As long as young adults seek ways to… “discover themselves” and anger their parents- there will be audience for Howard Zinn’s A People’s History. Parental units are part of the so-called establishment and our farthest reaching right-of-passage in America is fighting the conformity of the “the man.” The biggest error in judgment these young rebels make is seeing the establishment as encompassing every facet of our existence- even our history…. Zinn is where too many young minds are exposed to distorted, often lazy examinations of these crucial moments.
The failure to see our Founders as truly revolutionary… is the most damaging element in Howard Zinn’s rambling. That’s what A People’s History is really, unsubstantiated neo-Marxist rambling. Europeans were murdering oppressors driven by greed; Natives were peaceful environmentalists seeking harmony with nature. The Founding of America was perpetrated by an elite few looking for a more efficient way to accrue wealth. To Zinn and his readers this is all very provocative, but when placed under the scrutiny of peer review it is amateurish.
Zinn’s work fails on many levels… but contextually he refuses to surrender bias to the complexities of human interaction. The Pequot war was not as simple as “Red Man Good, White Man Bad.” Our Founders were not only motivated by greed- trying explaining that to Robert Morris. To impressionable undergrads, these arguments are their first bites from the apple of nonconformity. To the middling academics who refuse to take Zinn to task, the book is an opportunity to gain some anti-establishment credibility with the youngsters.