We suspect that Howard Zinn would be humored by the current contretemps involving e-mails sent by Mitch Daniels, former governor of Indiana. The Associated Press reported that Daniels, while in office, sent e-mails to a state education official seeking assurance that Zinn’s “truly execrable, antifactual piece of disinformation” was “not in use” in Indiana classrooms. Zinn, a longtime Boston University professor who died in 2010, wrote the best-selling “People’s History of the United States,” a book much loved by the political left but not so much by the right. After the AP story ran, Daniels, who’s now president of Purdue University, posted a statement on the university’s website saying that he had “infringed on no one’s academic freedom and proposed absolutely no censorship of any person or viewpoint.” Scholars, however, were not appeased, even some who aren’t inclined to agree with Zinn. The American Historical Association released a statement denouncing “the spirit and intent” of the e-mails and an open letter signed by more than 90 Purdue professors criticized Daniels’s comments, saying, “Whatever their political stripe, most experts in the field of US history do not take issue with Howard Zinn’s facts, even when they do take issue with his conclusions.” Likewise, Georgetown professor Michael Kazin, who is no fan of Zinn’s work, posted a statement saying Daniels “should be roundly condemned for his attempts to stop students from reading Zinn’s big book and for calling Zinn a liar.” Meanwhile, Zinn’s publisher HarperCollins said the kerfuffle has been good for business, telling The New York Times that sales of the e-book doubled in the week following the AP story.
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