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Howard Zinn


  • Originally published 08/22/2013

    Mitch Daniels wanted to replace Howard Zinn with Bill Bennett in history curriculum

    When former Gov. Mitch Daniels was pushing to keep liberal historian Howard Zinn’s readings out of Indiana classrooms three years ago, he had a definite idea of what should be there instead: conservative education leader Bill Bennett’s review of American history.News that the new Purdue University president tried to have Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” kept from classrooms has sparked a surge in demand for the 1980 book at Indiana libraries. It also put Daniels on the defensive over the past month, drawing condemnations from academics nationwide and having him reiterate his support for academic freedom in higher education even as he is steadfast in his belief that Zinn is wrong for lower grades.Emails obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request show Bill Bennett had much more favor among Daniels and his advisers. In January 2010, when Daniels discovered the board of education had changed the state’s textbook rules to allow Bennett’s book, he quickly asked how soon his advisers could get copies of “The Last Best Hope” in classrooms....

  • Originally published 08/13/2013

    David J. Bobb: Howard Zinn and the Art of Anti-Americanism

    David J. Bobb, director of the Hillsdale College Kirby Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship, in Washington, D.C., is author of "Humility: An Unlikely Biography of America's Greatest Virtue," forthcoming from Thomas Nelson. Upon the death of the Marxist-inspired historian Howard Zinn in 2010, eulogies rang out from coast to coast calling him a heroic champion of the unsung masses. In Indiana, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels refused to join the chorus and instead sent emails to his staff wondering if the historian's "execrable" books were being force-fed to Hoosier students. The recent revelation of these emails provoked an angry backlash....For Americans stuck in impoverished communities and failing schools, Zinn's devotion to history as a "political act" can seem appealing. He names villains (capitalists), condemns their misdeeds, and calls for action to redistribute wealth so that, eventually, all of the following material goods will be "free—to everyone: food, housing, health care, education, transportation." The study of history, Zinn taught, demands this sort of social justice....

  • Originally published 08/08/2013

    Zinn and Daniels Both Guilty of Sacrificing Nuance to Politics

    Emails recently obtained by the Associated Press have revealed that Indiana's former Republican governor, Mitch Daniels, now president of Purdue University, tried to ban Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States from Indiana schools. His attempt, though perhaps clumsy, wasn't all that surprising.If history tends to be written by the victors, Zinn's alternative take on America's past sought to give voice to the vanquished, telling the story of U.S. history from the perspective of slaves, Indians, laborers and women. The book brought the Boston University historian (who died in 2010) acclaim from many on the American left. But conservatives have had him in their sights for years.

  • Originally published 08/08/2013

    Robert Cohen and Sonia Murrow: Who's Afraid of Radical History?

    Sonia Murrow is an assistant professor of education at Brooklyn College. Robert Cohen is a professor of social studies and history at New York University.A recent Associated Press expose—drawing on e-mails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act—revealed that in 2010, Mitch Daniels, then Indiana’s Republican governor, covertly set out to ban Howard Zinn’s best-selling A People’s History of the United States from Indiana’s classrooms. Daniels had privately responded to Zinn’s death that year with unseemly glee; “This terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away,” he crowed. Daniels attempted to banish Zinn’s book on the grounds that it was “a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page…. How do we get rid of it before more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history?” When Daniels’s education adviser replied that A People’s History was being used in a social movements course for teachers at Indiana University, the governor insisted that “this crap should not be accepted for any credit by the state,” sparking a proposed statewide review of university courses designed to “disqualify propaganda” from Indiana’s curriculum.

  • Originally published 07/30/2013

    Sam Wineburg: Mitch, Here's Where We Split Ways on Howard Zinn

    Sam Wineburg is the Margaret Jacks Professor of Education and History at Stanford University and the author of Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past. Dear Mitch, I hope you don’t mind the informality. I’ve felt like we share something in common ever since learning that you not only read my article about Howard Zinn but quoted from it approvingly in your press release.

  • Originally published 07/29/2013

    Sam Wineburg: “How could I possibly agree that ‘banning Zinn’ makes sense when I assign him in my own classes?”

    ...[Former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels] upset Stanford University professor Sam Wineburg by invoking Wineburg’s criticisms of Zinn to defend his own stance. Wineburg objected to Daniels using his work to rationalize a ban on the textbook.“This is not about Zinn, per se,” Wineburg told the Star. “This is about whether in an open democratic society we should be exposed — whether you’re in ninth grade or seventh grade or a freshman at Purdue — whether you should be exposed to views that challenge your own cherished view.”In a tweet directed at Daniels, Wineburg wrote: “How could I possibly agree that ‘banning Zinn’ makes sense when I assign him in my own classes?”...

  • Originally published 07/29/2013

    NYT: Historians defend Zinn against Daniels

    The historian Howard Zinn won a dubious prize of sorts last year when his best-selling “People’s History of the United States” came in second in an informal online poll to determine the “least credible history book in print.”But now some of Mr. Zinn’s strongest scholarly critics have rushed to his defense, following the revelation that former Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana had, while in office, sent e-mails to a state education official asking for assurance that Mr. Zinn’s “truly execrable, antifactual piece of disinformation” was “not in use” in Indiana classrooms....

  • Originally published 07/28/2013

    Gabriel Schoenfeld: Mitch Daniels is on Solid Ground about Howard Zinn

    Gabriel Schoenfeld is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.It seems that the ghost of Howard Zinn needs to be exorcised yet again. The most recent siting of the late historian’s visage came earlier this month at Indiana’s Purdue University. Zinn’s magnum opus, “A People’s History of the United States,” was discussed in some emails written by Indiana’s former governor, Mitch Daniels, now president of Purdue, which recently came to light thanks to the state’s freedom of information act.“A truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page” is what Daniels said of the book in a 2010 email to one of his staffers. “Can someone assure me that it is not in use anywhere in Indiana? If it is, how do we get rid of it before any more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history?”Daniels is being pilloried for this by some on the left and in the media as an opponent of academic freedom. “Mitch Daniels looked to censor opponents” was the headline of an Associated Press story on July 16. “Astonishing and shocking,” said Cary Nelson, a professor of English at the University of Illinois, as quoted by the AP.

  • Originally published 07/26/2013

    Ronald Radosh: 92 Professors Go After Mitch Daniels

    Ronald Radosh is author or co-author of more than sixteen books, including The Rosenberg File, Spain Betrayed: The Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War, and A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel. He is Adjunct Fellow at The Hudson Institute and a columnist for PJ Media.

  • Originally published 07/22/2013

    AHA issues statement criticizing Mitch Daniels

    The American Historical Association on Friday released a statement criticizing the way Mitch Daniels (when he governor of Indiana, prior to becoming president of Purdue University) exchanged e-mail messages with staff members criticizing the work of the late Howard Zinn. "Whatever the strengths or weaknesses of Howard Zinn’s text, and whatever the criticisms that have been made of it, we believe that the open discussion of controversial books benefits students, historians, and the general public alike. Attempts to single out particular texts for suppression from a school or university curriculum have no place in a democratic society," said the statement....

  • Originally published 07/21/2013

    Howard Zinn student: "He would teach the controversy" with Mitch Daniels

    What would the late historian Howard Zinn have been doing in the classroom last week after being called out as a fraud, his name dragged around three years ago by a man who was then Indiana’s governor and now president of one of the state’s major research universities?“He would teach the controversy,” said Nadine Dolby, a Purdue University professor watching as a beloved teacher from her days at Boston University was publicly upbraided by the president of her present university. “That’s just what he’d do.”...To Dolby, a curriculum studies professor in the College of Education, her professor’s story is one of dissent. She calls Zinn a role model when it comes to professors. And she recounts several stories about her time in class and beyond with Zinn in her 2011 book, “Rethinking Multicultural Education for the Next Generation.” Here’s her take.

  • Originally published 07/18/2013

    Peter Wood: Why Mitch Daniels Was Right About Howard Zinn

    Peter Wood is the president of the National Association of Scholars.The Associated Press broke a story on July 16 that Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue University, wrote e-mails while the governor of Indiana attacking the use of Howard Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the United States, as “a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page.”My first response: good for Mr. Daniels. His comment, made on February 9, 2010—according to the date stamp on his e-mail—shows that he has a pretty clear grasp of both American history and Mr. Zinn’s book.But the Associated Press wasn’t interested in Daniels’s intellectual acumen.  Its story was headlined, “Mitch Daniels Looked to Censor Opponents,” and it was based on a Freedom of Information Act request.  If the four brief e-mails he sent to political allies over the course of 51 minutes in February 2010 are all the AP came up with, or an additional e-mail sent on April 11, 2009, we can best conclude that the governor was a busy man with little patience for academic bunkum....

  • Originally published 07/09/2013

    Noah Gittell: Lone Ranger "Like a Western as Told by Howard Zinn"

    Noah Gittell is the editor of ReelChange.net, where he writes about film, politics, and culture. He is a former independent filmmaker and political-campaign staffer. ...In discussing the progressive politics of The Lone Ranger, most critics have focused on the depiction of Native Americans, and with good reason. Over the history of the American Western, Native Americans have often been depicted as faceless savages whose efforts to defend themselves were merely obstacles to America's Manifest Destiny. Some cinematic efforts have been made to subvert this convention (The Searchers and Dances with Wolves are probably the most famous examples), but The Lone Ranger takes things a step further, making Tonto and John Reid (who will become the eponymous hero) dual protagonists. There is room for debate on this; some critics still feel that Depp's performance, with its use of "red face" and halted speaking style, is dehumanizing, but the increased role for Tonto is at least a step in the right direction.

  • Originally published 02/10/2010

    The Left's Blind Spot

    Let's start with Howard Zinn and then move on. Zinn, rather unlikely for a historian, has been feted like a Hollywood celebrity, receiving encomiums from stars like Danny Glover, James Earl Jones, and of course, Matt Damon, whose character in Good Will Hunting famously brandishes a copy of Zinn's A People's History of the United States during a raucus encounter with Robin Williams. In 2003 a large crowd turned out at a celebration in Manhattan at the 92nd Street Y to mark the sale of the one millionth copy of the book. Recently, there was even a television series built around the book's themes.Why is Zinn so popular (with the general public, if not with historians, many of whom have expressed reservations about his books)? The answer is that Zinn plays the role in a self-satisfied often-uncritical mainstream culture of the seemingly attractive dangerous rebel. "If you want to read a real history book, read Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States," Damon exclaims in the movie. "That book will knock you on your ass."

  • Originally published 02/10/2010

    Howard Zinn's Disputed Legacy

    Rick Shenkman and Michael Kazin, writing six years apart, criticized Howard Zinn's historical method, and there is much to criticize.  It's true we have seen many, many instances of people at the bottom or in the middle, the masses of people, going along with those in power or even leading the charge in the wrong direction.  History is full of people rooting against their own class interests.  We see a lot of that today.So, historians rightly have arguments with A People's History.  It is not nuanced, it is not complex enough, it is wrong in particulars.  Or maybe you think it is leads people in the wrong direction altogether, creating "the left's blind spot."  Presumably, a bottom up view of history is pretty simple and absolves the masses from their culpability in the affairs of the state.

  • Originally published 10/16/2004

    Howard Zinn: Rock Star

    Tim Goodman, in the San Francisco Chronicle (Oct. 13, 2004):Last month, Daniel Flynn, a conservative pundit, published "Intellectual Morons," a 304-page book that rips Zinn for "America bashing" and biased writing. The tome also criticizes Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal and other intellectuals who've been critical of the United States, but it singles out Zinn for special scrutiny because of Zinn's success with "A People's History of the United States.""A People's History" has sold more than 1 million copies since its release in 1980, making it one of the most popular works on American history. Conservatives hate the book because it excoriates Ronald Reagan, gives detailed examples of U.S. imperialism, outlines practices that led to the slaughter and depopulation of Native Americans, and even questions the motives of George Washington and other Founding Fathers. (Among other things, Zinn refers to Washington as a member of the elite who personally benefited from the Constitution.)

  • Originally published 06/09/2003

    Howard Zinn's Biased History

    Who is the most influential historian in America? Could it be Pulitzer Prize winners Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. or Joseph Ellis or David McCullough, whose scholarly works have reached a broad literary public? The answer is none of the above. The accolade belongs instead to the unreconstructed, anti-American Marxist Howard Zinn, whose cartoon anti-history of the United States is still selling 128,000 copies a year twenty years after its original publication. Many of those copies are assigned readings for courses in colleges and high schools taught by leftist disciples of their radical mentor.“Objectivity is impossible,” Zinn once remarked, “and it is also undesirable. That is, if it were possible it would be undesirable, because if you have any kind of a social aim, if you think history should serve society in some way; should serve the progress of the human race; should serve justice in some way, then it requires that you make your selection on the basis of what you think will advance causes of humanity.”History serving “a social aim” other than the preservation or interpretation of a historical record is precisely what we get in A People’s History of the United States. Howard Zinn’s 776 page tome, which after selling more than a million copies, has been recently re-released in a hardback edition.

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