[Howard Zinn raw #5: How A People’s History of the United States changes the teaching of history]

Students at Sonoma State University discuss their admiration for Howard Zinn and what his approach to history has to offer for teachers looking to better engage students. SSU students canvass and rally in support of the student strike. Two SSU students discuss Howard Zinn on their drive to San Francisco to pick him up from his hotel.

0:05Copy video clip URL Cameraman asks a group of students why young people connect so much with Howard Zinn.

0:37Copy video clip URL Arturo says it’s nice to somebody who shares his ideas and inspiring to see somebody who has been working on social justice for such a long time. Brandon says Zinn offers a different perspective on history and challenges the historical and societal norms. Carl says Zinn really speaks to the college audience, who are stepping into questioning their ideals and what they’ve learned.

4:03Copy video clip URL Camerawoman asks if there’s anything Howard Zinn has said that really affected them personally. Brandon says that the beginning of A People’s History of the United States, where Zinn brings the Arawaks and issue of slavery into the story of Christopher Columbus, really hit hard. Carl says a lot of history is taught without examining the motivations, wants and needs of historical figures. Arturo says Zinn really brings history back to life.

7:28Copy video clip URL Cameraman says he likes how A People’s History allows people to situate themselves in history. Arturo says he likes how Zinn lays his project out clearly and doesn’t try to force you to agree with it. Brandon says he really respects how Zinn doesn’t present any point of view as objective and leaves his arguments open to challenges.

9:46Copy video clip URL Cameraman says the idea of objectivity turns people off from history. Carl says its hard for students to grasp the concept that historical figures took their actions without knowing what the results would be. Brandon says that most high school students hate history “because it’s nothing but names and dates” and that this problem is not with students, but with how the material is conceived and taught.

14:34Copy video clip URL Kris talks about her motivations behind supporting National Women’s History Month and the National Women’s History Project and how Howard Zinn’s suggestion of the need for multiple perspectives is especially relevant to women’s history. She talks about the importance of women in the labor movement. “What I appreciate about Howard Zinn is that he opens up that idea that history doesn’t belong to the victors, that it belongs to all of us.”

19:07Copy video clip URL Cameraman asks students why they think people felt threatened by Howard Zinn’s A People’s History. Brandon says people don’t like change or accepting that this country isn’t perfect. Carl says it’s important for the nation’s elites to have people socialized into a certain set of facts and values and people feel threatened when others start to question that. Arturo says students are never taught about children in history, only the adults.

23:10Copy video clip URL Kris says history can be a site for teaching compassion, it gives us new perspectives and build connections across different groups of people. Arturo says respect is not taught in the classroom, and that there’s a bad ambience fostered by the education system. “You want them to know the beauty of science and mathematics and social studies, but also the beauty of being human.”

27:05Copy video clip URL Arturo says even third-graders and fourth-graders are thinking of education in terms of getting a good job. He says some teachers only teach the skills students need to be productive members of capitalist society, but he says he needs to be a friend, a counselor, a parent, and a teacher, depending on the needs of the student.

28:39Copy video clip URL Brandon says that the Sonoma State University student strike is about stopping the university from becoming a corporation; the point of education isn’t to get a job, it’s to get an education and to foster your mind. Arturo says the students are striking in support of the faculty’s contract negotiation.

30:25Copy video clip URL Camerapeople film some cutaway reaction shots.

34:30Copy video clip URL Shots of lawn signs, informational materials and students canvassing at Sonoma State during the student strike.

41:20Copy video clip URL A student leader with the strike talks about the motivations behind it. He says that students are upset with the administration’s attempts to tighten control on faculty pay.

44:11Copy video clip URL Footage from the rally in support of the student strike. A student leader gives a speech on the administration’s goals and insterests and the need for students to shut down business as usual. He says administrators falsely create financial crises in order to advance their agendas to create a more economically productive university.

49:34Copy video clip URL Shot of a building’s exterior at SSU

50:42Copy video clip URL People mill about campus. A professor gives a speech discouraging students from becoming professors because the oversupply of people holding PhDs has made life increasingly precarious for professional academics.

53:45Copy video clip URL Two Sonoma State students are driving to San Francisco to pick up Howard Zinn. The student in the backseat tells the driver stories about a class she took on the history of socialism and communism.

56:07Copy video clip URL The student driving tells the other about going back to school and getting exposed to new perspectives on history. She talks about the difficulty of teaching A People’s History and how some students feel challenged and threatened by Zinn’s ideas. She talks about doing political work alongside Mario Savio. They discuss the impact educators have had on their lives. The student driving tells the other about how much she enjoyed Zinn’s book You Can’t Be Neutral On a Moving Train.



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