Howard Zinn, Mitch Daniels and “the role of history in education, politics and scholarship.”

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(Mitch) Daniels will probably not get this, as the current President of Purdue University has no academic qualifications to even be appointed into this position; as Detmer notes, “[Daniels] did not have a Ph.D. or comparable research degree; he had no teaching experience; and he had never published any peer reviewed scholarly research.”
— author David Detmer

Neither does the much celebrated Floyd County Historian possess such an academic background, but I digress. He’s busy measuring the distance between condiment bottles at Team Gahan’s mess tent.

Zinn’s purported sin lies in his insistence that United States history must be viewed as an exercise of power, money or both — and it has, along with sizable dollops of religious superstition and plain delusion.

But we’d be mistaken to limit the gaze to Republicans and purported right-wingers given over to censorship. Adam Dickey’s beloved Joe Donnelly likely would be a half-step behind Daniels, if that.

The money. It’s all about the money.

The Battle Over History and Howard Zinn, by Kim Scipes (CounterPunch)

It is rare to get an intelligent, well-sourced and coherent discussion of issues today such as the role of history in education, politics and scholarship, but David Detmer of Purdue University Northwest has provided such with his new book, Zinnophobia: The Battle over History in Education, Politics and Scholarship. Detmer has very carefully dismembered much of the right wing’s “intellectual” assault on critical scholarship.

Dr. Detmer, Professor of Philosophy, has used the attack on the historical work of the late Howard Zinn as his entrée to the discussion. And Detmer starts close to home, discussing then-Indiana governor and current President of Purdue University, Mitch Daniels’, efforts to ensure that Zinn’s work not be allowed in any Indiana classroom. In February 2010, while governor, Daniels sent e-mails to several subordinates, “to make sure that a book he did not like, Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, would not be ‘in use anywhere in Indiana’” (p. 17). Detmer used e-mails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act by the Associated Press (AP) to examine Daniels’ deplorable behavior.

Daniels’ problem with Zinn? The heart of it, from a Daniels’ e-mail, “It is a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page” (18).

Once the e-mails were published by the AP, Daniels and members of his administration tried to mitigate the ensuing controversy by trying obfuscation. To divert the attention on his efforts, Daniels referred to “Respected scholars and communicators of all ideologies agree that the work of Howard Zinn was irredeemably slanted, and unsuited for teaching to school children” (19).

Detmer has none of it: he carefully discusses the charges and countercharges and, in this book, also examines the work of his critics, both those Daniels relies on as well as others, to examine the quality of right-wing commentary on Zinn’s thinking and his research.

He starts with Daniels: “Notice, first, that in the initial emails, Daniels offers no evidence, argument or reasoning of any kind in support or his harsh judgment of Zinn’s work. Nor does he engage Zinn’s text—no page numbers or specific claims or analyses are cited.” Obviously, Detmer is not impressed: “we demand much more of our freshman students in the papers they write for our introductory courses” (21).

Daniels will probably not get this, as the current President of Purdue University has no academic qualifications to even be appointed into this position; as Detmer notes, “[Daniels] did not have a Ph.D. or comparable research degree; he had no teaching experience; and he had never published any peer reviewed scholarly research.” However, Daniels had an advantage with those who hired him: “the trustees [of Purdue University] owed their own positions as trustees to him—as governor, he had appointed eight of them to the Board of Trustees, and had re-appointed the other two” (17) But despite whatever he’s learned since becoming Purdue’s president in January 2013, it is difficult to imagine a more damning condemnation from a Faculty member, comparing Daniels’ work unfavorably to that required of freshman students in an introductory course …

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