Free Lance-Star reporter Amy Umble covers Stafford County schools and other education issues

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Howard Zinn

Several parents and students at Tuesday night’s Stafford County School Board meeting complained about a book by Howard Zinn that is required reading in advanced-placement history classes.  The book is titled "A People’s History of the United States."  Zinn’s book "presents American history through the eyes of those he feels are outside of the political and economic establishment," according to  But some parents, including at least a couple with history degrees, say it’s leftist propaganda and requested that the book be removed from the school system’s curriculum.  School Board members John LeDoux, Nanette Kidby and Dana Reinboldt requested copies of the book but did not comment further on the  complaints.  I’ll be writing a story on the issue soon but need more information.  What other books do students read in the history classes?  What’s the tone of class discussions about Zinn’s book?  Do other area school systems use the book?  Has it been banned from any school systems?  I’ll keep you updated. Please call me at 540-374-5402 if you are a Stafford student or a parent of a Stafford student who has had to read the book for a class.  I’d like to hear all opinions.


  • Metsball69

    Now the Nazis are coming to take our books.

  • GaryShorts

    Those who burn history books are doomed to repeat it.

  • cbgznkngz

    There are currently over 16 of Zinn’s history books (different editions and volumes) like this being used in colleges and universities this semester, last semester and in the future. You may block this text from your highschool, only for it to be required reading in college. It is rated 5 (in scale of 1-5 and 5 being the best) in quality of information provided. Here are just a few of the colleges/universities who have adopted these books: UNIV OF ALABAMA UNIV OF KENTUCKY UNIV OF TENNESSEE MICHIGAN STATE UNIV AUBURN UNIV INDIANA UNIV PURDUE UNIV TEMPLE UNIV UNIV OF NEW HAMPSHIRE …
    Be happy your child is reading a college textbook, not a less than average high school text. WAKE UP!!!! Get some correct information before jumping to ignorant conclusions.

  • Cncrndcitzen

    I’d like for those parents to state specifics when attempting to ban books. If they cannot specifically cite anything, then leave the book in the classroom.

  • edwinmeadows

    This book has all kinds of lies. For one, the United States was not even around in 1492. Secondly, how can it be leftist propaganda when there is are three chapters covering WWI, WWII, and Vietnam? Democrats pushed us into all three…

  • dfettero

    Examining historical events from a different perspective can be a valuable learning experience. My most memorable undergraduate and grad school class was a world history lecture on the Cuban Missle Crisis taught from Fidel Castro’s perspective. The prof wore army fatigues, a Catro mask and has a big cigar. Catros view of the “facts” were certainly different than ours. Lesson – you can always learn something from the other guy! I bet a British history text book chapter on the American Revolution would have a different view of the historical facts.

  • chiswald

    …to read, analyze, discuss and debate the merits of a best selling history book written by a WWII veteran who has been active in anti-war, pro civil rights and civil liberties movements, then by all means ban the book. The students taking this college level course will get a limited education, and Stafford can burnish its reputation as a close-minded, conservative county. Sounds like a win-win situation for any troglydite policy maker who would consider banning this harmless book!

  • shelbybrynn

    I am big proponent of education and I appreciate the fact that this is a college-level book but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t leftist propoganda. It has been well-documented that most colleges promote leftist propoganda and seeing as this is a public high school, I don’t think it right to promote either left or right agendas. The public school system should only promote historically accurate educational material and noone should be trying to push any of their political viewpoints in this forum. There is a huge difference between a public school and a private university!! Therefore I think the school board needs to review its content carefully and make a decision based on whether or not this book is historically accurate or merely trying to push an agenda.

  • homercles82

    I was forced to read this in college. It is a dreadful book and should not be a book in a public high school.

    It is very anti-American in the sense that it paints the country out to be horrible, mean country. I would pull my children from any class that required this book.

  • homercles82

    This book is a piece of propaganda. It should not be forced upon students.

  • homercles82

    You were in COLLEGE when you learned these different perspectives not HIGH SCHOOL. You cannot force this upon high school students.

    The argument is whether this opinionated book belongs in public high schools and it shouldn’t.

  • shelbybrynn

    That students should not be guided toward either left or right viewpoints at a public high school. They should be given historically accurate information and be left to make their own determinations as to which way they lean. I am all for debating viewpoints at the student level but teachers views should be put aside. They should not be pushed into thinking one way is better than the other. I have not read this book so I cannot comment personally as to whether this book is propoganda or not but I am urging the school board to really take a close look and make sure it is historically accurate and not trying to push a political agenda or negativity about our country.

  • dfettero

    We live in a global society and so do our kids. They will have to compete in a global economy. A commentor noted “The public school system should only promote historically accurate educational material” Like I said I bet a British text book is “historically accurate” from the British perspective. It is narrow minded not to want our H.S. kids to be exposed to different views or perspectives. Sounds like its the adults who have the problem with thinking outside of the box not the kids

  • erin020780

    history through the eyes outside — it would seem the most important history are reporting the components history – leftist or no. who cares about a history as seen through the eyes of those not a part of history?

  • erin020780

    history through the eyes outside — it would seem the most important history is the reporting of the components history – leftist or no. who cares about a history as seen through the eyes of those not a part of history?

  • erin020780

    there is nothing diverse or global or liberating about forcing people to think a certain way even if it is so break free from a rigidity in place. I went to school in California where the imposition of diversity – not diverse at all because there was no allowance for anything but the rule of diversity, we were not allowed to express a thought outside the box.

    Diversity has now brought about censorship of language, thinking, speech, art, you name it and now history. The idea of embracing all ideas different and alike does not occur with diversity.

    It does not cure, rather is imbues and fosters, that which it seeks to cure

  • erin020780

    we’re dealing with the most literate population here at Stafford — they don’t aspire to be. most of the local churches have an underlying message against education. It’s like throwing water up a rope. I don’t even know why we bother having public education because the children are almost not better of for it, at least in this area. The values are just not there.

  • erin020780

    we’re not dealing with the most literate population here at Stafford — they don’t aspire to be. most of the local churches have an underlying message against education. It’s like throwing water up a rope. I don’t even know why we bother having public education because the children are almost not better of for it, at least in this area. The values are just not there.

  • tarajfitzpatrick

    AP courses are for college credit.

  • homercles82

    It can be an AP course all day long, it is still in a public high school.

  • homercles82

    Have you visited most of the local churches? Do you have a bias againts the churches or Church in general? How did you perceive the local churches being against education? Can you prove any of this?

  • dfettero

    Virginia does not value public education. It ranks 43rd in per pupil expediture and 44th in teacher salary. Stafford has the 11th highest median household income in the US yet in 2007 the local contribution to education was 28% below state average and ranked 113/138 districts. And it shows. Recent SOL test scores for elementary students in Stafford were at or below 4 surrounding counties and the state average in 33 of 40 comparisons.

  • homercles82

    How can the student think outside the box on history when they don’t know it?

    If you knew nothing of History and I told you the Roman Empire did not have slaves but only volunteer workers how can you call that thinking outside of the box? It could be twisted and bent to mean they were not slaves but volunteers but that is not the truth.

  • shelbybrynn

    Erin, I don’t know why you are going off on a tangent about churches when that has absolutely nothing to do with what this post is about. As with a private university, people have a choice as to whether or not they choose to attend which is not the case with public schools. I am, however, offended by your comment about Stafford County’s children not being well-educated. I received a Stafford Co. education, do I seem illiterate to you? My daughter has been in Stafford Co. schools since kindergarten and has excelled in our system. She is in the gifted program and has scored extremely high on SOLs, and is two years ahead in Math. I’m not saying that the schools don’t have some problems, mainly due to budget constraints, but your account is way off base and made absolutely no sense.

  • shelbybrynn

    I am not saying that hearing the other side’s take on something can’t be beneficial, however, it needs to be presented as just that, the other side’s point of view and it needs to be historically accurate in its facts. For the record, I am less concerned with other countries viewpoints as I am about our own country’s. We are American and should be more concerned with teaching accurate history from America’s perspective with no political bias attached to it. When studying world history, that’s when we delve into other country’s perspectives and their historical facts. As for Stafford Co., my daughter attends a Model United Nations Conference every year and the children are assigned a country and several world issues and they must do research and work together to reach resolutions.

  • dfettero

    I agree that the views of others should be identified as such. How has our current education system worked? The one that has taught those afraid to think out of the box? Scores on international tests given to students in 60 countries representing 90% of the worlds economy have shown US students have declined in world ranking from 2000 to 2003 to 2006 in science, math and reading. Our HS need to be globally competitive; graduates need the skills to be critical thinkers, problem solvers, innovators, and effective communicators. They need to be technologically proficient, globally aware, civically engaged, and financially and economically literate. Any arguments on globally competitive!!!?

  • CraigBuck

    The real question is not about banning the book. It is, “Is this the best book we can use to teach children about history.” Calling this a “book ban” is a typical liberal tactic to divert attention away from the real issue. This is not a book ban but a question of choice that this books fails.

  • chiswald

    Doesn’t matter if you’re liberal, conservative, or anything else. That’s what it’s called.

  • Daedalus605

    I cannot believe half of what I am reading here. Some want to blame liberals, some want to say churches, some want to say conservatives, and so on, passing the buck of blame to whichever special interest group you’d like.

    The fact is that this book is a celebration of American ideals: free speech, the free exchange of ideas, and the belief that we have something to learn from each other. Instead, people want to argue over ideologies, specifics of whether or not a college level course in a high school counts, or just insult each other.

    Wake up, Fredericksburg. This issue is not about schools, students, or books; it is about the fear that comes with the false security of ignorance. We have been complacent too long. We must question our convictions if we wish to make them stronger.

  • nsekinger

    It should be made clear that the people who are trying to ban Howard Zinn’s book are not students reading the book or even parents of the students. They are members of a group that seems to promote a racist agenda and is calling the book anti-white. This ais a political agenda that just happens to be occuring in Stafford.
    Also, as a student of history and someone who read the book in college, it is deeply ironic that anyone wants to ban a book that is mostly quotes from first hand accounts of historical events. It is as if they were suggesting banning history itself.

  • emayberry31

    My classmates and I have read the Zinn book as a summer assignment and I believe that it is ridiculous to even suggest taking the book down. This book has NOT turned my class into radical leftist robots, and we are most certainly not being brainwashed. Our teacher has made it a priority to include separate articles witch contradict Zinn, offering two points of view. Because guess what, History IS Biased and it imported to a well rounded education to take both viewpoint into account. Also, if your political views conflict with those of Zinns, WHO CARES? Let us keep the book, and yes, we are capable of distinguishing a biased piece of literature. There’s a reason we are in an AP class.

    If you do not like this book, then ban it FROM YOUR HOUSEHOLD and leave MY education OUT of it.

    Elizabeth Mayberry

  • timosterhoudt

    There is no reason to ban Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.” As students in an Advanced Placement class, we are mature and smart enough to understand Zinn’s point of view. We are not being encouraged to believe in what he is saying, but to look at history from a different point of view. In the history class, we have been presented with articles that contradict Zinn’s book to complement what we learned from the book. Zinn’s book is not our primary textbook and was only used to help us think about how history is presented from different views. The people challenging in the book are not students in the class, nor are they parents of those students. I have not heard one complaint about the book from the students or their parents.

  • timosterhoudt

    How are you going to say that the students in high schools do not know history? We are voluntarily learning history at a college level, meaning that before the class, we had an exceptional knowledge of history. Now that we are in the class, we know a lot more about history. We are learning history at a high enough level to be given a chance to recieve college credit for the class, thus proving we know history extremely well, and know more about history than many other people. I am offended that adults are trying to call the youth of this country not intelligent enough to understand history, especially since more youth every year are being put into advanced and honors courses.