The event protested Mitch Daniels’ censorship attempts and celebrated Zinn’s works
BY: NICK WORT
Students, faculty and members of the community gathered in front of IU South Bend’s Schurz Library on Tuesday, Nov. 5, for a read-in of author and historian Howard Zinn’s work. The read-in was organized in response to comments made by former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, who attempted to ban Zinn’s work in Indiana classrooms.
“This was really inspired by the discovery that Mitch Daniels, when he was governor, had attacked the use of Howard Zinn’s works in the classroom,” said Paul Mishler, a professor of labor studies at IUSB and organizer of the read-in. “He said we should get it out, that we should get this man out. And I, and a couple other people around the state at Purdue and IUPUI thought that it might be really good to introduce students, and the community to what [Zinn] actually said.”
“[Daniels] sated publicly funded universities should not teach liberal arts at all, and all you should do is vocational training. And I think that that is an attack on all the students here. Even if you are an engineer or in health sciences,” Mishler added. “Being educated is different than just being trained for jobs.”
Mishler and Zinn were friends. The two first met when Zinn spoke at Mishler’s high school. They would later work together while Mishler was in college.
“I started graduate school in the late 70s when he was teaching at Boston University,” Mishler said. “We worked very closely together in what were essentially student activities centered around peace, around intervention in Central America and about supporting labor rights on campus.”
The read-in drew a diverse crowed, with attendees reading and listening throughout the event. Many of those in attendance held strong feelings about Daniel’s attempt to block Zinn’s work from Indiana classrooms.
“I think when people in power wanna tell everyone ‘We know what’s best for you, we know what you should learn. We know what you should be taught, and you shouldn’t learn this and you shouldn’t be taught that,’ I think that that in and of itself is enough to make me want to learn and teach the thing,” said Craig Finlay, a librarian at IUSB and a reader at the event.
“I have strong feelings about censorship and I have strong feelings about spirited and rigorous debate about a book, rather than just squashing it out. So I had to come out and show my support,” said Joe Eggleston, an IUSB student listening at the read-in. “I think it’s the wrong way to go about removing a particular voice from the conversation. There are a lot of ways academics do that, but to just sort of work behind the scenes and to denigrate the man’s work? Zinn was a professional historian and he did it right whether he said things everyone agreed with or not.”
The event functioned as a way to not only oppose Daniels proposed ban, but to also celebrate Zinn’s work.
“My favorite quote from Zinn is: ‘The problem of society is not civil disobedience, the problem is civil obedience.’ [Actual quote: “Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience.”] And I think that that way of turning it and saying ‘look at all of those things that tell you to obey and not to raise questions,’ they’re what’s causing problems,” Mishler said. “It’s the breaking through that, which is creativity, and that’s what brings about a better society.”