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Education

Shouldn’t Students Understand the Failures of Socialism?

Students on the campus of Columbia University, 2009 (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Statist politicians get a lot of zealous support for their plans for an “economic reset” from young Americans. Many teachers and professors view themselves as change agents who need to inculcate socialist notions into the minds of their students. They’ve been alarmingly successful.

In today’s Martin Center article, Professor Fabio Rojas argues that it is time to start teaching about the dismal record of socialism. Students hear a lot of Marx and his ideas, but very few ever hear any analysis.

Rojas writes, “In many courses, you will find Marxist theory as a sort of taken-for-granted way of analyzing the social world. The anthology I use for my own courses, Lemert’s Social Theory: Classic and Multicultural Readings, presents about 50 pages of Marx’s writings and some from Engels, but not a single selection offering a critical examination of Marxist ideas. At best, Marx’s ideas might be critiqued as not going far enough, or for focusing too much on class exploitation and not enough on other forms of repression.”

That, Rojas contends, must change. Marxism should be studied, but studied in full — not just a rainbows-and-unicorns depiction. A full study would entail an understanding of how socialism ruins spontaneous economic coordination and about the bad results where it has been imposed.

Rojas states, “It is important to convey to students that the extreme dangers of socialism are ever-present. There is no better example than Venezuela, the Latin American nation that adopted socialist policies in the 2010s during the presidencies of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro.”

Rojas explains how he teaches his students the “warts and all” truth about socialism.

“I want students to understand social theories, like Marxism, in ways that their proponents would admit is faithful, but, at the same time, not let people off the hook. As with any series of policy proposals, we have to ask hard questions and give serious attention to implementations, whether it be the Leninist Soviet state of the 1920s or the Venezuelan government of the 2020s,” he concludes.

Now all we need are faculty who know enough about this subject to teach it properly and for them to be allowed to do so. There aren’t many of them and the academic world is a minefield for those who dare to speak the truth about leftist ideas.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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