On college campuses, where I have spent most of my life, it is not that hard to gin up faculty outrage when administrators are credibly accused of assaults on “academic integrity.” Mitch Daniels, former governor of Indiana and now president of Purdue University, has been so accused–but not at all credibly–because of some remarks he made a few years ago in an e-mail, while he was governor, about the tired old ideology pedlar Howard Zinn, whose widely used book, A People’s History of the United States, Daniels called “disinformation.”
For a good rundown on the Daniels vs. Zinn flap, see Peter Wood’s account at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Zinn, who died in 2010, has had an undeservedly outsized influence in the teaching of American history, and Daniels was rightly concerned about the use of Zinn’s work in training primary and secondary schoolteachers to teach American history to youngsters.
Now the Chronicle reports that 90 Purdue faculty have signed an open letter addressed to President Daniels, saying the “very legitimacy of academic discourse” has been threatened by Daniels’ expression of a negative opinion of Zinn’s work. Good grief.
But Mitch Daniels can count (he was, after all, once head of the Office of Management and Budget). There are roughly 1,800 faculty at Purdue University, and just 90 of them signed this letter. There are 34 active full-time faculty in the History department, and just 15 of them signed it. There are 17 specialists in one branch or another of American history in that department, and just seven of them signed it. The History department at Purdue appears to be in better shape than one might have guessed, for a major American university these days.
Sleep tight, President Daniels. The tumbril is not arriving for you any time soon.