The Volokh Conspiracy

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Teachers Union: Oppose Bill Mandating Teaching Dangers of Communism Because Many Communist Countries Are Asian


From Fox News (Bradford Betz) last week:

Virginia Democrats last week rejected a bill that would have required schools to teach about the dangers and victims of communism after the state's largest teachers union argued that it may encourage anti-Asian sentiment.

Emily Yen, a research coordinator for the Virginia Education Association (VEA), said the union opposed HB 1816 because four out of five current communist regimes are in Asian countries.

"We are concerned that this bill would subject Asian-American students to anti-Asian sentiments," she said.

Today the five remaining communist regimes are China, Laos, North Korea, and Vietnam—all in East Asia—as well as Cuba, which is in the Caribbean.

The proposed bill would have required public schools to "suitably observe[] Nov. 7 as Victims of Communism Day"; would have taken the existing provision that, "The Board of Education shall include in the Standards of Learning for history and social science the study of contributions to society of diverse people" (with "diverse" defined to "include[] consideration of disability, ethnicity, race, and gender"), and added "and the study of the dangers of communism"; and would have required school boards to include that in part of the curriculum that they developed.

That seems reasonable to me: Teaching about the dangers of communism strikes me as comparably important to teaching about the dangers of, say, Nazism—which I presume Virginia schools do in the history of World War II—or specifically about the Holocaust, which I understand Virginia schools are also required to do. "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Naturally, any such teaching should be done honestly and thoughtfully, as real history rather than propaganda; but it sounds like an important lesson that Virginia students should learn.

But whatever you might think of whether this should be mandated by state educational standards, the Virginia Education Association's argument quoted above is ridiculous. Of course, any history of the dangers of communism would talk about the atrocities of European (Russian-led) Communism at least as much as of Asian Communism, and would note that the victims of Asian Communism were overwhelmingly themselves Asian (as the victims of European Communism were overwhelmingly themselves European).

But beyond that, history is history, and needs to be taught regardless of whether some fools do racist things because of it. Are we going to stop learning about World War II or 9/11 because those might lead to attacks on Japanese-Americans or American Muslims? No, wait, let's not give anyone any ideas ….

In any event, I decided to check to make sure that the VEA spokeswoman's statements were quoted correctly. Here's the answer from her:

There are several peer-reviewed research studies suggesting that Asian American students have faced an increased amount of racial discrimination since the start of the pandemic. Since China, Laos, Vietnam, North Korea, and Cuba are the only countries that currently have communist regimes, there is a strong association between communism and Asians. One of the reasons the Virginia Education Association opposed HB 1816 was out of concern that students of Asian descent would be subjected to additional anti-Asian sentiment.

For more examples of this, see the China Kinda Sus incident (Emerson College) and the Univ. of San Diego Law School Investigating Professor for Post Critical of China incident. Thanks to Prof. Glenn Reynolds (InstaPundit) for the pointer.