Twenty years ago, socialism was a dirty word.

How times have changed.

Among many young people today, it’s now a badge of moral decency.

According to recent polling, the majority of millennials believe that supporting Democrat socialist candidates and income equality makes you a compassionate person. Many, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), find capitalism evil and “irredeemable.”

One Axios study found that 61% of Americans between 18 and 24 view socialism positively. In another study, 55% of working-age women said they would rather live in a socialist country than a capitalist one.  

Never mind that the idea that socialist systems are kinder and more compassionate is completely unfounded. In fact, the evidence suggests otherwise.

Consider Venezuela’s economic crisis.

Socialist policies, not corruption, have led to the total collapse of its economy. The oil-rich country once had the fourth largest GDP in the world. When Chavez gained power in 1999, he nationalized private industry, instituted price controls, and expanded the welfare program. Hyperinflation and food shortages have caused millions to flee the country in recent years.

Consider human rights abuses in socialist and communist countries.  In the 1940s over 75,000 people were jailed for attempting to flee East Germany. The western, capitalist region afforded far superior wealth and human rights protections.

In China from 1958-1962, Mao Zedong abolished private property and killed 45 million of his own people.

Today more Americans hold college degrees than any other time in history. If Americans are better educated today, why do they support an economic system that has disenfranchised so many people?

Clearly, a key reason is the intellectual corruption of the U.S. education system.

The problem in high schools is not so much what is taught, but what is not taught. Students do not learn about the Cold War, Mao Zedong, or Pol Pot. Without historical context, the promises of socialism are appealing.

For years American universities have ceased to be learning centers. Fewer and fewer students exit college with a general knowledge of history. Young people are ignorant of the widespread suffering socialists caused in the 20th century.

Being ignorant of history explains why millennials don’t share older generations’ disdain for socialist candidates.

Yet, the question remains – why do young people emphatically favor socialism?

Part of the reason has to do with the rise of leftist ideological education beginning in the 1960s.  The university system has neglected empirical study in order to teach students to be advocates of social justice.  Taking after Marx, universities teach students to view each event in history as a power struggle between the oppressors and the oppressed.

A traditional approach to literature requires students to conduct a close reading of a text, study a work’s historical context, and learn how an author’s life informed his work. This kind of study is almost extinct.

A materialist approach to literature dominates the academy. Students are not expected to make evidence-based arguments. They no longer have to perform the hard work of understanding the original meaning of a text. Students must only describe how each character fits into a narrative of oppression.

It is a stretch to argue that every act of history is an instance of oppression. However, students who question the accuracy of social justice interpretations are accused of perpetuating racism, classism, or sexism.

Cultural studies classes have always been concerned with social justice issues. The difference today is that classes previously reserved for cultural studies programs now comprise the core curriculum.  

At New York University, students may fulfill core curriculum requirements with classes such as “#BlackLanguageMatters,” “Fiction, Feminism, and the #MeToo Movement,” or “Free speech, Hate Speech, and Political Correctness.”

At Yale, the course “Trans Histories of North America” may fulfill the social science distribution requirement. Students study “histories of gender variance” and “postmodern figurations of gendered embodiment.”

The college curriculum is much of the reason why Americans are drawn to socialism. Although capitalism is the most just economic system, it does not guarantee perfect equality.

A 2018 Gallup poll found that 23% of Americans believe socialism is the same as equality. To those who have been taught to view the events of history as oppression based on class, gender, or race, a socialist system is appealing.

This election cycle, there are voters who remember Pol Pot and other oppressive regimes of the 20th century. But in coming elections, there will be no voters who remember firsthand the consequences of socialist policies.

Young people may sincerely believe that socialism is kinder and gentler than capitalism.  But history has shown us that kind intentions divorced from reality can destroy lives. As the old proverb goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”