2023 National Seminar for Middle School and High School Educators

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation hosted the 8th annual National Seminar for Middle and High School Educators from July 10 through July 14, 2023. Teachers from public, private, and home school programs and those interested in education attended the week-long event at the Victims of Communism Museum in Washington, DC, where they learned from top academic experts about the foundational concepts and key figures in the history of Communism, and the over 100 million victims killed in just over 100 years. Educators also heard first-person testimony from survivors of communist rule and received instruction from leading experts. They also learned about the newest tools and curriculum resources to teach their students about the legacy of communism and its ongoing threat to freedom.

Unfortunately, many of today’s school children—America’s future leaders—have not been given a solid grounding in American civics, history, or our unique constitutional government. Many more have never been exposed to a crucial comparative study of totalitarian communism versus individual and economic freedom. That is why on July 10-14, teachers from across the country convened in Washington, DC to hear from prominent academic experts on how to better understand and learn strategies that are the most effective in teaching students about communism, its Marxist ideology, history, and impact today.

Seminar faculty included Dr. Paul Kengor, Professor of Political Science at Grove City College, Soviet-born Dr. Naya Lekht, who immigrated to the US in 1989 and spoke on the communists’ powerful use of propaganda in film, literature, and art, Steven W. Mosher, social scientist and anti-communist, Catherine O’Connor, Dr. Jonathan Pidluzny, Director of Higher Education Reform Initiative at the America First Policy Institute, Dr. Elizabeth Spalding, VOC Board Chairman and Founding Director of the Victims of Communism Museum, and Dr. F. Flagg Taylor IV, VOC Academic Council and Associate Professor of Government at Skidmore College.

Seminar attendees also met and heard the unforgettable stories of the victims and survivors of communist regimes. Men and women such as Tanel Kapper who refused to take an oath to serve in the Soviet Army and took incredible steps to escape from Siberia, Channy Chhi Laux, a survivor of the brutal Cambodian Khmer Rouge’s genocidal regime, David Smolansky, the former mayor of El Hatillo municipality in Caracas, Venezuela who called out Maduro about political prisoners and was subsequently removed from office by the Maduro administration and forced to flee Venezuela, and Lily Tang Williams, a compelling advocate for freedom against the Chinese Communist Party’s regime of oppression.

The teachers received a private tour of the Victims of Communism Museum from its Founding Director, Dr. Elizabeth Spalding, as well as Dr. Flagg Taylor. Teachers also had the chance to participate in break out sessions and discuss tools for classroom pedagogy. Dr. Lee Edwards, Founding Chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, and Brandy Shufutinsky, from the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values, each gave briefings to the teachers during a luncheon. Major Sam Gildner gave a special briefing on the situation in Ukraine.

“The parallels between what is happening in our own country, and the upheaval thrust upon those living in the Russian Empire and subsequent Communist conquests were striking, from taking control of the media, to inciting mistrust of government institutions, the Church, and within the family. Thank you VOC for bringing teachers together to give them a framework for teaching these important lessons so that we can help our students embrace the need to stand firm against this ideological assault on truth.”

– Laura Libanati is a graduate of the 2023 National Seminar for Middle and High School Educators