Zinn not basic source material
Monday, July 22, 2013 11:00 AM
To the editor:
I read with interest the lead stories in yesterday's (July 17, 2013) Madison Courier and today's (July 18, 2013) Madison Courier. Both were about Mitch Daniel's supposed attempt to purge from Indiana institutions of higher learning use of "A People's History of the United States" written by Howard Zinn.
That certainly brought back memories of the 60's and the anti-war movement. But I wondered if the AP correspondent, Tom LoBianco, had read Zinn's book or even skimmed a review of the work. Howard Zinn is to historical scholarship as Adolph Hitler was to political autobiography. Zinn's "A People's History of the United States and Hitler's "Mein Kampf" might be of some interest in studying the political climate of an era but for either to used as basic source material for serious study would be beyond belief.
I grew up in the 60's. I graduated from MCHS in 1961, received B.A. in American History from Purdue University in 1965, and received M.A. in American History from Indiana University in 1969. I operated a bookstore in Madison from 1999 to 2007 and sold Zinn's book and Hitler's book during those years to my customers. So I have some knowledge and background in the topic.
While I do not believe in censorship but I do believe that we should not use such books as basic source material. If used to flesh out an area, use them only with strict warning labels as to the bias of the author(s). Furthermore, I do believe that the state has a part to play in the operation of State Universities/Colleges whether they be Indiana University, Purdue University, Ball State University or Ivy Tech. Not so in private Universities/Colleges such as Notre Dame, Harvard, Yale, or Hanover College. Let the private institutions answer to their trustees and other officials. But the state sponsored institutions are just that "creatures" of the State in which they reside.
There is an old saying, "if you take the King's shilling, you become the King's man". So if you do not want the hand of government having a say in what you teach, do not teach in a government school. You have a say but not the final say. You can move your platform elsewhere and do whatever "elsewhere" will allow.
Richard V. Cook