Arkansas Teachers Speak Out on Proposed Zinn Book Ban

Here are comments from Arkansas teachers about why they requested a copy of a book by Howard Zinn after a state legislator submitted a bill to have any books by or concerned about Zinn banned from the public school curriculum. Read about the bill and more teacher comments here.

I remember the conversations we had at the dinner table when my daughter was reading A Peoples History of the United States for an AP course. I was impressed then. But now that Arkansas wants to ban it, it’s a must have in my classroom. —Russellville, Arkansas, high school language arts teacher

I read A Peoples History as an undergraduate. It is with the utmost importance that all side be taken into consideration when examining our past. Zinn does just this. He examines history through the voices who have for decades been voice less. We must ensure work like his is available to all those willing to listen. —Bella Vista, Arkansas, middle school special education teacher

Howard Zinn embodies the fighting spirit and civic duties to which we should all aspire. His arguments are timely, cogent, and significant in that he helps students connect the past and present. In short, Howard Zinn is a bad ass all teachers should teach if we are to help foster obstinate questioning of the status quo. —Little Rock, Arkansas, high school language arts teacher

I would love to look at history from another perspective. Knowledge is power. Clarksville, Arkansas, high school agriculture teacher

I would like a copy to not only read and learn from, but to always have and share with my students. Banning history books goes against everything we say we are as a country. I will always teach about our past for as long as I can teach so students know the truths of where we came from and where we are headed. Jacksonville, Arkansas, middle school language arts teacher

I teach U.S. history in Arkansas and I find it outrageous that the state legislature would try to ban a book because of an opinion. I first read Zinn in college (in Arkansas) in the late 80s and it really opened my eyes to a different perspective of the story of America and I think all should have access. Little Rock, Arkansas, high school social studies teacher

I intend to continue to teach facts as they actually occurred. Despite a concerted effort to abandon history, facts, and sufficient government education, I will ensure all the aforementioned will continue in my classes and throughout my department. Bentonville, Arkansas, high school social studies teacher

I am outraged by our state legislature [trying to ban] this very important scholar. I have a history degree and this was a formative text in my freshman level U.S. history course. I want to make sure it is present in my classroom. Fayetteville, Arkansas, high school social studies teacher

I feel that we too often teach only the “glorious” side of American history without digging deeper into the details of what happened. I would be interested to read and hear a different perspective and hope to use it in my classroom as well to get students discussing and debating their history. Springdale, Arkansas, high school social studies teacher

We used this book as a jumping point for a project where students had to put Columbus, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Columbus’ Men, the Taíno, and the system of empire in trial. Students loved the project and relearning history. While my team teacher had the book, I did not. Blytheville, Arkansas, high school theater teacher

I teach AP Language, so what a great way to study the art of rhetoric. Centeron, Arkansas, high school language arts teacher

I have always intended to incorporate A People’s History of the United States into my curriculum but never got around to doing so; however now I will be making it a top priority. —Little Rock, Arkansas, middle school social studies teacher

If this bill passes, I want to have my own personal copy that I can loan to students who want to read it. So they too can learn our American history, good and bad. —Bryant, Arkansas, middle school music teacher

I read it many years ago and would like to incorporate the content into my AP Macroeconomics course. —Fayetteville, Arkansas, high school social studies teacher

I think it’s absolutely absurd that legislation is trying to tell my school what material it can or cannot use to teach. Am I not trusted to deliver information from different viewpoints in an unbiased way? It is my job to help students empathize with different people — whether it’s through studies of social class, race, gender, or identity. Little Rock, Arkansas, high school teacher

I have a huge problem with book banning. As an educator in Arkansas, I fully support free teaching and thinking in our state and wish to show my support by having a copy of this book. —Marion, Arkansas, high school music teacher

I want a copy because there must be some good information if the state is wanting to ban it. —Caraway, Arkansas, middle school principal

I want to highlight this book for my students during our annual banned books celebration. —Center Ridge, Arkansas, high school librarian

I am very interested in having a thinking person’s knowledgeable take on American history. —Cabot, Arkansas, high school art teacher

You can’t educate students by white washing history and I refuse to allow books to be banned. —Rogers, Arkansas, high school language arts teacher

I would like a copy of this book to share with my co-workers who may not have read Howard Zinn’s books. It isn’t often that we find accessible material that tells the story of America from the perspective of anyone other than the ruling class. I like using multiple perspectives for any event studied and this book gives another view of many important events in U.S. history. —Little Rock, Arkansas, middle school social studies teacher

Because I pride myself on reading banned books! Because history is too important to ignore and full of lessons for a better future. Because reading is the cure for ignorance. —Hot Springs, Arkansas, high school special education teacher

With limited funds for materials not directly curriculum-related, I’m excited at the prospect of being able to share this book with my fellow teachers and offer it as a reading selection within the classroom. —Little Rock, Arkansas, high school social studies teacher

I want a copy of Howard Zinn’s book and people’s history lessons to understand as well as educate the truth about our American history. Jonesboro, Arkansas, high school social studies teacher

To read. But also to put on my desk as a statement to students, parents, teachers, and administrators that we shouldn’t censor history. —Little Rock, Arkansas, middle school math teacher

My students deserve an alternate narrative. And I don’t mean in an “alternative facts” way. —El Dorado, Arkansas, high school language arts teacher

I would like to use the book as a classroom resource. Living in a small rural community, students in our school are often not exposed to diverse perspectives. I think it would be good for them to read the story of our nation, not told through a narrow scope, but in a way that shows how real people through the centuries experienced it. —Mt. Vernon, Arkansas, high school language arts teacher

I’ve heard of this book for years, but I never came across it. I want to include more civic awareness in my classes. This seems like a great start. — Fort Smith, Arkansas, high school language arts teacher

I love history, and wanted a copy of this book when I first saw the title. As a teacher, I also love to share information with my students, and the title implies that this would be worth sharing. I also am appalled that any book would be “outlawed” in this country, and would like to share this information with others who would also be against such a thing. —Little Rock, Arkansas, high school special education teacher

This book was referenced extensively in the AP U.S. history training I attended last summer. Since that time, I’ve followed the Zinn Education Project Facebook page and have used it in my classroom. I am appalled that our state legislators are proposing to any book, much less this one. —Blytheville, Arkansas, high school social studies teacher

I’d rather my students see the full 360 degrees of history rather than only the 90 degrees that the conservative majority isn’t uncomfortable with. Our State Senator Kim Hendren has gone too far once again. —Bentonville, Arkansas, high school social studies teacher

I teach Civics, Economics, pre-AP Arkansas History, and pre-AP American History for 8th and 9th graders. I teach students that you can’t always believe everything that is written in history textbooks. There are many different views and standpoints on what happened in history. It is their job as students to look at historical events from all angles and perspectives to find the truth of what really took place. To be able to have secondary sources from authors like Howard Zinn, allows students to dive deeper into history and to sometimes find that what your history books teach you is wrong. —Leachville, Arkansas, middle school social studies teacher

As an alternative learning environment we are open to, and encourage, differing viewpoints. When making assignments I offer students options of what books to read. Since I live and teach in Mr. Hendren’s state of Arkansas, it is especially important for us to make a statement of support for expression of alternative views. If you can provide multiple copies, I will make sure they are distributed to other history and English classes for prominent display. —Fayetteville, Arkansas, high school social studies teacher

As a school librarian, I am vehemently opposed to any legislation that proposes to ban any book. It is imperative that all readers have uncensored choice in the literature they want to read. It is my ethical responsibility to make sure materials are available to support that choice. America is a country of free speech that is not in the business of banning books. Thank you for this project to protect those rights. —Little Rock, Arkansas, middle school librarian

In response to recent proposals by state legislators, I want to make sure that I have a copy in my classroom as long as I teach. It is ludicrous to think that we can ignore the darker stories of our history in order to paint a prettier picture of exceptionalism for America. There’s an old quote that applies here: “Exposing your dark side doesn’t frighten me, hiding it does.” —Russellville, Arkansas, high school social studies teacher

As the school library media specialist, I try to keep a comprehensive collection of books representing multiple authors’ viewpoints, through which students may draw their own conclusions. Our AP U.S. History teacher already uses this book with her classes. She purchased her own copy herself. I would like to include this book in my collection in order to support her curriculum. —Fouke, Arkansas, high school librarian

I would like to get up to date on why this book is being considered ban worthy by many. In addition, I share a love for history and haven’t read a book from this perspective yet. —Batesville, Arkansas, high school music teacher

Some of my colleagues don’t understand what the big deal is. I would like to be able to show them how Zinn explains some of the challenges in our history. —Berryville, Arkansas, high school social studies teacher

I have a 25-year-old copy of A People’s History, and it is quite worn. I teach in a high poverty district, so I also like to include history about my students and their families. However, I enjoy presenting the alternate view to my students for comparison and contrast. But mostly, I am enraged at this blatant attempt at censorship from my state legislators. I am writing them as well. Thank you so much for all the great work you do. —Lake City, Arkansas, high school social studies teacher

Because I heard a comment about it from one of our history teachers and how she didn’t like it because it was too liberal. That sounded like a book I need to read and share. —Bald Knob, Arkansas, high school counselor

I absolutely believe in the value of the perspectives presented in A People’s History. I begin each year with “putting Columbus on trial my students love that activity and I feel it plays a great role in developing their understanding of the importance of multiple perspectives. Arkansas students deserve to see reflections of themselves in their history courses; Zinn’s inclusion of the experiences of women, minorities, and other groups that are typically marginalized in standard U.S. history texts is invaluable for our students. —Hardy, Arkansas, high school social studies teacher

Zinn offers a critically thoughtful yet optimistic view history that I believe students will find uniquely inspiring. Too often nowadays, critical thought is accompanied by pessimism. Zinn’s powerfully distinct mix of factual information and optimism could serve as a counter balance to this negative sentiment as well as an inspiration for original thought among our junior high students. — Little Rock, Arkansas, middle school administrator

Because I want my students to realize accounts of history are colored by people’s individual perspectives. We do not wish to live in a world like depicted in the novel 1984. —Lepanto, Arkansas, high school language arts teacher

I teach Fahrenheit 451 and The Book Thief. I organized banned books week activities at our school. Since Arkansas wants to ban this book, I need to stand up against censorship. This is probably the only way I could get my students to read the book, so I imagine it will fly off my shelves! —Little Rock, Arkansas, high school language arts teacher

I have written the sponsor of the Arkansas bill and had my students call in protest. I use Zinn Education Project lessons but do not have a copy of the book. —Little Rock, Arkansas, high school social studies teacher

Thank you. I will use it to help educate my students to be better thinkers than our ridiculous legislators. —Dardanell, Arkansas, middle school social studies teacher

I would appreciate providing visibility to a banned book. By promoting the book as banned, students will read it out of sheer rebellion.  —Little Rock, Arkansas, high school science teacher

The United States is about everybody. Having a history about everybody seems fair—even democratic. —Little Rock, Arkansas, middle school math teacher

I’d like to learn more about history from the perspectives of those not recognized in traditional textbooks. Greenbrier, Arkansas, high school special education teacher

I’d like to read for myself what the senator thinks is so subversive it must be kept from our students. Also, as a professional book nerd who hasn’t read any good history books since college, I think it sounds great. My mom was an English teacher who had a button that said, “I read banned books.” Prayer vigils were held for her for teaching classics. Bring it on. 🙂 —Pine Bluff, Arkansas, middle school librarian

I want to make this work available to students in our tiny, rural, high poverty high school. Our only social studies teacher is a white male Christian conservative who has openly mocked anti-Trump protesters and defended gay conversion camps in class. —Arkansas high school science teacher (school district not named to protect the teacher’s identity)

Legislators in Arkansas think they know more about education than educators. If they don’t want something to be read, I want to read it for myself.  Decatur, Arkansas, high school science teacher

Teaching social studies and history is more important now than ever. It is essential that students learn facts and evidence, not just the stories that are written for them by the men who want to be perceived well by history. —Fayetteville, Arkansas, high school social studies teacher

I want to see what all the fuss is about. If those in charge are afraid of it, it must be good. —Rogers, Arkansas, middle school language arts teacher

I teach American Literature and AP Literature in school, and throughout the years, I have referenced this book and invariably given copies away to my best students. I would like one that stayed on my shelf (of course, if it doesn’t, I will buy another) and lesson plans that go along with it. Unfortunately, my state senator is rejecting the notion that critical thinking involves challenging ideas, but I am pushing back against this type of thinking. —Fayetteville, Arkansas, high school language arts teacher

Always looking to provide my students with a fresh an accurate view of American history. Opposed to attempts to “sugar coat” or “patriotize” what should be considered aggressive and oppressive actions by certain individuals and groups in the past. —Cabot, Arkansas, middle school social studies teacher

Our students are required to do multiple project-based learning assignments.  They must frequently write and and cite sources for projects. I will keep this book as a loaner for students to use for independent research. In the age of a Trump presidency, I am deeply concerned that we don’t teach early and often enough about American and world history. Additionally, I am concerned that the subject of history has been historically slanted to discount negative involvement if American folk heroes and politicians. —West Fork, Arkansas, high school counselor

Incorporating marginalized perspectives in nonfiction units is absolutely essential to a well-rounded point of view. Diverse classrooms need a diverse set of sources!  —Little Rock, Arkansas, middle school language arts teacher

I feel that we too often teach only the “glorious” side of American history without digging deeper into the details of what happened. I would be interested to read and hear a different perspective and hope to use it in my classroom as well to get students discussing and debating their history. —Springdale, Arkansas, high school social studies teacher

I think that censorship of books is the worst thing that can happen to our kids. As an LGBT teacher, I often have to fight to make sure my students are allowed to have LGBT books even though their local community is against it. If there is a book that Arkansas wants to ban, it is probably a book that will open the eyes of the kids to truth that they need to know. —Jonesboro, Arkansas, middle school teacher

I teach AP Lit and Concurrent Composition where we research cultural constructs and myths, as well as spend time in September for Banned Book Week, so this seems to be a must have! —Jonesboro, Arkansas, high school language arts teacher

I teach college freshmen and will soon teach high school students. They’re exhausted by lies they see in media and have become cynical as a coping mechanism. We are in a post-trust era and youth are most strongly affected. I must help them respect, evaluate, and integrate outside sources and information. Zinn represents voices they need to hear. —Maumelle, Arkansas, high school language arts teacher

There are hundreds more comments like these. Some of those additional comments and information about the bill can be found here.

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