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Howard ZinnPosted October 3, 2013, by Mary Grabar: Miffed by the fact that a layperson, like former Indiana governor and current president of Purdue University, would dare question any history book a history professor or education professor chooses--especially when that book is by the late communist "historian" Howard Zinn--a bunch of professors are organizing a "read-in" of Zinn's bestseller A People's History of the United States at Purdue University and other places on November 5, the birthday of socialist Eugene DebsSocialist Workerin weighing in on the controversy, declares "We stand with Zinn." 

Purdue philosophy professor David Detmer, former student of Zinn, gave what appears to be a teach-in on Zinn and argued that Daniels's objections amounted to "censorship." Writing in History News Network Norman Markowitz, Rutgers professor of political history who teaches "from a Marxist perspective," presented a defense against all the "right-wingers."

Don't believe Inside Higher Education's presentation of who Zinn was, though.  A People's History does not just "describe American history from the perspective black people, women, low-income workers"--unless they happened to be black people, women, and low-income workers who were communists.  Actually, the heroes in the book are radical leaders, many of whom came from the elite classes.  

But at Dissident Prof, we will not limit our investigations to this book that is widely used in high school and college classes (capitalist formula for profit: require students buy your books), but will search Zinn's oeuvre. 

To commence the proceedings, Dissident Prof herself would like to begin with Zinn's introduction in A Young People's History of the United States (capitalists: require your school district buy Zinn's specially written textbook for young comrades).  This is what the late professor wrote to middle school students:

Ever since my book A People’s History of the United States was published twenty-five years ago, parents and teachers have been asking me about an edition that would be attractive to youngsters.  So I am very pleased that Seven Stories Press and Rebecca Stefoff have undertaken the heroic job of adapting my book for younger readers.

In other words, kiddos, don't worry: your parents and teachers approve!

The following paragraph reads:

Over the years, some people have asked me: ‘Do you think that your history, which is radically different than the usual histories of the United States, is suitable for young people?  Won’t it create disillusionment with our country?  Is it right to be so critical of the government’s policies?  Is it right to take down the traditional heroes of the nation, like Christopher Columbus, Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt?  Isn’t it unpatriotic to emphasize slavery and racism, the massacres of Indians, the exploitation of working people, the ruthless expansion of the United States at the expense of the Indians and people in other countries?

Of course not!  All children care about slavery, racism, massacres, exploitation, ruthless expansion (good vocabulary words to learn!).


I wonder why some people think it is all right for adults to hear such a radical, critical point of view, but not teenagers or sub-teenagers?  Do they think that young people are not able to deal with such matters?  It seems to me it is wrong to treat young readers as if they are not mature enough to look at their nation’s policies honestly. . . .

This prompted the Dissident Prof to turn to her long-neglected Paradise Lost (for she has not had much opportunity to teach it of late).  This is from Book 4:

. . . him there they found
Squat like a toad, close at the ear of Eve;
Assaying by his devilish art to reach
The organs of her fancy, and with them forge
Illusions as he list, phantasms and dreams,
Or if, inspiring venom, he might taint
The animal spirits that from pure blood arise
Like gentle breaths from rivers pure, thence raise
At least distempered, discontented thoughts,
Vain hopes, vain aims, inordinate desires
Blown up with high conceits engendering pride.

Those of a certain age who were required to read Milton in English class might recall that an argument precedes this between Adam and Eve, where Eve rationalizes that Satan would surely not stoop so low as to target someone more naive and susceptible than Adam.  She strikes out on her own and that's where it all occurs.  

David Detmer, the former Zinn student, currently Purdue philosophy professor, in his hand-out to students wrote,

“Daniels offers no evidence in support of his dubious claim that the assigning of Zinn’s work amounts to a ‘force-feeding’ of his theories and conclusions, as if teachers and students were incapable of engaging Zinn’s claims thoughtfully and critically."

let me whisper in your ear...Do you have any favorite passages by the late Howard Zinn now being taught to innocents in our classrooms?  (His play, Marx in Soho, was performed last weekend at Carleton College, sponsored by the economics department!)  

Please support the Dissident Prof.  Send in your favorite Howard Zinn passages, with rebuttals, anecdotes, jokes, literary allusions, etc.--even pictures of toads.



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