Conservative cry for censorship should be rejected

Published 8:30 pm Sunday, August 11, 2013

Dear Editor:

Recently Rich Lowry’s (Aug 1st “A course in our History Courses”) opinion piece ran in The Daily Leader. I hope to challenge its basic thesis, that some material should be restricted, also known as censored, in the classroom of state-funded universities because the current state leadership disagrees with what they see as its meaning.

Mr. Lowry does a nice job of giving us a conservative book review for Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.”

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What he fails to do is to fully justify why in the United States of America we should censor books based on political views. Zinn’s work has been challenged in the academic sphere by historians and that it is still seen as

controversial by many is not new idea.

But Mr. Lowry misses the point. The point of higher education is to challenge students’ ideas as means of expanding their perspectives beyond that with which they started, be they 18-year-old freshmen straight out of private academy from a small town or non-traditional students returning to school that grew up in a urban area. By exposing students to challenging materials they sharpen the student’s critical thinking ability, a key part of the education process.

In Mr. Lowry’s defense of the governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels’, decision to use his office as means to restrict information sources that he doesn’t politically agree with, Mr. Lowery does a disservice to the concept of the Marketplace of Ideas, which we in the United States have often used as means of validating ideas and arguments.

Mr. Lowery seems to think that academic historians are robots spewing forth radical leftist ideas as means of indoctrination … a view obviously shared by Gov. Daniels. Yet, in the academic sphere, history is nearly always taught from historiographical manner with all ideas criticized and picked apart.

What I find so puzzling is how a newspaper can run an opinion piece, without a counter argument, that makes the case for state censorship of books by arguing that a particular book is being used to create an idea whose goal is the indoctrination of a target audience?

Do the editors of The Daily Leader not see the hypocrisy in this? I’ll leave by asking one final question, how much longer will it be if we continue down the path of justifying censorship on political ideology before we are instructed by conservative governors, opinion writhers and newspaper editors to bring certain books, tracts or pamphlets that they find fault with to the town book burning?

John Hansen

Minneapolis, Minn.

BHS Class of 1996