How do we as American teachers try to help our students understand external socio-political settings more fully?How can we approach external settings such as police state in Romania without...

How do we as American teachers try to help our students understand external socio-political settings more fully?

How can we approach external settings such as police state in Romania without denouncing them as simply evil. There is a reason these states exist. There was a beautiful dream behind what led to the state the citizens find themselves in.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The question makes the assumption that the establishment of the Communist apparatus in Eastern European nations represented a "beautiful dream."  There can be severe and heavy debate that this was not a "beautiful dream" as much it was a construction of power.  Yet, even if one concedes this point, I think that we are still able to question such regimes as being unaware that their "beautiful dreams" could serve as the pretext for deposition and the silencing of rights.  In studying these past elements, I think that it is vitally important to examine how the political philosophy adopted in these countries ended up serving as a front for the inevitable control and domination that resulted.  I think that it is completely fair to blame these governments for embracing a political approach that was made to be coopted into one of control or for refusing to stop the perversion of their "beautiful dream."  Even if we take the most sympathetic view of Ceausescu, something very hard to do, one has to suggest that any time a leader turns weapons on his own people or silences voices, they have to be held responsible.  Nothing can justify the liquidation of voice, no matter how beautiful a dream is being pursued.  It is for this reason why liberal democracy, far from beautiful, will always remain a more beautiful vision because of its embedded notion of individual rights.   At some level, it is fair to hold governments accountable for their own visions becoming something that they did not control, but rather ended up controlling them.  Consider how Czech author and thinker Milan Kundera framed this in his work, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting:

I emphasize: idyll and for all, because all human beings have always aspired to an idyll, to that garden where nightingales sing, to that realm of harmony where the world does not rise up as a stranger against man and man against other men, but rather where the world and all men are shaped from one and the same matter. There, everyone is a note in a sublime Bach fugue, and anyone who refuses to be one is a mere useless and meaningless black dot that need only be smudged out between thumb and finger like a flea.

Kundera's quote emphasizes the idea of "the beautiful dream" that might have existed in Romania and other Eastern European nations.  Ceausescu's vision might have been seen as "beautiful."  Yet, the moment in which opposition or dissent is deemed as "meaningless" and "smudged out," it becomes fair to offer critique and condemnation.   The motivations or intent is secondary to the loss of life, which has to be seen as a realization that the dream was not as "beautiful" as initially thought.

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