The Corner

Mitch Daniels vs. A People’s History

It looks as if former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels is giving as good as he got in the debate over his controversial e-mails slamming the work of radical historian Howard Zinn at the time of Zinn’s passing in 2010.  

Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the United States, has been lauded by leftists for its “victimology” approach to U.S. history and slammed by many scholars. “What Zinn offers us is not a corrective, but a distortion,” Roger Kimball wrote in National Review in 2010. “It is as if someone said to you, ‘Would you like to see Versailles?’ and then took you on a tour of a broken shed on the outskirts of the palace grounds. ‘You see, pretty shabby, isn’t it?’”

 Daniels, who became the president of Purdue University after leaving the governorship in January, has been accused of advocating censorship in e-mails to his staff that were uncovered through pubic-records requests by the media.

“This crap should not be accepted for any credit by the state,” was one pungent phrase by Daniels, who wondered if the book could be withdrawn from curriculums. He insists he was not trying to censor the book.  

“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,” Daniels said in a statement on Wednesday. “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.”

Daniels then noted that liberal historian Arthur M. Schlesinger called Zinn “a polemicist, not a historian.” Scholar Michael Kazin said of Zinn’s work that it was “bad history, albeit tilted with virtuous intentions.”

If Mitch Daniels’s intentions were to prevent the brainwashing of Indiana students with claptrap such as A People’s History, then it’s all the more reason to mourn the fact that he chose not to run for president in 2012. 

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