E-mails reveal censorship efforts by Mitch Daniels as Indiana governor

Mitch Daniels ( Jose Luis Magana - AP) Mitch Daniels
( Jose Luis Magana – AP)

Mitch Daniels, the new president of Purdue University and the former two-term governor of Indiana, has some explaining to do. When he was governor, the AP reports, he quietly pushed to remove books and courses that he considered to be too liberal, action not well received in the academic world in which he now works.

Citing e-mails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, The Associated Press’s Tom LoBianco reported in this story that Daniels wanted the writings of the liberal Howard Zinn, an anti-war activist and historian, to be banned from schools. He also suggested that funding for a program run by a professor who had criticized him be withdrawn, and sought what he termed a “cleanup” of courses being taught at colleges training teachers, the AP said.

Daniels was governor from 2005-2013 and became president of Purdue in January over the objections of some professors who feared that he was not a big believer in academic freedom. He has in the months since he went to Purdue repeatedly spoken out about its importance. The Board of Trustees that appointed him is made up largely of people he put on the board when he was governor.

Daniels responded to the story on Wednesday, saying it was “erroneous” but in this story, the AP said he did not explain what he thought was wrong. He said a news conference that if Zinn were alive and taught at Purdue as a tenured professor, “I would defend him and his rights not to be dismissed for the nature of his work.”

You can read the e-mails here, but here’s part of one that went to several education officials, including then-state Education Commissioner Tony Bennett.

This terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away. 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?

 

Some Republicans had hoped that Daniels would seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, but he decided not to enter the race.

 

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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