It was recently disclosed by the Associated Press that the president of Purdue University, Mitch Daniels, sought to ban Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” from being taught in classes K-12 in Indiana while he was Governor of Indiana.
“In an email exchange with top Indiana education officials, Daniels wrote, “This terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away.” After he described “A People’s History” as a “truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page,” Daniels asked: “Can someone assure me that it 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?” -Amy Goodman, Democracy Now
The People’s History was a rare attempt to permit voices normally excluded from the story, so it included excerpts from Native Americans, Black Americans, women, labor leaders and socialists.
Daniels has continuued to try to discredit Zinn calling him “anti-American” and “a fraud.” More than 90 faculty members from aPurdue University protested:
“…To charge that he ‘purposely falsified American history’ … reflects a misunderstanding of the nature of academic discussion,” according to the professors. “Scholarly debates and disagreements create ferment that leavens the study of history. Without vigorous disagreements about the meaning of the American experience, the field would not have moved in such important directions as the study of women’s history, African American history, labor history, the history of sexuality, and so on.”
Whatever the flaws of “People’s History” it was a rare attempt to listen to step outside the “official” version many of us were taught that framed history as the story of white European males and their discovery and conquest of the the rest of the world. To call Zinn’s effort to lift up other voices “un-American” may reveal an unwillingness to listen to the victims of the American Empire or to ever even once look them in the face. To call Zinn a “fraud” may reveal simply that he has violated the most sacred if unspoken tenet of education within an empire, history is to be written by the conquerors.