The left cannot get enough of the late Howard
Zinn. The radical professor’s A People’s
History of the United States consistently holds a place in the top 15 of
the 100 bestselling political books on Amazon‘s “blue,” liberal side. The million mark in sales has long been
passed, an outstanding figure for a work of history. This despite the fact that his “People’s
History” is an unrelievedly hostile take on the nation’s past.
Healthy sales can be attributed in large part
to the use of the book as a textbook in high school and college. Generally, 20
to 30 percent of students in my freshman composition classes say they have read
Howard Zinn in high school. Students now
have eNotes to explain Zinn. There is a teaching edition geared for
college teachers, and at least one for high school teachers, especially
those teaching Advanced Placement history. They assign his book in suburban
Gwinnett County, Georgia, and in rural Hoschton, Georgia. I
have a large file of syllabi for such AP history classes. Students who complete their college history
requirements in high school do not escape Zinn.
Furthermore, an entire spin-off industry has
developed for adapting Zinn’s version of history for the lower grades. Publisher Seven Stories claims that Zinn’s A Young People’s History, for ages 10
and up, is their best-selling backlist title. A plethora of lesson materials is offered to
teachers through the Zinn Education Project. At a Georgia State University College of
Education-sponsored “teach-in” last February, I sat in
on a workshop where students from area colleges of education learned strategies
from teachers and education professors for using the Zinn version of history to
teach elementary school students about Christopher Columbus’s “real” accomplishment–namely genocide.
Many college students will get the Zinn
version of history in their one U.S. history course. These include those taking History 102 at Yosemite Community College this
semester and those taking an equivalent course at El Camino Community College in
fall 2010 that relied on Zinn’s Voices of
a People’s History of the United States.
I found Zinn’s books on the syllabi of U.S. history survey courses at
Bloomsburg University (Summer 2011), San Jos