An American high school band celebrates the Russian Revolution, complete with hammer and sickle

So now we know what historical ignorance looks like:

A Pennsylvania high school marching band is raising eyebrows with a halftime performance that commemorates the Russian revolution, complete with red flags, olive military-style uniforms, and giant hammers and sickles.

“St. Petersburg: 1917” is the theme for the New Oxford High School Marching Band. Ironically, the school’s athletic teams are called the Colonials and their colors are red, white and blue. The band’s website features a picture of the group with students holding a hammer and sickle.


Rebecca Harbaugh, the superintendent for the Conewago Valley School District, told Fox News that the band’s performance was “not an endorsement of communism at all.”

“It’s a representation of the time period in history called St. Petersburg 1917,” she said. “I am truly sorry that somebody took the performance in that manner. I am.”

“If anything is being celebrated it’s the music,” she said. “It is what it is. I understand people look at something and choose how to interpret that and I’m just very sorry that it wasn’t looked at as just a history lesson.”

Besides, she explained, “in 2008 we did an entire show on freedom.”

But some critics said it’s outrageous for any American school to be celebrating such a violent era.

“It would be tantamount to celebrating the music of 1935 Berlin,” the parent said. “If I was Lithuanian, Estonian, or Ukrainian, I’d be a little hot. I’d be really hot. It’s insulting to glorify something that doesn’t need to be glorified in America.”

(Read the rest of the story here.)

Maybe next year they can celebrate the famine Stalin created in the Ukraine, killing something in the neighborhood of 20 million of his own citizens. And the year after that, perhaps a “Party in the Gulag” theme.

Actually, I believe that these kids weren’t endorsing Communism.  What they were endorsing was something different:  the forty year march of  a values-free approach to education, one that manages to leave both students and their teachers incapable of understanding what they teach or learn.  To them, what happened is an “event,” without meaning or consequence.  This goes beyond moral relativism into absolute meaninglessness — and if that isn’t sad, I don’t know what is.

A bowdlerization of Chesterton has him saying:  “When a Man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything.”  That saying isn’t quite on point, but it somehow seems appropriate here, when we have a group of well-intentioned young people incapable of understanding the meaning of what they study.  They know nothing, and misunderstand everything.

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  • Caped Crusader

    Next year they may wish to celebrate the Hitler-Stalin non aggression pact prior to WWll, the band displaying both swastikas and hammer and sickle flags while marching. They could be giving the Hitler salute and singing the Horst Wessel and the Internationale. And who dares say today’s youth is not just great?
    Has anyone noticed how much Axelrod looks like Adolph Hitler, besides me? Saw him on TV tonight and it immediately struck me that if I were casting for Hitler he would be my first choice.

  • Caped Crusader

    For those who may be unfamiliar:

    I would think this is basically what the Democrats crave when they want that national police as big and well armed as the USA Armed Services:


  • Spartacus

    So, let me play Devil’s Advocate* for a minute, in a limited way.

    There is something to be said for immersing oneself in the Zeitgeist of a period in order to understand it better.  Simply painting historical monsters as two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs of villains without nuance does little to help us understand on a deeper level the nature and mechanics of the evil which moved actual human beings with a corruptible nature to carry out unspeakable acts against fellow children of God, whether with vicious anger, dutiful obedience, or banal administration.  (Me?  I rather enjoy singing the Soviet national anthem (1977 version) after a shot or three of vodka, but with a sardonic smirk at the comically repugnant lyrics.  Haven’t gotten to Horst Wessel yet.)

    That being said, I hardly think that’s what’s going on here.  Have these high-schoolers been studying the gulag archipelago?  Been infused with at least some remote and academic “understanding” of the constant terror of life in a totalitarian state?  Not likely.  It’s all well and good to study some totalitarian societies in relative immersion in the latter stages of a history degree, but I doubt many of these yoots have quite that much background at this point.  The superintendent helpfully points out that they celebrated freedom back in 2008… which affords some educational diversity for those seniors who were obliged to try 10th grade two or three times and are still around, but for those passing straight through on the four-year plan, all they see in 2012 is a celebration of Lenin, probably without much context.  Oops.

    * I am not a lawyer, and do not play one on TV.  I am not licensed to practice law in the Infernal Regions, or any other regions, for that matter.  Sent email to Elizabeth Warren to find out if this is a problem.

  • Charles Martel

    I should like to make a tiny correction to the narrative: The event that occurred in 1917 was not a revolution, it was a coup—much like the one that Obama and his lackeys are attempting.
    Regarding whatever damage to precious young high school psyches that might come from this, there has to be something there to damage. The kids who are cavorting with hammers and sickles won’t remember a second of it two weeks from now. Even if they do, they will have no idea what it meant or what possible relevance it could have to their dumbed-down lives. 
    Spartacus, I, like you, have a thing for the old Soviet national anthem. Catchy tune. Horrible regime, but Stalin commissioned his music well. I can see why the Russians went back to it. The Czarist anthem, which was the tune of my high school’s school song was nice enough, but not enough to inspire a Marxist genius like Paul Robeson to sing it.

  • Ron19

    Rebecca Harbaugh, the superintendent for the Conewago Valley School District, told Fox News that the band’s performance was “not an endorsement of communism at all.”

    And yet, the courts keep ruling that any school activity on school grounds or elsewhere, and any activity by teachers or students on school grounds that might be construed as religion related, is always an endorsement of religion, and is strictly forbidden.  

  • Ron19

    From the third section,
    100 Things You Should Know About Communism and Education,
    in the book
    100 Things You Should Know About Communism – Committee On Un-American Activites,
    originally published in 1949 by the Committee on Un-American Activities, U. S. House of Representatives, Washington, D. C.
    55. What’s biting these people, anyhow P
    Here is at least one part of the answer given by John Hanna, a professor of Columbia University, who was formerly with the Farm Credit Administration and chief analyst with the United States Courts’ Administration Office:  
    “The girls’ schools and women’s colleges contain some of the most loyal disciples of Russia.  
    “Teachers there are often frustrated females. They have gone through bitter struggles to attain their positions.  
    “A political dogma based on hatred expresses their personal attitude.”  
    Politics based on hatred and self-pity has the same appeal for men, too, who feel frustrated by life.
    56. Are they open in their hate?  
    No. Says the same expert:  
    “They can manipulate admissions and scholarships to obtain radical students. They require courses that give a maximum of indoctrination. They favor students who follow their leadership. At the same time, they are shrewd enough to avoid any open affiliation with Communism.”
    51 . Is this sort of thing confined to the colleges?
    Attorney General Tom C. Clark says :  
    “The Federal Bureau of Investigation has learned that the Communists have started a campaign to recruit our children to their ideology — the younger they are, the better.”  
    58. How about the parents?  
    Richard Frank, writing in “The Communist,” an official Party publication, specifically directed:  
    “In rural communities, teachers who are among the few educated people are looked up to with tremendous respect. They are in a position to become community leaders.  
    “As a means of mobilizing the people in the villages and countryside, steps should be taken to try to send Communist teachers into rural communities where they should become active in all community organizations.  
    “The Party should work actively within Parent-Teachers’ Associations and all similar organizations.”  
    59. How about the textbooks?  
    Dr. Ralph West Robey, Assistant Professor of Banking at Columbia University, made a survey of high school texts a few years ago with one out-and-out Marxist, one “liberal,” and one “conservative” scholar to help him.  
    The results are plain enough for anybody to understand if they want to understand.  
    60. What did the results show?  
    That the success of the United States of America is played down in too many of our school books and its failures are played up. That the success of Soviet Russia is played up and its failures are played down. This is an important and much-used Communist device.  
    61 . What sort of thing do they say about the United States?
    From the report:  
    “The whole emphasis is placed on the one-third of the population who are underfed, rather than on the two-thirds who are well-fed.  
    “The textbooks emphasize the small number of large corporations, rather than the large number of small ones. The authors point out the few wealthy people of this country rather than the fact that we have the greatest distribution of wealth in the world.”
    The Committe On Un-American Activities (2008-05-04). 100 Things You Should Know About Communism – Committe On Un-American Activites (Kindle Locations 1306-1355). LeClu22. Kindle Edition.

  • Ron19

    As I read and listen to Conservative commentators complain about Communism, I agree with them, even though I’m only vaguely sure of what “Communism” actually means in practice in this country. 

    I keep wishing that somebody, or several somebodys, would explain just exactly what Communisim ideology or whatever is, and how it is practiced.

    This 1949 book from the US House of Representatives goes a long way on granting that wish for information; it is actually five pamphlets gathered into a single book, available from Amazon:

    The Committe On Un-American Activities. 100 Things You Should Know About Communism – Committe On Un-American Activites. 

  • Ron19

    Caped Crusader #2, the first video, especially the visuals, reminds me strongly of North Korea.

  • Mike Devx

    Charles M says, “Regarding whatever damage to precious young high school psyches that might come from this, there has to be something there to damage.”

    Delightful snarkiness!  But you do have to admit, Charles, it has little to do with the kids.  They’ll pretty much practice and perform whatever musical/marching program is put in front of them.  I *am* hoping at least a few of them had enough independence of thought to grouse to their bandmates.

    The *real* travesty is here:

    Rebecca Harbaugh, the superintendent for the Conewago Valley School District, told Fox News that the band’s performance was “not an endorsement of communism at all.  It’s a representation of the time period in history called St. Petersburg 1917,” she said. “I am truly sorry that somebody took the performance in that manner. I am.”

    So someone in authority decided to stage a half-time show concerning St. Petersburg, Russia, 1917?  Any person with even a few functioning neurons might ask, “OK, just *what* is significant about St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1917?”

    There’s only one answer, and it isn’t the invention of the green-dyed babushka.  Ms. Rebecca Harbaugh – The Superintendent of Schools! –  needs to get to the doctor quickly, to find out why those little ol’ neurons in her head have completely stopped functioning.

     I’d like to know a little background and history on the man or woman who selected and designed this half-time show.   How immersed in socialism and Communism has he or she been?  Or is this just a case of a virulently stupid multiculturalist run amok?

  • Mike Devx

    To extend a meme from the Romney campaign from a few weeks back, concerning Ms. Rebecca Harbaugh, I have only one thing to add:

    She’s just doing her level best.  Bless her heart.

  • JKB

    One has to wonder how these high school kids are so up on their Soviet history.  I wonder how it compares to the their Western Civ or American history?

    And do they just march to swelling music that celebrates the overthrow and murder of the Czar and his family or do they have a section that illustrates those murdered by the Revolution.  If not the peasants murdered, at least the fellow Bolsheviks who died in the ensuing power struggles.  

    These seem to be missed opportunities to bring history alive for the kids.  Rather than just being shocked, we need some stories presented to put the murderous period started in 1917 in context and contrast it with the American Revolution.  

    I see the same with the growing “protest” by students over Michele Obama’s starvation rations in school lunches.  Yes, it’s shocking but a great opportunity to expose the kids to the dangers of big government and the solutions derived so long ago by the Founding Fathers.  You can’t lecture kids but if it is out there, they absorb more that you think.

  • Caped Crusader

    Today’s “liberal” leaders not so secret desire:

    Triumph of the Will (German: Triumph des Willens) is a propaganda film made by Leni Riefenstahl. It chronicles the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg, which was attended by more than 700,000 Nazi supporters. Long, but very historic. History does, and will, repeat itself. Every seventy years, it appears, the same lessons must be relearned.

  • Caped Crusader

    Ron 19:
    For those who may not be old enough to remember, Attorney General Tom C. Clark was the father of Attorney General Ramsey Clark, proving that sometimes the fruit does fall far from the tree.
    During the 1968 riots, in answering a question from the press, said he would not view with suspicion anyone filling several bottles of gasoline with rag wicks inserted; prompting the naming of the Ramsey Clark Award given annually for the most stupid quote by a liberal.

  • jj

    The teachers don’t know a damn thing about history – why would you expect the kids to?