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AP: Former Indiana Governor Sought to Ban Howard Zinn's Works From Classrooms

Mitch Daniels, now president of Purdue University, called Zinn's work "a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation

Andrea Germanos, staff writer

The late Howard Zinn, author, historian, playwright, activist. (Photo: George Laoutaris/cc/flickr)

Former Governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels sought to ban the works of Howard Zinn from Indiana classrooms, the Associated Press revealed this week.

A series of emails made public by the AP show exchanges between Daniels, now president of Purdue University, and top state education officials, and are from February and April of 2009.

In one email to Tony Bennett, then Superintendent of Public Instruction, Daniels writes:

This terrible anti-American finally passed away. The obits and commentaries mentioned that his book "A People's History of the United States" is "the textbook of choice in high schools and colleges around the country." It is a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page.

Can someone assure me that it is not in use anywhere in Indiana? If it is, how do we get rid of it before any more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history?

In another, seeing that a professional development course for teachers included readings from Zinn, Daniels wrote, "This crap should not be accepted for any credit by the state."


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In a statement posted Wednesday on the Purdue website, Daniels reacted to the AP story, writing in part:

In truth, my emails infringed on no one’s academic freedom and proposed absolutely no censorship of any person or viewpoint. In fact, the question I asked on one day in 2010 had nothing to do with higher education at all. I merely wanted to make certain that Howard Zinn’s textbook, which represents a falsified version of history, was not being foisted upon our young people in Indiana’s public K-12 classrooms.

"As to the anti-American canard" Daniels used to describe the People's History author, John Tirman, executive director and principal research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for International Studies, told Inside Higher Ed:

I see this as the last refuge of a politician who is quite ignorant of the discourses in many quarters of American intellectual and activist life. Zinn often appealed to judge American actions by the principles of the founders and those who we all agree brought progress to the social and political freedoms and responsibilities we now take for granted. When U.S. political leaders fell short of adhering to those ideals, Zinn was powerfully and incisively critical, and very often right -- on Vietnam, race relations, women's empowerment, the Iraq War, etc. Daniels does not understand that a vibrant civil society has many voices, many perspectives. To be contrary to the old mainstream construction of history is not equivalent to being anti-American. That should be obvious, but to a politician who still seems to be campaigning for something, it never will be. His unsuitability to be Purdue's president is glaring."

And University of Illinois English professor Cary Nelson, who also served as president of the American Association of University Professors for six years, told AP, “It is astonishing and shocking that such a person is now the head of a major research university, making decisions about the curriculum, that one painfully suspects embodies the same ignorance and racism these comments embody.”


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