A high school curriculum that teaches the truth about communism…. A Q&A with Dr. Paul Kengor

Vision & Values: Dr. Paul Kengor, you recently completed a curriculum that teaches high school students about communism—that is, an accurate portrayal of communism. Tell us about it.

Kengor: The curriculum is titled, “Communism: Its Ideology, Its History, Its Legacy,” and was done for the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, an organization formally recognized by the U.S. Congress. The foundation memorializes the 100 million dead victims of communism in the 20th century—that’s double the combined deaths of World War I and II, the two deadliest conflicts in the history of humanity. The foundation is looking to place a physical memorial on the National Mall in Washington, remembering these victims as the 6-10 million Holocaust victims have been remembered.

Notably, this memorial was initiated with bipartisan support. It was championed by Tom Lantos, a very liberal Democrat who understood the evils of communism. Every liberal should understand that communism is a pernicious, inhumane ideology that must be opposed. The original bill that created the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, and thus the memorial itself, received unanimous support in Congress—from Lantos to Nancy Pelosi. President Bill Clinton signed it into law. The foundation provides an annual Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom, named for a Democrat and Republican president.

The motivation for this memorial and the high school curriculum is the utterly profound ignorance of communism and its unrivaled deadly effect virtually everywhere it has been implemented. The 100 million deaths is a conservative estimate, reported in the seminal work by Harvard University Press, “The Black Book of Communism.” The number is arguably closer to 140 million. And yet, we’re told again and again that communism is really a pretty good idea if you just read Marx and Engel’s “The Communist Manifesto.” As soon as I hear that, I know the person hasn’t actually read “The Communist Manifesto.”

Vision & Values: We recommend your article from a few years back, “A Manifesto on the Manifesto.” Tell us how this project came about.

Kengor: I was approached several years ago by Dr. Lee Edwards, who spearheads the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, and also happens to be the author of the excellent history of Grove City College, “Freedom’s College.” Edwards asked me to write a curriculum to teach the truth about communism, its origins, history, and impact. I knew I didn’t have the time because of other pressing projects, but I couldn’t say no. I found a way. I proceeded to write tens of thousands of words of content and assembled countless accompanying links and research and reference materials. We brought in Claire Griffin, who has rich expertise with public schools. She adapted the information into a format common to public schools. She did a ton of work. This curriculum would not have happened without her.

Vision & Values: And now, the project is finished and ready for use.

Kengor: Yes, it is. The foundation issued a press release and has posted links on-line, including sample lessons. Take a look. It’s available for public schools, private schools, home schools, individuals, whoever. And it’s badly needed.

Vision & Values: Let’s conclude on that point. Why is this so badly needed?

Kengor: I could go and on with examples. I get an email per week from a frustrated student or parent exasperated at what’s being taught in our high schools and universities on communism. I get invited by college students around the country to give a talk titled, “Why Communism Is Bad.” Can you imagine that? These students need to bring in an outsider to make that case on their campus.

There’s an excellent piece that was just published in the liberal Daily Beast, calling liberals to account for not being critical of communism and not supporting the Victims of Communism Memorial. The author writes about telling an acquaintance about the memorial. His friend scoffed: “Communism wasn’t responsible for any deaths. Crappy leaders were.” The author asks: “How many times have you heard some formulation of this viewpoint? […] I wish that was the sort of sentiment I only remembered from college dorm room bull sessions.” Unfortunately, he notes, this is a common sentiment among a broad segment of the intellectual elite, and its growing fast among the Millennial Generation.

The writer is exactly right. I hear these things constantly. It’s only getting worse as liberals continue their monolithic stranglehold on education, especially higher education. They’re not teaching the horrors of communism; quite the contrary. Thus the need for this curriculum.

Vision & Values: Dr. Kengor, we hope this curriculum makes a positive impact.

Kengor: So do I. Please pass it along. Have it handy. I get no money for this. It’s for the cause. It’s for truth. There are over 100 million people who were killed by this awful ideology, and countless more who suffered in other ways. How can we remember them? We can start by at least learning the truth about what caused their suffering, and not repeating the same mistake.

About Paul G. Kengor

Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science and chief academic fellow of the Institute for Faith and Freedom at Grove City College. His latest book (April 2017) is A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century. He is also the author of 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative. His other books include The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.

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