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Friday, April 23, 2010

A People’s History of the United States

A People’s History of the United States
    While reading a current issue of National Review, I came across an article by Roger Kimball that is an obituary of sorts written about Howard Zinn who died on January 27, 2010.  It turns out that Professor Zinn, the author of more than 20 books, is known primarily for the textbook he authored, A People’s History of the United States, which was first published in 1980.  Zinn’s history textbook has sold more than 2 million copies and, as of February 1, 2010, was ranked number 7 on the Amazon best sellers list.  According to Kimball, an editor and publisher in his own right, A People’s History of the United States is “the textbook of choice in high schools and colleges across the country.”

    I was describing the contents and thrust of the Zinn book to a friend and when he saw the cover he exclaimed, “Why that’s the book my daughter is reading right now!”

    And what does this history “textbook of choice” say about the United States?  Here’s just a sampling…

    In Chapter 4 titled “Tyranny is Tyranny,” dealing with the Founders of our Republic, Zinn states, 

            “They found that by creating a nation, a symbol, a legal unity called the
            United States, they could take over land, profits, and political power… 
            In the process, they could hold back a number of potential rebellions
            and create a consensus of popular support for the rule of a new,
            privileged leadership.”

    “They created the most effective system of national control devised in modern times…”
    In other words, the “Tyranny” Professor Zinn is referring to is the tyranny of the Founders of America!

    In the same chapter, Professor Zinn addresses the Declaration of Independence in which the signers pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor (all of which, except for honor, some signers lost).  Zinn, however, sees the Declaration in a different light.

            “The Declaration…ignored the existing inequalities in property.  And
            how could people truly have equal rights, with stark differences in wealth?”

    As for the rule of law as a fundamental principle of human rights, Zinn approvingly quotes from the English historian, Christopher Hill…

            “…the rule of law…mainly benefited the men of property.”

    The American Revolution described in Chapter 5 is titled, “A Kind of Revolution” and describes the father of our country, George Washington, as “the richest man in America.”  This is either poor research by author Zinn, or what he would consider to be an intentional smear.  While certainly affluent, Washington was far, far from the richest man in America.  He wasn’t even the richest man in the Virginia Colony at the time of the American Revolution.  There are a total of five references to George Washington in the text of the book, not one complimentary, and few remotely accurate.

    Zinn’s book treats President Abraham Lincoln as a self-serving pragmatist who was forced to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.  And Zinn’s dislike (hatred?) of free markets and capitalism is captured in this apparently rhetorical question:  “Was [W.E.B.] Du Bois right—that in that growth of American capitalism, before and after the Civil War, whites as well as blacks were in some sense becoming slaves?”

    In Chapter 10, Zinn dismisses the free market economic system as “…an economic system not rationally planned for human need, but developing fitfully, chaotically out of the profit motive…”  Clearly Zinn prefers a top down, command and control economic system like Socialism over the individual freedom approach of Capitalism.  He chooses an autocracy over a meritocracy.  No wonder that, toward the end of the chapter, Professor Zinn speaks approvingly of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, the philosophical founders of Communism.

    Chapter 13 is titled, “The Socialist Challenge”, and indeed the socialists described by Zinn in this chapter receive far better coverage and a more positive review than any of our American Founders.  The Chapter begins with a quote from Emma Goldman on the Spanish-American war, “…the lives, blood, and money of the American people were used to protect the interests of the American capitalists.”

    Professor Zinn goes on to speak with enthusiasm about the Socialist movement of the early 20th century.

            “There was an idea in the air, becoming clearer and stronger,
            an idea not just in the theories of Karl Marx but in the dreams
            of writers and artists through the ages: that people might cooperatively
            use the treasures of the earth to make life better for everyone, not
            just a few.”

    Among the many supposed heroes of the people (and of Zinn) described in the book are an odd assortment of reds and socialists including Eugene V. Debs, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Emma Goldman, W.E.B. Du Bois,Kate Richards O’Hare, John Reed, Bill Hayward, William Z. Foster, Herbert Aptheker, and Noam Chkomsky.

    Professor Zinn’s take on World War II is perhaps the strangest of all.  

            “It was a war against an enemy of unspeakable evil.  Hitler’s Germany
            was extending totalitarianism, racism, militarism, and overt aggressive
            warfare beyond what an already cynical world had experienced.  And
            yet, did the governments conducting this war—England, the United
            States, the Soviet Union—represent something significantly different,
            so that their victory would be a blow to imperialism, racism,
            totalitarianism, militarism, in the world?”

    Clearly, in the Professor’s mind, there was not much difference between Hitler’s Germany and the United States.

            “For the United States to step forward as a defender of helpless
            countries matched its image in American high school history textbooks,
            but not its record in world affairs.”

            “…blacks, looking at anti-Semitism in Germany, might not see
            their own situation in the U.S. as much different.”

    Tellingly, the book makes no mention whatsoever of the Holocaust undertaken by Hitler to kill all the Jews in Grmany or any other country under his control.

    Not surprisingly, Zinn dismisses as pure fantasy the well documented efforts of the Soviet Communist apparatus to successfully penetrate the government of the United States during World War II.  Communist spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who passed along secrets which enabled the Russians to build an atomic bomb, are portrayed as innocent victims.

    The Vietnam War is hailed as a victory for “a nationalist revolutionary movement.”  It is described by Zinn as “…organized modern technology versus organized human beings, and the human beings won.”  Never mind the 50,000 American casualties suffered by the United States.

    It is somewhat surprising that both Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton come in for very harsh coverage in A People’s History of the United States.  But, of course, the criticism is not because these U.S. Presidents were too liberal, but because they were too timid in their leap to the left!  

    Zinn’s coverage of Ronald Reagan’s years in the White House is both factually inaccurate and very nasty.

            “Corporate America became the greatest beneficiary of the
            Reagan-Bush years.”

            “Under Reagan and Bush, [their] concern for ‘the economy,’ which
            was short-hand for corporate profit, dominated any concern for
            workers or consumers.”

    In regard to the Reagan build up of the military (that had been unilaterally dismantled under Carter, and which led to the demise of the Soviet Union), Zinn states incorrectly that…

            “Reagan tried to pay for this with cuts to benefits for the poor.”

    In reality, there were no cuts by President Reagan, only smaller increases in welfare benefits which were mischaracterized by the media as “cuts.”

    Perhaps the biggest lie of all was the statement that, “Unemployment grew in the Reagan years.”  The fact is that Ronald Reagan inherited a “basket case” economy from Jimmy Carter with unemployment rates above 10%.  Ronald Reagan’s tax rate reduction program brought unemployment down to historic lows and thus increased revenues to the Federal Government.

    Not yet finished with his trashing of Ronald Reagan, Zinn states, “By the end of the Reagan years, the gap between rich and poor in the United States had grown dramatically.”  This is another assertion that is not born out by the facts.

    Perhaps the silliest statement in the book is also about Ronald Reagan and has to do with the media which was blatantly vicious and partisan in its coverage of the President…

            “The press was especially timid and obsequious during the
            Reagan years…”

    Professor Zinn must have been living on a different planet.

    Chapter 23 of A People’s History of the United States is appropriately titled “The Coming Revolt of the Guards.”  

    I say the title is appropriate because the first sentence of the 23rd chapter reads:

            “The title of this chapter is not a prediction, but a hope, which I
            will soon explain.”

    Professor Zinn’s thesis is that all those who have served in positions of power in
the United States, from our Founders to Ronald Reagan and even Bill Clinton, are
the “Guards” who have kept the masses down and have kept them from achieving
freedom and equality.

    Listen to Zinn’s candid explanation of his purpose in writing this textbook:

            “The American system is the most ingenious system of control in
            world history.”

    Zinn openly says that he seeks a socialist revolution, the kind, “…the
governments of the United States, and the wealthy elite allied to them—from
the Founding Fathers to now—have tried their best to prevent.”

    And what, according to Zinn, is it that the Founders and the elite have tried to prevent?  They have tried “…to prevent the great upsurge of socialism…”

    In an urgent message, Professor Zinn goes on to argue that, “All of us have
become hostages in the new conditions of doomsday technology, runaway
economics, global poisoning, uncontainable war.”

    Zinn seeks a utopia where, “…Americans might be ready to demand not just more tinkering, more reform laws, another reshuffling of the same deck, another New Deal, but radical change.”

    In an almost fairy tale fashion, Zinn continues…

            “The society’s levers of powers would have to be taken away from
            those whose drives have led to the present state—giant corporations,
            the military, and their politician collaborators.  We would need—by
            a coordinated effort of local groups all over the country—to reconstruct
            the economy for both efficiency and justice, producing in a cooperative
            way what people need most.”

            “Everyone could share the routine but necessary jobs for a few hours
            a day and leave most of the time free for enjoyment, creativity, labors
            of love, and yet produce enough for an equal and ample distribution
            of goods.  Certain basic things would be abundant enough to be taken
            out of the money system and be available—free—to everyone:  food,
            housing, health care, education, transportation.”

            In order to reach this “utopia” Zinn advises…

            “These struggles would involve all the tactics used at various times in
            the past by people’s movements:  demonstrations, marches, civil
            disobedience; strikes and boycotts and general strikes; direct action to
            redistribute wealth, to reconstruct institutions, to revamp relationships;
            creating—in music, literature, drama, all the arts, and all the areas of
            work and play in everyday life—a new culture of sharing of respect,
            anew joy in the collaboration of people to help themselves and
            one another.”

    This all may sound like utopia to Professor Zinn, but it sounds more like George Orwell’s “1984” to me.

    In the Afterword of the text it becomes clear how Howard Zinn became such an unhinged radical:

            “When I set out to write the book, I had been teaching history
            and what is grandiosely called ‘political science’ for twenty years. 
            Half of that time I was involved in the civil rights movement in the
            South (mostly while teaching at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia).
            And then there were ten years of activity against the war in Vietnam. 
            These experiences were hardly a recipe for neutrality in the teaching
            and writing of history.”

    Indeed!  The foregoing words are the most honest words written in this anti-American history textbook.  They accurately summarize the intent and the mission of Professor Howard Zinn in writing A People’s History of the United States and unfortunately how effective he has been in his mission.  

    Is this textbook actually in use?  If you doubt that it is, please read this excerpt from a review by a public high school history teacher that I found on the Internet:

            “For several years of the last decade, I taught Advanced Placement U.S.
            History at a [public] high school… When I began the course, Zinn had
            already been assigned by my predecessor, and I needed a counterpoint
            to the main text (Bailey and Kennedy's bombastic, traditionalist, and
            short-on-social history Pageant of the American Nation). Zinn's deftly
            written book provided a fortunate antithesis to the ‘march of presidents
            and industrial titans’ approach to American history. I found many chapters
            of this book to be such excellent stimulants to class discussions that I
            extended their use into my non-AP U.S. history classes, where students,
            many of whom could not otherwise have cared less about history, found
            themselves reading an interesting and provocative historian for the
            first time in their lives. Many of the best discussions I ever had with my
            classes (both AP and "regular") began with assigned chapters from Zinn.
            From there, it was an easy step to move on to the idea of historiography
            (the history of how history has been interpreted) and to decoupling
             my students from thinking of the textbook as revealed wisdom.” 

    Although I have not yet read Pageant of the American Nation, I plan to purchase a copy.  I actually own eight American History textbooks that are in use, not counting A People’s History of the United States, and I can tell you that every one of them contains a decidedly liberal slant.  Not one text provides a balanced picture of the United States or of great American leaders like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Reagan.  I’m confident that the history textbook, Pageant of the American Nation is no different.  These are not textbooks that would make you proud to be an American.

    No wonder today’s young people have no regard for our Founders or our American institutions.  No wonder our President, educated by the likes of men like Howard Zinn, bows to dictators and apologizes to the world for the United States.

    But don’t just get mad.  Get the truth out.

    Please pass this blog along to others and order a copy of Zinn’s book from Amazon so you can see for yourself just how badly our children are being educated.  

    Check to see if your children or grandchildren are being brainwashed by Zinn’s tale of lies and distortions. Whether the Zinn book is used as a primary text or just as a secondary text, there is really no place for such a dishonest book in our public schools.  Ask, even demand, that this unreliable, inaccurate book be eliminated from use in our public schools.  Call the fabrications and lies and misrepresentations of Howard Zinn to the attention of your legislators.  

    Read the history books that your children and grandchildren are reading and if they don’t offer a balanced view, ask your school board members why they don’t use books that present an accurate view of the history of this great nation.

    If we don’t tell our children the truth about our great nation, they won’t ever hear it.  Worse yet, they won’t revere it.  Please act today!

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