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Photoshop: Leo Alberti
Howard Zinn’s Marxist history book, “A People’s History of the United States,” is de rigeur reading on college campuses and in Hollywood salons.
Dan Flynn wrote a trenchant review of the book several years ago, concluding:
More striking than Zinn’s inaccuracies—intentional and otherwise—is what he leaves out.
Washington’s Farewell Address, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and Reagan’s speech at the Brandenburg Gate all fail to merit a mention. Nowhere do we learn that Americans were first in flight, first to fly across the Atlantic, and first to walk on the moon. Alexander Graham Bell, Jonas Salk, and the Wright Brothers are entirely absent. Instead, the reader is treated to the exploits of Speckled Snake, Joan Baez, and the Berrigan brothers. While Zinn sees fit to mention that immigrants often went into professions like ditch-digging and prostitution, American success stories like those of Alexander Hamilton, John Jacob Astor, and Louis B. Mayer—to name but a few—are excluded. Valley Forge rates a single fleeting reference, while D-Day’s Normandy invasion, Gettysburg, and other important military battles are left out. In their place, we get several pages on the My Lai massacre and colorful descriptions of U.S. bombs falling on hotels, air-raid shelters, and markets during the Gulf War of the early 1990s.
How do students learn about U.S. history with all these omissions? They don’t.
Zinn utters perhaps the most honest words of A People’s History of the United States in the conclusion of the book’s 1995 edition, conceding that his work is “a biased account.” “I am not troubled by that,” he adds, “because the mountain of history books under which we all stand leans so heavily in the other direction—so tremblingly respectful of states and statesmen and so disrespectful, by inattention, to people’s movements—that we need some counterforce to avoid being crushed into submission.” Two wrongs, he seems to be saying, make a right.
More recently, Zinn made clear that it is not just the idea of objectivity that he finds fault with, but facts themselves. In the current updated version of A People’s History, the author declares: “there is no such thing as pure fact.” Whether Zinn really believes this, or if it serves to rationalize intellectual dishonesty, one can only guess.
Now, there’s a documentary version scheduled to air on the History Channel — reportedly bankrolled by Zinn groupie/actor Matt Damon — and Zinn, Inc. has launched an “education project” to support wider dissemination of his anti-American, anti-capitalist propaganda material to K-12 schools.
Actor Adam Baldwin wonders about the legality of Zinn’s indoctrination plans:
In “A People’s History,” Prof. Zinn declares:
Objectivity is impossible, and it is also undesirable… because if you have any kind of a social aim… then it requires that you make your selection on the basis of what you think will advance causes of humanity.
Professor Zinn announces the overtly political agenda of A People’s History in an explanatory coda to the 1995 edition. Zinn explains to the reader that he has no interest in striving for objectivity, and that his history is ‘a biased account.’ Professor Zinn explains: ‘I am not troubled by that. I wanted my writing of history and my teaching of history to be a part of the social struggle. I wanted to be a part of history and not just a recorder and teacher of history. So that kind of attitude towards history, history itself is a political act, has always informed my writing and my teaching.’
That subjective social aim and biased accounting, when used as the basis for student instruction, is inconsistent with state education codes, local school board policies and administrative regulations.
Public schools are required to provide varying points of view and deal with issues in a factual, rational, objective manner and in a spirit that clearly indicates an attempt to promote greater understanding. They are prohibited from engaging in viewpoint discrimination.
…Hopefully schools will become more cautious before agreeing to institute such curriculum and lesson plans in their classrooms.
Howard Zinn is a famous educator.
Does what he and his Zinn Education Project collaborators and celebrities think will advance causes of humanity comply with the law, and is it ethical instructional material?
If not, then it is inappropriate for use in America’s public schools.
Reason #99,999,951 to home school or start your own charter school.
Fight the power.
More on Zinn’s Hollywood fan club:
“The film is an inspirational film about democracy,” Zinn told us. “It’s about how people – not governments – achieve social change.”
Of course, Damon and Zinn go way back. They were neighbors in Newton when Damon was 5 and Zinn was writing “People’s History,” and have been close ever since. In his breakthrough flick, “Good Will Hunting,” Matt’s character, a Southie genius janitor, tells his shrink, played by Robin Williams, to read Zinn’s book: “It’ll knock you on your ass.”
And Will Hunting’s monologue about why he shouldn’t work for the NSA (“It’ll be some kid from Southie over there taking shrapnel in the ass.”) was inspired by Zinn’s work.
“Ben and I were laughing our asses off writing that,” he recalled. “We liked it that the smartest guy in Boston was reading Howard Zinn.”
After Damon’s big-screen shout-out, Zinn’s book went on to sell 2 million copies. So it is only right that Matt is the first big name to appear onscreen in “The People Speak.” He reads The Declaration of Independence . The performance sets up the rest of the documentary, which, the producers say, “celebrates democracy.”
The film intersperses historical footage with dramatic performances of documents, letters, speeches and diaries written by some of the better-known Americans who shaped this country’s history: Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain and Susan B. Anthony . But other voices, not often heard in high school civics class, also are included: Nez Perce Chief Joseph, heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali, factory worker Genova Johnson Dollinger, socialist Eugene Debs and rebel Massachusetts farmer Plough Jogger .
The documentary, mostly filmed in Boston at the Emerson Majestic Theatre, features “W” star Josh Brolin, who also produced the flick, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Viggo Mortensen, Danny Glover, Kerry Washington, Marisa Tomei, Q’orianka Kilcher, Michael Ealy, Don Cheadle, Jasmine Guy, David Strathairn, Eddie Vedder, John Legend, Chris Robinson and Lupe Fiasco . It was co-directed by Chris Moore, Damon’s “Project Greenlight” partner and a “Good Will Hunting” producer.