News From Terre Haute, Indiana


July 19, 2013

READERS' FORUM: July 19, 2013

Problems with Daniels’ views

Regarding the revelation of Gov. Mitch Daniels’ emails about Howard Zinn’s book: The problem is not whether Daniels continues to act on those impulses as a university president. It’s that he ever thought that way at all. A university campus is the place for reasoned debate of ideas — all ideas welcome — and not a place where power selects which ideas can be considered.

It’s damning that neither he nor his spokesman would answer questions about what they found so objectionable in Zinn’s book. All they provide is Daniels’ hyperbole (a device that is unacceptable in academic debate) about how it “misstates American history on every page.”

I’ve read “The People’s History of the United States,” by the way. Zinn may make some stretches in some interpretations, but he’s not wrong on “every page.” Schools are designed to take something like that and break it down page by page.

And Professor Peter Wood is just plain wrong. The responsibility lies in each student to learn which ideas are so wrong they should be dismissed. Learn. If Zinn’s view of American history is “truly execrable,” to use Daniels’ own hyperbole, only an idiot could miss it. That in itself is a valuable teaching moment. A review of limited acceptable ideas is not learning. It is indoctrination.

Wood’s comment is particularly interesting coming from a so-called conservative academic. In a political movement that stresses individual responsibility, he’s the one stating it’s appropriate for there to be a limited selection of the correct ideas to be reviewed by the academy. He apparently believes somebody smarter than you needs to review what you can understand and what you can’t. In the one place in our society where it’s OK to advance thought in any direction it takes you, why is Wood so afraid of Zinn?

— Peter C. Ciancone

Terre Haute

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