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I've got 99 Flowers; My Man Mitch ain't one
July 17, 2013 5:14 PM   Subscribe

The AP has obtained e-mails showing that Mitch Daniels sought to censor academic materials while in office.

The ex-Governor of Indiana and current President of Purdue University wanted Howard Zinn's A People's History removed from all course syllabi, criticizing it for being a "truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page." The Atlantic has all the e-mails up here. Additionally, he audited and sought to cut funding to the programs of Charles Little, who is reported to have been critical of Daniels in the past.

Daniels responds.

Meanwhile, Daniels is also facing public pressure over the hiring of many of his former aides into positions at Purdue University.
posted by dubusadus (41 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Mitch Daniels straight up hates teachers. My dad's an elementary teacher and has basically drifted left over the past several years, and I'm fairly sure it's directly attributable to Daniels' 8-year war on education and educators.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:22 PM on July 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


Is it too cynical to think that this will actually help Daniels defend his Republican credentials in a primary if/when he returns to politics. I feel like it might even help him in a general election.
posted by Gotanda at 5:24 PM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


The ex-Governor of Indiana and current President of Purdue University wanted Howard Zinn's A People's History removed from all course syllabi

On the other hand, I hear he wanted Richard Hofstadter's Anti-Intellectualism in American Life to be made mandatory, evidently believing that it was an endorsement.
posted by scody at 5:36 PM on July 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


In one of the e-mails, Daniels responds to information about an Indiana University course accepted as professional development credit for K-12 teachers: Social Movements in Modern America: Labor, Civil Rights and Feminism. His response: "This crap should not be accepted for any credit by the state. No student will be any better taught because someone went through this session. Which board has jurisdiction over what counts and what doesn't?"

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:37 PM on July 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


This is a good reason why administrators should be completely isolated from the curriculum.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:40 PM on July 17, 2013 [15 favorites]


Yeah, why the fuck should our precious children learn anything about our nation's history except maybe Founding Fathers fathered us. The end.

What an asshole. Christ.
posted by rtha at 5:40 PM on July 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Re: Howard Zinn, the fight between revisionist historians and counter-revisionist historians (conservatives) has been ongoing since the 1970s. For every book that tried to portray the founding fathers as real people warts and all, there were 3 books mythologizing them in return. The whole thing is somewhat entertaining to watch, but makes reading American history a minefield.
posted by stbalbach at 5:41 PM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


A similar thing happened in Iowa as well. One of the Regents contacted the president of the University of Iowa and asked for a chance to educate one of the professors, because she'd written an article on ethanol: Lawmaker: Rastetter email on behalf of biofuels industry threatens academic freedom at U of I
posted by cjorgensen at 5:52 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mitch Daniels is a slimy bastard. Having said that - I believe the new governor is a much worse slimy bastard. OH, INDIANA VOTERS, WHY MUST YOU DISAPPOINT ME WHEN I HAVE TO LIVE IN YOU?
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 5:57 PM on July 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm partially sympathetic, censorship elements notwithstanding. It is very important that universities serve as "safe spaces for free academic thought." That safety is crucial for professors. But it's paramount for students, too, and most universities (in my experience, which doesn't include Purdue) do have professors who abuse their power to barraged favored perspectives and to stifle students from disfavored ones.

Nobody should be censoring books, especially not administrators. Howard Zinn should be fair-game material for professors to teach. But yeah, I get the sentiment behind the objection. There are classrooms that could use some sunlight in this regard, whether that comes in the form of administrative oversight or something else.
posted by cribcage at 6:09 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


For some reason I felt viscerally distressed reading public servant Mitch Daniels refer to A People's History as "this crap"-- like the first popularly-acclaimed history of the majority of his constituents is just some nothing rag. It's not "well, I did take issue with Zinn's broad characterization of federalism on page 135, and his citing in chapter 12 seemed awfully flimsy"; it's clearly "this bullshit is about black people and poor people and women? NOPE DO NOT WANT." Such contempt for the people who hired him and who paid his salary.
posted by threeants at 6:10 PM on July 17, 2013 [20 favorites]


fluffy battle kitten: "Mitch Daniels is a slimy bastard. Having said that - I believe the new governor is a much worse slimy bastard. OH, INDIANA VOTERS, WHY MUST YOU DISAPPOINT ME WHEN I HAVE TO LIVE IN YOU?"

You and me both. At least Mourdock lost. That's something. Right?

Indiana's war on education is first among the reasons that I want to move somewhere else.
posted by double block and bleed at 6:16 PM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


...And in addition to the aides issue, Daniels appointed eight of the ten trustees who came to appoint him as president. (!)
posted by threeants at 6:17 PM on July 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


The level of literacy on display in the email exchange in the first link makes me very sad for Purdue. What a bunch of morons.
posted by junco at 6:19 PM on July 17, 2013


As a commentator in the chronicle of higher ed so chillingly put it, "If you think this is bad, just wait until Rick Perry becomes chancellor at Texas A&M."
posted by lalochezia at 6:20 PM on July 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


It takes a tough man to make a tender university.
posted by tservo at 6:20 PM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


What a bunch of morons.

The correct spelling is, of course, MORANS.
posted by scody at 6:22 PM on July 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


A People's History is currently sitting on my bookshelf unread. Maybe I should read this in honor of the hoosier state.
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:22 PM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


OH, INDIANA VOTERS, WHY MUST YOU DISAPPOINT ME WHEN I HAVE TO LIVE IN YOU?

Maybe because having a fluffy battle kitten lodged in your coelom is painful?
posted by gingerest at 6:29 PM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


For every book that tried to portray the founding fathers as real people warts and all, there were 3 books mythologizing them in return.

Much of that history really needs to be debunked. I have serious doubts that George Washington really had the number of dicks sometimes attributed to him.
posted by Schmucko at 6:31 PM on July 17, 2013 [19 favorites]


But yeah, I get the sentiment behind the objection

Could you explain it to the rest of us? I mean, I could understand a fellow academic choosing to use X text over Zinn for the purposes of some specific course, but ZINN GRAR SMASH looks pretty idiotic. I'm not even a huge Zinn fan and it still looks idiotic, so help me out here.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:33 PM on July 17, 2013


But History is always written by the Victors. If you change that, what's the purpose of being Victorious?
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:36 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Irony alert: Mitch "Deficits" Daniels, the former Fortune 500 CEO who campaigned under a phony populist "My Man Mitch" slogan, the man who made a big noise about not fighting the culture wars and then defunded Planned Parenthood, complains about "anti-factual" "disinformation."
posted by Gelatin at 6:40 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


But it's paramount for students, too, and most universities (in my experience, which doesn't include Purdue) do have professors who abuse their power to barraged favored perspectives and to stifle students from disfavored ones.


Of course this happens. This is why you have more than one instructor, more than one course and a library. It's academia not milk. Those opinionated professors are more valuable than the un-opinionated ones even when they are wrong.
posted by srboisvert at 6:42 PM on July 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


That propaganda BAAAD. This propaganda GOOOD.

Fuck Mitch Daniels and every person who thinks stopping books actually stops ideas.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:43 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


From his response:

Daniels told reporters — missing from the room was AP’s Tom LoBianco, who said on his Twitter account that Daniels denied AP’s request for a follow-up interview — that his desire to remove Zinn from classrooms was meant to address only Indiana’s K-12 system.

This is made to sound very "common sense," but my high school read Zinn in 11th grade, alongside a more traditional American history text. High school students are not too young to read a text critically, especially when it's accompanied by other sources. (And I highly doubt that any K-12 teacher is using Zinn as the sole reference point for their class.)
posted by en forme de poire at 6:46 PM on July 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


a phony populist "My Man Mitch" slogan

That was actually a George Bush quote. He's stopped using that slogan ever since the public turned on ol' Dubya.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:46 PM on July 17, 2013


Also his "K-12 only" thing appears to be complete bullshit based on this:
Scott Jenkins, Daniels' education adviser, was the first to respond to the governor's question about Zinn's book. He noted it was being used at an Indiana University 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 asked, three minutes after Jenkins' note.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:50 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't governors have, like, actual job responsibilities? Seems like Mr. Fiscally Responsible should have cut his own hours instead of wasting time on this ridiculous little crusade.
posted by burden at 7:02 PM on July 17, 2013


I have serious doubts that George Washington really had the number of dicks sometimes attributed to him.

What can I say, I guess he could tell a lie.
posted by escabeche at 7:17 PM on July 17, 2013


By the way, that Charles Pierce article I linked recommended Doghouse Riley's blog for a good take on Indiana politics, and I second the vote.
posted by Gelatin at 7:17 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Schmucko: "I have serious doubts that George Washington really had the number of dicks sometimes attributed to him."

And yet the photographic record is pretty unambiguous on the subject.
posted by pwnguin at 7:36 PM on July 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hates teachers, hates education, hates professors, hates academic freedom....

Sounds like this man was *born* to be a high-ranking university administrator.
posted by edheil at 7:47 PM on July 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


In one of the e-mails, Daniels responds to information about an Indiana University course accepted as professional development credit for K-12 teachers: Social Movements in Modern America: Labor, Civil Rights and Feminism. His response: "This crap should not be accepted for any credit by the state. No student will be any better taught because someone went through this session. Which board has jurisdiction over what counts and what doesn't?"

INDIANA UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF LABOR STUDIES REPRESENT!!!
posted by hal_c_on at 7:50 PM on July 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


Fuck Mitch Daniels and every person who thinks stopping books actually stops ideas.

The nice thing is that ideas don't care whether you think censoring books stops them or not. Call me when Indiana sets up a Great Firewall. Until then, all he's really doing by railing against Zinn is giving Zinn attention in quarters he may not have already had it.

And it's sad to say, but in the long run this problem solves itself, though not in any particularly nice way. Hostility to education leads within a generation or two to an uneducated populace, an effect which is unfortunately concentrated in the lower classes in a country in which you have different rates of hostility to education in different regions and free movement among those regions: those who can afford to leave, will. And while an uneducated populace will be very good at voting the way you scare them to, it's very difficult to get it to do anything terribly productive in a highly specialized global economy, further concentrating poverty in these regions.

Fortunately for 22nd-century Indiana, there will most probably still be some form of federal government operating in the middle of North America (probably even the one founded, in part, by the George Washington of Indeterminate Penis Count) to support its citizens through a variety of public assistance programs (which they will of course have been taught to hate).
posted by Vetinari at 2:11 AM on July 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Daniels is showing extremely poor judgement and reactionary thinking. On top of the worst kind of micro managing.

I wonder if he even gives the students any credit for critical thinking and the ability to evaluate information from multiple sources. Forget the context, BAN THE BOOK.

His clarification is plain bullcrap, and political spin. His actions against Charles Little is proof enough.

I for one hope to see further miss steps by Daniels. Not all of us in Indiana are blind to his rightest agenda.

More fodder please.
posted by moonlily at 4:22 AM on July 18, 2013


When this came to light, some things started to make a little more sense to me. All through Daniels' administration, the university-run NPR station at Ball State seemed to be little more than a Mitch Daniels PR outlet. Almost every news break opened with a puff piece on something Daniels said or wrote or announced, with no fact-checking or background, and never any balance. Given Daniels' hate-on against education, I'd say the NPR station was doing everything they could to keep themselves (and Ball State) on his good side.

The bad thing was they also treated our, then, Congressman, Mike Pence, the same way, treating us to a constant barrage of his canned opinion pieces from Washington. And now he's Governor. Ugh.

Indiana is a really strong tea-party state. It's just that, unlike the more vocal states (Texas, Florida, etc.) they keep things quiet and under the radar.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:06 AM on July 18, 2013



Fortunately for 22nd-century Indiana, there will most probably still be some form of federal government operating in the middle of North America (probably even the one founded, in part, by the George Washington of Indeterminate Penis Count) to support its citizens through a variety of public assistance programs (which they will of course have been taught to hate).


I wish I was as "optimistic" as you.
posted by lalochezia at 7:47 AM on July 18, 2013


Zinn's book is crappy but really useful. Its the perfect book to give high schoolers to get them prepared for how varied and critical academic history can be. I can see why someone would want to ban it, but I can't see how someone would want that person to RUN A FUCKING UNIVERSITY.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:17 AM on July 18, 2013


Zinn's book is crappy but really useful.

In what ways do you feel it's crappy? I sort of think there's this "truth is somewhere in the middle"-esque fallacy, wherein writing a purportedly general American history textbook that devotes 90% of its focus to the interests of white men is all right, but a work of anti-hegemonic scholarship with a handful of opaque citations or a chapter that's kind of logically weak or something is the worst flogging of historical rigor ever committed. But I am really interested to be proven wrong!
posted by threeants at 12:36 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mitch is envious he will never amount to a fingernail clipping compared to Indiana's greatest citizen Eugene V. Debs of Terre Haute. I am serious.
posted by lathrop at 3:44 PM on July 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


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