April 7, 2017
Kim Hendren’s Howard Zinn ban dies unceremoniously in the Arkansas state legislature. SAD!
by Simon Reichley
Several weeks ago we wrote about an effort by Arkansas state representative Kim Hendren to ban the works of legendary progressive historian Howard Zinn from classrooms and curricula throughout the state. Today, we’re happy to report that, according to Bill Bigelow (co-director of the Zinn Education Project), that legislation has been quashed by the House’s education committee.
The bill was a poorly conceived piece of junk that Hendren could barely bring himself to defend. In an interview published with Reason.com’s Hit and Run blog, Hendren admitted he was “not an expert” on Zinn, and that “his aim with this bill is not necessarily seeing his bill passed in its current form, but rather, to spark a conversation and debate.” Let us recall that the bill would have banned every single book that Zinn ever published, and all materials referring to or discussing those books, which is about as extreme a position as one might take on the issue.
In a sense, the proposed bill achieved Hendren’s goal: A whole hell of a lot of people started talking pretty animatedly about Howard Zinn and his place in the classroom. Mostly they were demanding the shitty law get canned, and asking the Zinn Education Project to send them teaching copies of the historian’s best-known work, A People’s History of the United States. The Arkansas Times’ Max Brantley reports that some 700 copies have been distributed to teachers throughout the state, and Bigelow, in a piece for Common Dreams, shared this anecdote:
A high school teacher in El Dorado, Arkansas, in the far south, near Louisiana, wrote defiantly, “Books and ideas are increasingly under attack in Arkansas. We need to defend our rights and freedoms and be willing to look at history from multiple viewpoints. As Orwell wrote, freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4. Sometimes, speaking the truth is a revolutionary act. The truth will be taught in my classroom.”
Hendren enjoyed a moment of minor infamy in 2009, when he derisively referred to New York Senator Chuck Schumer as “that Jew.” Perhaps the failure of his colossally stupid bill now will finally eclipse that earlier shame. We wish him the best of luck, and we sincerely thank and congratulate the Zinn Education Project and their supporters for their heroic efforts, and for continuing to give a voice to the victims of American history.
Simon Reichley is the rights and operations manager at Melville House.