Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Communism on Parade? High School Marches to Marx and Lenin

“What do you think of this?” So began a phone call from Todd Starnes of FoxNews radio. Starnes asked me for a comment on a shocking story: A band at a high school near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania performed a halftime show titled, “St. Petersburg 1917,” a musical commemoration of the Bolshevik Revolution, replete with hammers and sickles, military uniforms, and red flags.

“No way,” I responded. “Are you sure this wasn’t a joke, a parody?”

It wasn’t. And parents of the students aren’t laughing.

The superintendent of the school genuinely pleaded innocence. “It’s a representation of the time period in history, called ‘St. Petersburg 1917,’” she said. “I am truly sorry that somebody took the performance in that manner. I am.” She continued: “If anything is being celebrated it’s the music…. I’m just very sorry that it wasn’t looked at as just a history lesson.”

Well, as a history lesson, I give it a giant, red “F.”

To be fair to the superintendent, she sincerely doesn’t seem to understand what’s so bad about this incident, and why it’s in bad taste. In fact, therein is the basic problem: We have failed to teach the horrors of the Bolshevik Revolution specifically and of communism generally.

Those horrors include over 100 million corpses generated by communist governments, starting with the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917—that is, “St. Petersburg 1917.” For perspective, 100 million is twice the combined deaths of World War I and II, the two deadliest conflicts in history. Even then, 100 million dead, which is the estimate provided by the seminal Harvard University Press work, “The Black Book of Communism,” is a conservative figure. The latest research claims that Mao Tse-Tung was responsible for the deaths of at least 70 million in China, and Joseph Stalin alone may well have killed 60 million in the USSR.

And yet, far too many American are ignorant of this catastrophe, especially younger Americans. I know. I’ve been observing it carefully for years. I could give a thousand examples, but here are just a few:

One former student of mine, John, told me about his first assignment as a teaching assistant in a high-school history class. He offered to cover some of the lectures on the 1930s Soviet Union. His supervising teacher agreed. So, John methodically covered the famine in the Ukraine, Stalin’s purges, the Hitler-Stalin Pact.

John was pleased at how the students were electrified, hands in the air, many questions—clearly learning these hideous things for the first time. Yet, he also noticed the dirty looks from his supervisor. Later, the teacher testily reprimanded him: “Look, John, I want you to ease up on the Red-baiting and commie-bashing. Besides, these students are going to get a decidedly different view on communism from me.” She promised to teach “a softer side of communism.”

Another student of mine, Sean, told me of the elite Christian private school he attended, where the newly hired teacher, fresh out of a major university, told the students he was a “Christian communist,” and that anyone who is a Christian should be a communist.

Another student told me of a teacher who “convinced the entire class” that Marxism was a “wonderful” but “misunderstood” idea that simply had not been tried correctly. “He absolutely brainwashed us,” she told me bitterly.

These are merely three anecdotal examples.

What’s true for high schools is even worse at the university level. I lecture around the country, sponsored by groups like the Young America’s Foundation and Intercollegiate Studies Institute. I’m often requested to give a talk titled, “Why Communism is Bad.” When I read passages directly from the “Communist Manifesto,” or when I cite authoritative sources on the maimed and dead, the students are aghast, eyes wide open. Rarely are their professors in attendance.

Those same professors, incidentally, write the textbooks used by high schools. Several years ago, I did a comprehensive, two-year study on “World History” and “Civics” texts. The study looked at roughly 20 texts used in public schools. Their treatment of communism is scandalous. The greatest abuse is the sins of omission. I could not find a single text that listed figures on the dead under communist governments. These omissions were not repeated for historical abuses like the Inquisition, the Crusades, slavery, or the internment of Japanese Americans. “Right-wing” dictators like Cuba’s Batista and Chile’s Pinochet were treated far more harshly than Fidel Castro, who generated many more victims and was still in power.

I could go on and on.

In short, we now have an entire generation of Americans born after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and USSR. They didn’t live through the mass repression and carnage that was Soviet communism. They need to learn about it, just as my generation learned the evils of Nazism. Unfortunately, they are not. And so, we shouldn’t be surprised when they merrily march to the triumphal sounds of the Bolshevik Revolution.


Honey, I shrank the schools

In broke Britain

Canteens, corridors and assembly halls are to be 15 per cent smaller under government plans to slash building costs for a new generation of ‘shrunken’ schools, it was claimed last night.

The proposal will see 261 schools rebuilt over the next five years, with each designed to be £7million cheaper to construct than those built under Labour.

The £55billion Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme was launched by the last Government, but postponed by Education Secretary Michael Gove in 2010 amid criticism of soaring costs and lengthy delays.

Critics have said building smaller schools would create congestion in corridors and may even lead to poorer discipline and bullying.

But others have welcomed the Coalition’s approach, saying that Labour’s programme had wasted money on extravagant designs.

Peter Lauener, chief executive of the Government’s Education Funding Agency, which drew up the new designs, said architects had included too many ‘fripperies’ in the last generation of schools.

‘If you have shares in atriums, sell,’ he said. ‘More for less is the theme of what we are trying to do with education capital. We are looking to come out with an average school building cost of under £14million compared to £21million under the BSF programme.

‘It is not quite buy one, get one free. It is a three-for-two proposition.’ 

Builders said the Coalition is ‘shopping at Tesco’ while Labour was ‘shopping at Selfridges’.

The building programme was launched by Labour in 2003 with the aim of rebuilding or redeveloping each of England’s 3,500 secondary schools over 15 years.  But in the first four years only 42 of the first wave of 200 schools were completed, and auditors warned that the programme was likely to run over budget by £1billion a year.

The plans are due to be announced this week, according to the Guardian.

Classroom sizes are expected to be maintained, so the squeeze will bite disproportionately on other areas, builders said.

‘One of the problems with the new model is that it may be a little tight on area,’ one contractor told the Guardian.

Teaching unions criticised the move and said communal areas are vital to the way schools run.

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: ‘The spaces outside the classroom are vital to the culture and climate of a school and to have well-ordered corridors is key.

‘In a secondary school there are potentially 1,000 pupils changing lessons at exactly the same time and if corridors are narrow it will lead to them bumping into one another and that could lead to discipline problems.’

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said the cuts to space would ‘reduce the standards of learning in our schools and damage the working environment.’

The Royal Institute of British Architects said the policy could undermine the Government’s attempts to improve value for money by making school buildings available for community use.

But a headteacher at one of the country’s most improved schools defended the plan.

Liam Nolan, head of Perry Beeches Academy in Birmingham, said: ‘I know it is not buildings that make a successful school.  ‘In April 2007, when I first walked through the doors of Perry Beeches, the £20million school building was barely seven years old, designed with state of the art techniques and maintained at huge cost. But I was entering one of the worst performing schools in the UK.’


Australia:  Hysteria over school shooting lessons

STATE school students as young as 12 have their sights trained on high school shooting classes after a "curriculum" review by Education Queensland.

This is despite a risk assessment document that found student participation in rifle and pistol shooting was an "extreme risk" with a "high chance of serious incident resulting in highly debilitating injury".

And the Queensland Police Union has slammed the move, warning that the policy could lead to "another Columbine" shooting spree.

Education Queensland's Curriculum Activity Risk Assessment document approves the involvement of state high school students in shooting lessons, provided instructors are fully qualified and facilities and equipment are up to standard.

It's mandatory for students to receive one-on-one supervision from licensed shooters in their first three shooting classes, followed by an encouraged ratio of one to six thereafter.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said students' access to weapons would desensitise them to the "extreme dangers of guns" resulting in a "sure-fire recipe for death and disaster".

"Police don't want another Columbine High School massacre in a Queensland school like we've seen in the United States which could well be an inevitability of this policy," he said.

"It seems Education Queensland think the three R's stand for reading, writing and reloading.

"This crazy policy will see students more heavily armed than school-based police officers who ironically are not allowed to carry their firearms in schools under an agreement with Education Queensland."

An Education Queensland spokeswoman said there was no centralised list of schools which took part in a shooting program and did not answer questions relating to when the risk assessment was first raised or what schools were involved.

Assistant Director-General Marg Pethiyagoda said shooting was an Olympic sport and was able to be offered under "strict supervision".

"Schools determine what extracurricular activities are offered to their students from term to term and school principals are required to ensure all relevant regulations and health and safety guidelines are adhered to," her statement said.

"Any school which chooses to offer shooting as an extracurricular activity must have formal consent from the parents of participating students.

"The department is not aware of any state schools offering shooting as an extracurricular activity."

Shooting programs are not new to private schools. St Joseph's Nudgee College uses its own rifle range and others such as Redlands College and Concordia Lutheran College are involved in programs.

School army cadets also have involvement in shooting programs.

Queensland Target Sports and Queensland Shooting Association spokesman Rex Wigney encouraged more schools to get involved and said it was one of the safest sports for children, who could progress to Olympic level.

Queensland Teachers' Union deputy general secretary Greg Purches said the QTU would be "very reluctant" in encouraging school involvement. "I can't think of many more dangerous things," he said.

Queensland Secondary Principals' Association president Norm Fuller said he didn't want schools or students involved in a shooting program.

Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens' Association president Margaret Leary said she didn't have a problem with schools taking up shooting programs, so long as parents were informed about the risks.

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said it was up to schools to decide what extracurricular activities they offered to students.


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