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As governor, Daniels targeted liberal 'propaganda,' emails show

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Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels pledged to promote academic freedom when he became president of Purdue University in January, but newly released emails show he attempted to eliminate what he considered liberal "propaganda" at Indiana's public universities while governor.

Emails obtained by The Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act request show Daniels requested that historian and anti-war activist Howard Zinn's writings be banned from classrooms and asked for a "cleanup" of college courses. In another exchange, the Republican talks about cutting funding for a program run by a local university professor who was one of his sharpest critics.

The success of those efforts remains unclear; Zinn's book, for example, is still used in some courses for aspiring teachers. But Daniels did launch an expansive push while governor to change what courses those hopeful teachers could take for credit at Indiana colleges. That effort is ongoing.

The emails are raising eyebrows about Daniels' appointment as president of a major research university just months after critics questioned his lack of academic credentials and his hiring by a board of trustees he appointed.

Ken Paulson, president of the First Amendment Center, said it's not unusual for governors or mayors to denounce art, music or popular culture. But he said he couldn't find any other examples of governors trying to censor political opponents.

"What sets this apart is what appears to be a back-channel effort by the governor to limit access to ideas," said Paulson, also dean of the College of Mass Communication at Middle Tennessee State University. "Under the First Amendment, the government is prohibited from trying to suppress expression with which it disagrees."

In a rapid exchange of emails between top state education officials on Feb. 9, 2010, including then-Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, Daniels sought assurance that a Zinn book exploring historical events that Zinn said got little attention was removed from Indiana classrooms.

"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.

"Can someone assure me that it 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?"

Scott Jenkins, Daniels' education adviser, quickly responded by noting it was being used at Indiana University in a course for teachers on the Civil Rights, feminist and labor movements.

"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.

David Shane, a top fundraiser and state school board member, quickly replied with a strategy directing Bennett and Indiana's commissioner for higher education to review university courses across the state. Shane later added that a statewide review "would force to daylight a lot of excrement."

Seven minutes later, Daniels signed off on the plan.

"Go for it. Disqualify propaganda and highlight (if there is any) the more useful offerings. Don't the ed schools have at least some substantive PD (professional development) courseware to upgrade knowledge of math, science, etc," Daniels wrote.

In a separate round of emails in April 2009, Daniels called for an audit and possible funding cut for a program run by Charles Little, executive director of the Indiana Urban Schools Association and a professor at IUPUI. Little had been highly critical of Daniels' education overhaul in internal emails and he often critiqued the governor's performance at public meetings.

On Tuesday, Daniels stood by his demand that Zinn be excluded from Indiana classrooms but said his request was limited to K-12 schools, where the state has control of the curriculum.

"We must not falsely teach American history in our schools," he said in the email. "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."

Daniels made no mention of Little in the email, and it wasn't immediately clear if the audit went through. But he repeated his contention from the Zinn email exchanges that "there is need for a cleanup of what is credit-worthy in teaching of our professions."

"Particularly, I think we need to look at an upgrade of offerings to increase knowledge in the areas of math and science," he said.

Cary Nelson, an English professor at the University of Illinois who served six years as president of the American Association of University Professors, was taken aback by the emails.

"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," Nelson said.

The AAUP often investigates cases of censorship from university officials, Nelson said, but it's unlikely the group would open an investigation of Daniels unless his tactics had continued through his time as Purdue's president.

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.

"The academies that, through the unique system of tenure, once enshrined freedom of opinion and inquiry now frequently are home to the narrowest sort of closed-mindedness and the worst repression of dissident ideas," he wrote.

J. Paul Robinson, former chairman of the Purdue University Senate, which represents faculty, reviewed Daniels' emails Tuesday and said he wasn't concerned that they would transfer to Purdue.

"The faculty still are the ones that establish the academic standards and the curricula — and we are not easily moved," Robinson said. "Mitch knows this, and I am pretty sure he respects it — even more now that he is here than when he was outside."

Purdue University Board of Trustees Chairman Keith Krach, who hired Daniels last year, did not return an email seeking comment. Trustees are scheduled to receive a six-month assessment from Daniels this week.

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  • Reply to Tom
    Tom, you're conflating the definitions of "life". A fetus, in utero, is certainly a living organism. Where we differ is whether or not it is human life. I view it as having the potential to be human, rather than actually being human. And when the conservatives in this country quit denying that climate change is being driven by human activity, I'll retract my statement about the science.
  • Awesome
    The pearl-clutching from the poor, persecuted right wing continues on apace, I see. I guess, given Indiana's national reputation, I shouldn't be surprised that so many Hoosiers are so devoted to keeping their minds firmly closed. No wonder your state is economically stagnant.
  • BAN BOOKS
    Wait a minute. Daniels appoints the trustees for Purdue; then the trustees "elect" Daniels as Prsident of Purdue. That doesn't pass the smell test in itself. But now we find out the president of one of Indiana's major universities has been in favor of BANNING BOOKS. I don't care what the book is; we cannot have people in influencial positions who have tried to BAN BOOKS. Please, rational people, protest this.
  • Hold on a minute . . .
    Am I missing something here? I'd prefer that control over K-12 curricula be more local, but it is currently subject to state (and federal) control, so why is it a problem for the governor and state superintendent to seek to influence that curriculum? And to the extent Gov Daniels objected to use of the text at the university level, he seems to have been focused on its use in courses that would be accepted for professional licensure by the State--again, something in which he would have legitimate interest ("there is need for a cleanup of what is credit-worthy in teaching of our professions"). Not really seeing the big problem here.
  • Ted Nugent has it right.
    Has anyone seriously experienced conservative bias in the classroom? Really? The world would be a better place for it. As it currently stands, my kids learn that everyone is equal and can achieve anything (so not true); the world is ending with global warming; Obama was the right president to win the election (this from a 4th grade teacher); everyone gets a trophy/ribbon; we cannot say "sit Indian-Style" (rather, sit "criss-cross-applesauce, but of course); cater to the least common denominator; etc. I was definitely a conservative outcast in law school, where the professors spewed liberal dogma to no end. Glad someone like Mitch is standing up to the leftwing monopoly on academia.
  • Thank you!
    The plethora of liberal institutions notwithstanding, it's nice to see there are people who can still think for themselves (without having liberal dogma shoved down their throats). Thank you for your keen insight, Tom!
    • Can't think for yourself at 18,19?
      Some of the commentary here is unbelievable...this e-mail thread is a disgrace for the former Governor, who I generally believe did a credible job as Governor, censorship pure and simple, and completely inexcusable, sorry Rich and Tom...18 and 19 year olds are highly impressionable, so they shouldn't be exposed to other ideas than what mommy and daddy told them?...garbage, thank heavens they are exposed to it...let's just put everyone in a meat grinder...then there is no steak, and no Filet, and no brisket...it's all hamburger...unbelievable that conservatives are lining up to support Daniels on this (I am conservative by the way)...they're the ones who are always crowing about the Bill of Rights and the 1st and 4th amendment being stomped on, but it turns out they want it stomped on when they disagree with the point of view expressed...as a history major who read it, Zinn's book is simply a different way of looking at history than the conventional take...it offered a different spin on what was important, and related events from a different perspective than the way they were traditionally presented in convetional history texts, which by the way are every bit as full of inaccuracies as Zinn's book was...nothing dangerous here...the book was perhaps cause to rethink being forcefed a bunch of crap by anyone with an agenda, but it sure didn't send me scrambling to adopt the Communist manifesto...everything written, including the Bible, was written by people...and people are notoriously fallable and imperfect, and always have been (and for a lot longer than 6,000 years too)...there is room for Zinn, other historians, revisionist and otherwise, along with math and science...what there should not be in our republic is a concerted effort by those in powerful places to limit the free expression of ideas. I generally liked Mitch...nothing is unforgivable, but this is unaccepatble overreach, and he was dead wrong to exert this influence.
    • resumes.
      There are colleges that look prestigious on a resume. There are colleges that look reasonable on a resume. And there are those that, to be frank, might make the applicant seem like a dogmatic reactionary. In the resumes we get, Indiana's colleges are generally in that middle category. But having the state chief executive call to scour their curricula for "fellow travelers" certainly doesn't do anything to help them move into the top category.
    • censoring ideas
      I wonder if Gov. Pence calls Former Gov. Daniels in the morning to discuss what they're going to wear that day....and what ideas they're going to censor. SMH who elects these guys anyway? I love how the GOP's plan for combating the perceived censorship of conservative ideas is to censor the perceived liberal ones. How about you GOP'rs work on your message? There could be reason's other than bias, as to why the educated & young aren't "buying" it anymore. Indiana is turning blue right under your noses.
    • Um
      Hey Tom, your side of the political spectrum tends to believe the earth is 6,000 years old, so I'd cast those "anti-science" aspersions very gently. Especially since your post contains its own dubious scientific claims (not to mention the logical fallacy of positioning capitalism against fair play and inclusiveness). Proving, alas, that Mitch Daniels did apparently succeed in removing critical thinking from the curriculum.
    • Truth to Power
      DMC perfectly proves the point made by Jim; then goes on to mock conservatives for not believing in science. That’s funny because I believe it is liberal thought that claims life does not begin at conception, when science has proven otherwise. It has also become liberal ideology that throwing money at students and universities would help students achieve a post-secondary education; when it has clearly done nothing but bloat academic administration, professorial salaries, and endowments. The cost of college has ballooned at a rate far exceeding health care costs making it very difficult to attain a college education. The hypocrisy of college administrators strains the brain. They are at once opportunistic capitalists taking all they can from government and student while espousing fair play and inclusiveness. I for one am glad to have anybody (including Mitch Daniels) stand up to these institutions.
      • "finally passed away"
        Rejoicing after someone's demise is not appropriate whether you are liberal or conservative. No matter how you look at the issue - this is an embarrassment for our former governor and the current Purdue president.
      • here to for
        heretofore
      • sorry mispell
        here to for
        • no one is totally correct
          I'm sure there are pluses and minuses on both sides. I would like to know what inaccuracies there are in Zinn's work.Is it history as he sees it or as it really is and that it doesn't agree with the history that has been passed down her to for. I do believe and agree just like other literary works that some of it is true and some is someones personal viewpoint that becomes history. Remember its all written by men and women.
        • Seems right to me.
          Ban Howard Zinn, the well-known Communist, from the classroom? Good for Mitch.
        • Sorry
          Ryan, not Rich.
        • Right there
          Rich is displaying for us the far right mindset that is completely antithetical to being educated. How dare we question this man? How dare we explore different sides of an issue? (As an aside...front runner to be President....?)
        • Hilarious
          I love how people question a man that was a front runner to be President of the United States. Purdue could not have found a sharper president of the university. However Mitch decides to take the university, you can bet it will be for the better. Purdue people should be damn thankful. Mitch is one of the best things that has happened to your university in decades.
          • Ahh
            Again with the never-ending persecution complex of the far right. Greg's absolutely fictional account below of his experience at IU is a perfect example. Just because you've been confronted with an idea you don't agree with (or, more likely, don't understand) doesn't mean there's bias. This is what is known as Education.
          • Whady say anyway?
            What was teh alleged un0American and factually incorrect material tehat Mitch was commenting on. Have any of you read the book? Mitch says every page is filled with inaccuracies. We all know American history we learn in school is full of holes and limited to what educators belive we can handle and won't be controversial. Then in college we hope to (and should)get varying viewpoints and opinions from all sides. It's called "education". So what some of you seem to be saying is that all institutions of higher learning(except maybe Bob Jones University)hire a majority of Liberals. What , conservatives can't pass teh teaching exams or is it no wthat the universities just know a cinservative when tehy see it and hire the pot-smoking bearded tree hugger in the tie-dye and the Birkenstocks and VW bus? C'mon maaan. The most boring teachers I had were those who had no opinion. The best teachers I had had an opinion , but could recognize two or more sides to an issue and let classmembers express theirs as well. Disagreement and dissention is the real foundation of our American values. Sometimes respectful, sometimes not,sometimes it leads to bloody revolution. I was no big fan of Mitch , but he had his moments. Like the Umbrella heathcare for teh uninsured program. That was good. Until it ran out of money. If only there was some other plan to cover those without insurance....he had his opinion about this book and teh other guy named Little but trying to censor off teh cuff and getting it done in about 3 hrs is a little quick don't ya think?
          • The source of the bias
            The cries of liberal bias are overblown. Conservatives' problems are that both FACTS and REALITY are biased, at least according to them. Oh, SCIENCE, too.
          • Not a Republican, Not a Democrat
            Their is a huge bias among college professors towards liberal causes. It is not so much the bias as it is an arrogancy that theirs is the only true position. It is almost like a religion with them. Of course, it is religion of a more formal nature that gives the other side their arrogancy. The latter's religion is subject to the First Amendment but ignored by same, the former's is not seen as a religion and therefore not subject to the First Amendment but should be.
          • Much to do about nothing
            Doesn't seem like much of a story, just a very long reach for people who don't like Daniels to hammer away at him again. The story (that isn't really a story) runs in the Star, IBJ, NPR, local TV news etc... and does nothing. If lazy reporters actually did reporting instead of just running with every titalating press release that slams conservatives I think I'd have more respect for the profession.
          • Re:Rich
            As an IUPUI graduate, I fully agree. While the vast majority of my professors were great and really cared about teaching factual information devoid of political bias, I had a couple who seemed like they got their lesson plans from Think Progress. I had a political science professor tell me that the Indiana Constitution could not be cited in her classroom because "it was open for interpretation." Yet, she had a long list of media outlets that were acceptable. Not surprisingly, she only banned right-wing outlets while allowing left-wing outlets to be used in papers for her class. (She also said that anyone who wouldn't support an Obama/Hillary ticket was "out of touch with reality") On the other hand, I had an economics professor who seemed like his goal was to recruit students to the Republican. His bias was incredibly annoying, but at least it was limited to classroom discussion and wasn't forced upon you in assignments and readings like I had with other professors. Our universities need to do a better job of keeping bias out of the classroom in Indiana. I took those classes to learn about the subject, not to hear a biased interpretation of the topic from people on the extreme ends of the political spectrum.
          • resent
            That they call Zinn's work "propaganda"! When did true facts become that? Oh I guess when youm support a right wing agenda!
          • Personal anecdotes are not evidence
            To commentators who reference their personal 'war' stories, you establish nothing more conclusive than sharing a personal experience based on an exceedingly limited sample size of 1. So I respectfully urge not extrapolating from the intensely particular to the globally general. No matter what your political perspective, what strikes me about Daniels' verbatim comments is the sheer meanness of Daniels' celebration of the "fraud" Zinn's death: "This terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away." I'm sure Zinn's wife of 64 years and his children would be wounded by such a cavalier disregard for a person's life from yet another "pro-life" conservative.
          • Good for Mitch
            I graduated from IU Bloomington in 1994. I clearly recall conservative speakers denied the opportunity to present, and if allowed, were often shouted down by left wing activists until the speaker was forced to leave. I clearly recall being mocked in my environmental and political science classes for questioning what was being said in class. I also recall "free speech zones" which were off the beaten path areas where conservative ideas could be heard. The rest of campus was off limits. IU is an anti-free speech, liberal indoctrination camp. I am not proud to be an alumnus. The propagandists at the Indy Star are framing this as censorship. It is not censorship- it's an effort to bring some balance to intolerant, one-sided universities that do all they can to squash a free exchange of ideas. I support Mitch on this one. Good for him.
          • bias
            People seem proud of themselves that they discern what they call liberal bias. But they seem not to discern conservative, right wing bias. Wonder why?
          • Go Mitch!
            I'm becoming more and more of a Purdue fan each week!
          • Agree with Rich
            Rich is absolutely correct. As young student in the late 80's, even though I believed myself to be very politically aware, I was not knowledgeable enough to recognize what may or may not be liberal bias in my college courses. When I returned to complete my degree after a career in the Navy, I was shocked by a great many things that were being passed on to our state's students as facts of history. I say thank goodness we had adult supervision in the Statehouse at the time, and that the man occupying the state's highest office was concerned enough about doing what was right.
          • The right is OK then??
            I guess then the message is that Mitch is saying that the conservative, far right agenda is OK to push in school. I don't agree and I would think many people wouldn't appreciate his bias either.
          • liberal Bias is Real
            Liberal Bias in the classroom is real. As an 18 year old I was naive and did not notice the bias, however as an adult in my late 20's I returned to finsh my degree at IUPUI and while MOST professors were careful not to bring personal political views into the classroom, I respectfully confronted 2 instructors who made intentional political propaganda remarks during last falls Presidential election. No big deal to someone my age who has had some time to think for himself, but 18-19 yr olds are VERY easily swayed and Right or Left opinions do NOT belong in the college classroom from professors.

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