Sacred Texts — Part 2 — Rachna Sizemore Heizer

A previous article on this site noted that a member of the Fairfax County School Board, Karl Frisch, took his oath of office in December on a stack of controversial, sex-themed books, thereby sending an in-your-face message to the community about his ideology and priorities.  See Karl Frisch’s Sacred Texts.

Mr. Frisch was not the only member of the Board to place his hand on nonconventional texts when swearing in.  Several others also did so.  One of the books caught my eye.  Board member Rachna Sizemore Heizer chose a history tome entitled A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn.  Not being familiar with it, I obtained and read it.  Ms. Sizemore Heizer’s choice is as revealing about her beliefs and intentions as Mr. Frisch’s choice is.

Howard Zinn described himself as “something of an anarchist, something of a socialist; maybe a democratic socialist,” and he admitted he was “something of a Marxist.”  A People’s History of the United States leaves no doubt about his ideology.  From the first chapter to the last, the book presents a negative view of the history, economic system and political structure of the United States, tearing down our institutions and focusing on class conflict.

The early chapters deal with the nation’s terrible history of slavery and Jim Crow, unjust treatment of native Americans, and the unequal status of women in 17th-19th Century America.  But that’s just the beginning.  The author’s main theme is class warfare, i.e., that powerful elites have manipulated the working class throughout our history, using the Constitution, law, the economic system, patriotism and other means to keep themselves in power and to hold back the working class.

In Zinn’s view, the general populace of colonial America had little reason to demand independence, but a wealthy minority manipulated them to direct their anger towards England rather than to focus on grievances at home.  “The rebellion against British rule allowed a certain group of the colonial elite to replace those loyal to England, give some benefits to small landholders, and leave poor white working people and tenant farmers in very much their old situation.”

In the same vein, Zinn characterizes one the world’s greatest achievements in governance — the U.S. Constitution — as a tool for suppressing equality.  The Constitution’s principal architect, James Madison, wisely identified a potential fatal flaw of pure democracy; namely, the danger that factions might use majority rule to achieve unjust ends.  For example, an unrestricted majority might try to use the levers of democracy to confiscate the property of those more wealthy than themselves, even though this would be contrary to basic principles of free enterprise and private ownership of property.   The framers therefore created a republican system of representative government in which the interests of competing groups would be balanced and restrained.  This was done by dividing power between the state and federal governments, by checking and balancing federal power among the legislative, executive and judicial branches, and by other mechanisms.  As Madison explained in his famous Federalist No. 10, “a rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt [under the Constitution’s structure] to pervade the whole body of the Union ….”  For Zinn, and other socialists like him, this structure is an evil, not a benefit.  As Zinn states in his text: “When economic interest is seen behind the political clauses of the Constitution, the document becomes not simply the work of wise men trying to establish a decent and orderly society, but the work of certain groups trying to maintain their privileges ….”

Zinn underscores this theme throughout the book.  He concedes that reforms occurred during our history, but he bemoans that socialists never achieved their full objectives, and he portrays many advances as limited concessions by capitalists to maintain their power.  For example, Andrew Jackson brought some non-elites into the political process, but this was “an ingenious mode of control” that didn’t concede anything to the poor.  It was “the advance guard of a growing class of white-collar workers and professionals … who would be wooed enough and paid enough to consider themselves members of the bourgeois class, and give support to that class in times of crisis.”  Zinn criticizes the 1862 Homestead Act, which made 160 acres of land available to everyone at $1.25 per acre, because the poorest people couldn’t afford to pay even that much, and because speculators took advantage of the legislation.  He brushes aside the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, which still exists today as the principal legislation for combatting monopolies and other anticompetitive practices, as a mere “gesture” toward reform.  And so on.

In Zinn’s view, the nation’s two-party political system has been another tool for warding off the just demands of the have-nots.  “Where a threatening mass movement developed, the two-party system stood ready to send out one of its columns to surround that movement and drain it of vitality.”

And then there’s that awful thing known as patriotism.  Zinn says:  “And always, as a way of drowning out class resentment in a flood of slogans for national unity, there was patriotism.”  Examples include the Spanish-American War and World War I, both of which occurred in times of growing labor unrest and agitation.  Zinn concedes that war may not have been consciously used by most of the elite to suppress class uprisings, but it was “a natural development from the twin drives of capitalism and nationalism.”

This is the sacred text chosen by Rachna Sizemore Heizer for taking her oath of office.  One might argue that her choice was a personal matter, irrelevant to her duties on the School Board.  But history is one of the most important topics in education, and, as prior articles on this site have shown, Zinn’s ideology is consistent with many controversial concepts that have been integrated into Fairfax County’s social studies courses in recent years.  A People’s History of the United States reveals how this member of the School Board thinks about U.S. history and political institutions.

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  1. BMC on January 10, 2024 at 12:56 pm

    Sizemore-Heizer swore her oath on this Zinn book at the opening of her first term as SB member in 2019.

    Zinn’s work is referenced and promoted extensively within the online website portion of the social-emotional learning curriculum that FCPS uses in its schools, called Responsive Classroom. Most who take a mere minutes to search this website will find resources from the likes of Zinn, BLM, and other self-ascribed Marxist hate groups.

    • Mark Spooner on January 10, 2024 at 2:00 pm

      Brooke: Thanks. I will take a look at the “Responsive Classroom” materials.

  2. E. B. Samuel, Fairfax, Va. on January 10, 2024 at 1:33 pm

    In otherwise normal times, using Zinn’s “People’s History of the U.S.” to be sworn in on would be self-satire. In abnormal times, such as these, it highlights the reality that “woke progressivism” actually is reactionary leftism. Meanwhile, reading, math etc. scores are a) up, b) down, c) static or b and c) unacceptable?

  3. K.E. Ketterer on January 11, 2024 at 3:03 pm

    I would encourage my child to read Zinn’s history for one perspective. But immediately after I would have them read Paul Johnson’s “History of the American People” which is just as far to the right as Zinn is to the left. Hopefully they would be able to realize that the truth lies somewhere in between. As an aside, I find myself surprised that Mr. Spooner was unfamiliar with Zinn’s work. It has been well known for several decades. In fact it was available in bookstores on US military bases which is where I came across it in the 80’s, I purchased it and read it. I found it’s arguments weak and it’s history debatable but Zinn was a journalist, not a historian (as was the aforementioned Johnson). Good to read but also to be taken with a very large grain of salt.

    • Mark Spooner on January 11, 2024 at 3:43 pm

      Mr. Ketterer: You make a very good point. Reading diverse perspectives is good. My point here is that swearing an oath of office on one extreme perspective — one that has a socialist agenda and basically says America is bad — is not good. P.S.: There are lots of books I haven’t read before … Hopefully, I will live long enough to read more.