Purdue profs blast Daniels on academic freedom

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Dozens of Purdue University professors questioned their new school president's commitment to academic freedom Monday following the release of emails showing that as governor Mitch Daniels tried to keep a liberal historian's textbook out of Indiana classrooms.

Ninety professors signed the open letter to Daniels, saying they were more troubled by his continued criticism of Howard Zinn's writings since becoming Purdue's president than they were by the emails he sent as governor more than three years ago.

"However much we disagree with your past statements, we are more troubled by the fact that you continue to express these views today, especially since you are now speaking as the chief representative of Purdue University with the responsibility to embody the best of academic inquiry and exchange," the professors wrote.

Daniels' efforts to keep Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" out of the hands of K-12 students and educators has created a firestorm in academic circles since The Associated Press last week published emails in which he urged advisers to "disqualify the propaganda" from teacher training courses. He also called Zinn's book "a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page."

In his letter, Daniels said, "I have never made any suggestion that any university cease teaching whatever its faculty pleases, or cease using any book." The emails, however, show that after Daniels was told Zinn's book was being used at Indiana University in a professional development course for existing teachers, he replied, "This crap should not be accepted for any credit by the state" and he then signed off on a suggestion that officials review such courses across the state.

A Republican fundraiser and state Board of Education member then suggested a review of all teacher preparation programs at Indiana's universities, and Daniels quickly signed off on it.

"Go for it," Daniels wrote. "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."

He has continued to defend his emails, issuing a statement last week reiterating his argument that Zinn's work distorts history and quoting numerous scholars who also have spoken against it.

The 90 professors represent only about 5 percent of Purdue's nearly 1,800 faculty members, but the letter was only circulated among liberal arts colleges. Purdue's Board of Trustees, most of whose members were appointed by Daniels while he was governor, reaffirmed its support for him last week. The University Senate has not taken a position on the Zinn issue.

The former Indiana governor responded to their concerns Monday with many of the same arguments he made last week, saying his objections only dealt with K-12 schools.

"Protecting the educational standards of middle schoolers, to me an important duty of any governor, has nothing to do with protecting against encroachments of academic freedom in higher education, a similarly central duty of any university president. I have and will attend to the latter duty with the same resoluteness I tried to bring to the former," Daniels wrote.

He also added a new charge, that Zinn undercut the foundation of scientific inquiry and research in an article titled "The Uses of Scholarship."

Daniels has come under fire at Purdue before. Some faculty expressed skepticism last year that a non-academic would be an ardent supporter of higher education. But concerns had quieted down as Daniels met with faculty and listened to their concerns.

Kristina Bross, a Purdue English professor who coordinated the faculty response, said Daniels should publicly defend his claims about Zinn in a forum and called on him to explain to faculty how he came to his conclusions.

"This terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away," Daniels wrote in a Feb. 9, 2010, email after Zinn's death. "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."

Daniels has insisted Zinn should not be taught in Indiana's K-12 classrooms and believes he presents a "falsified" version of history. Zinn's 1980 work explores history through the viewpoints of Native Americans and others who he said weren't represented in traditional textbooks.

Daniels said last week he would support Zinn's academic freedom if he were tenured faculty at Purdue.

In his letter Monday, he said that he never had made any public comment about Zinn, "other than a mention of him in a book I wrote in 2011, until attacked in the recent AP story."


  • panties in a wad
    Thank you, Berta (2½ Men).
  • sanitized versions of U.S.history
    That is why I hated history in high school. It was bland and boring. Real history (warts and all) is much more interesting, even fascinating.
  • Only for K-12 Certification
    Mitch was not attempting to censor books at the university level. He acknowledged in his own words the state did not have such authority. He was trying to shift the certification process of K-12 teachers away from universities and to other methods of certification. In that regard, the state has every right to decide what it will or will not accept as grounds for certification to teach K-12. In this regard, the state is required to use discriminating taste. What this issue is really about is a bunch of leftists who have their panties in a wad because a Republican dared to challenge their ivory pillars of wisdom.
    • not K-12
      Not disparaging mitch for having an opinion, but the e-mail exchange clearly shows an effort to censor at the university level. His right to condemn leaves him open for review as well. At best, however, it seems even high school students aren't entitled to any more than the sanitized versions of U.S.history that we get from the from approved textbooks from the Texas Baptist Conference (sorry, Board of Education).
      • Wikipedia is balanced
        If one would carefully read Mitch's Wikipedia article, it also exposes some warts too. Follow the footnotes and see how he was busted with two shoe boxes full of pot when he was in college. The man isn't perfect, he is just a lot smarter than the average liberal arts professor. He knows how to lead people and get things done. I don't think Mitch will be rounding up people that disagree with him and burning them in ovens. When stupid people compare someone to Adolf Hitler, they demean the millions of lives that man destroyed.
      • Wikipedia is balanced
        If one would carefully read Mitch's Wikipedia article, it also exposes some warts too. Follow the footnotes and see how he was busted with two shoe boxes full of pot when he was in college. The man isn't perfect, he is just a lot smarter than the average liberal arts professor. He knows how to lead people and get things done. I don't think Mitch will be rounding up people that disagree with him and burning them in ovens. When stupid people compare someone to Adolf Hitler, they demean the millions of lives that man destroyed.
      • Free Education
        I believe in free education...as long as I don't have to pay for it. Those who want free education, by all means, step forward and volunteer your teaching prowress for the rest of us. Please, step forward and put your time and mind where your mouth is.
      • Open Minded
        @Me -- Open mindedness is great so long as you don't open your mind so far your brains fall out.
      • @ Me
        @ me, I do not think you actually have a job and Z is probably woefully under-employed.
      • Like him or not it's
        Like him or not - it just shows his SMD short man disease. He ahsd shown that for over 10 years. Won't shut up when he should or be told too. His old head of education Mr. Bennett did not have problems with these books in his tenure. Is current President of PU Daniels more or better qualified then the man he chose to make those kind of comments or decisions? Huuummm........
      • industries
        Unfortunately, education, like health care, has become an "industry." Once, both were public services, and they should have remained that way. Porn, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. Even beady ones.
      • oh, Pete
        ". . . porn as a sex education tool . . ." Freudian slip, perhaps?
      • Wow
        Yes, the president of a university is an educator. The idea of education being subject to profit motives is anathema to the idea of education, period. That's why free access to education was considered essential all the way back to our founding. And your notion that 6 year olds and 16 year olds developmentally process the same types of information is as silly as your conflation of sex ed and porn. Now, I have actual work I need to do. Have a nice day, everyone!
        • how and why
          Regardless of occupation or position, it helps to have one's hand-picked minions/flunkies already in position to grease the skids. imho, that's how and why.
        • Educator???
          @ Me, Mitch is not an "educator", he is the president of the university. Although, we could all learn plenty from him, especially you. What I do think is that Mitch scares the heck out of career academics. Mitch expects results, which is foreign to most liberal arts programs (my degree was in liberal arts from Purdue, which explains why it was necessary for me to go on to earn an MBA in order to get a real job with real pay). I beleive you missed a big part of Mitch D's point. Mitch said he is perfectly fine with Zinn being taught at the University level (As am I). He was referring to K-12, which was my point regarding watching porn as a sex eduction tool while in HS, maybe not appropriate. I am sure it was just an oversight on your part.
          • Me
            Me...me too.
          • I agree
            Z, I agree in principle. Not that CEOs are inherently bad, but that the real story here is not Daniels' imposition of his personal opinions on curricula, but how and why does he even have this post in the first place?
            • to be
              . . . to be taken . . .
            • How do I feel?
              Seems to me that a person who has been only in the milieu of business is not the logical or proper candidate to lead an institution of higher learning. What does a CEO know, other than cut, slash and burn? How much brains does it take to cause other people's income and/or jobs to taken away from them, and reap great rewards for themselves in doing so?
              • Yes, Pete
                You missed it. I'll try again...being educated means confronting and processing new ideas, some of which may be counter to your prior experience and beliefs. Daniels, as an "educator," is violating this basic premise. Not to mention, he's now a representative of a public institution. Was that simple enough?
                • Still waiting
                  I may have missed it, do you have an original thought on this topic or not? All you have done is comment on others being stupid. How do you feel about the Mitch D situation?
                  • Pete
                    "I am a very open minded person, I reject any comments to the contrary." Does this mean that your mind is closed on the subject of your openmindedness?
                  • Hilarious
                    Pete, your definition of open-minded needs work. Re-read your own post. Apparently people are entitled to their own opinion unless they disagree with you. Ergo...lack of critical thinking skills. Fact is, being open-minded, truly open-minded, is hard work. Sometimes you have to hear and process ideas that go against your upbringing and conditioning and even prior knowledge. This is how education works. Consider yourself enlightened.
                    • U R Sad
                      @Me, I am a product of Purdue University and am proud to be a graduate. I would love to hear some of your thoughts on the subject. It is quite easy to dismiss others as "lacking" (i.e. stupid), it is more difficult to form your own thoughts and arguments. I am a very open minded person, I reject any comments to the contrary. Again, everyone is entitled to thier own opinion. Do you have one? If so, please enlighten us all.
                      • Indiana leads
                        In 1897 (bill #246) the Indiana General Assembly tried to redefine the value of pi. In 1907, a law was passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor that provided for involuntary sterilization. Indiana was also a leader in eugenics, predating Hitler and Himmler by a quarter century or more. Denials, anyone?
                      • And
                        How could I leave out the fact that poor Political Correctness was forced to READ and have DISCUSSIONS in CLASS. heaven forbid anyone be confronted with ideas that weren't vetted and approved by your parents, your church, and your preferred cable news network.
                      • Grow Up
                        The comment made here is both absurd and shameful. It is absurd because the author cannot cite a single union broken by Daniels (there aren't any); and because the majority of voters and the legislature favored Right to Work -- Daniels just followed the will of the people by signing it into law. Comparing Daniels to Hitler is shameful, period. What a lack of maturity.
                      • Sad
                        What an appalling collection of comments that perfectly illustrates why Indiana is so mocked nationally. Between Steven James' utter lack of understanding of communism and socialism to Pete's utter lack of critical thinking skills, this thread is an object lesson indeed.
                        • Open Minded
                          Everyone is entitled to thier own opinion and it sounds like Mitch expressed his opinion regarding this supposed "literary" work. I think all Mitch is saying is that it has no place being taught to K-12 students and I trust his opinion. Should we teach pro-Hitler propaganda to K-12 kids if it is presented in the proper "literary" form? I think the assumption is that college kids can form thier own decisions based on facts and perhaps a K-12 kid needs a bit more guidance. We don't show porn in HS classes, even though some liberals would find it appropriate for a sex ed class (Is psych 444 still a class at Purdue, just curious). Don't make Mitch out to be a "book burner" for stating his opinion and looking out for the youth of IN. I had some of these bleeding heart liberals when I was a student at Purdue, they need to relax and do something meaningful.
                        • Hypocrisy of the Left
                          As a graduate of Purdue, I can attest first-hand to the hypocrisy of tenured and well-paid liberal professors criticizing Mitch Daniels for censorship. Under the excuse of political correctness, these professors routinely stifled speak in the classroom and pushed propaganda through required reading assignments and class discussion. This is yet another example of hypocrites from the left whining when the rules they apply to others are applied against them or their propaganda.
                        • What Steve James Said
                          I would comment. But Steve James said it perfectly. Thank you.
                        • Mitch Daniels in Wikipedia
                          Talk about propaganda! Obviously, the article was written by one of Mitch's minions (there are many, in high places, too). btw, Adolf Hitler (named chancellor by Paul von Hindenburg in January 1933) also broke the unions, but at least he waited until after the workers had their holiday on May 1.
                          • Kristina Bross
                            The apparent leader of the anti-Mitch group at Purdue, Kristina Bross, has written two books that have been -understandably - deeply discounted by Amazon. If you read them, you may agree that it is difficult to understand why someone was paid good money to write such dribble about American Indian converts to Christianity. I say that with some understanding because I am part American Indian and a Christian.
                          • Mitch knows
                            I was intrigued by some professors at Purdue describing Daniels as "non-academic." By that they mean that he hasn't spent his working life in an office the size of a walk-in closet. He has had jobs in the real world affecting the lives of real people. Look up the article on Mitch Daniels in Wikipedia, it will describe the life of a non-academic. I have read the book in question and describe the scholarship as a cross between Mother Jones and Rolling Stone magazine articles. It is pure communist/socialist excreta. It fits in very will with the liberal delusion. The 5% of professors at Purdue that oppose Mitch should be thankful. Daniels' governorship left Indiana's economy with money in the bank. The Purdue eggheads can sit in their little rooms, read each others books, get help from the state, and fool themselves about how smart they are.
                          • Mitch knows
                            • BRAVO
                              Mitch must be doing something right if everybody is this bent out of shape. Of course, much of the venom is coming from those who wish to establish the People's Betrn'u: it's not always about race. Republic of the United State...
                            • Go Mitch
                              I thought all of the textbooks were left leaning?
                            • Let's be honest here
                              Daniels is not without fault, but I suspect that five minutes of research into this group of professors will verify that their outrage has more to do with political biases they hold, and less to do with those held by their new president. This is also true of the librarian who was just doing her job, which apparently includes slinging mud. I have nothing against people taking political shots, but I know that I am dealing with someone who is truly small when they claim the moral high ground while doing it.
                            • Credentials, please.
                              "Protecting the educational standards of middle schoolers," from "'A People's History of the United States,'" "a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page." Unfortunately, Mitch still doesn't understand history isn't math. As much as his ilk have tried to give us the "official" version (where white folks walked across the continent without encountering anyone, and blacks magically showed up ready for bondage), the truth is much more layered and nuanced.

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