When Malcolm X and Bill Ayers become the model of protest, the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and those who peacefully protested will be erased from history, leaving much of our youth with the idea that violence is how progress is made. Many students across the nation are listening to Howard Zinn’s advice to follow the examples of Malcom X and Bill Ayers for conducting violent protests and riots. Zinn, who praises these radical activists, demeans the peaceful protests of Martin Luther King Jr.

Much of what these rioters say and do goes back to their education. While many teachers and teacher organizations, including the National Council for the Social Studies, have embraced Zinn’s ideology, students across the nation are repeating his words and answering his call for violence.

In A People’s History of the United States, Zinn expresses high esteem for Malcom X. He states, “Martin Luther King, though still respected, was being replaced now by new heroes: Huey Newton of the Black Panthers, for instance.” Zinn continues with several quotes from Malcom X, including one in which he accuses King of being weak. Zinn writes, “Speaking in Detroit two months after the March on Washington and the Birmingham bombing, Malcom X said, in his powerful, icy-clear, rhythmic style: ‘…This is what they did with the march on Washington. They joined it…became part of it, took it over. And as they took it over, it lost its militancy. It ceased to be angry, it ceased to be hot, it ceased to be uncompromising. Why it even ceased to be a march. It became a picnic, a circus. Nothing but a circus, with clowns and all…'”

Belittling the inspirational voice of Martin Luther King, Jr. is unfathomable. No matter how they may attack King, or manipulate his words to support their violence, his commitment to peaceful protests is undeniable and has been proven effective.

The call for violence is not restricted to Zinn’s words, but has been adopted by the educational organizations created in his name and ideology including, but not limited to, the Zinn Education Project, Teaching Tolerance, Teaching for Change, and Facing History.

Their persistent encouragement, rationalization, and justification for violence is only fueling the minds of youth engaging in these dangerous tactics. If the voice of peaceful protest is made quiet, all of America’s past and future progress will be lost.