Parents, government, civics and economics teachers: This request is for you. I received the following message this past week in my YouTube inbox, doubtless as a result of my delayed moderation of this user’s comment on my 9 year old daughter’s YouTube response video to President Obama’s speech to students in September. The short message points out how clear our need is today for better learning opportunities about forms of government and economic systems both inside and outside of schools.

Incentive for better learning about government

Political science was one of my undergraduate majors, so I likely studied governmental systems more than many folks in college, but even a basic introduction to both governmental and economic systems should provide enough knowledge to distinguish between a governmental leader advocating communist policies versus one advocating socialist or regulated capitalist policies. It appears the author of this YouTube message needs a primer on communism 101. I’m not naively thinking I or anyone else could easily change this person’s clearly antagonistic and negative perceptions of President Obama, but hopefully any good teacher could help a learner like this one understand some basic facts about communism.

When I visited Shanghai in September of 2007, I was amazed to experience firsthand how the communism I studied in college was clearly NOT the communism of modern China.

Chinese Communist party propoganda poster

We still call China a “communist” country, but it could be more helpful to refer to the nation as a totalitarian regime which continues to hybridize a centrally controlled society with capitalism. As I noted in my September 2007 post, “Typhoons do include a lot of rain,” a powerful spirit of entrepreneurial creativity and energy pervades parts of eastern China, and this is NOT something you’d expect in a “communist” country according to the model of communism we learned in school in the late 20th century. It’s also surprising, of course, to witness our U.S. President using billions of tax dollars to bail out a motley assortment of financial lending institutions, automotive manufacturers, and others. I’m definitely not saying I’ve agreed with all the actions our President has taken to address our economic crisis, but I definitely am not under any delusions that he is striving to impose a communist agenda on the United States.

When someone says or writes something like, “Obama is a communist,” they may be justifiably upset and angry, but they are almost certainly poorly informed about the basics of political and economic systems. No, President Obama is NOT “a communist.” Check out the WikiPedia articles on communism, Marx, Lenin, and Mao to begin an investigation of why this is not the case. Refer to the “Variations of Communism” on the English WikiPedia site, “Portal: Communism” to explore further. You’ll see President Obama is not listed there as an adherent. This is not a left or right wing conspiracy: He is not listed there because his actions and statements do not represent or reflect the goals of communism in any of its forms.

Parents, can you help us remedy this cognitive “missing piece” for many in our future electorate? Government, civics and economics teachers, do you want to help tackle this one? How about debate teachers and coaches?

Signs like these, just like the email I received on YouTube, can clearly get attention– but what they really say is, “Don’t regard my opinion as serious or valid. I don’t have a clue about what communism was historically or is currently.”

protest sign claiming President Obama is a communist allied with the former Soviet Union

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