Ross: Those who don’t learn history are doomed to accept whatever they are told

Sep 28, 2022, 8:07 AM
The march was sparked by the schools actions against middle school teacher Zakia Jarrett, who was briefly placed on leave from her job after making a reference to police racism during a lesson. (Photo by Blake Nissen for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
(Photo by Blake Nissen for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The parents of a Bellevue high school student have taken their son out of an American History course after discovering it was based on the research of historian Howard Zinn.

To quote the student’s father “I don’t want my son learning George Washington was evil…”

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Our sister station KTTH covered this story, and I picked up on it because I read Howard Zinn’s book – it was a gift from my mother – and found it more interesting than any of the history I learned in high school.

It’s called a “People’s History of the United States” and yes – it’s all the stuff that has been kept out of high school history textbooks. It doesn’t say that George Washington was evil, but he is described as “the richest man in America.” And you learn that then, as now, the elites controlled the government.

You learn that the Native American tribes had their own functioning governments with the family as the smallest social unit – where disputes were settled based on customs and governed by a moral code, and the freedom of the individual came first. A concept that’s pretty popular these days.

The book has vivid depictions of slavery, but it also covers the rebellions of white tenant farmers in the north, who were not allowed to own land, and were locked into an American version of feudalism. There were rent strikes and violent tenant revolts … you begin to see why Washington had trouble raising an army.

Zinn’s book is 688 pages of the history you never learned. And yes – he’s described himself as having anarchistic tendencies, but there’s a reason for that. He was a bombardier in WWII. He dropped bombs on European cities – including dropping napalm on an occupied area of France. After the war – he went back to visit some of the cities he bombed. And he realized those bombs didn’t just kill the enemy.

It made him a skeptic of big government – which, come to think of it, is also something we hear a lot about today.

Howard Zinn’s book failed to shake my patriotism, any more than visiting Cuba or Iran or the old Soviet Union did. I still see America as a unique experiment worth protecting. Of course, I read it as an adult, and perhaps the uncensored version of the history that got us here may be inappropriate for children.

But if your child is strong enough to know the stuff that’s been stripped out of the textbooks – you might want to give them the book as a gift when they’re old enough.

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Ross: Those who don’t learn history are doomed to accept whatever they are told