Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Howard Zinn

Oh, this is a hard one to take.

Back when Emmie was in high school, she really, really, really hated the girls' prep school she was attending. And when I say hated, I mean she started out disliking the place and eventually learned to hate it with the burning hot passion of a thousand suns. And I have to admit, I can't blame her. What seemed at first like a rigorous academic institution turned out to be more about indoctrination into southern conservative values. So, after several years of giving it one more try, she finally decided after the 10th grade to strike out on her own. We looked at other options, but didn't find anything else that felt like a good fit, so Emmie ended up just finishing up high school on her own.

And that's where Howard Zinn came in. This amuses me now, because when I was in college I read all the traditional stuff, but always felt that I learned more about history from Howard Zinn and Gary Trudeau than anyone else. So, when my kid was rolling her own when it came to high school history, I suggested that she read Zinn and Trudeau, and she did -- which eventually led her to reading all the traditional stuff that I slogged though in college. Zinn was a great thinker, historian and humanist, and while he liked to look at history from a perspective that didn't follow the traditional model, he was, above all, an advocate of being well-informed. And I'm glad that he passed that imperative on to my daughter.

I feel like we've lost a friend. A high school teacher. And -- need I say it? The progressive movement has lost one of its fiercest advocates. This is a devastating loss.


Emmie said...

I'll never forget my surprise at going from hearing about dead white guys in history to women! and Native Americans! and political minorities! in more than a footnote! and with compassion and zeal!

RIP Zinn. :(

june said...

I too remember the first Zinn read...I felt like a door was opened.

Keera said...

I hadn't actually heard of Zinn, but have now ordered some books by him on Amazon. When I was in school, I didn't care about history. Now I do. It's the only thing that explains current events.

Julie L said...

Oh dear.

You're right, Alice, this one is very hard to take.