Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mitch Daniels; Academic Cop

In a disturbing AP story in Bloomberg Business we learn that former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (now president of Purdue) was trying hard to ban books and eliminate "liberal propaganda" at Indiana public universities while he was still governor of the state. Daniels was hired as president of Purdue by a board of trustees he appointed, despite his lack of academic credentials. (He's a lawyer.)

He does have other skills. AP accessed a number of emails through a FOIA request that show Daniel's obsession with Howard Zinn:

"This terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away," Daniels wrote. "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."

"This crap should not be accepted for any credit by the state. No student will be better taught because someone sat through this session. Which board has jurisdiction over what counts and what doesn't?" Daniels responded three minutes later.

To his credit, he's completely unrepentant:

"We must not falsely teach American history in our schools," he said in a Tuesday email to the AP. "We have a law requiring state textbook oversight to guard against frauds like Zinn, and it was encouraging to find that no Hoosier school district had inflicted his book on its students."

Meanwhile, back at Purdue:

Daniels has adopted a different public approach since taking over at Purdue. He hosted a lecture that included AAUP members on speech suppression at universities nationwide, and he sent an "open letter" to the Purdue community in January saying universities have squashed free speech rather than encourage it.

In other words, he's for censorship, except when he's against it. 

Let's give the eminently credible  Professor Zinn the last word here:

Scholars, who pride themselves on speaking their minds, often engage in a form of self-censorship which is called "realism." To be "realistic" in dealing with a problem is to work only among the alternatives which the most powerful in society put forth. It is as if we are all confined to a, b, c, or d in the multiple choice test, when we know there is another possible answer. American society, although it has more freedom of expression than most societies in the world, thus sets limits beyond which respectable people are not supposed to think or speak. 

Luckily we can just leave it to Mitch. He'll set those limits for us.  

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