Purdue president Mitch Daniels’ efforts to keep Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States out of Indiana public schools while serving as governor of the state has drawn a predictable academic outcry. “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,” Daniels claimed.
“It is simply ridiculous for anyone to claim that a governor who demands that a book by Howard Zinn must not be taught in any public school in the state is engaged in ‘absolutely no censorship of any person or viewpoint,’” John K. Wilson wrote on the Academe blog maintained by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). “Of course that’s censorship. That’s the quintessential definition of censorship. Indeed, the only defense Daniels could make is that because Zinn wasn’t being taught in schools, Daniels’ demand for censorship had little effect. But he certainly proposed censorship of Zinn’s work by political authorities, and he continues to justify doing so.”
At least one of Daniels’ putative defenders is, perhaps unwittingly, helping to keep this narrative alive. “There are no grounds whatsoever that all arguments have to be considered, no matter how many followers, in this case, that Howard Zinn has,” Ronald Radosh wrote on Minding the Campus.
Accuracy in Academia has covered Zinn extensively over the years and never favorably. Nevertheless, AIA has never advocated censorship.
We want students to read more, not less. Ideally, professors should supplement Zinn with other histories, preferably those that, unlike that of the late sage, utilize primary sources. Two good ones that meet this standard, covering roughly the time period Zinn covers, are:
- 1776 by David McCullough; and
- Stalin’s Secret Agents: The Subversion of Roosevelt’s Government by M. Stanton Evans and Herbert Romerstein.
In the former, McCullough literally visits the sites of the great battles of the Revolutionary War. In the latter, Evans and Romerstein show the dark side of the New Deal that Zinn mostly deifies.
Exposure to all of the above, we believe, would go a long way towards helping students develop critical thinking skills—an ostensible goal of the academic Left.
Indeed, the 90 Purdue professors who wrote an open letter of protest to Daniels claim to crave it: “Scholarship emerges virtually every day that challenges the “conventional wisdom” of prior generations. Do we assess such scholarship critically, or do we censor uncomfortable ideas out of hand? The very viability of academic inquiry and the university’s mission is at stake.”
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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