Acton Institute Powerblog

Zinn & the Art of Socialist Education

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It’s not too late to order The Call of the Entrepreneur and The Birth of Freedom for stocking stuffers. An eye-opening report by Patrick Courrielche at Big Hollywood makes for a fine motivator. Some excerpts:

Enter Howard Zinn – an author, professor and American historian – who, with the help of Hollywood and the History Channel, intends to change the way our pre-K through high school children learn American history [beginning with “a new documentary, entitled The People Speak, to be aired December 13th at 8pm on the History Channel.”]. …

Zinn has spent a lifetime teaching college students about the evils of capitalism, the promise of Marxism, and his version of American history – a history that has, in his view, been kept from students. …

Perhaps due to their one-sided perspective of America’s past, Zinn’s history books have largely been limited to colleges and universities, until now. In the press release announcing the broadcast, HISTORY introduced a partnership with VOICES Of A People’s History Of The United States, a nonprofit led by Zinn that bares the same name as his companion book, to help get his special brand of history into classrooms. …

Brian Jones, a New York teacher and actor, is a board member of VOICES and has also played the lead in Zinn’s play Marx in SoHo. … he extols the benefits of this one man play as a tool to introduce people to Marx’s ideas….

Jones is also a regular contributor to Socialist Worker, International Socialist Review, and speaks regularly on the beneficial principles of Marxism, including this year at the 2009 Socialism Conference. He recently gave a speech on the failure of capitalism, proclaiming that “Marx is back.”

Sarah Knopp, a Los Angeles high school teacher, is also on Zinn’s Teacher Advisory Board. Like Jones, Knopp is also a regular contributor to International Socialist Review, Socialist Worker, is an active member in The International Socialist Organization, and was also a speaker at the 2009 Socialist Conference. …

Then there is Jesse Sharkey, a schoolteacher in Chicago. Sharkey is another of Zinn’s Teacher Advisory Board Members and … a contributor to— Socialist Worker.

This is the group that the History Channel is working with “to develop enhanced, co-branded curriculums for a countrywide educational initiative.” …

I am not advocating that we spare our kids the harsh truths of American history, but I am suggesting, given Zinn’s far-left political affiliation, this project is designed to breakdown our vulnerable children’s views of American principles so that they can be built back up in a socialist vision. …

It is not surprising to me that there are groups sympathetic to Marx’s ideas throughout our country. What is surprising is that the most powerful persuasion machine in the world (Hollywood) and the History Channel would provide Zinn such a prominent soapbox to stealthily build a case for a destructive ideology to our children, and as a result mainstream his ideas with the magic of cool music, graphics, and celebrity. Groups that push Marx’s philosophy are like a virtual organism that will not die off even when stung by the undeniable historical evidence showing human behavior makes such a system unsustainable. If we let this virtual organism into our grade schools, it will take decades for our kids to unlearn the ideology.

… When a reporter asked Zinn, “In writing A People’s History, what were you calling for? A quiet revolution?” Zinn responded: “A quiet revolution is a good way of putting it. From the bottom up. Not a revolution in the classical sense of a seizure of power, but rather from people beginning to take power from within the institutions. In the workplace, the workers would take power to control the conditions of their lives. It would be a democratic socialism.”

Counter bad documentaries with good ones. And if you want to do more at this gift-giving time of the year, consider helping the Acton Institute in its ongoing struggle to promote the free and virtuous society.

Jonathan Witt


  • Roger McKinney

    Somehow this doesn’t frighten me. I don’t see how Holliwood, TV or universities can become any bigger promoters of Marxism than they already are. Naturally, Zinn is a historian who refuses to learn any economics.

  • I have to agree with Roger. Teachers, today, push Zinn’s ideas literally from Kindergarten through Graduate and Post-Graduate schools. Courrielche should not be surprised by this. What should surprise him is the fact that every now and again he will stumble upon a student who does not look on Judeo-Christian Western Civilization, Capitalism, and the Market Economy with condescension bordering on outright disdain. Unless those who respect Western Civ., and the institutions that made it great, directly engage through the Cultural Influence Professions than young people who respect liberty, limited government, personal responsibility and the market economy will become ever more rare.

  • It’s lamentable that we are seeing so few young millennials getting exposed to the best ideas and authors. They read Zinn (because it’s assigned), or they read Shane Claiborne and Brian McClaren and Bono and get their economic “world view” there.

    If the truth indeed endures, as suggested above, then I wonder why so few young people pick the really great books and opt for these others instead. Is the fault ours? Do we need to begin writing new books designed to repackage enduring economic truths for each new generation?

  • It upsets me to no end today that there exists an well matured agenda in the public schools today to re-educate our children with regards to other equally valid views of US and world history. The AP history course taught at our local school justifies Howard Zinn’s viewpoints as a balanced counter-view to the “capitalistic” views (hence biased)that have been predominately taught in public schools for decades. How did this become an accepted component in our school’s curriculum and what can we do about it?

  • Mr. Villegas: I hate to be the one to tell you, but Arne Duncan at the federal Dept of Ed is pushing to get a national curriculum into the nation’s public schools. Guess what it will look like?

    You write: “How did this become an accepted component in our school’s curriculum and what can we do about it?”

    Well, I’m not a big fan of charter schools but at least they offer a hint of Choice. The simple fact is that it only takes a couple of generations to wash out the learned truth of our Founding and First Principles among a large number of our citizens.

    The answer is to aggressively take back the schools with a relentless, informed attack on the statists that have been left to do this damage for … at least 50 years. Can we do it? Yes because we have truth on our side. That’s a huge trump card. But you need to be ready to be confronted. In Ventura CA a man had a finger bitten off at a Tea rally; in St Louis a guy was beat up by SEIU goons; and ACORN thugs lined up at my local Congressman’s office to rant about his vote against the energy and health legislation.

    But just as C.S. Lewis advises in this book “Surprised by Joy” — the bully will stand down if confronted. You don’t allow them to act. They’re empty.

    Yes, at a point in time, you have to physically push back against those who push their lies. It’s like LORD OF THE RINGS. “Men of the West” need to ride into the furry of the enemy. We’ve done it before and we can do it again.

    And what enemy can stand against God’s Truth. It’s past time to suit up!

  • Roger McKinney

    Magdaleno: “How did this become an accepted component in our school’s curriculum and what can we do about it?”

    It began over a century ago with John Dewey and the “Progressive” movement. Public school teachers are taught socialism in college. Socialists dominate university faculties partly because they are state funded. The key to change would be to end state funding of universities, that is, privatize all universities, and then provide vouchers to students the state wants to subsidize. Of course, that will never happen.

    Meanwhile, I used my children’s natural antipathy toward authority against the schools. I didn’t force my kids to believe anything. I just presented the alternatives. They were easily attracted to the anti-authoritarian nature of libertarian thought. In turn, they have more influence over their friends than does the authority of the teacher.

  • Roger McKinney

    Sadly, there is a guy over at one of the Sojourner related blogs promoting Zinn. Christians are so gullible.

  • Albert Benson

    Public education in this country was founded by Unitarians and socialists and even today the socialists continue to promote and endorse it. Please check out for several articles pertaining to the socialist agenda for and in public schools.