Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue University and former governor of Indiana, threatened to cut off state funding to universities that gave voice to liberal historian Howard Zinn, according to recent reports.
The Associated Press obtained emails sent by Daniels during his term as governor in which he lambasted Zinn’s work as “execrable” and “anti-factual.” He authorized Indiana education personnel to find — and root out — liberal bias in the classrooms of colleges that receive public funding.
On Tuesday, Daniels stood by that record, but clarified that he only intended to restrict the influence of liberal historians like Zinn in elementary school classrooms.
“We must not falsely teach American history in our schools,” he said in a statement to the Associated Press. “Howard Zinn, by his own admission a biased writer, purposely falsified American history. His books have no more place in Indiana history classrooms than phrenology or Lysenkoism would in our biology classes or the `Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ in world history courses. 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.”
In the wake of the revelation of Daniels’ disdain for Zinn’s work, several professors expressed fear that intellectual freedom at Purdue could be in jeopardy.
“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,” said Cary Nelson, an English professor at the University of Illinois and former president of the American Association of University Professors, in a statement.
The editors of The College Fix saw it another way.
“Sounds like responsible governorship,” they wrote.
But a former chairman of the Purdue University Senate told the AP that he was unconcerned.
“Even though I think that the administrators have grown very powerful at Purdue over the years, the faculty still are the ones that establish the academic standards and the curricula – and we are not easily moved,” said J. Paul Robinson, a professor of biomedical engineering. “Mitch knows this, and I am pretty sure he respects it – even more now that he is here than when he was outside.”
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