Essay on A Patriot's History Versus a People's History

1377 Words Apr 19th, 2012 6 Pages
A People’s History Versus A Patriot’s History

Public consensus, similar to politics, varies greatly when it comes to American history, especially as it pertains to the classroom. Views about the content and historical interpretation included in history texts have reached a heightened polarization in recent years. This can be seen in the vast differences between the diatribes of Howard Zinn’s, A People’s History of the United States, and Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen’s, A Patriot’s History of the United States. While both books, prescribed by this introductory course into American History, cover many of the same topics, they clearly paint different pictures. I feel that any text seeking to represent a responsible survey of a subject,
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The current economic struggles affecting our nation as well as the controversial conflicts abroad have arguably caused a shift in the nation’s politics. Whereby, the Right has become more conservative and the Left, more liberal. Farhad Manjoo discusses this in his book, True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society. Manjoo purports that, “No longer are we merely holding opinions different from one another; we’re also holding different facts. Indeed, you can go so far as to say we’re now fighting over competing versions of reality.” If the news of ‘today’ is being interpreted in such different ways, I believe that it speaks in magnitude to the way we must be viewing the news of ‘yesterday.’

Howard Zinn speaks to this in his Afterword, referring to common omissions in orthodox history. He retorts, “The consequence of those omissions has been not simply to give a distorted view of the past but, more important, to mislead us all about the present.” (Zinn, 684) However, in reference to a common insistence on strictly teaching the facts in the classroom, Zinn also claims that there is no pure fact which does not preclude a judgment. True to his claims in his Afterward, Zinn lays out an argument and maintains his position throughout his book in addition to the facts he presents. He has been revered for the serious manner in which he treats his cited works, and for offering…