INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Dozens of Purdue University professors questioned their new school president’s commitment to academic freedom Monday following the release of emails showing that as governor Mitch Daniels tried to keep a liberal historian’s textbook out of Indiana classrooms.
Ninety professors signed the open letter to Daniels, saying they were more troubled by his continued criticism of Howard Zinn’s writings since becoming Purdue’s president than they were by the emails he sent as governor more than three years ago.
“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,” the professors wrote.
Daniels’ efforts to keep Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” out of the hands of K-12 students and educators has created a firestorm in academic circles since The Associated Press last week published emails in which he urged advisers to “disqualify the propaganda” from teacher training courses. He also called Zinn’s book “a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page.”
In his letter, Daniels said, “I have never made any suggestion that any university cease teaching whatever its faculty pleases, or cease using any book.” The emails, however, show that after Daniels was told Zinn’s book was being used at Indiana University in a professional development course for existing teachers, he replied, “This crap should not be accepted for any credit by the state” and he then signed off on a suggestion that officials review such courses across the state.
A Republican fundraiser and state Board of Education member then suggested a review of all teacher preparation programs at Indiana’s universities, and Daniels quickly signed off on it.