From You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train by Howard Zinn
In my teaching I never concealed my political views: my detestation of war and militarism, my anger at racial inequality, my belief in a democratic socialism, in a rational and just distribution of the world’s wealth. I made clear my abhorrence of any kind of bullying, whether by powerful nations over weaker ones, governments over their citizens, employers over employees, or by anyone, on the right of the Left, who thinks they have a monopoly on the truth. This mixing of activism and teaching, this insistence that education cannot be neutral on the crucial issues of our time, this movement back and forth from the classroom to the struggles outside by teachers who hope their students will do the same, has always frightened the guardians of traditional education. They prefer that education simply prepare the new generation to take its proper place in the old order, not to question that order. I would always begin a course by making it clear to my students that they would be getting my point of view, but that I would try to be fair to other points of view. I encouraged my students to disagree with me. I didn’t pretend to an objectivity that was neither possible nor desirable. “You can’t be neutral on a moving train,” I would tell them. Some were baffled by the metaphor, especially if they took it literally and tried to dissect its meaning. Others immediately saw what I meant: that events are already moving in certain deadly directions, and to be neutral means to accept that.