Curriculum developers and teachers might not be reading Howard Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the United States, but the materials they are using are clearly connected to him and his vision of America. One of the ways that Zinn’s ideas make it into the classroom is through teachers’ professional development conferences, both locally and nationally, which provide the foundation for the curriculum and content decisions teachers make throughout their career. The power to shape a belief system is the most valuable tool of the left. The more radical leftists drive their ideas into the education system, the more the radical left will grow.
While some teachers may not be aware of their role in such a politically charged atmosphere, the people creating the professional development workshops are conscious of the political forces behind the content they propose to be taught. The presenters of professional development are often regarded as respected educators who are alleged forward-thinkers and seen as the “revolutionaries” education needs in this time of change. If this influence of the developers was confined to only instructional methods, politics would not pose as much of a threat; however, the people presenting their ideas to teachers are not just experienced educators, but advocates for socialism in America and leaders of numerous campaigns against capitalism with goals they push onto teachers. Most of these leaders have in some way been connected to Howard Zinn and his legacy of destroying patriotism and bolstering contempt towards America.
Paulo Friere (1921-1997) is an educational philosopher commonly studied in college by aspiring teachers who must find their own philosophy of education. Friere is among many educational philosophers who help educators find their meaning in education. Influenced by Karl Marx, Friere’s preoccupation in education was with class consciousness and those who were in denial that they were being exploited by an oppressor.
Freire is commonly quoted by many on the left when he said, “The educator has the duty of not being neutral,” in his book, We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change. Friere, like Marx, was very aware of the impact education has on society, and in order to create a more perfect society, they suggested that educators must become agents of the movement towards socialism and away from capitalism.
Friere’s reference by the winner of the 2017 National Council for the Social Studies Secondary Teacher of the Year Award shows that Friere is not only a philosopher of the past, but still an influential figure of educators today. In April of 2018, the American Educational Research Association (AERA) held their annual meeting in New York City. The year’s theme: Radical Dreams and Transformative Praxis: Celebrating 50 Years of Paulo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Among the educators speaking at this conference was Henry Giroux, a loyal follower of Zinn and Friere, who suggests that a political education is of the utmost importance.
Speaking at the 2018 annual meeting of the AERA in New York City, Henry Giroux reinforced Friere’s idea that education was key to politics, and neutrality is neither a possibility nor an option. Teachers listening to his speech attacking President Trump, using words such as “neo-nazi” and “neo-fascism” were aware of his bias. Even if he came off as too radical for some who would reject his material, it is possible that his ideas may be present in their lessons in the near future.
Giroux has been a professor of education at Boston University and Penn State University among others. He is the author of many books including America’s Addiction to Terrorism (2016) and The Public in Peril: Trump and the Menace of American Authoritarianism (2017).
Giroux argues that classrooms must have a political charge, and while he claims to promote freedom of the mind to allow for critical thinking and discussions, he warns that the absence of political discussions in classrooms leads to the growth of right-wing politics.
Giroux argues that his idea of a “political education” merely provides an opportunity for students to engage in critical thinking and questioning. Although this may sound great initially, a closer look at his methods reveals his true intent to criticize power and wealth, criticize conservatives, and criticize the foundations and existence of America in classrooms across the United States. It is all about asking the right questions, and radically charged teachers will be sure to guide student discussions to their own talking points.
One of the most distinguished guests at the 2018 National Council for the Social Studies conference and who is expected to grow his influence is Bill Bigelow. A loyal follower of Howard Zinn, Bigelow has devoted much of his professional time to expanding Zinn’s influence in the education of children and young adults. As the co-director of the Zinn Education Project and the curriculum editor of Rethinking Schools magazine, Bigelow has become a notable figure in education. Eager to change America through education, Bigelow suggests socialism as the pathway for America while attacking capitalism in every publication, including lessons and articles.
Bigelow’s efforts to spread the word about climate change and the ills of America are also supported by a news resource, Common Dreams, in which he has published articles including: “Tax the Rich, Fight the Climate Crisis” from 1/17/19, and “It’s Constitution Day: Time to Teach Obedience or History?” from 1/16/12.
Bill Bigelow’s association with political extremist and 60’s bomber of the Weather Underground, Bill Ayers, is alarming. Rethinking Schools selected Bill Ayers as their “special guest” and keynote speaker at their 25th anniversary fundraiser in October of 2011. Citing him as a “teacher, activist, award-winning education writer, and retired professor from the University of Illinois-Chicago,” Ayers was welcomed by the Rethinking Schools community as an admirable educator. It is not surprising that such a person who used violence was selected as an honorable guest since Zinn himself prefers those who take action similar to Malcolm X. Bill Ayers speaking at a conference for teachers is scary enough to think about, but when it is realized that those same teachers will bring the ideas preached to them back to their classrooms it becomes a serious threat. 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 our youth with the idea that violence is how progress is made. This is already evident from the rise of Antifa, which embodies the ideals of Ayers’ former group, Weather Underground, to some of the less violent but still destructive protests of the radical left.
Silencing opposition in the classroom sets the standard for children’s futures. If they constantly witness teachers shutting down right-wing ideas in the classroom, that is what they will expect outside of the classroom. Public demonstrations from the radical left will continue to grow and the conservative voice will be silenced as many sit idly by, like they do in the classroom, watching the spectacles unfold.
Unless teachers and students are allowed to question the pillars of socialism and radical beliefs, open-mindedness will never be permitted, making freedom of thought suffocate and the foundation of America crumble to pieces. If teachers do not realize this, then the pathway for socialism in America will be effortless and the country that stands for freedom and opportunity will no longer exist.