Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

July 28, 2013

MARK HEINIG: Strange days, changing leadership in Hoosierland

Will Pence, Daniels survive transition and be effective?

Kokomo Tribune

---- — What an unu-sual time in Indiana! Despite a huge Republican election victory, our current governor and his predecessor both face difficulties. Although neither has yet demonstrated credibility as a leader in his new role, Mike Pence may be closer to achieving it as governor than Mitch Daniels is as Purdue University’s new president.

One of Pence’s first proposals was a tax cut. Because Republicans control the Legislature, it’s surprising he only got about half the amount he requested. Now he worries about how Ivy Tech uses its state funding and demands the city of Gary submit a plan to reduce violence before he sends the state police to help control the violence occurring there right now!

To relieve Pence’s anxiety he should realize many Ivy Tech students are nontraditional. They are older, have jobs or hope to get them, and often support families. I have taught nontraditional students. They are very different from high school students.

One important difference is maturity. Nontraditional students aren’t adolescents. They’re adults. They are highly motivated, have clear goals and work hard to achieve them. It doesn’t matter if they need more time to earn a degree or if they ever earn one at all. It only matters that they leave college with knowledge and skills that improve their employment opportunities.

A diploma is merely a piece of paper. It may help you get a job, but keeping it depends upon your knowledge, skills and work ethic. Whenever I interviewed for a new job, the interviewer was more interested in my past job performance than my college transcript.

Interviewers at other colleges have similar interests. I did admissions work for one in Kentucky. Employers were eager to hire our students, and they even offered some of them immediate employment at excellent wages. Those students often left before graduating. Dropping out of college to accept a good job offer is success, not failure! I can’t prove Indiana employers make similar offers, but why wouldn’t they?

The governor should fret about Gary. Twenty-nine homicides since the first of the year! If that continues, Gary will have fifteen more this year than last year. Gary citizens find no reassurance in the governor’s promise of state police help after the city develops a violence response plan. Whether there’s a plan or not, a 9mm bullet can kill you. A good public safety plan starts with enough police officers to stop that bullet before it’s fired!

Mitch Daniels hasn’t plopped his behind in the president’s chair at Purdue long enough to warm it up, but he’s already in hot water! Critics accuse him of opposing academic freedom. They also ask whether he should have accepted the job after appointing most of those who hired him.

Daniels was a successful governor with obvious political expertise. However, leading a university is different than leading a state. Can he adapt? I hope so, but he must demonstrate it. You don’t need to watch too many clips of Daniels confronting critics to realize compromise and consensus-building aren’t his greatest strengths.

His criticism of Howard Zinn’s history text seems unwarranted. Zinn published “A People’s History of the United States” in 1980. Zinn continued writing until he died in 2010. Am I the only history teacher who remembers David Muzzey? He taught history and wrote textbooks at Columbia University in the early 20th century. Most American high schools once used his books, but he died long ago. Nobody reads them now except historiographers, (people who study how history is written). In a few years, Zinn and his work will also fade into oblivion.

Daniels condemns Zinn’s publications because he was very liberal. That is precisely why we need them. Our young people must learn to compare opposing ideas and form their own opinions. When I coached debate, that’s why I made my debaters argue both sides of the question. If I still taught history, I might ask students to read and compare excerpts from Zinn and conservatives like Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen, authors of “A Patriot’s History of the United States”.

You can suppress a book, but you can’t suppress the ideas in the book.

Gov. Pence and President Daniels are both “rookies” in their new jobs. Let’s hope they will survive the transition and become effective in their new roles.

Mark Heinig Jr. of Kokomo is a retired Indiana principal and teacher. Contact him at markjr1708@gmail.com.