It would appear, based on the stories making news these days, that the younger generations among us are hell bent on revolution - but not the kind that gave us the Constitution and a way of life that made America the envy of the world.
Rather, it’s more like the Russian revolution that enslaved hundreds of millions of people for nearly seven and a half decades from 1917 to 1990. But it appears that the young anarchists among us, including those with a so-called progressive agenda in Congress, are oblivious to that fact and are willing to risk our freedom to give it a try.
As Winston Churchill put it: “A nation that forgets its past has no future.”
How could this be? Perhaps a recent opinion article in the Wall Street Journal signed by six former U.S. secretaries of education holds the answer. As co-authors Lamar Alexander, Arne Duncan, John King, Rod Paige, Richard Riley and Margaret Spellings put it: “Following years of polarization and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the world’s oldest constitutional democracy is in grave danger. We stand at a crossroads, called to protect this democracy and to work toward unity.”
The progressive movement is specifically targeting America’s youth by sugarcoating the idea of socialism. Take the article with the headline “What Is Democratic Socialism [is that an oxymoron] and Why Is It Growing More Popular in the U.S.?” that appeared in Teen Vogue, which bills itself as “the young person’s guide to saving the world.” It was written by Samuel Arnold, an associate professor of political theory at Texas Christian University, and it focuses on what he seems to be promoting among the teenage audience - the socialist ideal.
For example, he cites a list of reasons why “socialism is much more democratic than capitalism;” reasons such as “socialism would harness our collective wealth to meet everyone’s basic needs, or so its advocates maintain. No longer would some people be fantastically rich while others are reduced to begging in the street. Key needs like food, shelter, health care, education (including college), and retirement support would be “decommodified” — provided to all, regardless of ability to pay.”
I guess it works in countries like Red China, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela etc. – socialist paradises whose citizens, for some reason, are routinely seeking to escape.
Meanwhile, the success of socialist Scandinavian countries that Bernie Sanders likes to bring up is a myth that has been debunked; it doesn’t exist. Jeffrey Dorfman, professor of economics at the University of Georgia, explained it in a Forbes article: “To the extent that the left wants to point to an example of successful socialism, not just generous welfare states, the Nordic countries are actually a poor case to cite. Regardless of the perception, in reality the Nordic countries practice mostly free market economics paired with high taxes exchanged for generous government entitlement programs.”
Bernie Sanders has long referred to himself as a socialist rather than a member of the Democratic Party, which has naturally led to a lot of questions about what socialism means to him. He consistently references the social models of the Nordic states - especially Denmark - as his idea of what democratic socialism is all about.
But, not long ago, in a speech at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said that while he's flattered to see Denmark discussed in a widely watched US presidential debate, he doesn't think the socialist shoe fits.
"I know that some people in the US associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism," he said. "Therefore, I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy."
So, why is socialism gaining traction among the younger generations. Maybe it’s because they don’t know better, because they didn’t pay attention in history class. As the late Dr. Bruce Cole, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, once put it: the U.S. is “a country of historical amnesiacs.”
The National Assessment of Educational Progress issues its so-called Nation’s Report Card every four years and the recent report cards they’ve issued show that American schoolchildren have an “alarming” lack of knowledge when it comes to our nation’s history.
Former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos put it this way: “In the real world, this means students don’t know what the Lincoln-Douglas debates were about, nor can they discuss the significance of the Bill of Rights… And only 15 percent of them have a reasonable knowledge of U.S. history. All Americans should take a moment to think about the concerning implications for the future of our country.”
Another former Secretary of Education, Dr. Rod Paige, had this to say: “History is an important and integral part of the foundation upon which our education system is built. It provides a logical context for our lives as Americans. It offers an understanding of how to overcome adversity and how to learn from our mistakes. It teaches us about ourselves—who we are, how the U.S. came to be a model for democracy in the world and why our melting-pot population has played and continues to play such an important role in the country’s development and success. If we don’t teach our children these things, they will be doomed to a lifetime of doubt and struggle.”
The Bolsheviks had a willing population of gullible peasants ready to take up the communist cause when they overthrew the czar back in 1917. Is it too much of a reach to believe that those who would like to see our American democratic republic take a left turn are counting on the history deficit of our unwitting younger generations to promote a socialist agenda?
Rebecca Weber is the CEO of the Association of Mature American Citizens.
This article originally appeared on The Star: America’s history deficit puts democracy in crisis