A well-known Australian writer has warned young people about the perils of preferring socialism to capitalism in response to a recent survey showing millennials are mostly positive about that style of government.
News Limited columnist Chris Mitchell cautioned the millennial generation, born between the years 1980 and 2000, against having false illusions about the realities of life in a socialist system.
“Millennials need to be careful what they wish for lest they discover how hard life was without the growth neo-liberalism has generated,” he said in an opinion piece published in The Australian, on March 4. “They could try to find out why Scandinavians have abandoned the dead hand of state socialism … and they could ponder how their grandparents and great grandparents coped as young people with two world wars, the Great Depression, the Korean and Vietnam wars.”
Mitchell made the remark in response to an opinion piece penned by Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) Director Tom Switzer who was unhappy about mainstream media ignoring a June 2018 report, expressing concern about most millennials having a favourable view of socialism as an ideology.
He claimed less than a third of millennials surveyed knew Australia spends a lot more on health and education than 10 years ago and more than half falsely believed spending on these two sectors has fallen.
“An even greater percentage believe workers are worse off now than they were 40 years ago,” Switzer said in a public statement. “This fundamental misunderstanding of Australia’s economic and fiscal position is deeply concerning.”
The CIS/YouGov Galaxy poll found 73 percent of millennials had heard of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler but only 21 percent knew about Chinese Communist Party founder Mao Zedong.
Adding Socialism to Curriculum
Switzer suggested adding the history of communism and socialism to state educational curriculum could help address the lack of public awareness, which seems to be prompting millennials to think socialism is not so bad after all.
“Millennials have a limited knowledge of the 20th century’s bloody and botched experiments with socialism,” Switzer said. “It is important to educate people on its brutal history, in order that socialism’s flawed promises of wealth redistribution and equality are not confused with its horrific practical shortcomings … communism and socialism were responsible for the deaths of up to 100 million people in the 20th century–as many as both world war combined.”
Mitchell supports Switzer’s view that better education would help remove any false views people may have about the realities of socialism.
“To my mind, favourable attitudes to socialism among the young reflect the dominance of left-wing thought in school education,” he said. “Rigorous education, hard work, saving, and personal responsibility rather than government-imposed socialism lifted them from poverty.”
He accuses leftist supporters, including teacher union officials, teacher educators, and politicians, of propagating the left’s social agenda through the education system.
He gave the example of former Victorian Premier Joan Kirner, and minister of education, who admitted “education has to be reshaped so it is part of the socialist struggle for equality … rather than an instrument of the capitalist system.”
Mitchell also pointed to former Griffith University lecturer in the school of education Gregory Martin’s comment that a “major task for leftist academics is … to connect education with community struggles for social justice.”
Since there has been such severe influencing of the education system Mitchell believes it will take a lot of work before the system can return to how it used to be. He referred to former Australian Education Union federal President Pat Byrne’s 2005 comment, “We have succeeded in influencing curriculum development … conservatives have a lot of work to do to undo the progressive curriculum.”
Mitchell questioned the necessity of teaching techniques of literary deconstruction in primary and high schools and suggested they could instead be reserved for university literature courses. “[This is because] texts must be analysed in terms of their role in reinforcing capitalist hegemony over the disempowered and disadvantaged, such as women, migrants and the poor,” according to Australian Catholic University senior research fellow Kevin Donnelly.
Former federal Minister for Education David Kemp separately complained the national curriculum placed too much emphasis on Aboriginal history and spirituality and not enough on Western civilisation and traditional economic and personal liberalism, which “received almost no mention in the Australian National Curriculum” said his new book, “The Land of Dreams: How Australians Won Their Freedom.”
“Teachers and educators rightly say the world is changing, old curricula derived from the UK no longer take account of the increasing importance of East Asia, and that in an age swamped by mass media children need to be taught how to think for themselves rather than what to think,” Mitchell said.
“All true, but the best education systems privilege traditional rigour and the role of teachers. International studies confirm this and point to Singapore, Japan, Finland and Shanghai for their success, while Australian students slip on international comparisons.”