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Samizdata quote of the day

For at least half a century, nearly every secondary school pupil and university student in Britain has learnt about the evils of Nazism and Fascism, and the crimes of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco. Most young people have also been taught something about the evils of apartheid in South Africa, Western colonialism, and white racism in the United States. One enormously important subject, however, has generally been missing from the education curriculum: namely, the horrendous and universally destructive nature and record of Communism.

Philip Vander Elst

28 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Nazism and Fascism are dead, and we helped defeat them. There are still communist societies around- can you say Vietnam, Laos, North Korea, China? I can, and the Chinese government objects if you tell the truth about Communism, and here in Australia, they are threatening to withdraw their Uni students, about a third of our intake.

  • Roué le Jour

    For at least half a century, nearly every secondary school pupil and university student in Britain has learnt about the evils of Nazism and Fascism, and the crimes of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco.

    Not true. 20th century history was a Grammar school subject.

  • the other rob

    Not true. 20th century history was a Grammar school subject.

    While that’s factually incorrect, it’s also irrelevant. Every schoolboy of my generation expected that, one day, he’d have to go and kill Germans. Whether that expectation came from the schools, the home, or osmosis is irrelevant. It was real and I and many others can testify to it.

    The thing that is relevant is what has been omitted from the curriculum. SI is bang on about that.

  • Roué le Jour

    the other rob,
    Then clearly I must have been absent the day they covered the 20th century in history class. Also, by the 60s, Vietnam was more on people’s minds than Germany.

  • john malpas

    Whatever they were taught in school it was to make cultural Marxism seem inevitable.

  • Eric

    This lack of knowledge explains why young people are such easy prey for the Jeremy Corbyns of the world.

  • the other rob

    Roué le Jour – It’s possible that we are of different generations. I had teachers who had fought in the war and who conveyed their experiences to their pupils.

    Also, I grew up in England. There’s something about proximity to a threat in one’s childhood that make a lasting impression.

    Or, you may have attended a shit school.

  • Julie near Chicago

    All I can say is, used to be that even in Public School mention was made of Martin Luther, theses, doors, Protestants (though doctrines & theology of this last not discussed; but still the Mayflower the Pilgrims etc.), religious strife in England, Huguenots, our Revolutionary War, so on. This would have been in high school, 2nd half of the ’50s, in “a small farming town in the Midwest” (riff off the old radio soap Stella Dallas, if anybody here remembers). Not quite the equivalent in elite education to that provided by the Naperville public high schools, one of which the Young Miss attended in the earlyish ’90s.

    At some point in the “Oughties,” I chanced to mention Martin Luther. Her face said it all. The only M.L. she’d ever heard of was the one whose surname was “King.”


    other rob, that’s interesting. I should think some of our H.S. teachers in the ’50s would have been WW II vets, but if any were I surely didn’t know it. (I believe only ladies reigned in grade school. Except for Mr. Kennedy, who taught art 1/2 hour each week to us 6th- 7th- 8th-graders.)

    But everybody, I mean everybody, knew exactly what was meant by “the War.”

    Just as everybody knew exactly what was meant by “the Depression.”

  • Roué le Jour

    the other rob,
    I was at secondary school in the 60s, you may be a little older. I certainly had teachers that fought in the war. To the best of my recollection it was necessary to take history at A level to study the 20th century, I didn’t. For me, history stopped at the Virgin Queen. I find it hard to believe my school was teaching a different syllabus to every other school. It did occur to me at the time or shortly after that the school was pointedly not discussing politics, and I was mildly surprised to discover at college other students who had been allowed to discuss socialism within a socialist school system but it was only a few. We techies generally dropped history at the earliest opportunity.

    The statement is, I think, simply wrong. My generation “half a century ago” were not routinely taught about Nazism or Fascism, and I would further say that “white racism” and “the evils of colonialism” are blatantly obviously contemporary fields of study.

  • Stonyground

    My daughter, now approaching 21, tells me that herself and her peers are fully aware of the failures of Communism. Young people get their information from more different sources than just classes at school.

  • Every schoolboy of my generation expected that, one day, he’d have to go and kill Germans.

    the other rob (December 11, 2017 at 12:36 am)

    That was certainly my experience, but it derived from the war films and kids war comics, feeding in to the games of soldiers we would play.

    Roué le Jour’s second comment clarifies his meaning: if you took history to A level then (only then) you would study some 20th century history as well as more depth in older stuff. 20th century history was not taught in Scotland (nor, I believe, in the rest of the UK) unless you specialised in history at the very end of your school time. The sensible attitude back then was that we’d learn plenty about the 20th century from our parents and grandparents, and the school’s job was to teach us about times long before living memory – the Romans. the mediaeval period, etc.

    My memory (of what some I knew who worked in teaching said, and what such kids as I occasionally advised re coursework and exams discussed) is the switch over occurred much later, was fairly obviously politically motivated, and resulted in the typical lefty teacher’s teaching not WWII (which the kids might have found interesting) but the rise of Hitler, and teaching not even that but modern left politics in the guise of the nazis being an object lesson in why we all needed it. There were of course many honourable exceptions to this.

    Fortynately, Stonyground (December 11, 2017 at 8:00 am) has a point. The attempt to keep the subject out of cultural awareness of the young is vigorous, as it was in the 70s. Back then, Russia’s existence was a problem for that. Today, the web is a problem for that. In both periods, those annoying older people are a problem for that.

  • Penseivat

    About 8 years ago, I was invited to talk to a 6th form class at a local school on my experiences in the British Army, during a “What your parents and Grandparents did when they were younger” sort of project.
    My talk involved lots of questions and answers from both sides and I mentioned my time in BAOR and West Berlin, and why we were there.
    The students had no idea the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain were built by the Soviet controlled GDR to keep its citizens from escaping into the West. They had been told it was the decadent American controlled capitalists who built them to imprison those in the East. Fortunately, I had brought photographs and statistics of those who succeeded or failed to make it to the West.
    When I mentioned there were no known incidents of people ‘escaping’ to the East, apart from 3 British traitors, my chat was brought to an end and was not invited back. That was a good day, I thought.

  • Stonyground

    We studied Animal Farm at school in the mid 1970s. I read 1984 much later in life, mainly because it kept being referenced in online discussions, especially during the dying days of the last Nu-Lab government.

  • Solent the Lesser

    In my own experience, this is not correct. I studied both Animal Farm in Year 8 English Literature (and the allegory to the Soviet Union was clearly spelled out), and the rise of the Soviet Union in 6th Form History (this would have been about 9 and 4 years ago, respectively). Both were generally hostile to communism. There are elements I could criticise them for, particularly the latter (which equivocated too much between the White forces – who admittedly were also bastards, albeit of a somewhat lesser stripe – and the Reds during the civil war, and gave something of a free pass to certain communists who happened to oppose Stalin, particular Bukharin), and we never studied anything past Stalin, but it is not the case that communism was either ignored or celebrated.

    Incidentally, I never did the American Civil War, nor the British Empire (beyond a bit when we did WWI). The big criticism I’d make was spending far too much time on the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazism, which I think we did 3 separate times (while almost never actually doing WWII itself).

  • James

    I always taught my pupils about the evils of communism as well as nazism. It comes up, or at least should, in the syllabus for the Modern World 1919 to 1980. It would be difficult to avoid if you taught the syllabus properly.

  • terence patrick hewett

    I have studied history for 50 years and the one thing you learn early is not to make moral judgements: if you do that then you are not doing history – you are doing something else.

  • morsjon

    I learned more about economics from my class on post-communist economies in Eastern Europe than from any other class. This was university, mind.

    Even when 20th Century history is taught it is usually focused on geopolitical events rather than why communism causes poverty and terror.

  • the other rob

    Roué le Jour – I’m actually younger than you and can’t imagine things improving over time, so I will have to conclude that Niall Kilmartin’s explanation is correct and it’s my memory that’s faulty. Mea Culpa, etc.

  • pete

    In my late 70s sixth form compulsory general studies class the trendy lefty history teacher in charge asked us what could be done about apartheid in South Africa.

    I told her one way to fairness would be for the country to oppress all its people just like the countries of the Soviet bloc did.

    She blanked me after that, and I was able to use her pointless lessons to do my maths and physics homework.

  • Mr Ecks

    Not the evils of communism–socialism is the word you are looking for.

  • Umbriel

    My school years in the US spanned the ’70s, and the only real focused history education was concentrated in the 11th and 12th grades.

    The first six years of school had a single teacher covering all subjects, with history being crammed under a broader heading of “Social Studies”, including Anthropology, Sociology, and such. I recall small topical modules on some history-related subjects (The Pilgrims! The Ancient Greeks!) I also recall a brief coverage of economics around 4th grade, that discussed Command, Market, and Laissez Faire systems, basically setting up a “reasonably managed” market system like the US of the time as the best model. Another “module” from about the same time similarly covered political systems, dividing them into Autocratic, Democratic, and Anarchic, similarly promoting US Democracy, but holding out that Democracy was the overall best model — but holding out that Autocracy had its merits in certain situations (which I took to be primarily a self-defense mechanism for the school, justifying its own authoritarian structure).

    All subjects (including Social Studies) got their own dedicated teachers in 7th and 8th grade, which then morphed into “World Civilizations” in 9th and 10th. Only in 11th and 12th did we actually get an American History class, and I also took European History as an elective in 12th. I think my teacher of AH1 and European history was vaguely center-right, but my AH2 teacher was a pretty passionate Reagan supporter (this against the backdrop of the 1980 election), and treated us to the first real takedown of Keynesian economics, the New Deal, and redistributive tax policy I’d ever heard. I’d not been all that politically aware previously (in spite of having a general interest in history), but I was skeptical enough of the political left back in those Cold War days that I was pretty receptive to this teacher’s economic arguments, and have tended to scoff at most US-style “lite-Socialist” unions-regulations-and-single-payer-health-care rhetoric since. The harder core Euro-style version of Socialism really didn’t seem to have much of a following here in the US between the late-60s (when the “counterculture” went into a sort of silent-running mode) and the end of the Cold War.

  • NickM

    I went to school for 13 years. Apart from learning JH was a total slag who once gave a mate of mine oral pleasure in exchange for a Diet Coke I learned fuck all. I learned a lot at university and just through life. But my primary and secondary schools were just keeping us of the streets.

    Apart from JH, obviously. It was putting her on them.

  • CaptDMO

    Gosh, I was exposed to the glories of Communism before I even got to school.
    Work hard all spring, summer, and fall, then just party all winter! (But beware of those “critics” ridiculing your dedication to “the State”)
    The Grasshopper And The Ants.
    I ALSO learned of the perils of creeping socialism that would eventually defy ALL of “the experts” best intentioned efforts, to the point where only some BIG EVENT could MAGICALLY fix everything!
    The Cat In The Hat and The Bathtub Ring.
    I still cite Aesops Fables, Brothers Grimm, Tales from 1001 Arabian nights, etc., when desperately attempting to convert wrong thinkers.(You know….not like ME)
    Sadly, so few (relatively) NEW Citizens have beloved childhood classics (ahhhhhh Maurice Sendak, and for SOME inexplicable reason, Babar et Pere Noel) beyond “Everybody Poops”, and “Heather Has Two Mommies”.

  • Paul Marks

    Philip Vander Elst is correct – but, at least in this quote, he does not go far enough.

    Not only does the education system not teach much about the evils of Marxism (when it accepts mass murder occurred at all it pretends that this was a perversion of the ideas of Karl Marx – not the logical result of these ideas), it teaches about Apartheid and Fascism and National Socialism VERY BADLY – essentially giving a false Marxist interpretation of these doctrines.

    Apartheid is presented as to do with “capitalism” and “big business” – when actually it was an anti big business movement that grow out of the white trade unions (see W.H. Hutt “The Economics of the Colour Bar”).

    Fascism is presented as the cooperation of the state and big business – actually Mussolini was a heretic Marxist and Fascism meant the the total control of business (big or small) by state domination. Yes the Hollywood view of Fascism is WRONG.

    And National Socialism is not presented as the Progressive movement it was – such works as F.A. Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom” and Ludwig Von Mises’ “Omnipotent Government” (once well known) seem to be no longer much used in schools and universities. And such writers as Erik Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (well known in the United States from the 1950s to the 1980s) are almost forgotten.

    It is not that National Socialism is over taught in the schools and universities and media (although it may be) it is that it is falsely taught – it is taught as a conservative movement, which is the opposite of what it actually was.

  • nemesis

    My niece’s husband gave up a city job for teaching. He offered to volunteer to do extra classes to teach the children about finance. A superior vetoed it, saying he would much rather he took the children to see a food bank. He gave up teaching at that point but I said it would have been a better strategy to take them to the food bank and tell the pupils that that’s where they would end up if they didn’t learn about money.

  • Roué le Jour

    the other rob,
    The mists of memory make fools of us all. I’ve been “recalibrated” here myself.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    There are two history books I believe I’d read, if only someone would write them. The first is “The Sins of the Victims”, describing, for instance, Chinese racial prejudice towards non-Chinese, black African slave-takers, inter-tribal Red Indian savagery, and so on.

    The second is “What Hitler Got Right”, pointing out the ways in which the Third Reich foreshadowed modern Western states, especially lately. Both books would, hopefully, give readers who have only the received instruction about the modern world reason to think.

  • Thailover

    And lets not forget the FACTUAL history of 400 years of slave trade by Muslims. ‘Good thing I’m not in the UK committing “hate crimes” by pointing out actual FACTS of history.