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“If you’ve read Marx, there’s really no reason to read Howard Zinn,” notes author Daniel Flynn, but many have read Zinn’s million-selling A People’s History of the United States. As Rutgers history professor David Greenberg notes in a 2013 New Republic article headlined “Agit-Prof,” Zinn’s famous book is “a pretty lousy piece of work.” Even so, it gets great reviews within a circle of Marxist academics such as Eric Foner, leftist rockers such as Rage Against the Machine, and actors such as Matt Damon, who in Good Will Hunting tells his psychiatrist that A People’s History will “knock you on your ass.”
For Howard Zinn, America was evil and capitalism bad – except for his lucrative publishing deal, and prestigious professorship at Boston University. Zinn was pretty quiet about the Soviet Union and what he might have done during the Stalin-Hitler Pact, but Mao Tse-Tung’s China was the closest thing to a “people’s government.”
In 2010 Zinn passed away at 87 during a swim in Santa Monica. The New York Times noted that the “proudly, unabashedly radical” professor’s A People’s History of the United States, “inspired a generation of high school and college students to rethink American history.” Zinn’s handlers set about transforming the rotting corpse of his work into the keystone of America’s history curriculum.
“Howard Zinn is no longer just for washed up actors like Ben Affleck and Matt Damon,” wrote Daniel Greenfield in 2012. “His neo-Communist propaganda is being wedged deeper and deeper into the educational system, because teaching kids to hate America is the new education.” Zinn contended that the Constitution was devised solely to formalize the inferior position of blacks, the exclusion of Indians, and the establishment of supremacy for the rich and powerful.
As Greenfield learned, students have eNotes to explain Zinn and there are teaching editions for college and high school. An “entire spin-off industry” was busy adapting Zinn’s vision for lower grades, with works such as A Young People’s History and “a plethora of lesson materials is offered to teachers through the Zinn Education Project.”
As the Zinn project website now explains, the goal is “to introduce students to a more accurate, complex, and engaging understanding of United States history than is found in traditional textbooks and curricula.” Further, “people’s history materials and pedagogy emphasize the role of working people, women, people of color, and organized social movements in shaping history.”
Project bosses “believe that through taking a more engaging and more honest look at the past, we can help equip students with the analytical tools to make sense of — and improve — the world today.” And it’s all being implemented by teachers.
“I always begin my U.S. history course with a lesson from the Zinn Education Project website called The People vs. Columbus, et al.” explains Miroslaba “Lili” Velo, a history teacher at Tennyson High School in Hayward, California._ “_It is amazing how engaged students become to not only learn the truth but also be able to defend themselves using the evidence provided.” And Lili is not alone. As the Zinn Education Project explains, “to date, 80,000 teachers have signed up to access the free people’s history lessons and nearly 10,000 more teachers sign up every year,” with support from “librarians, administrators and other school staff.”
School districts may say _A People’s History of the United States_ is too biased and pushing a political agenda. But as the site explains, “we don’t consider Zinn’s book ‘biased,’ because it is not hidden, unlike conventional textbooks produced by giant corporations, which never ask students to interrogate their perspective.”
For his part, Howard Zinn was “passionately antiwar,” and “passionately against racism and in favor of people standing up for their rights.” He was also “profoundly concerned about workers’ rights and this was not an agenda but “commitments to justice and humanity.” No word that, as Greenfield noted, leftist historian Eugene Genovese called Zinn’s book “incoherent left-wing sloganizing.”
That is true of the entire Zinn Education Project, goose-stepping anti-American indoctrination that has no place in our schools. As it happens, those schools are also under fire on a different front.
In 2016, California governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2016, which creates statewide ethnic studies curricula based on The Academic and Social Value of Ethnic Studies, a product of the National Education Association, a key politburo of the left. This will prepare students to be “global citizens” with an appreciation for “the contributions of multiple cultures.” Assemblyman Jose Medina has introduced AB 2772 to make “ethnic studies” a graduation requirement in all California public high schools.
Like the “white privilege” propaganda in Edina, Minnesota, this is pure indoctrination in the best totalitarian style. When it comes to bad ideas, California is often the model for a nation under assault from the left for decades.
“If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war,” declared the 1983 A Nation at Risk report. “We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.”
A full 35 years later, the National Education Association, the various ethnic studies coalitions, and the Zinn Education Project are waging a propaganda war in America’s classrooms. Parents and students can arm themselves by reading Leftist Indoctrination in Our K-12 Public Schools, by Sarah Dogan and Peter Collier. National leaders also have a role to play.
Government monopoly education is a collective farm of ignorance, mediocrity and failure. President Trump and state governors should push for full educational choice for all students and parents, as a matter of basic civil rights.