-sense-in-america.com/2020/08/12/postal-service-reform/ http://www.scientificamerican.com, “High School Students Need More Sleep and Later School Start Times: After reading a Scientific American editorial on sleep and school start times, students and their teacher wrote to the editors about their experiences. Their district listened, and school will start later next year.” By Thomas Franich, Christina Cardiel, Alia Carson, Marcos Martinez, Kian Mendoza, Sakari Morris, Christian Ramirez Acabal;