In a recent poll by YouGov and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, 70 percent of millennial Americans (23 to 38 years old) are likely to vote socialist, and 36 percent have a favorable view of communism. In a 2018 YouGov poll, millennials are almost four times as likely as those Americans older than 54 to say they are not proud to be an American and almost three times as likely to disagree with the statement that “America is the greatest country in the world.”
These generational differences are stark and disturbing for the future of America. They are not surprising, however, given that our education system emphasizes the evils of America, the West, and capitalism.
Today, teachers underscore our failures, fostering American self-loathing, never teaching that the United States has been the greatest force for freedom and opportunity in the history of humankind and that free-market capitalism has created unparalleled wealth, even among the poorest.
How did we get here?
The unpopularity of the Vietnam War and the turmoil of civil rights protests caused many young people in the late 60s and early 70s to question traditional American and Western values. Some came to believe that history, including American history, is simply the struggle between the powerful and the powerless, the evil and the good. From this worldview grew an academic “postmodern” ideology that spurned Enlightenment values of objective, measurable, universal truths and spawned the rise of identity groups, each organized around a shared identity as powerless victims of the white male power structure. Thus, a new political construct developed, characterizing people by their group identity defined by race, class, ethnicity, and sexual preference.
Postmodern ideology became the new religion on campuses across the country, with an increasingly doctrinaire faculty eager to convert each succeeding student generation. America’s story was no longer about good; it was about evil.
The American Federation of Teachers, in its most recent journal, illustrates how postmodern ideology also dominates K-12 education. The issue paints America as under siege by the white supremacist power structure and urges its 1.6 million members to counter the pervasive “hostility and discrimination of people because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation/identity, immigrant … or disability status” by being activists in the classroom. Teachers should defy our “racist country” by promoting victimized racial and ethnic groups and focus on the social inequities pervasive in America for all except those who are white, Western, Christian, or economically advantaged. The Federation advocates for an American history curriculum including the teachings of Howard Zinn, the anti-American, Marxist author and promoter of civil disobedience who, to paraphrase Ben Shapiro, recast America’s story as ugliness camouflaged by the hypocritical facade of goodness. The Zinn lesson plan includes “demythologizing Lincoln” as the Great Emancipator, just as the genius of our Founding Fathers has been deconstructed because they were slave owners. Zinn’s views are currently promoted in more than 90,000 classrooms.
Activist K-12 teachers and school administrators, assisted by activist state legislators across the country — in places like Indiana, Vermont, Oregon, and California — are adding ethnic studies programs either as an elective or as a mandatory requirement for high school graduation. Instead of an objective, balanced account of the history of ethnic groups in America, these programs instruct children that the United States is a nation of victimized minority groups oppressed by the white privileged and capitalism is a tool of that oppression. They foment racial grievance and foster anti-American sentiment, encouraging student activism to disrupt our political system. Will Swaim, president of the educational non-profit California Policy Center, sums it up: “It comes dangerously close to turning American exceptionalism on its head: Yes, we’re exceptional — exceptionally evil. It is remindful of re-education camps in Vietnam or China. It is indoctrination rather than education.”
The popularity of socialism and communism among young Americans and their belief in the validity of identity and personal experiences (personal truths) rather than historical facts or “retrograde” traditional values like patriotism, free speech, and individual freedom threatens the future of our nation. By comparing the realities of American life against an abstract standard of perfection, in the absence of historical knowledge, these future influencers fail to understand the uniqueness of their representative democracy and the prosperity they experience.
Our children are being intentionally brainwashed. Postmodern academics, disdainful of America and the West, know that the best way to bring down our political and economic system is to refashion our history for future generations. George Orwell wrote, “The most effective way to destroy a people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” Postmodernists are doing just that. Our children are our future. We must find ways to counter this pernicious effort against the entire American experiment.
Ziva Dahl is a senior fellow with the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center.