Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History’ to be taught in Philly schools?
With all the problems facing Philly schools this year, it’s a little surprising to see City Council ready to take on the city-wide history curriculum. But, there’s no time like the present, I guess, and there’s no book quite like Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History of the United States.’
Councilmembers Jim Kenney and Jannie Blackwell introduced a resolution, on final passage this week, which would call upon the Philadelphia School District to make ‘A People’s History’ “a required part of the high school U.S. history curriculum”:
Resolution calling upon the Philadelphia School District to make Howard Zinn’s best-selling book “A People’s History of the United States” a required part of the high school U.S. history curriculum as Philadelphia City Council recognizes the need to expose students to a more accurate, complex, and engaging understanding of United States history than is typically found in traditional textbooks that often ignore the influence that people of color, women, and the working-class had in shaping our nation’s history.
Zinn’s history book attempted to look at U.S. history – from Columbus to present – through the lens of the common person and through the struggle of those Americans whose story is rarely published. First released in 1980, there were numerous updates of the work, the last of which detailed the beginnings of the War on Terror in the early 2000s. He once referred to his book as an explanation of “how people – not governments – achieve social change.”
“If you believe that history is all about irony, paradox and unforeseen consequences, Howard Zinn is not your man. If you believe that history is the eternal struggle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness, and you like to cheer for the underdog, Zinn should be your hero,” wrote Joseph J. Ellis of Mount Holyoke College and author of “American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic” upon Zinn’s death in 2010.
The Council resolution does not, of course, make the book a requirement.
Many conservatives have had a generally negative view about Zinn’s history book, which came to a head in 2009, when the History Channel aired an education project bankrolled by Matt Damon, which attempted to make the generally-dry history book more understandable for the K-12 population.
The website ZinnEdProject.org, a project of Teaching for Change and Rethinking Schools, lays out how a teacher may go about using Zinn’s work in the classroom.
Breitbart.com’s John Nolte noted at the time that America’s teachers were likely “panting in anticipation for their first chance to screen this toxic mix of guilt and victimization in classrooms everywhere stocked with young, captive, impressionable minds,” at the thought of teaching Zinn’s work.
Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin called ‘A People’s History’ Zinn’s “Marxist history book” during that small controversy and referred to the attempt to get the History Channel doc into public schools “Reason #99,999,951 to home school or start your own charter school.”
UPDATE, 10/24: It passed.
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