Today, NR’s editors forcefully defend Mitch Daniels for objecting to the use of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States in public-school curricula. Daniels calls Zinn’s work “anti-American” and “crap.” Harvard’s Oscar Handlin styles Zinn’s work a “deranged” “fairy tale.” The NR editors decry the book’s socialist bias. Alright, that’s how the president of Purdue, a Harvard historian, and our esteemed editors see the matter, but what about the president of the United States?
A brief passage from James T. Kloppenberg’s book Reading Obama sheds some light. Kloppenberg interviewed Mike Kruglik, an old organizing mentor and friend of Obama (whose current working relationship with the president I discuss here). Here’s what Kloppenberg found:
Obama filled out his education in American history as well as politics while he was working in Chicago. Mike Kruglik had been a doctoral candidate in American history at Northwestern before he became and organizer, and when he and Obama talked, they discussed the reasons why a nation supposedly dedicated to freedom and equality provided so little of either. They talked about the differences between the populists and the progressives and the reasons why ordinary people never seemed to get anywhere in modern America. Kruglik recalls that Obama had a special interest in the work of the radical historian Howard Zinn.
Perhaps a book forum in debate format featuring Daniels and Obama would be in order.