How many former East Germans would vote for Bernie?

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President Kennedy stands on an observation platform to look over the Berlin Wall towards East Berlin. (AP Photo)

President Kennedy stands on an observation platform to look over the Berlin Wall towards East Berlin. (AP Photo)

Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist, is seriously challenging frontrunner Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination for president. Sanders is particularly popular among young voters – those we now call “millennials.”

His message is every bit as seductive as it is wrong. Socialism always sounds good – we work according to our abilities and receive according to our needs. It sounds just wonderful.

The trouble is it doesn’t work.

For there to be wealth to share, wealth must first be created. For wealth to be created, risks must be taken and work must be done. The farmer plants his field in the full knowledge that the rains may never come. Absent potential reward, the farmer will do little more than feed his own family. He will risk nothing to feed other families.

The idea that people will take risks and work hard in order to simply surrender the fruits to some grandly conceived collective is fantasy. The pages of history prove it. No socialist society has ever prospered. When tried on a grand scale, such as in the Soviet Union for most of the 20th century, the result was profound and widespread suffering.

Our schools used to teach these things. They don’t so much any more.

Young people today don’t know that for 30 years Germany provided what was possibly the best possible real-time laboratory for comparing free markets and socialism.

Following World War II, the Soviet Union got control of roughly one third of Germany. The Soviets controlled what came to be called East Germany. They ran it as a communist nation.

“West Germany” (officially simply “Germany” for U.S. diplomatic recognition purposes) had regained its pre-war sovereignty. “West” Germany was free, democratic and capitalistic.

The contrast could not have been more stark. To the west, there was prosperity, growth and faith in the future. Literally a few yards away, on the other side of the wall, there was a police state still piled high with war rubble. German citizens who were unfortunate enough to get trapped in East Germany suffered chronic shortages, stagnation and grinding hopelessness. Those who tried to leave were shot.

My social studies teachers – Mrs. Everhart, Miss Campbell and Miss McCormick – taught us these things. Today’s social studies teachers (not all, I admit, but way too many) talk about income inequality, “corporate greed” and the irredeemable flaws baked into America’s DNA at its founding.

Hillary can’t quite close the deal against Bernie Sanders for the simple reason that if he appears on the ballot, there’s a good chance that your kid’s social studies teacher will vote for him. (Don’t bet, however, that he or she taught your kid about the Berlin Wall.)

Each successive generation of kids comes into the world hard-wired to believe in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy and socialism.

They eventually outgrow Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. But because our schools no longer function as they once did, too many of them grow up believing in the likes of Bernie Sanders.

Paul Gleiser

Paul L. Gleiser is president of Gleiser Communications, LLC, licensee of radio stations KTBB 97.5 FM/AM600, 92.1 The Team FM & KYZS in Tyler-Longview, Texas.

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7 Responses

  1. Linda E Montrose says:

    I am glad that I was in school before it was taken over by communists. I was actually taught about REAL HISTORY, not revisionist history!!! Hitler was known for taking the children and making them into little soldiers early, teaching them what he wanted them to know. I believe that is called BRAINWASHING, which is what schools are doing nowdays instead of teaching anything of purpose. People were asleep at the wheel when their children’s education was at stake and this is the results.

  2. A Real Teacher says:

    Dear Sir:

    As a social studies teacher, I not only found your remarks asinine and insulting, but also fallacious. The procedure outlined in the Constitution elects the President, not some shadowy conspiracy by educators. If the people elect a Socialist, they will do so in a democratic manner. Furthermore, I have taught my students about the Berlin Wall. I have also taught them to think for themselves, and to cast their vote according to their own conscience. I will never influence my students for or against a candidate or party. To do so is not only insulting to their own right to vote, it’s also the height of poor manners.
    Did anyone take time to teach you that?

    • Paul Gleiser says:

      Sir or madam:

      Nowhere in my piece did I suggest that teachers should influence students “for or against a candidate.” But I do not accept the blanket idea of letting students think for themselves.

      My point in the piece is that my teachers knew that kids my age couldn’t “think for themselves” absent a good foundation of fundamental knowledge. That foundation — when I was a kid — included a solid understanding given to us by our teachers about socialism’s negative impact on liberty and prosperity.

      They correctly pointed out that any political or economic system that requires walls and barbed wire to keep citizens from leaving is by definition a failure.

      You say you taught your students about the Berlin Wall. Did you include in those lessons that the economic model that spawned it ultimately collapsed?

      Paul L. Gleiser

  3. A Real Teacher says:

    Indeed I did Mr. Gleiser. I also give them a solid foundation of knowledge, and then let them make up their own minds.
    Your historical information is entirely accurate, but you did a disservice to the profession in which I and many others take immense pride. I teach free thinkers, not robots. Surely as a student of history, you can appreciate the value of free thought vs. being taught what to think. One method created Socrates, John Locke, de Montesquieu, and Jefferson. The other created East Germany, North Korea, and fundamentalist Iran. Any 11 year old in social studies class can tell the difference, regardless of who I vote for.

    • David Williams says:

      Regardless of how much pride truly good teachers can take in their work, government schools are generally full of teachers who do not know this information themselves. Mr. Gleiser’s comments are a generalization, and not meant to be taken personally by the few good teachers we have. Incidentally, teaching students to think for themselves or make up their own mind is often used as an excuse for throwing away or ignoring the combined wisdom of all the generations who have gone before us. Everyone needs to be taught what to think on some fundamental level so they have mental tools with which to expand on previous thought. A teacher would never let a student come to their own conclusions about how the laws of mathematics are to be applied, because it took thousands of years and minds to arrive at that knowledge. Why then would a teacher allow his student to come to their own conclusions about any topic after merely relaying information with no explanation?

      • David Williams says:

        I might add, Hugh Hefner, Nero, and Hitler also valued free thought for themselves, if not others, and were willing to try new ideas. On the other hand, Socrates, Locke, de Montesquieu, and Jefferson all took great care to learn what others thought before forming their own opinion. As Jefferson himself explained after drafting the Declaration of Independence, it was largely a collection of what other great minds had thought previously, and not Jefferson’s own ‘free thinking’!

  4. Katherine Williams says:

    Excellent commentary! Two people I have known for many years, one now in administration at a public school and the other a recent graduate from a public school, exclaimed at a gathering that, “communism was a good idea”. This was not a view embraced by their families! The administrator reasoned it was because in countries like ours, “people aren’t spending their money properly” that communism was a legitimate alternative. The student reasoned, communism failed because, “not everyone was willing to participate”. Only unchallenged, unaccountable government indoctrination (education) could produce such a drastic worldview change in just one generation. It should be noted that both people had great / grandfathers who fought in World War II!

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