Censoring Howard Zinn: Former Indiana Gov. Tried to Remove “A People’s History” from State Schools

On July 22, Democracy Now! reported on former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels’ efforts to remove Howard Zinn’s books from K-12 public schools with guests Dr. Cornel West, author, activist, and professor at Union Theological Seminary, and Anthony Arnove, the co-editor with Zinn of Voices of a People’s History of the United States.

As Bill Bigelow explained in “Indiana’s Anti-Howard Zinn Witch-hunt,” Gov. Daniels, now president of Purdue University, demanded that Zinn’s work be hunted down in Indiana schools and suppressed: “Can someone assure me that 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?”


Excerpt from the Democracy Now! broadcast:

AMY GOODMAN: So, Anthony, this email trail, did it surprise you when AP released it?

ANTHONY ARNOVE: It didn’t surprise me at all. I mean, if you look at what Mitch Daniels has done in Indiana, it’s been a consistent attack on teachers, consistent attack on unions. He really laid the basis for the model that Scott Walker has been trying to implement in Wisconsin, with an early executive order eliminating collective bargaining rights for union workers in the state, making Indiana the 23rd—I hate to use the expression of a right-to-work state; it’s really a right to disenfranchise workers, rather than a right to work—but making Indiana the 23rd so-called right-to-work state, and consistently going after schools of education. There’s a national attack, which Daniels is part of, to say that schools of education are polluting the minds of teacher educators. And right after he sent that email that you quoted, he went after a teacher training program that was taking place at Indiana University in Bloomington in July of 2010. And he claims, “Oh, I was only talking about the teaching of K-through-12 students. I didn’t—I want to protect K-through-12 students.” He was actually going after a program that was about teacher training, in which people were reading Howard Zinn as part of understanding how to open up students to different perspectives on American history.

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AMY GOODMAN: Professor Cornel West, we just have 30 seconds. Your response? You knew Howard Zinn well. You, too, are a professor who writes many critical books, critical of U.S. policy, domestic and foreign.

CORNEL WEST: Well, I want to salute the work of my dear brother here, and I was blessed to write the introduction to Howard Zinn’s writings on race. But the important thing to keep in mind is that it’s a compliment to Howard Zinn, because it shows the power of his work. And it’s Howard Zinn today; it’s Ira Katznelson, Eric Foner, David Brion Davis, Barbara Fields, Robin Kelley tomorrow. It’s part of a larger discourse that says, “Let’s tell the truth about the American past and present, and let’s do it in such a way that it relates to everyday people, especially the young people coming along.” And, oh, we’ve got a lot of hope among the young folk. They’re tired of all this hypocrisy, mendacity and criminality.

Read the transcript at Democracy Now! | Watch on YouTube

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