Responses to the Attempts to Censor People’s History in K-12 Indiana Schools

Ever since the news of Mitch Daniels’ attempts to censor any writing by Howard Zinn in Indiana K-12 public schools, people have been speaking out. Here are just a few of the responses.

Inside Indiana


July 23 | Dug Miller ‏@greatwoconda6h
I proudly stand by my decision to use Howard Zinn in my high school social studies courses and will continue to do so.

July 22 | Shannon White ‏@MsWhiteSocStud8h
I proudly stand by my decision to use Howard Zinn in my high school social studies courses and will continue to do so.

An Open Letter to Mitch Daniels | July 22, 2013

In “An Open Letter to Mitch Daniels,” more than 90 Purdue professors — representing myriad disciplines, from history to mechanical engineering — say they are troubled with how Daniels continued to discredit the historian last week in the wake of controversy over emails he wrote when he was Indiana governor that denounced Howard Zinn. The letter begins:

Dear President Daniels:
We are writing in response to the recent news reports about emails you wrote while governor of Indiana. In those emails, you criticized the historian Howard Zinn and his work, and you sought to find ways to “get rid of” Zinn’s ideas in Indiana schools. However much we disagree with your past statements, we are more troubled by the fact that you continue to express these views today, especially since you are now speaking as the chief representative of Purdue University with the responsibility to embody the best of academic inquiry and exchange.

Continue reading the open letter (PDF).


Nadine Dolby, Purdue University professor and former student of Howard Zinn.

Nadine Dolby, Purdue University professor and former student of Howard Zinn.

What Would Howard Zinn Do: Interview with Purdue Associate Professor Nadine Dolby | July 20, 2013

What would the late historian Howard Zinn have been doing in the classroom last week after being called out as a fraud, his name dragged around three years ago by a man who was then Indiana’s governor and now president of one of the state’s major research universities?

“He would teach the controversy,” said Nadine Dolby, a Purdue University professor watching as a beloved teacher from her days at Boston University was publicly upbraided by the president of her present university. “That’s just what he’d do.” Read the full interview with Dolby.


National Organizations

Mickey Huff, Project Censored | July 22, 2013

projectcensored_logoMitch Daniels’ engagement in doublespeak and euphemistic language is shameful, especially coming from the head of a research university. Daniels is a censor, plain as day. In fact, he’s among the worst kind. He’s an ideologue who pretends to have the best interests of the public at heart, though he mistakes “best” for what are actually merely “his” interests. Daniels does not understand academic freedom or cognitive dissonance, which makes him unfit for any level of education. What Daniels further doesn’t understand (which many of Zinn’s critics may at least admit to) is that history is about interpretation.

Zinn compiled what many more vernacular voices and community and oral historians had said for ages, yet, their voices, their narratives were excluded (by censors not much different than Daniels). Zinn sourced these voices and put them in one narrative, a People’s narrative. Is Zinn’s the only interpretation to be considered in education? Of course not. But for anyone to argue that these interpretations should not be taught is an enemy of the right to knowledge and an impediment to an individual’s right to understanding not only the past, but the present, and where our collective possibilities lie in the future.

As for Daniels’ concerns about K-12? That is an appeal to emotion and red herring. If he is worried about age appropriateness, Seven Stories Press (who also publish our book on media censorship each year) have even published A People’s History for younger ages, the group Daniels claimed to be “protecting.” People do not need to be protected from their own narratives, from their own empowerment. Only despots claim such fear-mongering nonsense. We do not need more censors masquerading as do-gooders. We need courageous educators and leaders, and engaged parents and families, to embrace our collective and diverse past head on.

Zinn is a wonderful companion for just such a journey, which is why I still use his texts in my college classes along with many others. Whether students agree or disagree with Zinn is not important. But each term, I see students turn on to history, turn on to civil rights, dissent, however they define it, and Zinn is their catalyst, one of many, but an important one to be sure. Thank you ZEP for preserving not only the work of Howard Zinn, but all the inclusiveness that he fought for and represented.

Mickey Huff, Director, Project Censored/Media Freedom Foundation
Professor of Social Sciences and History, Co-Chair, History, Diablo Valley College