Journal of Educational Controversy


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Interview with the New Dean of the Woodring College of Education at Western Washington University

Editor: The Journal of Educational Controversy welcomes the new dean of the Woodring College of Education, the home of the journal.   Dean Horacio Walker shares some of his thoughts and background in the interview below.

1.      What was it about the Woodring College of Education that attracted you?

I am attracted to Woodring’s vision of honoring diversities and promoting social justice. I believe that inequality is the most important problem facing today’s world. Most violence and discrimination affecting people in different countries and cultures is rooted in unequal rights and opportunities.  Without a vision on inclusion of all people in education and development opportunities, these problems cannot be properly addressed. I believe that colleges of education are in a privileged position to influence a social justice agenda around the globe. 

I was also interested in the faculty and the programs they have developed for the College. A few years ago, I was impressed with a presentation done by a small delegation from Woodring at a conference on field experiences in teacher education held at the Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago, Chile, where I was dean.  It was clear from the presentation, that the College valued strong partnerships with the community and wanted the prospective teachers to have genuine experiences in diverse contexts. I thought that the vision and the mission of the College was reflected in the way they structured and organized the process through which the preservice teachers  learn how to teach and in the type of partnerships they foster with school districts and individual schools.

2.      What do you believe are the most important challenges facing education and Schools of Education in the political and social context of our time?

Education’s most important challenge today is removing barriers that prevent learning and the development of the full child in schools. There are financial barriers, such as having food on the table and appropriate housing. There are also socio-emotional barriers, such as unsupportive family and school environments for children and young people. There are cultural barriers, such as beliefs about gender, race and sexual orientation. There are educational barriers, such as unequal access to relevant and quality learning and non-inclusive school environments that induce negativity among the students and reproduce inequality in everyday practices.   There are also political barriers, such as top-down policies that inhibit partnerships between schools, the family and the community.
Colleges of Education generally address some of these barriers. However, I believe that a systemic approach to education is needed to understand how all of these barriers are connected.  In Woodring we are privileged to have academic programs preparing students in teacher education and also in health and community studies which provide different perspectives on how systems work.

3.      Could you share your basic philosophy of education with us?

My basic philosophy of education is reflected in four main principles. First, education is lifelong learning which must focus on the whole person, fostering conditions for social, emotional and cultural development.  Second, learning must be supported by a system of interrelated factors, i.e. the family, the local community, the state and the federal government. Third, educators must work to remove barriers that prevent all children and youth from accessing and succeeding in educational opportunities. Teachers and schools should have the highest expectations for all. Fourth, education needs to be a public reference of inclusion and diverse communities. Public schools are best suited to prepare new citizens to contribute for an equitable and democratic society. It is a moral imperative that governments must protect and support public education. 

4.      What would you want our students, colleagues and readers to know about you as a person?

I grew up in the capital city of Santiago, Chile. Two childhood experiences influenced my vision on education and inspired me to work in the field my entire career.

Growing up I experienced the effects of socioeconomic segregation. Families were grouped in neighborhoods according to their common background, and children were grouped in schools where everyone looked similar.    

In 10th grade, I was able to participate in a service-learning program organized by my high school. I travelled to the south of Chile to help shantytown dwellers build their own homes with government financial support. For the first time I met several  people who grew up in a different part of the country, who had barely made it through elementary school and who could not access secondary education.  I was not ready to understand why.  I remember vividly hearing them say to me over and over, “I want you to work hard, go to college - don’t go through what we have experienced.” Those words have stayed with me forever. As I went through college, I understood that they were victims of social and economic oppression that had condemned their families to poverty.

In 1973, during my first year in University, President Salvador Allende, who was democratically elected in 1970, was overthrown by a military coup that ruled the country through the early 90s. I lived my entire university years under a curfew - hearing shootings at night and listening to horror stories about people disappearing and being tortured. Yet I was prepared to teach in that environment. However, I was not able to get a job in a public school, as all were under control of the military regime. Instead, I began my career in non-formal education, supporting community-based organizations struggling to help themselves address basic needs.  Those experiences, framed by Paulo Freire’s work, shaped my basic philosophy of education all during my career, in different contexts and institutional settings. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Colleges and Universities Take a Stand in Support of their DACA Students

Colleges and Universities Take a Stand in Support of their DACA Students

Many colleges and universities are taking a stand in support of their DACA Students in light of the Trump Administration’s rescinding of the Obama 2012 executive order for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program and the phasing out of it over the next six months.

Here in Washington State, the presidents of Washington`s six public baccalaureate colleges and universities, 34 community and technical colleges, 10 members of the Independent Colleges of Washington, as well as the 10 members of the Washington Student Achievement Council issued a statement of support for DACA. 

Nationwide, over 650 college and university presidents from public and private institutions across the United States have signed a statement entitled, “Statement in Support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program and our Undocumented Immigrant Students.”  

The Association of American Colleges & Universities also issued the following response along with some additional links and resources:

AAC&U Responds to DACA Decision

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Last week, AAC&U joined three dozen other higher education organizations as signatories to a letter urging President Trump to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and fulfill his promise to treat the Dreamers “with heart.” We are disappointed by the recent decision made by the Trump Administration to end the DACA program. AAC&U will continue to work with our member institutions to advocate for immigration policies and programs that ensure protections for the approximately 800,000 individuals who contribute greatly to the schools in which they are enrolled, the communities in which they live, and the democracy they serve.

The decision to end DACA, compounded with recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, and tensions felt on campuses across the country, makes even more critical the role of our institutions not only in shaping the agenda for higher education, but in serving as a national voice on issues of racial and social justice. AAC&U stands alongside its 1,400 members in reaffirming a deep and abiding commitment to the values of diversity, inclusion, and equity as critical to the well-being of our democratic society and as the cornerstones of excellence in liberal education.

Additional links and resources:

HowHigher-Education Leaders Are Fighting for DACA (The Atlantic, September 1, 2017)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Federal Court Rules that Arizona’s Banning of the Mexican American Studies Program was Discriminatory and Motivated by Racial Animas

A U.S. District Court has ruled that the banning of the Mexican American Curriculum in Tucson, Arizona was discriminatory and motivated by racial animus.

We have been following the events following the banning of the Mexican American Studies Program in the Tucson Unified School District in Arizona in our journal, on our blog and in several panels and forums that were videotaped and made available to our readers.  See “The Hypocrisy of Racism: Arizona's Movement towards State-SanctionedApartheid” by Augustine F. Romero, “Dangerous Minds In Tucson: The Banning of Mexican American Studies andCritical Thinking In Arizona” by Curtis Acosta, “Precious Knowledge: An Interview with Film Director, Ari Palos, on April15, 2013” by Celina Meza, and “Keeping the Flames at Bay: The Interplay between Federal Oversight andState Politics in Tucson’s Mexican American Studies Program,” by Leslie A. Locke and Ann E. Blankenship.

We will provide an extensive analysis of the court decision in a future post on this blog. Check back.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Some Resources for Teaching about Charlottesville

Some Resources for Teaching about Charlottesville

We are gathering some resources for teaching about the horrific events that have taken place in Charlottesville.  Below are some of them. 

l. Facing History

“Message from Roger Brooks: Teaching About Charlottesville”

The Learning Network

“Teaching Activities for: ‘Man Charged After White Nationalist Rally in Charlottesville Ends in Deadly Violence‘ “

 3. Washington Post

“The first thing teachers should do when school starts is talk about hatred in America. Here’s help.”

 4. Education Week Teacher

“Teachers Share Resources for Addressing Charlottesville Hate Rally in the Classroom”

 5. Northwest Public Radio

“Resources For Educators To Use In The Wake Of Charlottesville”

6. Southern Poverty Law Center

“SPLC releases new edition of Ten Ways to Fight Hate guide after Charlottesville attack”

Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide

 6. Rethinking Schools Blog

This article first appeared on AlterNet

“7 Ways Teachers Can Respond to the Evil of Charlottesville, Starting Now:  An educator confronts the failures of an education system that breeds white supremacy”

7. The Choices Program, Brown University

History in Dispute: Charlottesville and Confederate Monuments
  • Understand the idea of historical memory.
  • Contextualize recent events in Charlottesville within a larger historical controversy.
  • Apply the concept of historical memory to the controversy over Confederate monuments.
  • Appraise media sources that express a range of views on Confederate monuments.

 I will continue to add to this list.  Check our list above to see additions.


“Faced with the domestic terrorism at Charlottesville, Betsy DeVos fails another test”

The Hechinger Report



Thursday, August 3, 2017

What George Washington and Donald Trump have in Common

In these lazy days of summer, we might pepper it with some experiments in thought.  Can you think of anything that our first president, George Washington, might have in common with the current occupant of that position, Donald Trump?  Well, there actually is something that both of them have in common.  When Washington was commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, he nobly declined a salary and only requested that his expenses be covered, something that the Continental Congress may have regretted.  In place of his $500 a month salary, Washington presented them with a meticulous account of expenses that some claim amounted to $160,074 while others claim was closer to $449,261.51, depending on how you calculate monetary amounts prior to the nation state. Still it was an amount considerably higher than a salary of $48000 over that eight-year revolutionary war period. "As to pay, Sir," he wrote, "I beg leave to Assure the Congress that no pecuniary consideration could have tempted me to have accepted this Arduous employment at the expense of my domestic ease and happiness, I do not wish to make a profit from it: I will keep an exact Account of my expenses; these I doubt not they will discharge and that is all I desire." To view a list of expenses that Washington recorded, check out the records at the Library of Congress. Another account is located at the National Archives in RG 56, General Records - Treasury Department. 

Our current president, Donald Trump, has likewise offered to decline his salary.  And like Washington, the government and taxpayers are covering expenses, including a widely reported figure in the millions for his frequent visits to his weekend resorts.    No one knows what the final accounting is going to be. Thus, Trump joins two other wealthy presidents who refused to take a salary – John Kennedy and Herbert Hoover.  Question: If the money is donated to a charity or to the Treasury Department, can it be claimed as a deduction for charitable contributions on his taxes  ---  a question simply not applicable for our comparison with our first president.

But what do these musings have to do with a blog dedicated to education.  Well, for one thing, Trump’s second quarter salary was just donated to the Department of Education for the furthering of stem education.  The donation that amounted to $100,000 was accepted by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos who praised the president for his generous gift that she says has shown his “commitment to our nation’s students” so all have “access to a high quality education.”  Of course, Trump’s recent budget recommendation will also result in a 13.5 percent spending cut to the department that amounts to $9.2 billion dollars.

It’s going to be hot summer.  Muse on.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

How do you react to this AP headline: “Ex-school official: Radicals taught Mexican-American program”

The article, “Ex-school official: Radicals taught Mexican-American program,” written by Astrid Galvan of the Associated Press appeared in a number of newspapers today including the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Of course, the headline is true in so far as the idea that radicals taught the Mexican-American program in the schools of Tucson was claimed by an ex-school official, but might be misleading if you don’t question the truth of the assertion by the former school official.  The Journal of Educational Controversy has published a number of articles on the banning of the Mexican American curriculum in Tucson, Arizona.  After reading the articles in the Washington Post or the New York Times, take a look at one of our journal’s articles on what actually occurred inside one of those classrooms.  You can find the article, “Dangerous Minds inTucson: The Banning of Mexican American Studies and Critical Thinking in Arizona,” by Curtis Acosta, a former teacher in the school district, in our 2014 Volume 8 issue.  The theme for that issue was, “WhoDefines the Public in Public Education.”

Sunday, July 9, 2017

SPLC Denounces Letter from Attorneys General Seeking Repeal of DACA

The article below is reprinted with permission of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

SPLC Denounces Letter from 10 Attorneys General Seeking ‘cruel and heartless’ Repeal of DACA

June 30, 2017

The Southern Poverty Law Center this week denounced a letter signed by 10 state attorneys general as “cruel and heartless” because it asks the Department of Justice to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Under DACA, which was created by the Obama administration, the federal government has granted reprieves from deportation to nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.

“Attorneys general from 10 states are egging the federal government on to be more cruel and heartless in its approach to immigration,” said Naomi Tsu, SPLC deputy legal director. “The letter requests that the Department of Justice revoke protections for immigrant youth and begin targeting for deportation these young people who have grown up as Americans.

“These attacks will prevent children, many of whom know no other home, from working legally and reaching their full potential. If the Trump administration follows through on this request, they will be responsible for further pushing immigrant communities underground, making communities less safe, less prosperous and more divided.”

The 10 state attorneys general who signed the letter are Steve Marshall of Alabama, Leslie Rutledge of Arkansas, Lawrence G. Wasden of Idaho, Derek Schmidt of Kansas, Jeff Landry of Louisiana, Doug Peterson of Nebraska, Alan Wilson of South Carolina, Ken Paxton of Texas, Herbert Slatery III of Tennessee, and Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia.

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter also signed the letter.

The SPLC has fought for young immigrants in danger of being deported, in spite of DACA. In March, the SPLC, along with others, won the release of Daniela Vargas from the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Vargas, a 22-year-old DACA recipient, was detained by ICE agents shortly after speaking at a Jackson, Mississippi, press conference on March 1 about her hope that she and other young immigrants could remain in the United States and contribute to the country they’ve long called home.

The SPLC and others filed court papers seeking the immediate release of Vargas, who was brought to the United States from Argentina at age 7.

 Editor: Here is a link to the letter sent by the ten attorneys general to the Justice Department.
For an informative and sensitive article published in our journal, read: "A DREAM Deported: What Undocumented American Youth Need their Schools to Understand," in our Volume 7 issue at

Friday, June 9, 2017

Budget in Crisis - The Latest on Funding Public Education in the state of Washington

In 2012 the Washington state Supreme Court ruled in the McCleary decision that the state constitution is being violated. K-12 public schools in Washington are underfunded in direct violation of the state’s constitution which states that “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.[1] 2014 found the issue still far from being resolved and the justices held the state in contempt for failure to progress with legislation that will fully fund public schools. In 2015 the court added a $100,000 per day fine against the state. Instead of passing legislation that would resolve this issue in 2016, Senate Bill 6195 was passed. This bill set up a task force to make recommendations in the 2017 legislative session, after collecting data on school salaries and levies. This fine currently exceeds $55 million. Tom Ahearne, the lead attorney in the McCleary v. State of Washington case, spoke on Wednesday, May 3 at the Bellingham High School Performing Arts Center, and explained that the fine isn’t real money. The legislature will never actually pay this amount and it is more a symbol of the weight of the issue and the seriousness of the court’s decision. Ahearne laid out the possibilities we have in store for us in the near future. If the legislature fully funds K-12 public education then we all simply move on. If they fail to “amply” fund education then the courts will need to use a stronger sanction than the moderate contempt fine. The next sanctions could be closing schools or threatening to dock legislators’ salaries.

The court ruling states that the legislature must have fully implemented funding by September 1, 2018. This means the legislature has until the final adjournment of the 2017 legislative session, which ends on June 30, 2017. So, the current legislative session has three weeks to complete a budget that fully funds public K-12 education in the State of Washington. This is something they have been unable to do for nearly five years. Check back on June 30, 2017 for an update.

For more information on this topic, check out:

[1] Article XI Education

Monday, June 5, 2017

New Issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy Now Online

Volume 11 of the Journal of Educational Controversy is now online with a focus on the question:  Is “Best Practices” Research in Education Insufficient or even Misdirected?

This invited issue is dedicated to the life and scholarly work of John G. Richardson.  Dr. Richardson is professor emeritus at Western Washington University and the associate editor of the Journal of Educational Controversy since its beginning in 2006.  He has conceptualized the theme for this issue and has written an introductory essay that places the invited articles within a conceptual framework that raises deeper questions about what it means to make claims to understand something.

 As one of authors wrote about Dr. Richardson’s legacy, “In the 21st century changes are occurring so rapidly that the educational field barely has time to process what has already come down the pike, let alone what is coming. It takes a scholar of courage, with both historical awareness and foresight, to raise important, salient and far-reaching questions about what has come, is on the horizon and might be on the way. This is especially the case in an academic context that appears to be narrowing in its toleration for asking difficult questions and generating meaningful dialogue around them.”

 We hope that this issue will initiate a wide discussion around some pivotal and fundamental questions about the ways we conduct the research that shapes our understanding of schooling in America.

 The controversy addressed in the issue is:

For decades the research agenda for identifying “best practices” for reforming education has been structured around testing hypotheses of either effectiveness or prediction of outcomes.  Within the quantitative approach researchers have used a variety of traditional causal and correlational designs to examine relationships between specific measurable variables. Researchers have also used qualitative approaches to examine implementation of such practices in more depth through observations in the field, interviews with students and educators, and content analysis of curriculum and student work.
However, educational research seeking the best practices can often ignore or minimize the mechanisms that generate the phenomenon studied.  From school-to-prison and mass incarceration, racial-gender disproportionality in special and vocational education, to school dropout rates, correlations abound, but they don't by themselves explain the phenomenon.  Good intentions frame much educational research, but can over-dramatize correlations at the expense of deeper explanation.
This volume seeks papers that exemplify the "paradoxical" nature of educational research.   Submissions should focus on two things: the intentions or motivations that (often) inform educational research, but where the results or outcomes are unintended or unanticipated.  We seek papers that go beyond descriptions of educational issues, however detailed, as well as beyond explanations that repeat initial intentions or motivations.  Papers should reveal and discuss the specific forces and mechanisms that generate the topic of analysis, be it educational practices (teaching, assessment), outcomes (achievement, court decisions, enrollments) or events (protests and emergent social movements, school shootings, drop outs) that are the subject of the paper.

Friday, May 19, 2017

New Call for Reviewers

The Journal of Educational Controversy is expanding its pool of reviewers. If you are interested in being considered as a reviewer, e-mail us a letter of interest with a list of areas of expertise and interest along with a vita.

E-mail us at:

Please put "potential reviewer" in the subject area.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Trial Date Set: Latest Action on the Banning of Mexican American Studies in Tucson, Arizona

Editor: We have been following the events following the banning of the Mexican American Studies Program in the Tucson Unified School District in Arizona in our journal, on our blog and in several panels and forums that were videotaped and made available to our readers.  See “The Hypocrisy of Racism: Arizona's Movement towards State-Sanctioned Apartheid” by Augustine F. Romero, “DangerousMinds In Tucson: The Banning of Mexican American Studies and Critical ThinkingIn Arizona” by Curtis Acosta, “Precious Knowledge: An Interview with Film Director,Ari Palos, on April 15, 2013” by Celina Meza, and “Keeping the Flames at Bay:The Interplay between Federal Oversight and State Politics in Tucson’s MexicanAmerican Studies Program,” by Leslie A. Locke and Ann E. Blankenship.

A trial date has now been set to challenge the constitutionality of these actions.  Below is an e-mail that we received that will bring our readers up to date on events.  


April 13, 2017
Mexican American Studies Trial
Tucson, Arizona

The legal challenge to the constitutionality of the State of Arizona's banning of Mexican American Studies in the Tucson Unified School District has been scheduled for trial in Tucson, Arizona. Trial will be held on June 26-30, 2017 and continue on July 17-21, 2017.

The MAS case contends that the actions of the State of Arizona violated the Equal Protection and First Amendment rights of the school districts Mexican American students. This includes the enactment of the statute HB 2281 and the subsequent enforcement of the law compelling TUSD to eliminate the MAS department, all classes, curriculum and course material.

The anti-MAS law was passed and signed into law shortly after Arizona's infamous SB1070 anti-immigrant law was passed. Both are products of the anti-Mexican sentiments that have been rampant throughout the state. The MAS case was filed October 18, 2010. In the initial proceeding the district court found one of the four provisions in the statute unconstitutional. After a successful appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the case was remanded for trial on the Equal Protection and First Amendment claims.

Trial will be held in Tucson before the Hon. Judge Tashima and is scheduled to last two weeks. It is open to the public and supporters of Mexican American Studies, Ethnic and Gender studies are invited to attend.

For more information about the trial and attending please contact

MAS Trial -Tucson  

Anita Fernández-Information Coordinator

Monday, March 13, 2017

Banning Books Is Back in Style

This post was first published on

Banning Books Is Back in Style

March 8, 2017

This post  first appeared on Reprinted with permission.

Even from beyond the grave, Howard Zinn is managing to raise the hackles of at least one conservative lawmaker. On March 2, Kim Hendren, a state legislator from Arkansas, introduced a bill which would prohibit public schools from teaching any material written by the famed radical historian.

Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, which tells the story of the nation through voices left out or minimized in most conventional histories — women, minorities, the working classes — is no stranger to controversy. It’s been banned before but it also spent weeks on The New York Times non-fiction best-seller list and inspired a television special produced by actor Matt Damon.

Boston Magazine reports that more than 500 Arkansas teachers have requested copies of the book. In homage to their former professor, Boston University alumni are contributing to the Zinn Education Project’s campaign to send copies of the book to Arkansas schools.

In this video you can view a 2009 conversation between Bill Moyers and Zinn about the television production and his ordinary people-centered vision of history.


BILL MOYERS: There's a long tradition in America of people power, and no one has done more to document it than the historian, Howard Zinn. Listen to this paragraph from his most famous book. Quote: "If democracy were to be given any meaning, if it were to go beyond the limits of capitalism and nationalism, this would not come, if history were any guide, from the top. It would come through citizen's movements, educating, organizing, agitating, striking, boycotting, demonstrating, threatening those in power with disruption of the stability they needed." This son of a working class family got a job in the Brooklyn shipyards and then flew as a bombardier during World War II. He went to NYU on the G.I. Bill, taught history at Spellman College in Atlanta, where he was first active in the Civil Rights movement, and then became a professor of political science at Boston University.
There, he and his students sought a more down-to-earth way of looking at American history. And when no book could provide it, Zinn decided to write one. Since his publication in 1980, A People's History of the United States has sold more than 2 million copies. This Sunday night, the History Channel will premiere a 90-minute special, The People Speak based on Howard Zinn's book. It was produced by Zinn along with Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Chris Moore and Anthony Arnove.

[VIGGO MORTENSEN as PLOUGH JOGGER]: Let them say what they will.

BILL MOYERS: Actors and musicians bring to life voices of protests from America's past —

[DARRYL MCDANIELS as DAVID WALKER]: All men are created equal.

BILL MOYERS: — performing words and music that have given us, as Howard Zinn himself says, "whatever liberty or democracy we have." Welcome to the Journal.

HOWARD ZINN: Oh, thank you, Bill.

BILL MOYERS: So, history and Hollywood. Is this the beginning of a new career for you?

HOWARD ZINN: I hope not. No, but I am happy it is a way of reaching a larger audience with the ideas that were in the book. The — well, the ideas that you just spoke about. The idea of people involved in history, people actively making history, people agitating and demonstrating, and pushing the leaders of the country into change in a way that leaders themselves are not likely to initiate.

BILL MOYERS: What do you think these characters from the past that we will see on the screen, what do they have to say to us today?

HOWARD ZINN: Well, I think what they have to say to us today is think for yourself. Don't believe what the people up there tell you. Live your own life. Think your own ideas. And don't depend on saviors. Don't depend on the Founding Fathers, on Andrew Jackson, on Theodore Roosevelt, on Lyndon Johnson, on Obama. Don't depend on our leaders to do what needs to be done.
Because whenever the government has done anything to bring about change, it's done so only because it's been pushed and prodded by social movements, by ordinary people organizing, by, you know, Lincoln pushed by the anti-slavery movement. You know, Johnson and Kennedy pushed by the Southern black movement. And maybe hopefully Obama today, maybe he will be pushed by people today who have such high hopes in him, and who want to see him fulfill those hopes.
You know, traditional history creates passivity because it gives you the people at the top and it makes you think that all you have to do is go to the polls every four years and elect somebody who's going to do the trick for you. And no. We want people to understand that that's not going to happen. People have to do it themselves. And so that's what we hope these readings will inspire.

BILL MOYERS: One of my favorite sequences is in here, is when we meet Genora Dollinger. Tell me about her.

HOWARD ZINN: She was a woman who got involved in sit-down strikes of the 1930s. Those very dramatic moments when workers occupied the factories of General Motors and wouldn't leave, and therefore left the corporations helpless. But this was a time when strikes all over the country galvanized people and pushed the New Deal into the reforms that we finally got from the New Deal. And Genora Dollinger represents the women who are very often overlooked in these struggles, women so instrumental in supporting the workers, their men, their sweethearts. And Genora Dollinger just inspires people with her words.

BILL MOYERS: She was only 23 when she organized.

HOWARD ZINN: Amazing. Yes.

[MARISSA TOMEI as GENORA DOLLINGER]: Workers overturned police cars to make barricades. They ran to pick up the fire bombs thrown at them and hurl them back at the police. The men wanted to me to get out of the way. You know the old "protect the women and children" business. I told them, "Get away from me." The lights went on in my head. I thought I have never used a loud speaker to address a large crowd of people but I've got to tell them there are women down here. I called to them, "Cowards! Cowards! Shooting into the bellies of unarmed men and firing at the mothers of children." And then everything became quiet. I thought, "The women can break this up." So I appealed to the women in the crowd, "Break through those police lines and come down here and stand beside your husbands and your brothers and your uncles and your sweethearts." I could barely see one woman struggling to come forward. A cop had grabbed her by the back of her coat. She just pulled out of that coat and she started walking down to the battle zone. As soon as that happened there were other women and men who followed. That was the end of the battle. When those spectators came into the center of the battle and the police retreated, there was a big roar of victory.

BILL MOYERS: That's Marisa Tomei as Genora Dollinger. What do you think when you hear those words?

HOWARD ZINN: First, I must say this, Bill. When my daughter saw this she heard Marisa Tomei shout to the police, "Cowards, cowards." My daughter said a chill, a chill went through her. She was so moved. And so, when I see this, and I've seen this so many times, and each time I am moved because what it tells me is that just ordinary people, you know, people who are not famous, if they get together, if they persist, if they defy the authorities, they can defeat the largest corporation in the world.

BILL MOYERS: When I was last at the National Portrait Gallery in London, I was struck all over again by how the portraits there were all of wealthy people who could afford to hire an artist. It's like when you go to Egypt, and you see the pyramids and the tombs, you realize that it was only the wealthy people who could afford to consider their legacy and have the leisure time to do what they want to. We know almost nothing about the ordinary people of Egypt, right?

HOWARD ZINN: Exactly. I remember when I was going to, you know, high school and learning, it was such a thrilling story to read about the Transcontinental Railroad. You know, and the meeting of the two Union Pacific — you know, the golden spike and all of that. But I wasn't told that this railroad was built by Chinese and Irish workers who worked by the thousands — long hours, some — many of them died in sickness, and overwork, and so on. I wasn't told about these working people. And so, that's what we're trying to do in this documentary. That's what I tried to do in the People's History of the United States. To bring back into the forefront the people who created what was called the economical miracle of the United States.

BILL MOYERS: One of your producers of this film is Matt Damon. And I understand that when Matt Damon was in the fifth grade, he took a copy of this book into his teacher on Columbus Day and said, "What is this? We're here to celebrate this great event, but two years after Columbus discovered America, 100,000 Indians were dead according to Howard Zinn. He said, what's going on?" Is that a true story?

HOWARD ZINN: It's true. Not all stories are true. But this — it's true. Matt Damon, when he was 10 years old, was given a copy of my book by his mother. They were next-door neighbors of ours.

BILL MOYERS: Oh. I didn't know that. Where?

HOWARD ZINN: In the Boston area, in Newton. And Matt would say that he and his brother Kyle would — they'd wake up sometime in the middle of the night and see the light on in my study, where I was writing this book. So, they were in on it from the beginning. So, yeah, Matt knew the book early.

BILL MOYERS: Even today, people are inspired by celebrities, TV performers, athletes, famous politicians. Are there people doing today what Genora Dollinger and others did in the past?

HOWARD ZINN: I think there are people like that today. But very often, they're ignored in the media. You know, or they appear for a day, you know, on the pages of The Times or The Post. They — and then they disappear. But, well, you know, there are those people recently who sat in Chicago in this plant that was going to be closed by the Bank of America and these people sat in and refused to leave. I mean, that was a modern-day incarnation of what the sit-down strike is- in the 1930s. But there are people — there are people today who are fighting evictions, fighting foreclosures. And, you know, very often, there's a superficial understanding of a passive citizenry today, which is not true. There are people all over the country who are really conscience-stricken about what's going on. But the media are not covering them very well.

BILL MOYERS: So, help us get a handle on the word and the tradition of populism. What was populism, in essence?

HOWARD ZINN: Well, populi — the word populism came into being in the late 1800s, 1880, 1890, when great corporations dominated the country, the railroads, and the banks, and these farmers were victims of them. And these farmers got together and they organized north and south, and they formed the populist movement. It was a great people's movement. And they sent orators around the country, and they published thousands of pamphlets. And it was — I would say a high moment for American democracy.

BILL MOYERS: Well, if populism is thriving today, it seems to be thriving on the right. I mean, Sarah Palin, for example. And the tea parties. Some — one conservative writer recently in The Weekly Standard even said that Sarah Palin could be the William Jennings Bryan of this new conservative era because she is giving voice to millions of people who feel angry at what the government is doing, who feel that they're being cheated out of a prosperous way of life by forces beyond their control. What do you think about that idea?

HOWARD ZINN: Well, I guess William Jennings Bryan would turn over in his grave if he heard. William Jennings Bryan was antiwar, and she is not antiwar, she is very militaristic and so on. But it's true that she represents a certain angry part of the population. And I think it's true that when people are — feel beleaguered and people feel that they are being overlooked, they will turn to whoever seems to represent them. Some of them will turn to her. And some of them will turn to the right-wingers, and you might say that's how fascism develops in countries, because they play upon the anger and the frustration of people. But on the other hand, that anger, that frustration can also lead to people's movements that are progressive. You can go the way traditionally of the populists, of the labor movement of the '30s, of the civil rights movement, of the women's movement to bring about change in this country.

BILL MOYERS: You mentioned the women's movement, and there's another remarkable moment in your film of Susan B. Anthony, when she's on trial for trying to vote when she and other women didn't have the right.

[JOSH BROLIN as JUDGE HUNT]: The sentence of the court is that you pay a fine of $100 and the costs of the prosecution.

[CHRISTINA KIRK as SUSAN B. ANTHONY]: May it please your honor, I will never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty. All the stock in trade I possess is a debt of $10,000, incurred by publishing my paper The Revolution, the sole object of which was to educate all women to do precisely as I have done, rebel against your man-made, unjust, unconstitutional forms of law, which tax, fine, imprison and hang women, while denying them the right of representation in the government; and I will work on with might and main to pay every dollar of that honest debt, but not a penny shall go to this unjust claim. And I shall earnestly and persistently continue to urge all women to the practical recognition of the old revolutionary maxim, "Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God."

HOWARD ZINN: Christina Kirk, a wonderful actress and she brings Susan B. Anthony alive. And I think what that says to people today is you must stick up for your principles, even if it means breaking the law. Civil disobedience, it's what Thoreau urged, it's what Martin Luther King Jr. urged. It's what was done during the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. If you think you're right, then — Susan B. Anthony thought it was right for her to try to register to vote. And yeah, people should defy the rules if they think they're doing the right thing.

BILL MOYERS: You have said elsewhere that if President Obama were listening to Martin Luther King Jr., he'd be making some different decisions. What do you mean by that?

HOWARD ZINN: Well, first of all, he'd be taking our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and he'd be saying we are no longer going to be a war-making country. We're not going to be a military country. We're going to take our immense resources, our wealth, we're going to use it for the benefit of people. Remember, Martin Luther King started a poor people's campaign just before he was assassinated. And if Obama paid attention to the working people of this country, then he would be doing much, much more than he is doing now.

BILL MOYERS: I remember — all of us remember who were around then that 1967 speech that Martin Luther King gave here in New York at the Riverside Church, a year before his assassination. And he said, "True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice, a structure, which produces beggars, needs restructuring." I mean, that's pretty fundamental, right? Change the system?

HOWARD ZINN: King had a much more fundamental critique of our economic system. And certainly more fundamental than Obama has because a fundamental critique of our economic system would not simply give hundreds of billions of dollars to the bankers and so on, and give a little bit to the people below. A fundamental change in our system would really create a greater equalization of wealth, would I think give us free medical care. Not the kind of half-baked health reforms that are being now debated in Congress.

BILL MOYERS: This is one reason you are seen as a threat to other people. People at the top, because your message, like King's message, goes to a fundamental allocation of power in America, right?

HOWARD ZINN: Yeah, that is very troublesome for people at the top. They're willing to let people think about mild reforms and little changes, and incremental changes, but they don't want people to think that we could actually transform this country into a peaceful country, that we no longer have to be a super military power. They don't want to think that way because it's profitable for certain interests in this country to carry on war, to have military bases in 100 countries, to have a $600 billion military budget. That makes a lot of money for certain people. But it leaves the rest of the country behind.

BILL MOYERS: Take a look at this.

[VIGGO MORTENSEN as IWW MEMBER]: If you were a bum without a blanket; if you had left your wife and kids when you went west for a job, and had never located them since; if your job had never kept you long enough in a place to qualify you to vote; if you slept in a lousy, sour bunkhouse, and ate food just as rotten as they could give you and get by with it; if deputy sheriffs shot your cooking cans full of holes and spilled your grub on the ground; if your wages were lowered on you when the bosses thought they had you down; if every person who represented law and order and the nation beat you up, railroaded you to jail, and the good Christian people cheered and told them to go to it, how in the hell do you expect a man to be patriotic? This war is a businessman’s war and we don't see why we should go out and get shot in order to save the lovely state of affairs which we now enjoy.

HOWARD ZINN: Viggo Mortensen. And he's reading the words of a labor person, I.W.W. man —

BILL MOYERS: I.W.W., International Workers of the World? (Editor's Note — Correction: IWW is Industrial Workers of the World)

HOWARD ZINN: That's right. And they refused to go along with World War I, and he's explaining why they won't. And he — basically, he's speaking to poor people in all wars. Your — he's saying, "It's a businessman's war." And war is a businessman's war. It always is. And so, the people — the ordinary guys were like — and Viggo Mortensen portrays here — ordinary guys have nothing to gain from this war.

BILL MOYERS: So, how do you explain the absence of protest in the streets today? The abs — the passivity in response to the fact that we will — we have now doubled the number of troops in Afghanistan that George W. Bush had. How do explain the apathy?

HOWARD ZINN: Let's put it this way — I don't think people are apathetic about it. I believe most people in this country do not want us to be in Afghanistan. But they're not doing anything about it, you're right. We're not seeing protests in the street. And I think one of those reasons is that the media- the major media, television and newspapers — they have not played their role in educating the public about what is going on.

BILL MOYERS: There was a poll late this week showing that a bare majority of Americans do support sending more troops to Afghanistan. How do you read that?

HOWARD ZINN: You have to remember this — it is not easy for people to oppose sending troops to Afghanistan, especially once they have been sent and once the decision has been made. It's not easy for people to oppose what the president is saying, and what the media are saying, what both major parties are working for. And so, the very fact that even close to a majority of the people are opposed to sending troops to Afghanistan tells me that many more people are opposed. So I have a fundamental faith in the basic decency, and even, yes, the wisdom of people, once they make their way through the deceptions that are thrown at them. And we've seen this historically. People learn.

BILL MOYERS: I was struck in your special by what the labor leader, Cesar Chavez, had to say about organizing his fellow farm workers.

[MARTIN ESPADA as CESAR CHAVEZ]: I'm not very different from anyone else who has ever tried to accomplish something with his life. My motivation comes from watching what my mother and father went through when I was growing up; from what we experienced as migrant farm workers in California. It grew from anger and rage — emotions I felt 40 years ago when people of my color were denied the right to see a movie or eat at a restaurant in many parts of California. It grew from the frustration and humiliation I felt as a boy who couldn't understand how the growers could abuse and exploit farm workers when there were so many of us and so few of them.
I began to realize what other minority people had discovered: That the only answer — the only hope — was in organizing.
Like the other immigrant groups, the day will come when we win the economic and political rewards which are in keeping with our numbers in society. The day will come when the politicians do the right thing by our people out of political necessity and not out of charity or idealism. That day may not come this year. That day may not come during this decade. But it will come.

BILL MOYERS: It will come. Marti­n Espada as Cesar Chavez.

HOWARD ZINN: Yeah, a great poet.

BILL MOYERS: Do you believe that it will come?

HOWARD ZINN: I do. I can't give you a date.


HOWARD ZINN: But I have confidence in the future. You know why? You know, you have to be patient. Farm workers were at one point in as helpless a position as the labor movement is today. But as Cesar Chavez said, we learned that you have to organize. And it takes time, it takes patience, it takes persistence. I mean, think of how long black people in the South waited —

BILL MOYERS: Three hundred years.


BILL MOYERS: A long — and then 100 years after the Civil War, which was fought for freedom.

HOWARD ZINN: Yeah. Well, I don't think we'll have to wait 100 years.

BILL MOYERS: So, populism isn't really — and people's power, isn't really a left or right issue, is it? It's more us versus them, bottom versus top?

HOWARD ZINN: It's democracy. You know, democracy doesn't come from the top. It comes from the bottom. Democracy is not what governments do. It's what people do. Too often, we go to junior high school and they sort of teach us democracy is three branches of government. You know, it's not the three branches of government.

BILL MOYERS: I'd like to end with a woman who showed us the power of a single voice, speaking for democracy. Born into slavery, largely uneducated, she spoke out for the rights of all people who didn't have any. I mean she was an unforgettable truth teller, you know. And here is Kerry Washington as Sojourner Truth.

[KERRY WASHINGTON as SOJOURNER TRUTH]: That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as any man — when I could get it — and I could bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne 13 children, and seen most sold off into slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman? That man in the back there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Well, where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? He came from God and a woman! Man didn't have nothing to do with it. If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, well these women here together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And they asking to do it, the men better let them.

BILL MOYERS: Why did you include that one?

HOWARD ZINN: Well, we included that one because it's so empowering. And, I mean, because here is this woman who was a slave and, you know, oppressed on all sides, and she's defiant. And so, she represents the voice of people who've been overlooked. And she represents a voice which is rebellious and, yeah, troublesome to the powers that be.

BILL MOYERS: Well, I will be watching the History Channel Sunday evening with your book in my lap. Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States. Thank you for being with me.

HOWARD ZINN: Thank you, Bill.

BILL MOYERS: That's it for the Journal. Go to our website at and click on Bill Moyers Journal. You will find out more about historian Howard Zinn and read a selection of his writings. There's also a web exclusive essay on land mines and Barack Obama's Nobel Prize. That's all at I'm Bill Moyers. See you next time.