The Anaheim High School Unified School District has directed a progressive student political club at Anaheim High School to stop describing itself as a “politburo” – a term inextricably linked to Communist atrocities world-wide and offensive to Southeast Asian immigrants who suffered at the hands of Communist regimes.
The ostensible mission of AnaheimBROS, an Anaheim High School student club, is combatting “negative stereotypes of young Latino men.” Practically speaking, they’re foot soldiers for progressive political candidates and causes in Anaheim – most recently walking precincts for leftist Democrat council candidate Jose F. Moreno in District 3, and recording anti-charter school videos for YouTube. Ryan Ruelas is their mentor and one of their faculty advisers; Ruelas teaches history, is a member of the California Teachers Association state council, serves on the Anaheim Elementary School District Board of Education and is leader of progressive political activists in Anaheim.
The AnaheimBROS leaders also refer to themselves as “the Politburo” – as in “Yuri Andropov was the first member of the KGB to serve on the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.”
Here are the BROS making a presentation at the California Teachers Association Summer Institute earlier this month (“politburo” circled in red by OC Daily):
According to any dictionary, a politburo is the executive committee and chief policy-making body of a Communist Party. It has no other context.
OC Daily contacted Ruelas and Anaheim Union High School District Superintendent Michael Matsuda via e-mail with several questions about the club’s use of the word “politburo”:
- A politburo is the executive committee and chief policymaking body of a Communist Party; there’s no ambiguity about the meaning of the term. Why did these AnaheimBROS students choose to describe themselves using a term so inseparably identified with Communist parties?
- Do members of AnaheimBROS understand what a politburo is? And the central role Communist Party politburos have played in inflicting massive human suffering and death since 1917?
- Was the district and/or their faculty advisor and mentor, Mr. Ruelas, aware of and/or approve AnaheimBROS describing its leadership as a politburo?
- Communist regimes and movements are responsible for the deaths of an estimated 94 million people worldwide. Approximately 20,000 Vietnamese-Americans live in the city served by AUHSD. Given that an estimated 1 million Vietnamese have been killed by Communist violence, do you believe appropriate, and sensitive to the cultural-historical heritage of AUSHD’s Vietnamese students, for an AUHSD student club to use the term “politburo” to describe its leadership?
- Do the AnaheimBROS intend to continue using “politburo” to describe the club’s leadership?
“A Teachable Moment”
Superintendent Matsuda responded soon afterward to tell OC Daily that “they’ve made a correction.” When asked to be more specific, Matsuda said he spoke with Ruelas about the matter, and the BROS would no longer be using the term politburo.
“It’s teachable moment,” said Matsuda, who also agreed it wasn’t a good choice of terminology given its communist association and the historical experience of the AUHSD’s Vietnamese students and constituents.
According to Matsuda, AnaheimBROS members began referring to themselves as the politburo after club members took AP European History a few years ago.
“They weren’t thinking about it in terms of communism,” said Matsuda, “but about change.” He confirmed Ruelas was aware club members called themselves the BROS Politburo.
When OC Daily asked how the students could have emerged from an AP European History thinking of “politburo” in anything but a negative light, Matsuda didn’t know but emphasized again that it was “a teachable moment.”
How Could They Not Know?
It is a good thing the AUHSD will no longer allow the leadership of a high-profile student political club to describe itself as a politburo. At the same time, this episode raises disturbing questions.
Ryan Ruelas knew his students referred to themselves the Politburo. As a history teacher, he must have known what a politburo was and the full weight of the term’s historical meaning. And yet, he allowed his charges to label themselves with a term synonymous with a murderous totalitarian ideology that has killed more human beings than other other force in human history.
Implicit in Superintendent Matsuda’s explanations is belief the BROS didn’t realize the nature of a politburo and why it is a bad thing. Advanced Placement European History is taken by bright, intelligent students; it’s not a course one sleeps through. What does it say about Anaheim High School’s AP European History course that students could finish it and consider “politburo” to be a cool symbol of change?
Strictly speaking , Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro were “change agents.” Violent, mass murderous change: millions of kulaks liquidated by the Bolsheviks; the tens of millions of Chinese peasants who perished in Mao’s Great Leap Forward; the 25% of Cambodians who died in Pol Pot’s death camps; Fidel Castro executing dissidents and then selling their blood to the Vietcong. Just a few examples of why poliburo-directed “change” has no connection with the betterment of the human condition.
Adolescents are inordinately prone to embracing bad ideas. That’s why they are guided by adults who are (or ought to be) responsible for helping them discern right from wrong. However, it’s difficult to avoid concluding the tolerance shown by Ruelas and others for the use of this hateful term stems from their political leftism (did a single CTA member blink or gasp a little when these kids introduced themselves as the BROS Politburo?). Progressive-Left political activists, generally speaking, tend to overlook or excuse the excesses of Marxist regimes: “At least they have access to free health care in Cuba, and literacy is high!”
If some politically-minded students coming out of Anaheim High School’s AP European History class decided to refer to their club’s leaders as obergruppenführers, would that be seen as a “teachable moment”? Of course not. The district would have been swiftly put an end to it. Yet, the BROS were allowed by their mentor to carry on referring to themselves as the Marxist equivalent. Most dispiriting thing is that given trends in how public schools teach history and social studies, embrace of the word “politburo” isn’t surprising.