This Saturday teachers will gather at the Smithsonian (specifically the National Museum of the American Indian) for a continuing education class about Christopher Columbus. They will get lessons using Howard Zinn’s Marxist A People’s History of the United States, and produced by the Zinn Education Project. Breaking publishing records, Zinn’s book has sold over 2.6 million copies since it was first published in 1980. Sales grow each year.
ZEP was started by one of Zinn’s adoring Boston University students-turned-wealthy-capitalist. By 2018, 84,000 teachers had downloaded their lessons. School districts pay for ZEP organizers to give workshops to teachers and librarians on such things as Islamophobia, climate change, and the labor movement. ZEP lessons are bracketed by such accusations against our president as spewing “racist rhetoric” and conducting a “war on immigrants.” At the prompting of the Southern Poverty Law Center, South Carolina adopted ZEP materials for use statewide in the teaching of Reconstruction. Like the passage of laws for child labor, food safety, and civil rights, Reconstruction is presented as a failure of an irredeemable American system.
Fittingly, Saturday’s workshop (along with another on September 28 in New York City) is being called a “teach-in,” for Zinn presents all Native Americans as living in idyllic and socially advanced communes—until the evil Europeans came in. The first was Columbus who is accused of genocide against the peaceful “Arawak” Indians. Zinn is perhaps most famous for these opening pages, but as I discovered in writing Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation against America, they are so blatantly plagiarized and full of distortions that they would have justified failure or expulsion if committed by any college freshman I taught. Zinn’s source is Columbus: His Enterprise: Exploding the Myth,a thin paperback screed for high school students written by his anti-Vietnam War comrade, the socialist novelist Hans Koning. Zinn also deceptively quotes Columbus’s diary to make it appear that his sole aim is subjugation unto death of the Indians for gold. At the Smithsonian, teachers will learn this falsified history, along with how, accordingly, to conduct an “Abolish Columbus Day” campaign with their students.
Zinn lied about the discovery, as well as about the colonists, the Indians, the Founding, slavery, the Civil War, women’s rights, both World Wars, the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Vietnam War. Government documents are selectively quoted to make it appear that the war in Indochina was motivated by imperialistic desires for resources—instead of the actual expressed desire to stop Soviet and Chineseimperialism. Ho Chi Minh embodied the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson. My Lai was typical of American soldiers’ conduct.
Taxpayers pay for such continuing education courses for which teachers earn credit and consequently advance in their careers and salaries. Tuition, travel, materials, and facilities do not come cheap. The Smithsonian, the nation’s museum, was allocated one billion dollars this year.
Furthermore, in 2006 the US Embassy in Moscow published Zinn’s book, which presents the Soviet Union in a much more favorable light than the United States, in the Russian language. This year the National Endowment for the Arts funded the Kronos art and music festival, where performers paid homage to Zinn. Last year, New York City public parks hosted Zinn-readings by famous actors. PBS has given Zinn a friendly platform.
When elected officials attempt to remove Zinn’s book, ZEP, teachers, and the professoriate attack. In Arkansas in 2017 when Representative Kim Hendren introduced a bill to keep Zinn’s materials out of schools, ZEP launched a fundraiser, sending A People’s History to almost 700 teachers and librarians. When it was revealed in 2013 that Purdue University President Mitch Daniels had attempted to keep Zinn’s book out of classrooms during his governorship, the professoriate screamed censorship, held a Zinn “Read-In,” and established a Howard Zinn graduate scholarship!
Lawmakers face a daunting task in fighting administrators and professors who, although driven by left-wing ideology, are held up as experts.
Zinn’s common charge against his critics, including accomplished historians, was that they disagreed with his politics, which promoted peace, democracy, and help for the oppressed and the overlooked. Not so. Zinn failed to give credit to everyday heroes, like E.D. Nixon of the NAACP, even when it was pointed out to him. He instead valorized communists and famous radicals who promoted violence and bloodshed.
We would not justify using a book by a Holocaust denier like David Irving—or books that sugar-coat the exploitation of African-Americans or the expulsion of the Cherokee.
But Zinn used Irving as a source, misrepresented Communists’ exploitation of African-Americans, and stereotyped Indians.
It is time taxpayers stopped subsidizing Zinn’s fake, America-hating history.