Shortly after assuming his position as president of Purdue University last January, former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) established his commitment to free speech in an open letter to “the people of Purdue.” In a section titled “Open Inquiry,” he declared, “A university has failed its special mission if it fails to protect free and open debate. … The ensuring of free expression is paramount.”He apparently forgot to include the postscript, “unless free expression involves pinko propaganda Mitch Daniels personally despises.” According to emails obtained by the Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act, during his tenure as governor, Daniels attempted to have A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn's influential revisionist survey of American history, removed from Indiana classrooms. In a 2010 email, Daniels calls A People's History—which tells history from the perspective of those who were racially, economically and sexually oppressed—“a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page.” He explicitly asks for it to be censored: "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?"The conservative Daniels, who during his tenure as governor passed the nation’s first stringent voter ID law and privatized large swaths of Indiana’s social services, has doubled down on his pro-censorship stance with regard to Zinn, who died in 2010. In an email statement to the AP on Tuesday, Daniels said, “We must not falsely teach American history in our schools. 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."The revelations have appalled academics and free speech advocates, including Prof. Cary Nelson, former president of the American Association of University Professors, who told the Huffington Post: "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.”
Lauren Teixeira is a Summer 2013 editorial intern at In These Times.