Bill Bigelow

Bill Bigelow taught high school social studies in Portland, Oregon, for almost 30 years. He is the curriculum editor of Rethinking Schools and the co-director of the Zinn Education Project

Recent Articles

Why the Real Story of the Irish Exodus to America Isn't Taught in Schools

The famine that brought vast numbers of Irish to the U.S. wasn't caused by nature; it was caused by ruthless capitalists.

(Photo: Lawrence Collection, National Library of Ireland)
This article was produced by the Zinn Education Project , and is part of the project's If We Knew Our History series. “Wear green on St. Patrick’s Day or get pinched.” That pretty much sums up the Irish-American “curriculum” that I learned when I was in school. Yes, I recall a nod to the so-called Potato Famine, but it was mentioned only in passing. Sadly, today’s high school textbooks continue to largely ignore the famine, despite the fact that it was responsible for unimaginable suffering and the deaths of more than a million Irish peasants, and that it triggered the greatest wave of Irish immigration in U.S. history. Nor do textbooks make any attempt to help students link famines past and present. Yet there is no shortage of material that can bring these dramatic events to life in the classroom. In my own high school social studies classes, I begin with Sinead O’Connor’s haunting rendition of “Skibbereen,” which includes...