WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - A report made waves this week on Purdue President Mitch Daniels' alleged decisions to censor his opponents while he was governor, the report citing emails dug up by a Freedom of Information Act request. Daniels says the report took his comments out of context.
Daniels spoke out Wednesday morning on the report that he attempted to censor what's taught at universities in the state while he was governor.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that In 2010, then-Governor Daniels sent a series of emails to top state education officials.
In the emails, Daniels asked if books by historian and anti-war activist Howard Zinn were used in Hoosier classrooms.
Daniels reportedly said Zinn's book "A People's History of the United States" is a biased, untrue version of American history.
Daniels denies ever trying to regulate the use of Zinn's work in higher education. He says Indiana law allows the state to oversee curriculum in public, K-12 education.
He says the emails released in the AP report were not only taken out of context, but "distorted."
"My only concern in sending one email, and then I guess one follow-up, on one day a few years ago, had to do with protecting students in public K through12 education in Indiana against what the whole world agrees is a false version of American history, which had gotten into the classrooms of many states," Daniels said.
Daniels says to his knowledge, Zinn's book was not in Indiana classrooms.
He says he is a strong advocate of academic freedom and when it comes to higher education, saying, "Anything goes."
UPDATE at 5:20 p.m.:
The message below includes statements from Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, as well as a second statement from Purdue's Board of Trustees:
I would like to respond to a muddled and misleading article that has been in the media this week.
If the article were an accurate representation of my actions, I would be the first to agree with the many concerns I have heard.
In truth, my emails infringed on no one's academic freedom and proposed absolutely no censorship of any person or viewpoint. In fact, the question I asked on one day in 2010 had nothing to do with higher education at all.
I merely wanted to make certain that Howard Zinn's textbook, which represents a falsified version of history, was not being foisted upon our young people in Indiana's public K-12 classrooms.
No one need take my word that my concerns were well-founded. Respected scholars and communicators of all ideologies agree that the work of Howard Zinn was irredeemably slanted and unsuited for teaching to schoolchildren.
Arthur M. Schlesinger said, "I don't take him very seriously. He's a polemicist, not a historian." Socialist historian Michael Kazin judged Zinn's work as "bad history, albeit tilted with virtuous intentions" and said the book was more suited to a "conspiracy monger's website than to a work of scholarship." Reviewing the text in The American Scholar, Harvard University professor Oscar Handlin denounced "the deranged quality of his fairy tale, in which the incidents are made to fit the legend, no matter how intractable the evidence of American history."
Stanford history education expert Sam Wineburg cautioned that exposing children to a heavily filtered and weighted interpretation such as Zinn's work is irresponsible when "we are talking about how we educate the young, those who do not yet get the interpretive game."
Many more such condemnations by persons of political viewpoints different from my own are available on request.
I want to be equally clear that if Howard Zinn had been a professor at Purdue University, I would have vigorously defended his right to publish and teach what he wanted. Academic freedom, however, does not immunize a person from criticism and certainly does not confer entitlement to have one's work inflicted upon our young people in the K-12 public school system.
As a university president, I am an unequivocal advocate of open inquiry and academic freedom, and I hope to be the strongest defender of that freedom that Purdue has ever had.
President, Purdue University
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