If you’re wondering what college students are learning these days, go ahead and cross history off the list. A study by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation found that 33 percent of millennials think George W. Bush was responsible for the deaths of more people than Joseph Stalin. Forty-five percent of those aged 16 to 20 said they would vote for a socialist and 21 percent said they’d vote for a communist.
These startling figures are a sign of higher education’s dereliction of duty when it comes to teaching our young people about history and the consequences of communism. After all, fifty-eight percent of those polled in this study had had at least some college, and many had completed an advanced degree. So what exactly are universities teaching students about history?
Many public universities require students to take one or two history courses. This sounds okay, except that the courses that are considered eligible are often hyper-specific slices of history or have a social justice bent. For example, at the University of Texas at Austin, students have to take two history courses. Among those that fulfil the requirement are The Sixties: Protest and Social Politics, Jews in American Entertainment, and Urban Economic Development. Courses that don’t qualify include The History of Russia Since 1917.
There’s nothing wrong with taking a class on the 1960s, but it shouldn’t be considered foundational to grasping the history of mankind. Offer it as part of a major, or as an elective, but don’t allow it to replace courses that offer a broader understanding of Western Civilization. This can’t be done, of course, because it would violate the progressive dogma that forbids asserting that one history is superior to another.
History is meant to inform us about the past so that we can avoid repeating its mistakes, particularly those that led to the deaths of millions of people. But universities today only want to teach the “right” kind of history, in order to instruct students not to repeat only certain kinds of mistakes—mainly those of capitalist societies.
American universities prefer to focus on the evils of imperialism rather than on the illiberal nature of communist societies. They inculcate students with narratives about power structures wherein capitalism and money are the worst of ills, while redistribution of wealth is the pinnacle of progress, equality, and human prosperity. But they conveniently ignore that pesky legacy of violence that communism lugs behind it.
And so, many American college students go out into the world armed with the “knowledge” that Bush, who went to war in the Middle East, was a war criminal and Stalin, who purposely starved millions of Ukrainians, was a man of the people. They vote for avowed democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders, and praise the policies of countries like Cuba. But history repeats itself, like it’s doing in Venezuela. Perhaps this will awaken a new generation to the perils of Marxist thought, if our universities won’t.