In the News

Tucson’s Mexican American Studies Director Sean Arce Wins National Zinn Education Award

Published on April 3, 2012 in

By Jeff Biggers

While the Daily Show brilliantly reminded millions of viewers last night of the disgraceful racist elements behind the attack on Tucson's acclaimed and now outlawed Mexican American Studies program, educators across the nation recalled a teaching moment.

Over a half century ago, facing a similar segregationist campaign to shut down the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, famous for its pioneering desegregation and civil rights efforts, folk school co-founder Myles Horton informed his rabid foes: "A school is an idea, and you can't padlock an idea."

Invoking Horton's towering legacy today, the Zinn Education Project bestowed its national Myles Horton Education Award on embattled Mexican American Studies director Sean Arce for his leadership role in "one of the most significant and successful public school initiatives on the teaching of history in the U.S."

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National Zinn Education Award Given to Tucson’s Mexican American Studies Director Sean Arce

Published on April 2, 2012 in

By Jeff Biggers

In honor of embattled Mexican American Studies director Sean Arce's leadership role in "one of the most significant and successful public school initiatives on the teaching of history in the U.S.," the Zinn Education Project announced its selection of Tucson's beloved educator as the inaugural recipient of the 2012 Myles Horton Education Award for Teaching People’s History.

“Tucson’s Mexican American Studies program gets it absolutely right: Ground the curriculum in students’ lives, teach about what matters in the world, respect students as intellectuals, and help students imagine themselves as promoters of justice,” Zinn Education Project co-director Bill Bigelow said in the press release. “I’m thrilled that the Zinn Education Project is able to honor the work of Sean Arce by recognizing him with the first Myles Horton Award for Teaching People’s History. Mr. Arce has begun work that we hope will be emulated by school districts throughout the United States.”

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The Real Irish American Story Not Taught in Schools

Published on March 15, 2012 in

By Bill Bigelow

Wear green on St. Patrick's Day or get pinched." That pretty much sums up the Irish American "curriculum" that I learned when I was in school. Yes, I recall a nod to the so-called Potato Famine, but it was mentioned only in passing.What is not often taught in schools or known by the many who routinely celebrate St. Patrick's Day, is that throughout the Irish 'Potato famine' there was an abundance of food produced in Ireland, yet the landlords exported it to markets abroad.

Sadly, today's high school textbooks continue to largely ignore the famine, despite the fact that it was responsible for unimaginable suffering and the deaths of more than a million Irish peasants, and that it triggered the greatest wave of Irish immigration in U.S. history. Nor do textbooks make any attempt to help students link famines past and present.

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The Real Irish American Story Not Taught in Schools

Published on March 14, 2012 in

By Bill Bigelow

"Wear green on St. Patrick's Day or get pinched." That pretty much sums up the Irish American "curriculum" that I learned when I was in school. Yes, I recall a nod to the so-called Potato Famine, but it was mentioned only in passing.

Sadly, today's high school textbooks continue to largely ignore the famine, despite the fact that it was responsible for unimaginable suffering and the deaths of more than a million Irish peasants, and that it triggered the greatest wave of Irish immigration in U.S. history. Nor do textbooks make any attempt to help students link famines past and present.

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Who’s Afraid of “The Tempest”?: Arizona’s ban on ethnic studies proscribes Mexican-American history, local authors, even Shakespeare.

Published on January 13, 2012 in
By Jeff Biggers As part of the state-mandated termination of its ethnic studies  program, the Tucson Unified School District released an initial list of books to be banned from its schools today.  According to district spokeperson Cara Rene, the books “will be cleared from all classrooms, boxed up and sent to the Textbook Depository for storage.” Facing a multimillion-dollar penalty in state funds, the governing board of Tucson’s largest school district officially ended the 13-year-old program on Tuesday in an attempt to come into compliance with the controversial state ban on the teaching of ethnic studies. The list of removed books includes the 20-year-old textbook “Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years,” which features an essay by Tucson author Leslie Silko.  Recipient of a Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas Lifetime Achievement Award and a MacArthur Foundation genius grant, Silko has been an outspoken supporter of the ethnic studies program.
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Why Do Schools Still Teach an Oversimplified Thanksgiving Story?

Published on November 24, 2011 in

By Liz Dwyer

My acting debut came in an elementary school play that reenacted scenes from the first Thanksgiving. I was assigned to play a Native American, complete with a construction paper feather headband. The story we told on stage is the one that millions of Americans are celebrating today—the Wampanoag people and the Pilgrims sitting down together in unity, giving thanks for a bountiful harvest.

It wasn't until after college, when I picked up Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, that I learned that no one ate cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie on the first Thanksgiving, and that the holiday is steeped in brutality and betrayal. Such conversations could serve as a useful teaching moment and opportunity for discussion for millions of students every year, but the vast majority of schools persist in teaching a simplistic version of Thanksgiving's history.

“If you don’t go along with the traditional story, you’re seen as a naysayer who’s spoiling the fun,” says Deborah Menkart, executive director of Teaching for Change. The nonprofit organization (together with Rethinking Schools) runs the Zinn Education Project, an effort to encourage teaching populist history in middle- and high-school classrooms across the country. Menkart says one of the reasons organizers created the project is to “ensure that resources that tell a more accurate perspective of history are easily available to classroom teachers.”

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Occupy the Curriculum

Published on November 7, 2011 in

By Bill Bigelow

The other day on the Zinn Education Project’s Facebook page, we asked “What period in history—or theme in history—are you teaching this month?

New Jersey Teacher Activist Group stages Teach-In at Occupy Wall Street last month.

The responses were fascinating.

Chris Conkling is teaching about “Forced removal of Native Americans/Andrew Jackson.”

Ariela Rothstein is teaching about the “Haitian revolution and the effects of colonialism on the Caribbean.”

Samantha Manchac is teaching about “the early women’s movement” from Chapter 6, “The Intimately Oppressed,” in Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.

Melanie Lichtenstein is teaching about Afghanistan, before and after 2001.

Mustafa Miroku Nemeth is using the film The Corporation to teach about the development of corporate “personhood” with the manifold consequences we see today.

Ian Martin is teaching about industrialization and imperialism and how they are inseparable.

Ruth Razo is teaching about the U.S. war with Mexico and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

I found people’s responses enormously encouraging. In this age of standardized, scripted curriculum and corporate-produced textbooks, it looks like not everyone is following the script. Teachers are “teaching outside the textbook,” in the slogan of the Zinn Education Project.

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Why We Support the #OccupyWallStreet Movement

Published on October 12, 2011 in

By Melissa Bradley

The Zinn Education Project has been promoting the role of working people, women, people of color, and organized social movements in actively shaping history for years. I can only imagine how the 99 percent movement will be taught in years to come.

#OccupyWallStreet is clearly a people’s movement. There is a minimal presence of organized labor and it has purposely forgone the sometimes distracting charismatic personalities of many other movements in the making. Understated, organized, and committed are adjectives that best describe #OccupyWallStreet. Others are scalable, patient, and strategic. All of these qualities seem to elude the press.

As expected, conservative media are characterizing #OccupyWallStreet as an anomaly comprised of crazy anarchists. Other relatively progressive but mainstream media organizations are also undermining the power of these massive pods of patient protestors popping up all over the country. Dismissing the wisdom, history, and innovation of the group, these media outlets have framed #OccupyWallStreet as a group of misinformed individuals without an agenda or clear plan.

Nonsense!

From the bus boycotts to the Black Panthers, #OccupyWallStreet represents the results of historical marginalization and lack of true representation in the US Congress, on Wall Street, and in local elected offices. #OccupyWallStreet represents the best of American ideals and ingenuity. They are inclusive, intergenerational, focused, and democratic.

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