How America’s Children Became Progressive Political Activists

How America’s Children Became Progressive Political Activists

With so many of our young people emerging as leftist adults, what will our country look like politically a decade from now?
Loyd Pettegrew and Jim McCoy
By

The recent appearance of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg at the United Nations Climate Summit illustrates the new level of leftist activism among the nation’s young people — advancing notions such as “our future is in jeopardy” and “we will be the last generation to survive.”

Her “green” trip across the Atlantic to New York on a carbon-fiber sailboat was financed by Pierre Casiraghi, BMW, the Monaco Yacht Club, and EFG, a Swiss financial group. Thunberg’s hysteria was propagated by Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has pronounced the Earth will end in 12 years unless we adopt her Green New Deal. Those in their late teens and early 20s hear incessant calls within colleges and universities for safe spaces, liberation summits, complaints of microaggressions, and imperatives to stay “woke” against a myriad of right-wing tyrannies.

Why have many of today’s young people have become so politically active, particularly for far-left causes? First, we document the activist sensibilities of American youth. Then, we present the manner by which young people have become indoctrinated. Finally, we suggest what American society will be like when this generation of young people assumes political and financial control.

Trends Show America’s Kids Becoming Farther Left

The New York Times ran a story in early 2019 documenting that Gen Zers and millennials are more progressive in their political outlook than even baby boomers, especially on social issues. Pew Research Center did a national study published in 2019 of 10,682 Americans of the silent generation (74-90), baby boomers (54-73, Gen Xers (38-53), millennials (22-37), and Gen Zers (13-21). It found that millennials and Gen Zers were farther left than earlier generations and that even Republican-leaning members of these cohorts were more leftist-minded.

The question is how this change occurred. The easy answer is that since so many young people are enrolling in colleges and universities, their left-leaning professors are strongly influencing their points of view. There is ample data documenting this reality, particularly a 2018 study by Mitchell Langbert, “Homogenous: The Political Affiliations of Elite Liberal Arts College Faculty,” and a 2012 study by Neil Gross and Ethan Fosse, “Why are Professors Liberal?” along with Gallup and Pew polling.

Another contributing factor is parental influence. Psychology Today documents that over the past 20-plus years, parents have been teaching their children that they can succeed at everything just by participating — the participation trophy syndrome. For at least 20 years, many parents have been coddling their children, not forcing them to deal with the realities of a competitive world.

Yet as long as we have a capitalistic society, which by definition is competitive, young people won’t be rewarded for just showing up. This parenting style came a cropper recently when parents were found guilty of putting their thumbs on the scale for their children’s college admission. With this indulgent parenting, is it any wonder students buy into the reinforcing political reality their teachers paint?

K-12 and College Teachers Are Overwhelmingly Leftist

History sadly reveals the overwhelming effects education can have on young people’s social orientation. News is filled with stories of Chinese indoctrination of college students, many of whom come to the United States to carry out espionage on our campuses.

Research cited by the Pacific Research Institute documents that most K-12 teachers lean liberal and vote Democrat by an 8-1 margin. Another study by Verdant Labs indicates that K-12 teachers vote Democrat on a 10-to-1 basis. Teacher unions are overwhelmingly leftist and fund the Democratic Party exclusively, supporting its social agendas.

A good example of this is teacher strikes, in which teachers abandon their jobs, often for weeks, forcing administrators and temporary teachers to cover their classes. In 2019 alone, there have been teacher strikes in Arizona, California, Virginia, Connecticut, Colorado, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. Teachers are not the only education strikers. It has been estimated that in New York alone, more than 1.1 million students went on strike from their schools on Sept. 20 in support of the United Nations Climate Action Summit.

The Double-Edged Sword of Social Media on Youths

Young people have grown up with and become inextricably attached to social media, and when coupled with their desire for both belonging and attention, they are easily exploited for “woke” causes. As the Thunberg speech at the U.N., the climate action school strikes, and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting March for Our Lives protest reveal, plenty of Gen Zers are more than happy to become shills for leftist causes.

For example, leftist help fostered the national gun control March for Our Lives event, organized by Everytown, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. It was abetted by 42 West, a national public relations firm, and received funding from Michael Bloomberg and Delta Airlines, which provided more than 1,000 free tickets to Washington, D.C., for participants. Tellingly, Everytown’s motto is, “To harness the power of young people across the country to fight for sensible gun violence prevention policies that save lives.”

Nowhere was there mention or consideration of the deeper reason for these gun deaths recently brought up by Andrew Pollack, father of Meadow, one of the victims in the Stoneman Douglas shooting. His new book with Max Eden, “Why Meadow Died,” blames the social justice mindset of the Broward County School Board and President Obama’s education policies that mandated “restorative justice” in public schools.

This program mainstreams students with disabilities and psychological problems into standard classrooms. The plan to re-proportion discipline forced schools not to have a disproportionate number of minority or special services students referred for discipline. Consequently, disruptive and violence-prone students have been allowed to remain in class to meet this quota.

Nikolas Cruz, the Stoneman Douglas shooter, had 45 police visits to his home for violent acts, including assault and numerous disciplinary procedures while at school. After two years of terrorizing his classmates, Cruz was finally suspended from Stoneman Douglas on Feb. 8, 2017. After continued complaints by neighbors and fellow classmates, he returned to his school on Feb. 14, 2018, and killed 16 students and one faculty member. The FBI all the while failed to take seriously reports that he had bought a gun and announced on social media he was going to kill people.

How K-12 Teachers Get Indoctrinated

While there is no definitive data on the political affiliation of faculty in schools of education in U.S. universities, our experience and initial research suggests that like other schools, their faculty are predominantly left-liberal and push earnestly this political point of view on their students who populate the teaching core of America’s K-12 school system.

A clear example of how leftist doctrines have infiltrated the U.S. public education system can be seen in the preparation programs of history teachers. Most colleges and universities outsource the preparation of history teachers to colleges of social science. The preponderance of history courses are taught in colleges of social science, among the most progressive area in the academy.

Consequently, in these history courses, a captious approach to U.S. history is taken with an emphasis on pointing out the social and economic injustices that, in the minds of liberal faculty members, define our nation’s history. At the same time, in college, teacher candidates are immersed in the concepts of equality, diversity, and social justice in education. These core principles have in many respects become the foundational pillars of modern public education. This holds not only for teachers but also education administrators.

Certainly, equality and diversity must be considered in all education practices. Nonetheless, when they overshadow the merits of individual initiative, talent, and achievement, as Thomas Sowell argues, the social justice mindset advances, and perhaps the pendulum has swung too far. When equality and diversity become major factors in determining scholastic recognition, awards, and opportunities, is that fair to the student who was rightly next in line due solely to his or her own efforts and an objective review of the data?

When these two preparation approaches are combined in the training of our history teachers, there is a tendency to indoctrinate rather than educate our youth. This indoctrination can have serious consequences, especially at the ballot box. Many young members of Generation Z and millennials favor a socialist form of government rather than capitalism. One might reflect on an old adage, “What good are the eyes, if the mind is blind.” A misinformed electorate can be as dangerous to our democracy as an uninformed electorate.

Influencing Corporations and Government

Being kept by helicopter parents and the progressive policies of the nanny state are the warp and weft of too many younger people’s consciousness. In fact, the whole premise of Democratic socialism, which most Democratic presidential hopefuls promote, is that the government will take care of you. This is also illustrated by young politicians such as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley — “the squad,” as President Trump calls them.

These radicalized women want so-called Medicare for all, the Green New Deal, the government to pay off college loans, universal basic income for everyone, open U.S. borders, an additional wealth tax, and other “nanny state” socialist policies. They pander to young people who want more from taxpayers while paying little or no income or payroll tax. American Enterprise Institute tax expert Mark Perry presents data revealing that in 2018, the top .001 percent of U.S. taxpayers paid $12 billion more in taxes than the top 50 percent of taxpayers combined. Forty-two percent of Americans pay no taxes at all.

With so many of our young people emerging as leftist adults, what will our country look like politically a decade from now? As the Zen master in the Charlie Wilson’s War film was fond of saying, “We’ll see.” But things do not portend well for our nation in the near future. Socialist Democrats such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are garnering considerable support from Democrats for the 2020 presidential race. Many now look to Ocasio-Cortez as the de facto leader of the Democratic Party.

For the first time ever, a 2019 Gallup poll reveals that less than 50 percent of Democrats have a positive view of capitalism, while 57 percent have a positive view of socialism. Forty-seven percent said they would vote for a socialist presidential candidate. Forty-six percent of Democrats now identify as “politically liberal.”

Pew Research Center tracked the percentage of boomers versus Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z voters. In the 2018 election, this younger group outvoted baby boomers by 2 percentage points and made up 51 percent of all voters, or 88.3 million. Pew argues the group’s impact will be even greater in the 2020 election. The 2020 election and onward does not bode well for capitalism or conservatism in the United States.

Loyd Pettegrew is a Professor Emeritus in Communications at the University of South Florida, and Jim McCoy is an Associate Professor Emeritus in the College of Education & Development at Southern Utah University.

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