A Young People's History of the United States: Columbus to the War on Terror (Anglais) Broché – 2 juin 2009
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Présentation de l'éditeur
Beginning with a look at Christopher Columbus’s arrival through the eyes of the Arawak Indians, then leading the reader through the struggles for workers’ rights, women’s rights, and civil rights during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and ending with the current protests against continued American imperialism, Zinn in the volumes of A Young People’s History of the United States presents a radical new way of understanding America’s history. In so doing, he reminds readers that America’s true greatness is shaped by our dissident voices, not our military generals.
Biographie de l'auteur
REBECCA STEFOFF is the author of more than 100 nonfiction books for children and young adults, and she has adapted several best-selling history books for younger readers.
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As an African American mom with a 10 year old son, I am thrilled that THIS American history book is one that my 4th grade son cannot put down!
There are just the right amount of illustrations, text and white space on each page that makes it a turn page turner. I have read the "adult" version of this book--A People's History of the United States and find that both of us can now converse about American history in a way that we see OURSELVES (and ancestors) in a more thoughtful & honest manner.
MY SON LOVES THIS BOOK--its made him enthusiastic about history! (And me too.)
I find the review about the author's "mean spirited view of America" to be the most entertaining, and how we "should not teach young people such a negative view of America." Or the other reviews with comments about "snarling at references to Washington and Lincoln," and "George Washington being a capitalist elitist who was fighting to keep the poor down thru the formation of a faux- republic government..." Really shows how we Americans love to believe what we like to believe, and especially tend to believe what we are taught by our teachers in school, and by this mighty government that leads us- and deceives us. Come on people; try thinking for yourselves for once- what's the worst that could happen? Still other reviewers call it 'leftist crap;' so entertaining, and somewhat depressing, too, to realize how close-minded so many people are to anything but their own version of the truth. What one reviewer refers to as Zinn's opinions... I cannot even begin to guess at what he thinks he is referring to. There are for the most part nothing but plain and substantiated facts (with listed sources) laid out in this, and in the full version of "People's History," so it is quite hard to believe that someone could make so ignorant a comment. But then it's also hard to believe what many people will do to hide from the truth in their own lives right here in present day as well.
A brilliant book for any young person who can healthily entertain the possibility that all too often a government's chief goal is to maintain control over the populace, keep them pacified, and ensure that everything it does has the appearance of being 'squeaky clean.' This book shows the US government for what it really is, and truth be told, it is a frightening- and all too accurate if too seldom heard- portrayal of history. A must read for any young person whose parents would like to begin him or her on the way to thinking for himself and perceiving things from other viewpoints.
Howard Zinn’s THE PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, on the other hand, has no pretensions about “objectivity. Zinn states up front that he is writing the history we don’t learn in school or read in the newspapers. He is telling the history of the people who have been affected by power and the struggle for power. In the Friedman/Thatcher/Reagan vision of “trickle-down economics”, Zinn is concerned about those getting trickled on and, more importantly, what those people have done and are doing about it. The original, adult version of this book is over seven hundred pages long. Zinn, along with co-writer Rebecca Stefoff, wanted to bring a more accessible version of the book to younger audiences, hence, THE YOUNG PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, which is roughly two-thirds as long with significantly less writing per page.
The young people’s version pretty much follows the adult version of the book, starting with debunking the myth of Columbus and continuing until about the date of publication, including information on the September 11 attacks, the war on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq. The book ends with the Democratic resurgence at the midterm elections during Bush 43’s second term. Although Zinn makes it repeatedly clear that he doesn’t have significantly more love for the Democrats than the Republicans, he did seem to view this as a positive sign that Americans had had enough of abuses of executive power, foreign wars and empire building and federal overreach at home. Sadly, he lived just long enough to probably realize his hopes may have been overly optimistic.
Of necessity, the young people’s version is significantly less detailed and more simplistic than the adult version, which can be a bit of a drawback as it exacerbates accusations of bias and inaccuracy. As noted, Zinn never pretends to be un-biased, but the simplification in this book does away with a degree of nuance that seems to lead to a number of statements that have been simplified to the point of generalization, and generalizations almost always carry a degree of inaccuracy.
As simplified as this book is, I don’t recommend it for high school students (most of whom can handle the adult version). This book would be good for late elementary and middle school kids with adult guidance. I would like to see this book used in conjunction with a supposedly “objective” text book and maybe even an explicitly right-wing focused book. It would be a slow process, but a worthwhile exercise to have students comb through equivalent chapters and look for information among the texts that is outright contradictory versus information that is simply a matter of perspective.
For instance, the view of Columbus as a “great” explorer who “discovered” America isn’t necessarily incompatible with the view of him as a conqueror and slave master of the Indians – it’s just a matter of whether you look at it from a European or an Indian point of view. Students should pay attention in each text to see whose voices are included and whose are not.
But other sections, such as the Civil War, may present contradictory information among the texts. For instance, was the Civil War fought over slavery or not? Who was the aggressor? In these cases, students should be helped to find primary sources which may support one position or another. In this way, students will begin to understand how we know what we know about history and to understand the limits of objective “truth” in history, which really makes up a large chunk of what studying history is really all about, rather than simply memorizing names and dates.
One of the biggest drawbacks to both this version and the adult version of this book is the lack of footnotes, endnotes, bibliography or other references. Some sources are mentioned in the text itself and there are many quotes from ordinary people’s letters to the editor or elected officials or interviews with the media. But without adequate information to trace those sources for one’s self, the book suffers a small loss of credibility, even for those who support Zinn’s message and perspective. Students especially need to understand where historical information comes from and that, while it may represent an interpretation, the information underlying that interpretation comes from actual historical events as documented in many different sources.
Everyone, from the most flaming radicals to the staunchest conservatives, should read Zinn’s work simply for the neglected viewpoints he offers. If his information is wrong, then it should be easy enough to dispute it, debate it and determine the truth of the matter. But no one, child or adult, is going to be “indoctrinated” simply by hearing an alternate viewpoint or different interpretation. And, while Zinn’s viewpoint is definitely quite harsh on the power structure that has frequently led America in a bad direction, the book is not itself anti-American. In fact, the book is quite optimistic in the idea that ordinary people, standing up for what they believe in, have the power to change history and thereby correct the mistakes of our imperialistic, racist, classist past to create a more equitable and just future as enshrined in our founding documents.