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“Be Honest About the History of Our Country” by Amy Goodman

In ethics, government, history, humanities, North America, politics, society, video, writers on August 28, 2012 at 22:02

 

From: “Be Honest About the History of Our Country”: Remembering the People’s Historian Howard Zinn at 90 by Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!, http://www.democracynow.org

Howard Zinn was a frequent guest on Democracy Now! We spoke to him in May of 2009 when he was in New York to launch a new edition of A Young People’s History of the United States, and I asked him to respond to a question he had frequently been asked about the book: Is it right to be so critical of the government’s policies, of the traditional heroes of the country?

HOWARD ZINN: It is true that people have asked that question again and again. You know, should we tell kids that Columbus, whom they have been told was a great hero, that Columbus mutilated Indians and kidnapped them and killed them in pursuit of gold? Should we tell people that Theodore Roosevelt, who is held up as one of our great presidents, was really a warmonger who loved military exploits and who congratulated an American general who committed a massacre in the Philippines? Should we tell young people that?

And I think the answer is: we should be honest with young people; we should not deceive them. We should be honest about the history of our country. And we should be not only taking down the traditional heroes like Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt, but we should be giving young people an alternate set of heroes.

Instead of Theodore Roosevelt, tell them about Mark Twain. Mark Twain—well, Mark Twain, everybody learns about as the author of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, but when we go to school, we don’t learn about Mark Twain as the vice president of the Anti-Imperialist League. We aren’t told that Mark Twain denounced Theodore Roosevelt for approving this massacre in the Philippines. No.

We want to give young people ideal figures like Helen Keller. And I remember learning about Helen Keller. Everybody learns about Helen Keller, you know, a disabled person who overcame her handicaps and became famous. But people don’t learn in school and young people don’t learn in school what we want them to learn when we do books like A Young People’s History of the United States, that Helen Keller was a socialist. She was a labor organizer. She refused to cross a picket line that was picketing a theater showing a play about her.

Listen & read the full transcript

Reposted with permission from: Democracy Now!

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