Shakespeare and the Sanitization of History at Purdue University

“... woe upon ye, And all such false professors!”“… woe upon ye,
And all such false professors!”

(King Henry VIII, act 3, sc. 1)

In the distant 1940 Bertrand Russell wrote, “Academic freedom in this country is threatened from two sources: the plutocracy and the churches, which endeavor between them to establish an economic and a theological censorship'”

73 years later the strength of the plutocracy has increased, rabid censorship is more confined to the various neo-christian sects while the church of America-the-Exceptional is performing the office of the former theological censorship. Here follows an example.

When Howard Zinn, author of “The People’s History of the United States” died in 2010, Mitch Daniels, then governor of Indiana wrote, “This terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away.” Now President of Purdue University, Daniels has demanded that Zinn’s work be suppressed and removed in all Indiana schools. He said, “It is a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page. Can someone assure me that is not in use anywhere in Indiana? If it is, how do we get rid of it before more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history?”

This is, of course interesting. As for the censorship by the plutocracy, Daniels draws for his position at Purdue the meagerly sum of 450 k$ per year plus benefits, paid vacations, medical, pensions etc. etc. And after just (4) months in office, the trustees have already voted him an extra bonus of 58 k$. Needless to say the trustees were appointed by Daniels. Clearly triumphs of academic leadership.

Other than for his interesting notion of history, Daniels is also known for having fought to establish in Indiana the “right-to-work” law – which is Orwell’s double-speak for prohibition to establish unions.

We know of Gov. Daniels’ email tantrums thanks to the Associated Press, which released the related emails through a Freedom of Information Act request.

On learning of Daniel’s outrage, Scott Jenkins, his education adviser, wrote back to tell him that “A People’s History of the United States” was NOT used in schools but in a class for prospective teachers on social movements at Indiana University.

The president replies, “This crap  (mildly less inelegant synonym of “merde”) should not be accepted for any credit by the state. No student will be better taught because someone sat through this session. Which board has jurisdiction over what counts and what doesn’t?”

In the end, Daniels approved a statewide “cleanup” of what earns credit for professional development: “Go for it. Disqualify propaganda and highlight (if there is any) the more useful offerings” – he said.

For our international readers, Howard Zinn’s “People’s History” is one attempt to cast a more objective light on the philosophy of life displayed by the USA through its collective actions and enterprises.

Until only very recently, the distance of the United States from Europe and from the rest of the world turned history into a legend. Indifference to fact became a kind of mirror of the feelings of the authors who wrote about America – a mirror too of the distance that turned the American continent into a mirage.

“They say – writes, for example, a Belgian in 1782 – in Virginia the members chosen to establish a new government assembled in a peaceful wood, removed from the sight of the people in an enclosure prepared by nature with banks of grass and that in this sylvan spot they deliberated on who should preside over.”

And here is something more heroic but equally silly from a Frenchman with strong echoes of Plutarch and the noble Romans,

“The day when Washington resigned his command in the hall of Congress, a crown set with jewels had been placed on the book of the Constitution. Suddenly Washington seized the crown, broke it and threw the pieces before the assembled people. How petty does the ambitious Caesar seems before this hero of America.”

There is no question about the rights of the American colonists of administering themselves, but the contingent motives have remained obscured to the majority of mankind. Take the case of the famous “tea party”, symbol of the determination of the Americans not to pay the sales tax on tea. What is omitted is telling.

It just so happens that smuggling and contraband was a most flourishing business in America. Tea was among the top items smuggled and  most profitable for the merchants.

But the East India Company was not doing very well in London and had mountains of unsold tea. Whereupon the British decided to reduce the price of tea to such a level that, even after paying the sales tax, the landed price of tea for Americans was lower than the contraband tea. This was a triggering motive for the independence movement. In fact he who put up the first money to form a militia was John Hancock, millionaire heir of Thomas Hancock whose fortune was built on smuggling.

And the spirit of patriotism and unsullied idealism as inscribed in Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence was certainly not displayed during the war. The war itself became a boon for speculators, who shorted the army of essentials to increase the prices and delivered piles of unserviceable goods and even unserviceable weapons. Washington himself wrote, “These murderers of our cause ought to be hunted down as pests of society and the greatest enemies to the happiness of America. I would to God that one of the most atrocious of each state was found on a gallows five times as high as one repaired for Haman (a no-good character of the Old Testament)”.

No punishment was too severe in Washington’s opinion, for “those who prey upon the very vitals and, for the sake of a little dirty pelf (old English for ‘booty’) are putting the rights and liberties of the country the most imminent danger.”

And, according to the chronicles of the times, the speculators made a dazzling display of their wealth. They rode in fine carriages, lived in great houses, and in general “they behaved as if the war was being fought primarily for their benefit”.

Relatively few people, even in America, know about the Shay rebellion, started when the farmers who had fought during the war were deprived of their farms by the banks, again for the benefit of speculators.

And these are just hints of a much more massive corruption totally unreported in canonically approved history books.

Yet, the almost religious mystique about America has survived the challenges of almost 200 years of history, notwithstanding the endless wars of aggression, the massacres, the genocides, the atomic bombs, the millions killed. They are non-events.

Said the marvelous dean of Purdue to the Associated Press, “We must not falsely teach American history in our schools,” implying that the only true history is to be found in the corporate approved textbooks.

In fact, the version of U.S. history taught in the textbooks produced by giant corporations is anything but “true.” The corporate textbooks hide the breadth of U.S. military and economic interventions throughout the world; they ignore the roots of today’s environmental crises; they refuse to explore the origins of the vast wealth inequality in the United States. Furthermore, the textbooks neglect the role of social movements throughout U.S. history, focusing instead on famous individuals. History as a tabloid of dead (and often questionable) celebrities. No nurturing of an activist sensibility—no recognition that if we want the world to be better, then it’s up to us to make it better.

A year before he died Zinn said, “We’ve never had our injustices rectified from the top, from the president or Congress, or the Supreme Court, no matter what we learned in junior high school about how we have three branches of government, and we have checks and balances, and what a lovely system. No. The changes, important changes that we’ve had in history, have not come from those three branches of government. They have reacted to social movements.”

Again Howard Zinn, “Should we tell students that Columbus, whom they have been told was a great hero, mutilated Indians and kidnapped them and killed them in pursuit of gold? Should we tell people that Theodore Roosevelt, who is held up as one of our great presidents, was really a warmonger who loved military exploits and who congratulated an American general who committed a massacre in the Philippines?  And I think the answer is: We should be honest with young people; we should not deceive them. We should be honest about the history of our country. And we should be not only taking down the traditional heroes like Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt, but we should be giving young people an alternate set of heroes.”

How remote these thoughts are from the current mindset of the academic-military-industrial-political establishment can be promptly deduced by the massive lies that their sundry operators utter with complete impunity and actually, with an ostensive sense of pride. Of which the underpaid dean of Purdue University is but one symbol.

In the play. Katherine is angry at the Cardinals Wolsey and Campeius.

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