Monday, June 14, 2021

A FIXED STAR

“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson

[West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette,
319 U.S. 624 (1943)]    

Friday, June 11, 2021

ANDREW GUTMANN

Fighting critical race theory and indoctrination in our schools—Welcome to my first newsletter

Andrew Gutmann

June 11, 2021

It has been a whirlwind 7 weeks since my letter to the parents of my daughter’s New York City private school, Brearley, went viral. To me, it feels like 7 years have gone by. I had no expectation that the letter would be read by any more than the 1,300 or so parents to whom I mailed it. It has apparently been read by millions. The sole purpose of the letter was to encourage other Brearley parents to speak up to fight the school’s illiberal, racist and indoctrinating initiatives. I never expected my letter to light a match on the issue of critical race theory (CRT) across the country, nor did I expect to become a national spokesperson for these issues. But that is what has happened. I promise to continue to write, to speak out, and to help organize parents in this crucial battle over the proper education of our children, and for the soul of our country.


The first thing I want to do in this newsletter is to thank the many thousands of people who have written to me over the past several weeks. I would have liked to have responded to everyone who wrote me, but I quickly realized that was impossible. I have, however, read every single word of every single email and message that has been sent to me. And I will continue to do so and to respond to as many people as I can!


Many of the people who have written to me have shared a similar message. They feel newly emboldened to speak up for their children. This is happening. We are seeing newly formed resistance to CRT across America, increased media coverage, and we have started to witness some successful pushback, especially against public school boards. But I believe we are still at the very beginning of this fight and we face enormous obstacles ahead. The speed at which the cancer of CRT has spread across the country and infiltrated our schools is both shocking and unprecedented. We need to accelerate our resistance.


The second common thread of the emails I have received is the question of “how.” How can parents fight back against CRT in their kids’ schools? How can grandparents and other concerned citizens also join this fight? This is the topic for which I’d like to focus much of the rest of this newsletter. To be clear, I don’t pretend to have all the answers. There are others who have been fighting this fight in our education system for far longer than I, in some cases, for years. What follows are just some ideas, some suggestions, some thoughts.


As we travel this road together, some of these ideas will crystallize into actionable initiatives, others may not. But one thing that has become abundantly clear to me is that we need to fight CRT with as many resources as possible, and on many different levels. Make no mistake, this is a fight. And this is a fight we are currently losing. But we have not lost, and we have two things in our favor.


One, we are not alone! The majority of Americans, of both political parties, now understand the damage that critical race theory is doing to our children, to our education system, and to our country. True, many have been bullied into silence given the fear of being called a racist and because of the cancel culture that has enveloped our country. We must fix that so the voice of the majority is once again heard. But make no mistake, the numbers are on our side.


Two, we are on the side of good. We stand for our children, for their mental health, and for their proper education. We believe in freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and the freedom for parents to hold the responsibility of teaching morality to their children. We believe that skin color, race and ethnicity should have no bearing on our laws or on individual achievement. And we believe that our country, while by no means without flaws, has been, and continues to be, the beacon of liberty and opportunity to the rest of the world.


The proponents of critical race theory stand for fear and for indoctrination. They argue against free speech and critical thinking. They aim to shut down conversation and stifle debate. They are proponents of toxic Marxism and segregating divisiveness. If we follow their path, we risk the fracturing and ultimately the ruin of America.


Fighting CRT Locally


Much of the fight against critical race theory must be accomplished locally, and through grassroots efforts. There are many things that parents can do. First, try to find other parents that are also willing to speak out. If one doesn’t exist, form a local parent group. There is always strength in numbers, and you will be surprised how many parents feel as you do. Write letters to your schools, school boards and to elected officials. Ask (or demand) meetings with school principals and school administrations to find out what is really being taught in your children’s schools, and to voice your displeasure. File freedom of information act (FOIA) requests. Run for your local school board. Speak out at city council meetings.


These are just a handful of things you can do to make your voice heard, and to begin to effectuate change. There are a number of organizations that have recently sprouted up to help parents fight critical race theory, divisive and anti-intellectual diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, and indoctrination in our schools. Two that I would like to highlight are Parents Defending Education and the Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism (FAIR). Both have substantial resources on their websites to help parents. FAIR is also setting up local chapters all across the United States.
 

Fighting CRT Nationally


I believe that in addition to fighting at the school and school district level, we need to also be fighting critical race theory on the state and national level. Some organizations are already doing this through legislative efforts. Here are a number of initiatives I think we need to start in order to win the battle against CRT. I have begun to focus on several of these and will provide updates in future newsletters.
 

Social Network for Parents


One of the biggest problems in the fight against CRT in our schools is mobilizing parents, especially given the fear of being publicly outed on this issue. We need a new social network that will allow like-minded parents within a school, or within a school district to connect with each other privately. There must be functionality to collect signatures for letters and petitions, to organize meetings, and for parents to anonymously post documents and messages about the curriculum being taught in schools. We also need a common place to aggregate all of the small parent groups that have recently formed to fight CRT. With a single platform for parents to connect with each other locally (separate from existing social media platforms), we can harness the collective power of millions of parents.


#DefundCRT - National Donor Strike


It seems that the best (and perhaps the only) way to convey a strong message to private K-12 schools and universities is through their fundraising efforts and endowments. To that end, we need a national donor strike against every private K-12 school, college, university, arts organization and religious organization that teaches or espouses critical race theory. We must cut off the funding for these institutions. #DefundCRT.


Boycotts of companies


As most of us now know, critical race theory is not just a problem in our schools, but has become pervasive in our workplaces and in corporate boardrooms, due to the overwhelming cowardice of our business leaders. We need to start boycotting each and every company that tries to indoctrinate their employees, hires diversity and equity officers or consultants, and terminates, punishes, or cancels employees because of their political views. Write letters and use social media to get the message to these companies. Contact their investor relations and customer service departments. And for public companies, divest your stock. We must also find a way to protect and reward whistle blowers.


Coordinated State Protests


Over this summer, we need coordinated demonstrations in the state capitals of all 50 states to protest against critical race theory being adopted in public school curriculums. These protests must be non-political and must include parents as well as educators. We must get the message to governors of both political parties that they are personally responsible for the destruction of public education, for damaging our children, and for compromising the future of our country due to divisive, anti-intellectual and Marxist teachings.


Building New Private Schools


It has become devastatingly apparent that our education system has failed us. I believe we need a massive philanthropic effort to build new, affordable private schools all across this country. These schools do not have to be fancy. They just need to teach proper history, civics, science and critical thinking. Such schools should be available to any family that values the education of their children, regardless of income. We must break the public school monopoly in this country. Charter schools, which have been oases of quality for many minority and underprivileged kids, are near impossible to start in many Democratic-led states.


National Civil Rights Movement


We need a new non-partisan civil rights movement focused on returning our country to the color-blind and race-blind ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We are not black or brown or white in this country. We are humans and we are Americans. We must stop the divisive hyper-focus on race that will inevitably lead to ethnic strife and quite possibly will result in a fracturing of our country.


NYC Homeschooling Pods / Co-ops


I have spoken with many parents desperate to pull their kids out of private or public schools in New York City but feel there is nowhere else to go. There is somewhere else to go: homeschooling pods/co-ops. I have been in contact with a number of parents who have set up such co-ops and I would like to help connect New York City parents interested in having their children joining such a group for the 2021-2022 school year. If you are interested, please use the contact form on this page.


Funding and Donations


A large number of you who have contacted me have offered me financial support in the fight against critical race theory. For that, I am incredibly grateful. However, I have been reluctant to take donations until I have a clear idea of how the money will be used. I am still in the process of figuring out what existing organizations with which to get involved and what efforts to start from scratch. But I am getting closer to those answers. I will almost certainly start taking donations soon through a 501(c)(3) that I will start. I will provide more information soon.


Getting in touch


My plan is to write a newsletter at least once per month, or more often if I have news to share. If you are interested, this link lists some of my media appearances and articles that I have written. You can always contact me through my website: speakupforeducation.org or email me at 

andrew@speakupforeducation.org. I look forward to hearing your comments, suggestions and thoughts on how to win this fight for education and against CRT.

Please also tell your friends!


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Thursday, June 10, 2021

NATIONAL HISTORY CLUB

EducationViews.org; Houston, Texas 

An Interview with Robert Nasson: The National History Club

June 9, 2021 by

Michael F Shaughnessy

  1. Robert, can you first tell our readers a bit about your education and experiences?

I majored in political science at Wesleyan University and have always had a deep passion for history, especially United States history. I think a big part of this is that I grew up in Lexington, MA, so I can remember going to the re-enactment of the Battle of Lexington early in the morning with my family. 

  1. How did the National History Club come about? 

The National History Club was formed in March 2002 to promote the reading, writing, discussion, and enjoyment of history at the secondary school level. It was created under the banner of The Concord Review, and was the idea of Will Fitzhugh, Founder and Editor.

  1. Currently how many members or chapters do you have? 

We have had over 600 chapters join the NHC and there are currently around 18,000 student members.

  1. Is there one in each of the 50 states? 

We wish! We are still missing Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, and South Dakota.

  1. Now, currently what kinds of projects are these clubs involved with at this time? 

Since we don’t limit the types of activities clubs can participate in it creates for a really wide-range of activities. Some of these include visiting local historical sites and museums, inviting in guest speakers, oral history projects recording veterans in their community, and much more. This year due to COVID, we even launched a monthly speakers series, where we had various figures who shared their experiences with our members through Zoom. They included a Medal of Honor winner and one of the Freedom Riders from the Civil Rights Movement.

  1. As a former history teacher- I know how hard it is to decide what should be taught, who should be taught and what was involved with various historical events. What is your position on this? 

That’s the toughest question these days! I would say this: a history teacher’s responsibility isn’t just to teach their students the material in their class, but rather get them passionate about history to continue learning about it even once they leave that class. There is just too much history to teach it in a one-year class.

For example, my AP US History teacher instilled in me a love of history my junior year of high school. There was so much that I learned—and also didn’t learn—because it’s impossible to go from colonial America to modern day U.S. in just a one year class. But she taught history in such an easy-to-digest manner, that I was hooked and have been interested in it ever since.

  1. Now, I was not living in 1776—but I know that people were born into that time frame- when slavery did exist—can we hold some new-born baby born on the 4th of July 1776—for the fact that their family owned slaves? 

Sorry, trying to fully understand this question. Are you saying hold that newborn baby responsible for the fact that his family owned slaves?

If so, I don’t think we can hold that person responsible seeing how she was just born at that time and his/her family owned slaves. However, I find it intellectually lazy if people don’t want to acknowledge the inherited advantage that slave owners had over slaves, which repercussions are still felt to this day. So, while I don’t believe in blaming these people, I also don’t want to dismiss their inherited advantage. I know I’m generalizing here but I think you’ll understand my point. 

  1. In your mind, what are some of the most contentious issues facing historians today?   

I’d say stretching the truth to make history seem more exciting. I think we often see this in movies and sometimes books (especially biographies), where people take liberties to spruce up a story. History should be the most accurate representation of an event as possible, whether you like the outcome or not. 

  1. What exactly are you trying to accomplish with these history clubs?  

Simply getting middle and high school students further interested in history outside the classroom. Again, I don’t think it’s possible to become extremely knowledgeable about history based on one U.S. or World history class. It’s a constant reading of books, visiting sites, watching documentaries that makes one competent. Students that know history are better citizens as well, and are able to sift through the latest news with a more keen eye. That’s especially important these days in the age of 24-7 news coverage and such a polarized society.

  1. What have I neglected to ask? 

Nothing more on my end—thanks so much!

[Contact: rnasson@nationalhistoryclub.org; nasson@tcr.org]

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

MULTICULTURALISTS

Dictatorship of Virtue
Richard Bernstein
New York: Vantage, 1994
Excerpts from the Prologue

I remember a scholar of China talking years ago about the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which raged in that country in the late 1960s and 1970s. Certainly, he said, the term referred to something momentous happening in China, but whatever it was was not Great, it was not Proletarian, it had nothing to do with Culture, and it was certainly not a Revolution. Similarly with multiculturalism. It does not have the kind of consistent or coherent set of ideas behind it to make it an ism exactly. That prefix “multi” is, yes, applicable in theory, but in practice it is often a mask for what would more accurately be called “mono.” Most important, multiculturalism has no more to do with with culture than the Cultural Revolution did…

There are clues to these questions among the self-proclaimed multiculturalists themselves. They rarely, at least as I have gotten to know them, know much about culture at all and even more rarely about anyone else’s culture. There are interesting and worthy and certainly very well-intentioned people within the ranks of what I will call the ideological multiculturalists. And yet their lack of curiosity about the real cultural richness of the world, or their reduction of that richness to a few rhapsodic clich├ęs, seems to confirm that culture is not really what is at issue in multiculturalism. 
At best, the ideological multiculturalists reiterate a few obsessively sincere phrases about the holistic spirit of Native American culture or about how things are done in what they call Asian culture or in the African-American culture.

The Asian culture, as it happens, is something I know a bit about
having spend five years at Harvard striving for a Ph.D. in a joint program called History and East Asian Languages and, after that, living either as a student (for one year) or a journalist (for six years) in China and Southeast Asia. At least I know enough to know that there is no such thing as the “Asian culture.” There are dozens of cultures that exist in that vast geographical domain called Asian. When the multiculturalists speak, tremulous with respect, of the “Asian culture,” it is out of goodness of heart, but not much actual knowledge.

My experience leads me to believe that insofar as culture is involved in multiculturalism, it is not so much for me to be required to learn about other cultures as for me to be able to celebrate myself and for you to be required to celebrate me, and, along the way, to support my demand for more respect, more pride of place, more jobs, more foundation support, more money, more programs, more books, more prizes, more people like me in high places, a higher degree of attention.

The paradox is that the power of culture is utterly contrary to the most fervently held beliefs and values of the advocates of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is a movement of the left, emerging from the counterculture of the 1960s. But culture is powerfully conservative. Culture is what enforces obedience to authority, the authority of parents, of history, of customs, of superstition. Deep attachment fo culture is one of the things that prevents different people form understanding one another. It is what pushes groups into compliance with practices that can be good or bad, depending on one’s point of view. Suttee (the practice, eradicated by British colonialism, in which Indian widows were burned alive on the funeral pyres of their husbands) and female circumcision, as well as the spirit of rational inquiry and a belief in the sanctity of each human life, are products of cultural attachments of different kinds. Those who practiced suttee, or who believe that women who commit adultery should be stoned to death, do not believe that there is anything bad about those practices, any more than those who practice rational inquiry under conditions of freedom that there is anything wrong with that.

The reality of culture is something that the ideological multiculturalists would despise, if they knew what it was. The power of culture, especially the culture rooted in ancient traditions, is anathema to the actual goal and ideology of multiculturalism, which does not seek an appreciation of other cultures but operates out of the wishful assumption that the unknown, obscure, neglected, subaltern cultures of the world are actually manifestations of a leftist ideology born out of the particular culture of American and European universities and existing practically no place else.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

ABSENT FROM CLASS

from the HSSSE website at Indiana University
from: edweek.org
Published Online: September 13, 2007


COMMENTARY
Absent From Class
By Will Fitzhugh

There are many important variables to consider in evaluating the causes for academic failure or success in the high school classroom. The training of the teacher, the quality of the curriculum, school safety, the availability of books, and so on are factors studied extensively, and all of them play a part. But I would argue that the most important variable is the student’s actual level of academic work. Why do so many of our high school students do so little of that? The short answer is because they can get away with it.

A close study of the academic demands on students in the vast majority of our high school classrooms would disclose, I feel certain, that one of the principal reasons for students’ boredom is that they really have nothing to do but sit still and wait for the bell. In most classrooms, the chances of a student being called on are slight, and of being called on twice are almost non-existent. If a student is called on and has not done the required reading or other class preparation, most probably the teacher will just call on someone else. There are no real consequences for being unprepared. As a result, many, if not most, students are not capable of contributing in class—or even understanding class discussions—and that can only deepen their boredom.

By contrast, on the football or soccer field, every player is called on in every practice and in nearly every game. Even for players on the bench, there is a constant possibility that they will be asked to perform at any time. If they don’t know what to do then, the embarrassment and disapproval will be swift and obvious. The same also could be said for high school theater productions, performances of the band or chorus, participation in the model United Nations, or almost any other activity they pursue.

In extracurricular activities, the student faces a kind of peer pressure to do well that is usually lacking in the classroom. There, peers may even think it cool for another student to get away with having done no preparation. This may offer insight into findings from the 2005 Indiana University High School Survey of Student Engagement. Of the 80,000 students questioned, 49 percent indicated that they did only three to four hours a week of homework, and yet they still reported getting A’s and B’s. I cannot think of a single high school sport that asks for only three or four hours a week of practice. So little time spent preparing would easily lead to an athletic failure to match the academic failure of so many of our students.

The absence of serious academic demands on the attention and effort of students in our high school classrooms results not only in boredom and daydreaming, but also in the high levels of unproductive media time reported in a 2005 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. That report found that young people spend an average of 6.3 hours a day (44.5 hours a week) with various electronic entertainment media; they’re not doing homework on the computer, merely entertaining themselves.

High school students also, for the most part, find time for an active social life, perhaps a job, and often athletics and other time-consuming hobbies and activities. But not, apparently, for academics.

While we have lots of research studies on test results, teachers’ training, per-pupil expenditures, new curricula, professional workshops, and a host of other educational topics, there is a striking need for close study of what students actually are being asked to do while they are in class. The remarkable fact to me is not that our high school dropout rate is so high, but that so little is being asked of those who do not drop out.

Some claim that if only the teacher were more brilliant or entertaining, boredom could be banished, or that the problem of student engagement could be solved if we just showed enough movies in class, gave enough PowerPoint presentations, or had enough DVDs on “relevant” subject matter on hand. But imagine how absurd it would be to expect students to stay committed to a sport in which they spent their time sitting in the stands while the coach told wonderful stories, showed great movies, or talked amusingly about his or her personal athletic history. The student-athletes come to play, as they should, and their motivation is rewarded by the chance to participate, often with sweat, strain, and even tears.

When we make so few classroom demands on students, we should not wonder why so many of them check out, or are essentially absent from class, whether sitting there or not. If nothing is asked of them, if they are not being challenged academically, then they might as well be turning their attention to other pursuits that could offer rewards greater than passivity and boredom.

The education research community should consider undertaking studies that compare the academic demands on students in the typical high school classroom with those that students face in the other activities in which they take part. Let’s try, moreover, to discover high school classrooms that resemble those in law schools or business schools, where students are expected to be prepared each day and are at risk of being called on to demonstrate that readiness at a moment’s notice. And then let’s find out how these schools motivate their students to pour the same energy and commitment they devote to games or matches into their pursuit of learning.

If we want our high school students to do more academic work, let’s try to figure out how to stop boring and ignoring them in our classes. Let’s give them better reasons not to be “absent from class.”

Will Fitzhugh is the founder and president of The Concord Review, a journal of academic writing by high school students, and the National Writing Board, both located in Sudbury, Mass. [tcr.org]

Vol. 27
High School Survey of Student Engagement
Indiana University

Friday, May 21, 2021

RARE BOOKS

 

RARE BOOKS

Will Fitzhugh
The Concord Review

May 20, 2021

There is a general consensus among EduPundits that teacher quality is more important than student academic work in producing student academic achievement. That is mistaken. There is a general consensus among Social Studies educators that High School students are incapable of reading one complete History book and writing one History research paper each year. That is also wrong. 

We are not surprised that our High School students can take two years of calculus and three years of Mandarin, among other challenging courses, yet we still believe that they are not intellectually strong or diligent enough to make their way through one complete History book. We don’t seem to think they can write a decent research paper either, which has led to all the college expository writing courses which have sprung up over the years to repair their lack of preparation for college work, but that is another topic. 

As a test of this theory that secondary students are unable to read a History book and discuss it until they reach college (if then), the TCR History Seminar has just concluded an 8-week online course of the reading and discussion of actual complete History books, not by High School students, but by Middle School students. 

Middle School students from the U.S., Hong Kong, and China met online with two seminar leaders to read and discuss: The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough, Churchill, by John Keegan, Miss Leavitt’s Stars by George Johnson, and Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife.

The results of this test indicate that the EduPundits and Social Studies educators are quite wrong in their low opinion of the capability of secondary students to read and discuss complete History books. David McCullough is easier than either Calculus or Mandarin.

So long as the English Departments in the schools, with their preference for fiction and personal writing, have a monopoly on standards and assignments for reading and writing, the benefits of this daring test might possibly be lost. It will be up to History and Social Studies educators to take up the challenge, and to ask their students to read complete History books (not brief excerpts and chapters from the textbook) and discuss them. Not only are they likely to be happily surprised by the capabilities thus revealed, but students will actually be on their way to better preparation for reading college books and writing college term papers. They will also have more knowledge and understanding of History and a better appreciation of the civilization they are inheriting. 

Do try it! We should not keep students away from complete ordinary History books by treating them as if they were Rare Books to be locked away in the Library—too precious for ordinary students to read. For more information contact: Steven Lee at steven@TCR History Camp <steven.lee@tcr.org>.


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

KHMER ROUGE

 
Richard Pipes, Communism
A Modern Library Chronicles Book
New York 2001, 132-135


        Just as the Holocaust expressed the quintessential nature of National Socialism, so did the Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia (1975-1978) represent the purest embodiment of Communism: what it turns into when pushed to its logical conclusion. Its leaders would stop at nothing to attain their objective, which was to create the first truly egalitarian society in the world: to this end they were prepared to annihilate as many of their people as they deemed necessary. It was the most extreme manifestation of the hubris inherent in Communist ideology, the belief in the boundless power of an intellectual elite guided by the Marxist doctrine, with resort to unrestrained violence in order completely to reshape life. The result was devastation on an unimaginable scale.

        The leaders of the Khmer Rouge received their higher education in Paris, where they absorbed Rousseau’s vision of “natural man,” as well as the exhortations of Frantz Fanon and Jean-Paul Sartre to violence in the struggle against colonialism. (“One must kill,” Sartre wrote. “To bring down a European is to…suppress at the same time the oppressor and the oppressed.”) On their return to Cambodia, they organized in the northeastern hills a tightly disciplined armed force made up largely of illiterate and semiliterate youths recruited from the poorest peasantry. These troops, for the most part twelve- to fourteen-year-old adolescents, were given intense indoctrination in hatred of all those different from themselves, especially city-dwellers and the Vietnamese minority. To develop a “love of killing and consequently war,” they were trained, like the Nazi SS, in tormenting and slaughtering animals.

        Their time came in early 1975, when the Khmer Rouge overthrew the government of Lon Nol, installed by the Americans, and occupied the country’s capital, Phnom Penh. The population at large had no inkling what lay in store, because in their propaganda the Khmer Rouge promised to pardon servants of the old regime, rallying all classes against the “imperialists” and landowners. Yet the instant Khmer Rouge troops entered Phnom Penh, they resorted to the most radical punitive measures. Convinced that cities were the nidus of all evil—in Fanon’s words, the home of “traitors and knaves”—the Khmer Rouge ordered the capital, with its 2.5 million inhabitants, and all other urban centers to be totally evacuated. The victims, driven into the countryside, were allowed to salvage only what they could carry on their backs. Within one week all Cambodian cities were emptied. Four million people, or 60 percent of the population, suffered exile, compelled to live under the most trying conditions, overworked as well as undernourished. Secondary and higher schools were shut down.

        Then the carnage began. Unlike Mao, whom he admired and followed in many respects, the leader of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot, did not waste time on “reeducation” but proceeded directly to the extermination of those categories of the population whom he suspected of actual or potential hostility to the new order: all civilian and military employees of the old regime, former landowners, teachers, merchants, Buddhist monks, and even skilled workers. Members of these groups, officially relegated to the lowest classes of citizens and deprived of all rights, including access to food rations, were either summarily shot or sent to perform forced labor until they dropped dead from exhaustion. These condemned unfortunates constituted, potentially, over two-thirds of the population. They were systematically arrested, interrogated, and tortured until they implicated others, and then executed. The executions involved entire families, including small children, for Pol Pot believed that dissenting ideas and attitudes, derived from one’s social position, education, or occupation, were “evil microbes” that spread like disease. Members of the Communist Party, considered susceptible to contagion, were also subject to liquidation. After the Vietnamese expelled the Khmer Rouge from Cambodia, they discovered mountains of skulls of its victims.

        The peasants were not spared, being driven into “cooperatives” modeled on the Chinese. The state appropriated all the food produced by these communes and, as in pharaonic Egypt, having stored it in temples and other government depositories, doled it out at its discretion. These measures upset traditional rural practices and led to food shortages that in 1978-1979, following an unusually severe drought, brought a massive famine.

        The killings intensified throughout the forty-four months that the Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia. People were executed for such offenses as being late to work, complaining about food, criticizing the government, or engaging in premarital sex. In sadism, the brutalities were fully comparable to those perpetrated by the Nazis....

        Cases were reported of children being ordered to kill their parents.

        The toll of these massacres was appalling. According to reliable estimates, the population of Cambodia at the time the Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975 was 7.3 million; when the Vietnamese took over in 1978, it has declined to 5.8 million. Allowing for the natural population increase during the intervening four years, it should have been over 8 million. In other words, the Pol Pot regime was responsible for the death or population deficit of some 2 million Cambodian citizens, or over one-quarter of the population. These victims represented the best educated and most skilled elements of the nation. The gruesome experiment has been characterized as a “human tragedy of almost unprecedented proportions [that] occurred because political theoreticians carried out their grand design on the unsuspecting Khmer people.”

        It may be noted that there were no demonstrations anywhere in the world against these outrages and the United Nations passed no resolutions condemning them. The world took them in stride, presumably because they were committed in what was heralded as a noble cause.


[Some Western intellectuals, unwilling to blame this unprecedented slaughter on the Communists, attributed it to the Americans, who in 1969-1973 had bombed Cambodia in an attempt to destroy the Vietcong forces that had sought refuge there. It is difficult to see, however, why the Cambodians’ rage against the Americans would vent itself in the killing of 2 million of their own people...]