Council wants Howard Zinn to be required reading for Philly students

city councilman jim kenney
City Councilman Jim Kenney.
Credit: Rikard Larma / Metro

City Council on Thursday passed a resolution calling on the School District of Philadelphia to make Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” a required part of the high school U.S. history curriculum.

“Throughout our educational experience, most of us have received a varnished version of American history, replete with the activities and accomplishments of basically white males, Anglo-Saxon Protestants,” legislation sponsor Councilman Jim Kenney said.

“As I age in life and read more and more, I’ve become more exposed to folks who are never mentioned in our history books – the Arawak Indians in the Caribbean, the Creeks, the Seminoles, the Cherokees, blacks, African slaves, those women who were denied the right to vote up until the 19th century.

“I think it’s very important, in addition to the Ben Franklins and George Washingtons of the world, that we hear about and read about and allow our own children to read about different cultures and understand struggles they’ve gone through.”

Kenney read an excerpt from Zinn’s book detailing some of the oft-overlooked historical figures it covers.

“I just want our own children – in high school, generally, which is where I think this book belongs – to understand there is another history of the United States, another history of Philadelphia and another history of Pennsylvania that has intentionally been removed from our consciousness and needs to be put back, and I think this book is the best way to do that,” Kenney finished.

Though the measure passed City Council unanimously, Councilman David Oh did raise a slight “note of caution.”

“While I believe we should make these good suggestions, I’d like to clarify, at the end of the day, it’s a suggestion to the curriculum, [which is created by] experts in the school district,” he said.


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