Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Former Governor Daniels Wanted Popular Historian Censored In Indiana Schools

Former Gov. Mitch Daniels wanted the writings of historian Howard Zinn out of Indiana classrooms — and the state's higher education institutes.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Former Gov. Mitch Daniels wanted the writings of historian Howard Zinn out of Indiana classrooms — and the state's higher education institutes.

Former Gov. Mitch Daniels wanted to ban a book often used to teach American history to high school students while in office, according to emails obtained by the Associated Press.

Tom LoBianco reports that Daniels, now the president of Purdue University, wanted Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” out of Indiana classrooms because he considered it to be liberal “propaganda.”

“It is a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page,” the former governor wrote in an email whose recipients included then-state superintendent Tony Bennett. “Can someone assure me that it is not in use anywhere in Indiana? If it is, how do we get rid of it before any more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history?”

Daniels also wanted Zinn’s book out of teacher preparation courses taught at the state’s colleges and universities, writes LoBianco:

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.

Daniels told the Associated Press Tuesday the push was only to get Zinn out of K-12 classrooms, not necessarily the state’s higher education institutes. He defended his decision as governor, calling the historian a “fraud” who wouldn’t withstand state textbook oversight.

The Journal & Courier in West Lafayette curated a list of social media posts reacting to the news of Daniels’ censorship.

In a separate email exchange, Daniels called for an audit of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis professor Charles Little, who directs the Indiana Urban Schools Association. Little had been critical of the governor’s education agenda at several public meetings.

Current state representative Todd Huston, then an aide to Bennett, suggested that the state should look at how much Indianapolis Public Schools is spending on lobbying efforts.

“Let’s see it!!!” Daniels fired back, asking what state agency could assemble the data.

UPDATE: Daniels held a press conference Wednesday calling the AP article “utter distortion.” Check out our latest post for more reaction on the controversy.


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