A Case for Federal and State Standards on Teaching about Socialism and Other 'Isms'

States and the federal government should mandate balanced teaching of history and the social sciences in both public schools and universities that accept taxpayer support (state or federal). That's because of what is being taught to American youth about socialism and communism is as dangerous to our Republic as the pseudo-science of eugenics and racialist philosophies of the past, seeping into the national consciousness of the western world leading up to World War II and the genocide at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators.

After watching the three-part series on the U.S. and the Holocaust (a joint project by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Sarah Botstein), which dramatized how the Roosevelt administration was blind to the plight of European Jews seeking asylum from Nazi persecution, one thing stood out – that the underlying cause of Nazism was not just historical anti-Semitism in Germany and other Christian countries, but the various philosophies and junk sciences coming out of the Enlightenment, one of which was eugenics.

Eugenics preached that some ethnic groups and races were superior to others – and those on the top were mainly Aryan northern Europeans.  In the course of the century that followed, it gave a scientific rationale for racism and government enforcement of racist policies the progressive-era movement to “improve” the genetic makeup of the population

In an interview in the documentary, which ran on PBS the week of Sept. 18, one historian said eugenics believers felt there were mental and physical differences among even white ethnics “like different breeds of dogs.”

Science has disproven this, (only after the murder of some 10 million “subhumans” by the Nazis in the name of eugenics) but it was “settled science” to use Dr. Fauci’s words in the years leading up to Hitler’s takeover in Germany in 1933.  Genetic research in recent years has proven that despite skin color and facial differences, all humans are biologically the same.   

As such, Jews were considered an inferior race, as were Romani (gypsies), while southern and eastern Christian Europeans were not as advanced as northern ones (Aryans).  Hitler believed blacks were not even human and griped about their presence on the U. S. 1936 Olympic team.

Put in the hands of a totalitarian state that preached it was the “Master Race” in order to boost population morale and find scapegoats for their post World War I doldrums, eugenics had lethal consequences. 

Initially, Jews lost their rights in Nazi Germany, in an attempt to drive them out (and there was really no nation that would accept them). And by 1945, six million had been murdered in the Holocaust.

But the eugenics genie also had negative consequences in the democracies, which included the U.S.

Eugenics led 30 states in the 1920s and ‘30s to enact “sterilization” laws,  that allowed prisons to sterilize prisoners and the mentally ill so that they would not spawn future generations of “inferior” people dependent on government help (the Nazis took the next step with state-sponsored euthanasia of the handicapped and mentally ill).  Margaret Sanger’s efforts to liberalize abortion bans in this period was a veiled eugenics effort (she was one of their advocates, as stated in the documentary).

And, heinous medical procedures like lobotomies and the Tuskegee experiments also were consequences of thinking.

Anti-Semitic conspiracies about Jews (my religion) controlling banks, the media, and Hollywood, led by the German propaganda machine, infiltrated the minds of Americans and thought leaders.  Charles Edward Coughlin, known as Father Coughlin, an anti-Semitic Roman Catholic priest, who called it "social justice," had one of the largest audiences on radio in the 1930s.

The fear of additional immigrants adding to the burden of the state during the Great Depression in the 1930s was an underlying reason for the State Department, led by the Princeton-educated Roosevelt pal, assistant secretary Breckenridge Long, limited visas from German Jews seeking asylum -- even after Kristallnacht in 1938, up until the creation of the War Refugee Board in 1944.

And, as Burns, Novick, Botstein reported, FDR was conflicted about helping Jewish refugees for fear of being labeled too pro-Jewish. 

In recent years, it was learned there were more slots available to German Jews to emigrate before Hitler cut off emigration in December 1941, and Long and other Jew-haters in the State Department didn’t use them, fearing Nazi spies were posing as Jews.   

Documentarians being liberal, the trio of directors ends the series with footage of Donald Trump espousing anti-immigrant rhetoric, images of the 2017 Charlottesville Unite the Right protest and of course, the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol assault.

In the minds of the leftist intelligentsia, we conservatives and those who backed Trump or still do are the brown shirts of old. To them, there is no problem with anti-Semitism on the left (i.e., Rashida Tlaib and the university-based efforts to boycott Israel), just on the right, and MAGA Republicans are the threat to democracy,  as Joe Biden said in his recent speech.  

Just as Hitler, Stalin, Mao and other murderous dictators preached their statist philosophies would bring a “better world,” today’s social-justice Marxist critical theory has inspired social justice movements think that they, too, have a mission to create paradise on Earth.

Despite the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, academia is filled with professors who preach a one-sided view of communism and socialism.  The failure of Republican presidents dating back to Ronald Reagan and GOP leaders in Congress to address this has allowed cancel culture to result and now its efforts to stamp out free speech.

Today, employers will not hire people who oppose homosexuality, even on religious grounds.  Statues are torn down and new heroes like the drug addict George Floyd are now heralded.  Folks in academia or government can have their lives ruined for failing to pay fealty to “woke
 policies much like Mao and Stalin purged suspected capitalists – murdering millions. 

Millions of college and public school students know little about the 100 million people who died at the hands of communist and socialist regimes over an 80-year period.  Rather, they are spoon-fed anti-American textbooks by socialists such as Howard Zinn (A People’s History of the United States) and Nicole Hannah-Jones “1619 Project.”  

In the documentary, we learned that not only did German police sympathetic to the Nazis look the other way while Jews were beaten or killed by Nazi brown shirted thugs, so did anti-Semitic police in the U.S. as gangs harassed and beat Jews.

Today, we have  police who are ordered by elected officials to stand down when rioters burn police stations, buses, cop cars and businesses.   And, Orthodox Jews are regularly attacked by thugs (many black and Hispanic) in New York City , who are released  due to liberalized bail laws.  

So, why isn’t democracy threatened by these people and ideas? Why aren’t ANTIFA and BLM the new brown shirts, aided on by wild-eyed student “Progressives?”    

The problem is that academia, notably the public schools of late, have become bastions for teaching kids that they need to be woke and progressive, and must champion “climate change” and other Leftist causes, or the world will come to an end.  

We cannot stop the teaching of certain lethal “isms.”  In fact, I think it’s good if high school seniors and college students learn different interpretation of history, politics and sociology. So, they can decide for themselves.  However, getting just one side of the story is bad news for our country – as we saw the consequences of accepting eugenics as “settled science” long ago.

Fortunately, a number of states are beginning to act.  At least eight have banned CRT-derived curricula in public schools   and Gov. Glenn Youngkin here in Virginia is reversing liberal LGBTQ policies –and you can comment on the rule here.   

The consequence to our society of not having fair and balanced education of the social sciences may not be death camps but given what is happening of late should make us concerned.

Ken Reid is a 35-year journalist, GOP activist, and former Republican office holder in Virginia.

Correction: An earlier version of this failed to credit Ken Burns' co-creators.

Image: AtviraKlaipedia.it, via Picryl // public domain

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