July 17, 2013

When Mitch Daniels took aim at Howard Zinn.

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:
In a message sent on February 9, 2010, [Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., the governor of Indiana at the time, now president of Purdue University], asked top state education officials for assurance that the works of Howard Zinn, the longtime Boston University historian and political activist, were not "in use anywhere in Indiana."
Zinn had died less than 2 weeks earlier.
"This terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away," Mr. Daniels wrote, referring to Mr. Zinn. "The obits and commentaries mentioned 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 is not in use anywhere in Indiana? If it is, how do we get rid of it before more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history?"
It seems low to kick the man just when he dies, but Daniels admits to picking up the information about the "execrable" book from the obituaries, which makes the timing less mean and just ignorant.
Who didn't know about "A People's History of the United States"? And it sounds so lame to demand that "someone" "assure" him that it's not being used "anywhere in Indiana." Why didn't he already know how history is taught in Indiana schools? Instead of going hysterical about banishing a book he just heard about, why wasn't he already taking care to ensure that the children of Indiana were receiving sound, valuable reading materials in their history classes?

If there's one thing that disgusts me, it's compelling children to spend their days trapped in school buildings and then not serving their best interests. Zinn tried to do what — in his view — he deemed worthy, which was to supply the counter-story to conventional high-school-level American history. It was up to the education professionals and the politicians who supplied them with their endless flow of vulnerable little clients to perform what was and is a moral duty to give them an excellent education, in history and everything else. Belatedly railing about Zinn is a pathetic revelation of how miserably these people abused children.

I really don't give a damn about how this idiotic material is used against Daniels in his role as president of Purdue. The old politico can fend for himself. What's important is that those with a duty to the children failed — as they fail in all the other states and have failed for a long, long time.