Making Curriculum Pop

Woza, if, just say, you're a history teacher and, just say, you like using primary sources in your classes you'll LOVE this new documentary on the History Channel!

I read an article today in the New York Times about a Howard Zinn documentary, The People Speak a special they will be airing Sunday, December 13, 2009.

In Janurary of '09 I wrote a blog post (FRAMING AMERICAN HISTORY) that talked about the graphic novel adaptation of Howard Zinn's famous book A People's History of the United States titled A People's History of the American Empire and a bunch of other great comic adaptations of US History.

This show looks to be an equally exciting effort to bring "the people's history" to life...

First a trailer:

The History Channel website for the show contains a series of great clips & lesson plans.

Clips include:
Mutiny in George Washington's Army performed by Mike O'Malley
The Declaration of Independence performed by Matt Damon
Susan B. Anthony's Suffrage Trial performed by Christina Kirk and J...
J.W. Loguen's Letter to Sarah Logue performed by Benjamin Bratt

Short Lesson Plan w/Discussion Questions available as a PDF here.

The backstory on the show and Zinn's vision from The New York Times:

New Boss, Same as the Old Boss: Howard Zinn Traces Social Change
Published: December 11, 2009

In Howard Zinn’s new documentary, “The People Speak,” the actress Marisa Tomei is shown reading aloud an essay by a worker at a 19th-century textile mill in Lowell, Mass., who led other women to protest wage reductions and demand better working condition

In the woman’s description of oppression at the hands of a company, Mr. Zinn, the left-wing historian, hears both past and present tense. “She says the same thing of the 1830s that we hear today — that you are at the mercy of your employer,” Mr. Zinn said in an interview.

So much of Mr. Zinn’s career, reflected in his “People’s History of the United States” book, has been about the struggle for social change. With “The People Speak,” which has its premiere on the History Channel on Sunday (at 8 p.m., Eastern and Pacific times; 7, Central time), he is having a raft of celebrities recount that effort through the words of people who were there. “It’s the people’s point of view of history,” said the actor Josh Brolin, an executive producer of the film.

Full article available here

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Replies to This Discussion

Not to be the black sheep here....

Howard Zinn is a liar and a fraud. He openly admits that he made up a lot of the historical accounts and so called facts that he presents in A People's History. He openly admits his own personal bias in writing the book and that he wanted to set forth a quiet revolution of sorts, that people could begin once they read his work. His work is not about social change, it is about furthering his own agendas, and I have to say that no children should ever be subjected to his lies like I was in high school. The only value in reading his material is to show how history can be biased and influenced by one man, and how it can be distorted to fit what the author is trying to say. I know I'm going to be the weird kid on this one, but seriously, no people should ever be subjected to his insanity, or expected to believe anything that man ever writes or says.

Check out this article for some examples of his lies...

Thank you for sharing your opinion. The source you cite there looks like it is produced by Fox news - and that can be OK as long as you're carefully reading for bias and agenda. I think it is always important to read careful and multiple accounts of history - and in fact, that is Zinn's point. There is no such thing as an objective history.

Did you know that most major textbook companies print different editions of their books in the North and the South and thus tell different stories about the Civil War?

Did you know the Romans, who had command of written language wrote the history of the Barbarians yet they wanted to demonize them because of they wanted to steal their gold and technology?

All historical accounts have an agenda - often times the ones that look innocuous have the most challenging agenda. Zinn tries to bring a larger range of voices and possibilities into the standard historical accounts.

Look in a middle school history textbook and tell me how many women's stories/voices are included in the "grand narrative" - did these people not exist, not have a history? What about Native Americans and other marginalized people?

It is important to expand the voices to include multiple narratives.

Food for thought...

Also see this recent post about media/history/bias - the job of the historian is to sort out a lot of noise:
VIDEO: News, Politics, and Media Literacy - Dr Robert Kubey @ Rutgers
Zinn was simply attempting to point out the inherent bias of traditional historical perspective--history before Zinn was the story of the past as written by the victors. In enlarging that perspective, Zinn was bringing us closer to the "truth" and to describe him as a liar is to fundamentally misunderstand history and its uses.



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