The Ghost of Howard Zinn and the Demise of Catholic Education

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by Jesse Russell  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  February 18, 2020   

Catholic universities reeling after decades of leftist assault

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Over the past three years, a war has been waged for the soul of Catholic higher education.

Engaging a host of various factions in the contemporary Church as well as a multitude of competing factions, this war has been fought on two primary fronts.

The first has been an effort, at least partially funded by George Soros foundations, to undermine the legitimacy of the conservative "Newman Guide" colleges and universities that rose to prominence during the 1990s and 00s as an alternative to traditional, established Catholic schools that had been corrupted by the Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, "Land O'Lakes" model of compromising Catholic teaching in exchange for legitimacy as well as grants and cash handouts from leftists groups like the Rockefeller Foundation.

This first group has attempted to make the claim that because some of these Newman Guide schools are alleged to have covered sexual harassment of young women by their young male peers.

Whether or not the allegations are true, the leftist journalists in this first group have proposed a dismantling of these Newman Guide universities' allegedly rigid policies regarding dating and courtship.

The argument of these leftists or "Left Cath" journalists seems to be that allowing more impurity and proximate occasion of sin on campus will decrease the amount of potential allegations of sexual assault.

At the same time, there is a rumble on the right as conservative and traditionalist Catholic publications have uncovered a civil war among the faculty at these Newman Guide schools.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, it appears that, at least at some of the Newman Guide colleges and universities, there has been a putsch by some of the professors and administrators to "rev up" the curriculum by introducing impure and even blasphemous material as well as to make the schools more "inclusive" by tolerating at least a couple of the sins that "cry to heaven for vengeance."

There is little doubt that the devil and his minions and useful idiots both in and outside the Church want to destroy whatever remains of goodness, holiness and truth in American Catholic higher education.

Indeed, there is little doubt that Catholic higher education is suffering from the same "diabolical disorientation" that plagues much of the Church.

The crisis in Catholic higher education is mirrored, as well, among secular colleges and schools.

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Fr. Theodore Hesburgh

At every level, from humble community colleges and regional schools to Ivy League and "Catholic Ivy" universities like Notre Dame and Georgetown, there is a hegemon of anti-Christian, anti-Western, and ultimately nihilist and self-destructive leftist ideologues who want to indoctrinate their students into their cult of Godless self-loathing and resentment.

Yale University recently has scrapped its "Introduction to Art History: Renaissance to the Present" because the presentation of the beauty and majesty of European art offends the sensibilities of a new generation of "woke" professors who grew up on a diet of Rick and Morty and Bruno Mars and are blind to and resentful of the beauty of Western art.

As Church Militant recently reported, Texas A&M University has scheduled an upcoming drag queen show in which confused (and deeply wounded) men dress up as women in a mockery of women and natural law.

The narrative of how both Catholic and secular colleges and universities have been corrupted is well worn.

During the 1960s and 70s, the emergent Baby Boomers with newly minted Ph.D.s marched through American colleges and universities under the banner of free speech and diversity of opinion.

Having cemented their rule, these professors, in turn, hired more leftists professors from their peers and, later, from fresh waves of Gen X and Gen Y liberals, creating near full spectrum dominance of American higher education.

Under the tutelage of these professors at the vanguard of the New Left, future doctors, lawyers, scientists, teachers and business professions received the carefully crafted history of the world.

God, of course, didn't exist, and if God did exist, this narrative argued, He was only concerned with the social justice pet projects of the New Left, ignoring the private and confidential matters of personal morality — especially sexual morality — to choice and tastes of late 20th century America.

There is little doubt that the devil and his minions and useful idiots both in and outside the Church want to destroy whatever remains of goodness, holiness and truth in American Catholic higher education.

Everything done by Europeans and Westerners — especially Western males — was inescapably evil, a manifestation of the "authoritarian personality" at the heart of the European psyche.

While Jesus Christ, this narrative argued, was a hippy sage concerned with fomenting revolution against oppressive Roman Empire, Christianity itself was riddled with the harsh and oppressive totalitarian impulse at the heart of classical and medieval culture and must either reform to suit the whims of the New Left or be destroyed.

There are many sources of this coup d'état of the American (and wider Western) academy.

However, no name is more infamous than Howard Zinn, whom scholar Mary Grabar deconstructs in her recent work, Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History that Turned a Generation against America (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2019).

As Grabar skillfully documents, Zinn's life as well as his most notable work, 1980's A People's History of the United States (made famous in the 1997 work, Good Will Hunting) have become a thing of legend in not only university history courses, but even K-12 education.

Having sold over 2 million copies, A People's History of the United States is one of the most influential books of the 20th century.

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Howard Zinn

The Zinn education project has provided tens of thousands of copies of A People's History to tens of thousands of American teachers.

In his life as an educator and rabble rouser, Zinn sought to inflame racial tension in the United States and to help move the black American community into the arms of the New Left.

Howard Zinn taught at the historically black Spelman College in Atlanta during the 1950s, coaching young black women to shake off their Christianity and Southern manners.

However, like many other leftist professors, Zinn was too cowardly to participate in the rioting or more aggressive protests and politicking himself.

As Grabar notes, while Zinn attempted to ingratiate himself with organizations such as the Black Panthers, the historian "wrote about the Black Panthers from a safe distance while enjoying tenure jaunts to Europe."

Moreover, Zinn's work, as Grabar further notes, appears to be largely (and badly) plagiarized material from other 20th century historians.

However, objectivity, truth, and honesty have never been the hallmarks of the political Left.

And it is this legacy of Howard Zinn that has bled into Catholic higher education, turning much of it into a breeding ground for anti-Christian and anti-Western radical activism.

However, oddly enough, the radicalism of Zinn and his colleagues has now become passé.

Objectivity, truth and honesty have never been the hallmarks of the political Left.

In an interesting twist, the offspring of Zinn and other denizens of the New Left, those members of the post-millennial, "woke Left" have risen up to challenge the relatively more tolerant ideology of the New Left.

In the late spring of 2017, members of Evergreen State College in Washington state demanded that all white students and faculty leave campus for a day.

A biology faculty member protested and sparked a campus-wide riot.

The professor, however, was not a right-wing zealot but rather a mild-mannered Bernie Sanders supporter.

However, the new Generation Z, Antifa-style brand of leftists, the awful spawn of the late 20th- and now 21st-century education system molded by Howard Zinn and his denizens, have no patience even for those on the Left who want to moderate their message.

In our time, it is essential for Catholic scholars, journalists and parents to be vigilant that those few Catholic educational institutions striving to maintain the Faith are protected from the infiltration that has overrun so much of the Church.  

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