Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Culture War In The Hoosier State

Apparently while he was Governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels worked hard to try and suppress what he termed liberal "propaganda" at public universities in the Hoosier State. According to the Huffington Post:
Emails obtained by The Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act request show Daniels requested that historian and anti-war activist Howard Zinn's writings be banned from classrooms and asked for a "cleanup" of college courses. In another exchange, the Republican talks about cutting funding for a program run by a local university professor who was one of his sharpest critics.

To be sure I think that Howard Zinn was a good writer and his famous "A Peoples History of the United States" is a classic unconventional look at American history through the lense of class struggle. While I don't agree with its main thesis that class struggle is the defining characteristic of American history, I think Zinn's point that class struggle did exist is important, especially considering how traditionally trends like class struggle along with things like racism or mass violence have been glossed over in most history curricula.

The remarkable thing here is how a major figure in the Republican Party, indeed a candidate for the presidency, seems to think reading this book would surely destroy the vulnerable minds of America's college students. Should we also ban the writings of Lenin, Hitler and Mao? Certainly some people read those in college too. Daniels seems to think that reading stuff he doesn't agree with is itself a dangerous act. As he put it "We must not falsely teach American history in our schools." The term "false history" is an is the key here. After all, while Zinn's career is controversial, I've never heard of any factual criticisms of what his books contain. And even if Daniels doesn't know about the Ludlow Massacre or the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898 (the only coup d'etat in American history) that doesn't mean they didn't happened. "False history" is when we pretend that these things didn't happen, which is how American history has traditionally been taught.

Personally I think this type of historical censorship is only really understandable through the context of an ever expanding culture war. That is the mindset of the traditional culture war issues of Molly Ivins' "three G's of Texas politics: God, Gays and Guns" is expanding to cover new issues, in this case college curriculum.

No comments:

Post a Comment