Success: Arkansas’ Howard Zinn Ban Defeated

Target: Representative Eddie L. Cheatham, Chairperson of the Arkansas House Committee on Education

Goal: Praise decision to vote down a proposed ban on Howard Zinn books in schools across the state.

A Republican attempt to totally ban one of the most prolific, critical U.S. historians from Arkansas schools has been shot down. Earlier this year, Representative Kim Hendren introduced HB 1384, a bill that would have banned books and other material written by Zinn from the state’s public and open-enrollment charter schools. The ban would have not only effectively censored everything Zinn wrote between the years 1959 and 2010, but also aimed to ban any secondary material containing even a passing reference to the writer.

Zinn himself has long been loathed by many conservatives for his focus on portraying U.S. history from the perspectives of marginalized groups. His most famous work, A People’s History of the United States, looked at U.S. history through the eyes of the poor, labor organizers, African Americans and other underprivileged groups. Hendren tried to defend the bill by arguing the blatant act of censorship was actually aimed at sparking “a conversation and debate” about Zinn’s work.

Now, the House Committee on Education has decided that banning books isn’t the best way to promote public debate about their content. In a decision handed down this month, the committee concluded the one page bill was excessively broad. This decision only came after a massive public outcry, along with petitions such as this one from ForceChange.

At this point, HB 1384 is dead in the water, with no signs it could be resurrected anytime soon. Let’s take a moment to thank the Arkansas House Committee on Education for putting the breaks on this attempt to stifle critical thought in schools.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Representative Cheatham,

We welcome the Arkansas House Committee on Education’s recent decision to vote down HB 1384. Proposed by Representative Kim Hendren, this bill would have banned all books written by historian Howard Zinn between the years 1959 and 2010 in public and open-enrollment charter schools. Not only would it have effectively censored Zinn’s work, but would have also banned any material that even made a passing reference to Zinn or his books.

This bill was a shameless attempt by Hendren to scrub the Arkansas school system of critical thought. Zinn himself is one of the country’s most prolific writers on the history of ordinary Americans, such as workers, African Americans, the poor and other underprivileged groups. By proposing HB 1384, Hendren was suggesting these voices don’t matter, and that Arkansas students shouldn’t be exposed to thought-provoking, critical literature.

By quashing this bill, the committee has taken a stand for freedom of speech, and the rights of students in the state of Arkansas. This is commendable, and we praise all representatives for doing what’s right for the people of Arkansas.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: recubejim

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One Comment

  1. This is such good news. A victory for truth, free speech and historical honesty and integrity.

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