The Zinn Education Project

Lying about history, lying about fundraising.

[Order Mary Grabar's new book, Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation against America: HERE.]

On “Giving Tuesday,” the Zinn Education Project, a non-profit that provides free downloadable K-12 lessons adapted from the late communist historian Howard Zinn’s bestselling history, A People’s History of the United States, solicited donations. Proudly announcing that the 100,000 mark of teachers registered at the site had been reached, the email declared, “We depend solely on individuals like you for support” and “the Zinn Education Project receives no corporate donations. We depend on individual donations and family foundations.” It reminded potential donors, “Your contribution will make an impact, whether you donate $5 or $500,” and—giving the game away—“Many of the students in high school today will be voting in 2020.”

The lessons encourage classroom use of Zinn’s “history,” a book first published in 1980 and riddled with deceptive quotations, leading questions, critical omissions, logical fallacies, plagiarism, and blatant falsehoods. The Zinn empire continues to grow, thanks in no small part to its escalating use in classrooms, aided by the revision of the Advanced Placement U.S. History course guidelines to the far-left during the Obama administration. The entire Portland, Oregon, school district has adopted A Young People’s History of the United States for eighth grade.

The 100,000 registrants have grown from the 84,000 figure I had when I put the final changes into my book, Debunking Howard Zinn, in the spring. To counteract the force feeding of this blackened history on young teenagers, the Oregon Association of Scholars is hosting a drive to put my book in Portland schools and libraries (details on making tax-deductible contributions here).

The ZEP lessons reinforce Zinn’s presentation of the United States as redeemable only through a socialist revolution. Major historical events are replaced with instances demonstrating relentless oppression—an effort much in line with the New York Times’ “1619” project, which ZEP emphasized in a December 17 mailing that directed teachers to lessons about the “color line,” the involvement of “one in four” American presidents in “human trafficking and slavery,” the “poetry of defiance,” lessons on Reconstruction, an examination of over a dozen plans for reparations, a “role-play” intended to “upend the traditional narrative of the Constitutional Convention, by including the perspectives of workers, enslaved people, and poor farmers, alongside those of . . . —the wealthy white elite,” and a role-play based on The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.

Search for “Pearl Harbor,” however, and you come up mostly with lessons about the internment of the Japanese. “This Day in History” for December 7 marks not the attack on Pearl Harbor, but the 1874 Vicksburg Massacre, described as a massacre by whites of between 75 and 300 African Americans defending black sheriff Peter Crosby, a former slave and Union veteran. The point is that, as “one of many massacres in U.S. history,” it was “designed to reassert white supremacy during Reconstruction.” The “parallels” to contemporary America under President Trump are made with Democracy Now! segments, including “Hate Crimes in Kentucky and Pennsylvania” in October 2018—the  shooting deaths of two blacks by a white man in Kentucky and the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue shooting. Rabbi Fornari drums home the “interconnection of [President] Trump’s language . . . targeting immigrants and Muslims and people of color. . . .” This year’s Presidents Day lesson, “Teach Students to Question the President,” described him as “louder, coarser, and more explicitly racist, sexist, and nativist than recent presidents,” but sharing “ugly continuities with his predecessors.” In 2017, Teaching for Change, one of the two ZEP “partner” organizations (the other being Rethinking Schools) declared “victory” in its pressure campaign against Scholastic to drop positive books about President Trump.

The history lesson for December 4, 2019, “Black Panther Party Members Assassinated”--assassinated by the FBI—presents Fred Hampton as “21, radical, clear-eyed, purposeful” and a target by “COINTELPRO & the white supremacist ideology that wrote it.”  Another teachable anniversary, “October 15, 1966: The Black Panther Party Founded,” describes them as seeking “justice for African Americans and other oppressed communities.” Co-founder Huey P. Newton’s birthday, February 17, 1942, provides another lesson, pretending that Newton, photographed with “youth of East Oakland community,” was a man who just mostly made visits to “Panther schools and breakfast programs.” Left out is Newton’s brutal rape of expelled Panther co-founder Bobby Seale. So are the murders of suspected informants and police by the Panthers.

The Great Depression is cast as one of the “crises under capitalism.” During the Cold War the imperialistic U.S. presented as Communist “anti-colonial efforts” that were intended “to take back land, resources, and power from ruling elites” in Cuba, Guatemala, Afghanistan, Congo, Nicaragua, Chile, Iran, and Vietnam. Other cheery lessons focus on such things as “climate justice” and “police brutality.”

Not only are ZEP’s history lessons false, but so are its claims to be a grassroots organization funded by family foundations and small individual donations. The false image was reinforced by the announcement that all donations up to $10,000 would be matched by Zinn’s former Boston University student, Dave Colapinto, a goal accomplished by the evening, thanks to “dozens of individuals.” Colapinto’s testimonial asserted that it was Zinn’s classes and books that inspired him to become an attorney representing “whistleblowers” (a job that enabled him to donate $10,000 this year and last).

This second solicitation of the day repeated the “grassroots” claim:  “Many non-profit education organizations get major corporate donations. The Zinn Education Project does not. We depend solely on individuals like you for support.”

ZEP partner, Teaching for Changehandle[s] donations.” But according to their latest IRS filing available (the 2016/2017 fiscal year) “individuals like you” include movie star Matt Damon, who donated much more than $5 or $500, in fact, $10,000. Damon starred in and co-wrote the 1997 movie Good Will Hunting, which grossed not only nearly $226 million, but catapulted A People’s History to even higher sales and more riches for Zinn after Damon, playing a genius, in a key dramatic moment promoted the book as a “real history book,” one that would “knock you on your ass.”

But Damon’s donation was paltry compared to the $117,150 given by William Holtzman, another of Zinn’s Boston University students—who founded the Zinn Education Project in 2008 after “a successful career in technology,” i.e., in the capitalist system that Zinn sought to destroy.

Radical activist and Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin also seems to be doing well enough to plop down ten times the maximum suggested amount: $5,000. Zinn’s daughter Myla Kabat-Zinn contributed $30,000.

The Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which lists over 70 “corporate partners,” gave $25,000 to the organization that claims it gets no corporate funding. Teaching for Change did not reject 600 shares of Linked In, valued at $117,150, nor 133 shares of Exxon, valued at $11,086 (don’t tell the “climate justice” curriculum writers).

However, one of the biggest donations, $100,000, came from the New Venture Fund, one of the four “sister” nonprofit funds created and managed by Arabella Advisors, which specializes in “dark money,” i.e., hiding donors, like George Soros. In 2017, New Venture had $359 million in revenues, according to a Capital Research Center report by Hayden Ludwig. Ludwig writes, “Arabella [Advisors] provides much more to the institutional Left than donor advice—it runs a network of ‘front’ groups,” which are generally “little more than websites created to give the appearance of a full-fledged [independent] ‘grassroots’ organization tackling a ‘niche’ area: protesting President Trump’s judicial nominees. . ., pushing environmentalist causes, propping up Obamacare. . . .” The four Funds “share interlocking boards of directors and officers mainly composed of Arabella Advisors’ own leadership,” and even office space. Further, by offering Funds with 501 (c) (3) designations Arabella offers donors “tax-deductibility” while allowing political lobbying through 501 (c) (4) Funds. Although Arabella gave a modest amount to nonprofits that practice charity such as cancer research, “the bulk of its ‘philanthropy’ remains better described as ‘deep advocacy’: nonprofit political activism hidden beneath numerous layers.”   

On the Teaching for Change website current funders include the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, but also the D.C. Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs (which helpfully offers advice on “What to do if ICE comes to your door”). In 2016/2017 Teaching for Change received $21,750 in government grants. But Teaching for Change is also funded by taxpayers across the country through school taxes that pay for ZEP educators to conduct in-school workshops and for the purchase of their books.

There are also donors listed as “Anonymous”—perhaps “advisees” of Arabella who may not want the public to know that they are more interested in students’ votes than in their educations.


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