October 28, 2013

Still don’t think we’re at war with internal socialism?

Let me disabuse you of that notion, then. “Socialist history curriculum strides toward Philadelphia schools”:

City council members in Philadelphia have given the go-ahead to a resolution to allow a socialist historian’s view of America, via his “A People’s History of the United States,” to be part of the public high school curriculum.

The book, by Howard Zinn, looks at American history through the lens of the working people, and of women and minorities, and tracks the various social movements — including the advent of labor unions — that have shaped government reform and policy.


The resolution still needs the approval of the superintendent and school board for the curriculum to be adopted.

The resolution also states: “Council does hereby recognize the need for students to be taught an unvarnished, honest version of U.S. history that empowers students to differentiate between moments that have truly made our country great versus those that established systemic inequality, privilege, and prejudice which continue to reinforce modern society’s most difficult issues.”

The book is controversial among conservative circles. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, for instance, spoke openly of his disdain for its content, arguing that the book did not belong in public school classrooms, The Daily Caller said. Mr. Daniels said of the book: “We must not falsely teach American history in our schools. Howard Zinn, by his own admission a biased writer, purposely falsified American history.”

What you conservatives — along with Zinn himself — call “bias,” the left, along with Zinn himself, would suggest is nevertheless “truthiness.”  And besides, no history can be told without bias.   So therefore, the need to try has been obviated.  And you can’t really fault Mr Zinn for going whole hog batshit leftist, can you, nor the Council from giving it a go ahead, in an intellectual milieu that grants nearly equal privilege to all competing narratives, as if by virtue of having an opinion, “respect” demands it be granted an equal consideration.

Distinguishing between competing narratives is imperialist.  Competition is anti-egalitarian.  And relativism is the soothing bromide that lets us all — dumb, smart, ignorant, education, liars, truth tellers — share an equal voice in chronicling our history.

What really happening, after all, is less important than how people have come to feel about it.

Stick a fork in us.  If we are now to the point where we can force kids to learn socialism in schools from which the government won’t let them escape, than the long march is over.   And we’re done.

Posted by Jeff G. @ 1:14pm

Comments (36)

  1. And people think I’m crazy because I involuntarily pay property taxes to support my local school district, but elect to pony up the tuition to send my kids to parochial schools, where —gasp— they start the day with a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. (Plus the 32 ACT scores, ain’t bad either.)

  2. Zinn is so far around the bend that even other academic historians (hint: not the most right-wing department on campus) have pointed out that he’s completely full of shit.

  3. Ah yes, Howard Zinn, the educator who gave his students random grades in order to display how incredibly radical he was and because, well, he could. The same Mr Zinn who told his devotees “the American system is the most ingenious system of control in world history,” one that “turns the masses against one another” and – in ways never quite specified – suppresses all dissent. In the face of which, he somehow, miraculously, managed to sell a shitload of misleading books and become a kind of superstar, at least among the credulous.

    Though Jane Fonda considers him “a great historian.” And who are we to doubt the face of L’Oreal?

  4. And who are we to doubt the face of L’Oreal?

    Reminds me of that awesome line in the original Ab Fab wherein Patsy’s older sister says something awful to Saffron, who protests to her mother, “Why does she get to say such awful things to me,” and Edina explains impatiently, “She’s THIN.”

  5. I can’t help thinking that Zinn’s disdain for accurate grading (and thereby disdain for his students) is pretty much symbolic of a broader attitude.

  6. A People’s History was part of my HS curriculum back in the early 2000s. So I suppose this is nothing new, but PA is a bit more conservative than NJ, so it may explain the uproar. At the time it was taught alongside other history texts, so in my specific case it wasn’t treated as the only source, but rather one text among many, and only one small aspect of the history program any student would be exposed to over the 4 years.

    If it is presented in a way that contextualizes the book within Zinn’s particular worldview, and is part of lesson plans that also offer traditional history lesson’s from the victor’s/U.S. perspective, wouldn’t it just show the many ways that history is recorded? After the HS level history isn’t presented as a set of objective facts because authorship and biography matter. So why wouldn’t you offer another competing voice into the greater ‘American History’ narrative? As long as it isn’t the only voice offered.

    I personally don’t think it would be an imperialist gesture to show kids that history is largely subjective and differs on who is doing the telling, offering traditional and alternative histories like Zinn’s. It would allow them to be critical consumers of historical texts from all sides of the spectrum.

  7. Zinn is dead. Unfortunately, his work marches on.

    Thank god my youngest graduates high school next year. Of course, he’ll be swept into the waiting multi-culti arms of college mere months later. To the best of my knowledge, most hard sciences are still resistant to touchy-feely teaching methods, so he should be okay.

    That and he has inherited his mother’s mulish tendency to speak his mind while making stellar grades.

  8. Dale, I taught high school for a period of time. HS kids aren’t the deepest of thinkers. In general, you give them lots of reading materials, stress facts and dates (in history classes) and try to cover sprawling time periods in 15 weeks.

    Ideally the students would have critical thinking skills. Let me disabuse you of that quaint notion of them as “free thinkers”. They are the very definition of a herd mentality.

  9. Competing narratives is GOOD where history is concerned and BAD where the question of whether humans are going to extinctify themselves by emitting too much CO2 is concerned.

    Because science.

  10. The critical thinking skills needed to properly understand Zinn don’t develop until college, if then.

    He presents a horrific, black-and-white view of our history — not to clarify or fill in blanks but to justify the overthrow of the whole society, because LOOK AT THE GENOCIDE INHERENT IN THE SYSTEM.

    I only run into it ALL THE DAMNED TIME on the internet: “the free market is based on genocide,” and that’s all the Kool-Aid it takes for all too many people.

  11. See, science says that you get a bunch of people to agree on something and that’s truth. And that if you disagree, you’re just an obstinate and/or evilly pro-business denier.

    Either that or the claims of consensus are just so much happy horseshit.

  12. I personally don’t think it would be an imperialist gesture to show kids that history is largely subjective and differs on who is doing the telling,

    Subjective interpretation of events? Good.
    Making up facts to fit a narrative? Bad.

    Zinn falls easily into the latter category. He has to go.

  13. Too bad that science, as opposed to SCIENCE!, is cool with the competing theories and ideas.

    Any real scientist can vouch for that.

  14. Pull The Black Book of Communism into a highschool history class alongside Zinn, and maybe you’d have something.

  15. I think that’s an excellent idea, sdferr. An exercise in reality versus fantasy.

  16. “If it is presented in a way that contextualizes the book within Zinn’s particular worldview”

    Maybe in an abnormal psychology class. Not history.

    It’s about as academically rigorous as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

  17. Leave us alone in the Psych Dept. We have enough fires to put out.

    Send it over to Lit. They eat that kind of shit with a spoon over there.

  18. The Black Book of Communism


  19. ach, a wound.

    Re-publish under

    The Rainbow Book of Grinding Humankind to Pulp


  20. HS kids aren’t the deepest of thinkers.

    With due respect, leigh, your fellow HS teachers ain’t exactly Voltaire, either.

    Philly Schools aren’t interested in Zinn as part of a comprehensive, integrated look at historical storytelling. They want Zinn in order to teach their prisoners wards victims students that America was a pretty terrible place, until the unions and the Community Organizers came on the scene to “fix” things.

  21. History is not subjective. Rather, most history, these days, is lacking in context.

    I do believe, Dalek, you are conflating subjective with context.

    People are taught that certain things happened in history and they are BAD, without understanding that, at the time, it was business as usual. Also known as “context.”

    For instance, a Polish king’s ashes were stuffed into a cannon and fired toward Poland from the Kremlin. (after being brutally killed, dismembered, etc.) By our way of thinking, today, horrible.
    At the time, it was a great joke and, business as usual.

    Also, those who talk about the subjective nature of history do so in order to denigrate Western Civilization without ever admitting that without Western Civilization, firing ashes from cannon would still be “business as usual.”

  22. Dalek is missing the point of the post. It is one thing to recognize the bias inherit in teaching history, it is another to use that recognition as an excuse to throw out all objectivity.

  23. If it is presented in a way that contextualizes the book within Zinn’s particular worldview

    Given the state of public schooling and academia, it seems unlikely that those eager to propagate Zinn’s adolescent worldview will rush to include the views of his many critics and correctors, even those on the left. Among them, the late Norm Geras, Eric Foner and the historian and Dissent contributor Michael Kazin, who described Zinn’s output as “bad history” and “polemic disguised as history” with “a premise better suited to a conspiracy-monger’s website than to a work of scholarship.” Kazin noted that Zinn’s “doleful narrative makes one wonder why anyone but the wealthy came to the United States at all and, after working for a spell, why anyone wished to stay.”

    None of which stopped the Guardian’s Victoria Brittain writing a witless and fawning tribute to Zinn, one of many in the paper that made no mention whatsoever of the quality of his research. Brittain’s prejudices – and those of her readers – had been flattered, which was clearly Zinn’s primary interest. As Oliver Kamm said shortly after Zinn’s death, “If your heart is in the right place, so the assumption seems to be, then it doesn’t matter if your scholarship is sloppy or risible. Well, it does matter, because historical truth matters for its own sake. Zinn had no conception of it. To him, an example of ‘admirable and painstaking research’ was – seriously – a popular book claiming that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job.”

  24. With due respect, leigh, your fellow HS teachers ain’t exactly Voltaire, either.

    Quite true, Squid. I only did it briefly as a favor for a friend who was on sabbatical. Gad. I don’t know how she can stand it.

  25. Pull The Black Book of Communism into a highschool history class alongside Zinn, and maybe you’d have something.

    The only book they’re going to be reading alongside Zinn that has Black in the title is Bernal’s.

  26. See also this by Roger Kimball:

    With Howard Zinn, contemporary American academia found its court historian. Zinn was like a gigantic echo chamber, accurately reproducing — and actively reinforcing — every left-wing cliché with which the academy has abetted its sense of election these past several decades. “You see how smart he is,” saith the tribe, “he thinks exactly as we do.”[…] A People’s History is the textbook of choice in high schools and colleges across the country. No other account of our past comes even close in influence or ubiquity. No other, more responsible, telling of the American story had a chance. How could it? Given a choice between a book that portrayed America honestly — as an extraordinary success story — and a book that portrayed the history of America as a litany of depredations and failures, which do you suppose your average graduate of a teachers college, your average member of the National Education Association, would choose? To ask the question is to answer it.

  27. Howard Zinn is to history as John Foxe is to apologetics.

  28. I see nothing wrong with using Zinn’s fantasy novel, er, history in the classroom as long as it is part of a class teaching the history of propaganda.

    To teach it in a US history class, however, is to legitimize his view, and his view is that of a card carrying member of the Communist Party. The Communist Party was [and is] committed to the overthrow of The United States. Therefore, Zinn’s book is the work of a Traitor.

    Jeff is, sadly, right: ‘Stick a fork in us’.

  29. “… Distinguishing between competing narratives is imperialist. Competition is anti-egalitarian. …”
    – – – – – –

    This seems to have started back in the 60’s, when we were all taught that “discrimination” was bad.

    We thought they were using “discrimination” in the sense of “racial prejudice”.

    But, no. . . they really MEANT to erase the word’s original concept: the process of discerning the differences between things (or ideas), and determining the relative merit of the things so compared. In other words, making judgments.

    The Lefties don’t want anybody else making judgments. That’s one of the powers they reserve to themselves.

  30. zinn is pure hickenlooper and it smells too

  31. i took a zinn on the toilet

  32. Howard Zinn is to history as John Foxe is to apologetics.

    I like this game!

    Howard Zinn is to history as Spam is to French cuisine.

    Howard Zinn is to history as Miley Cyrus is to music.

    Howard Zinn is to history as HP Lovecraft is to Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

  33. Howard Zinn is to history as hellomynameissiemanymolleh is to intelligent conversation.

  34. The Lefties don’t want anybody else making judgments. That’s one of the powers they reserve to themselves.

    cf. Evan Sayet

    his view is that of a card carrying member of the Communist Party.

    A 17-yr-old kid called Levin today and asserted that socialism isn’t so bad, because the U.S. is half-socialist already. He asserted that the free market does good things but the gubmint is needed to stop capitalists from crushing people.

    Yes, it was an incantation rather than an thought-out idea.

    Levin gently schooled him and sent him a couple free books but didn’t explore what the kid knew about the USSR and the Iron Curtain.

    We’re all glad the Soviet Union is gone, but without Exhibit A of a totalitarian society, the youth really have no negative associations with “communism,” “socialism,” or any of those other things us older folks had written in our gut. The surveillance state doesn’t bug them, the power-grab that is Obamacare bugs them only after they get the bill, and the awareness of a complicit press (Pravda, Tass) and the compulsive lying of the Soviet leaders is removed from their consciousness.

    That’s why the alarm bells don’t go off for them: they’re like chickens raised indoors — the shadow of a hawk means exactly nothing to them.

  35. I dunno, di — I grew up hoping that the Russians love their children, too, and we still had plenty of the good old agitprop about how we needed a strong central authority to rein in the excesses of the capitalist system. To the extent that we had the Soviet example, it was usually an example of how wise central planning was able to turn the forbidding steppes of Russia into a world power.

  36. Tailgunner Joe was right. I don’t just call them Commiecrats for rhetorical pizazz.