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Zinn Education Project Launches Campaign To 'Kick Koch Brothers Out of Our Schools'

Zinn Education Project Launches Campaign To 'Kick Koch Brothers Out of Our Schools'

The Zinn Education Project, which supports the use of revisionist historian Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, is revving up a campaign based on its claim of having exposed the Koch Brothers’ sponsorship of the Bill of Rights Institute.

Writing at the Zinn Education Project, which promotes a social justice education philosophy, Bill Bigelow, curriculum editor of Rethinking Schools magazine and co-director of the project, said in advance of the 2014 National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) conference that “two non-teachers” – Charles and David Koch – will be “there.” 

He continued: 

Well, the Kochs won’t be there in person, but they will be represented by a Koch-funded and controlled organization: the Arlington, Virginia-based Bill of Rights Institute. For years, the Bill of Rights Institute has shown up at NCSS conferences to offer curriculum workshops, distribute teaching materials, and collect the names of interested educators. What the Bill of Rights Institute representatives fail to mention when they speak with teachers is that they have been the conduit for millions of dollars from Charles and David Koch, as the brothers seek to influence the country’s social studies curriculum. (When I attended a Bill of Rights Institute workshop at an NCSS conference, I asked the presenter who funds their organization. “Donations,” she replied.)

According to its website, the Bill of Rights Institute (BRI) states its mission is “to educate young people about the words and ideas of America’s Founders, the liberties guaranteed in our Founding documents, and how our Founding principles continue to affect and shape a free society.” 

Mark Humphrey, a senior vice president of Koch Industries, is a member of BRI’s board of directors.

Referring to the BRI as a “front group” for the Koch Brothers, Bigelow states:

The Bill of Rights Institute says it offers “engaging educational games, videos, and activities for people of all ages, and classroom lesson plans for teachers across the country.” The institute holds essay contests for students and promotes free teacher seminars throughout the United States–on topics like “Being an American,” “Preserving the Bill of Rights,” and “Heroes and Villains: The Quest for Civic Virtue.” Their promotional materials boast that the BRI has offered sessions for 18,000 teachers and provided materials for another 40,000.

Bigelow also accuses BRI of “cherry-picking” the Constitution and U.S. history “to hammer home its libertarian message that the owners of private property should be free to manage their wealth as they see fit.”

Bigelow’s piece was circulated in Common Dreams, Alternet, the Huffington Post, and anti-Common Core activist Diane Ravitch’s blog.

In a post by Julian Hipkins III on the Zinn project’s website, Hipkins observed that, in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, “unfortunately, police brutality and intimidation are all too familiar.”

He points to some suggestions and resources that might be used in the classroom to help students “think critically about the events in Ferguson.” The link to the suggestions sends the reader to Teaching for Change, an organization that hopes to promote social justice in the classroom.

One of the primary supporters of the Zinn Education Project is Noam Chomsky, known for his radical philosophies of global justice and anarcho-syndicalism, and William Holtzman, one of Zinn’s former Boston University journalism students.

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