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Textbook War

Books and Bombs (Hillocks Hits Some Homeruns)

By Karl Priest December 14, 2011

A scholar who made some astute observations in his study of the Great Textbook War made the following comments in a published paper.

Even the KKK showed up, but several months later—after the main action was complete. (635)

According to board of education statistics released in December, 65.6 percent of the parents of elementary school children denied permission to use the D. C. Heath series. the protesters claim that the board fudged the figures—that the real mass of refusals was closer to 83 percent. (636)

(Referring to the conclusion of the NEA panel over the conflict being between “rurals”-a derogatory term—and “urbans”—those “acclimated to modern ideas”) Simple arithmetic, however, indicates the fallacy of that analysis. (637) Clearly the urban parents represent well over half the opposition to the books. (638)

(Referring to the NEA panel’s devotion to the racism-65 examples—in the protester review committee’s list of objections to the book) Why the NEA panel should concentrate on 65 objections and exclude nearly 1,500 from consideration is, at best, difficult to explain. (638)

(Referring to the NEA panel’s claim the “extreme right-wing organizations ” had been present from the beginning of the protest) But the first representative of an outside group did not appear on the scene until September 26, four and one-half months after the protest began and after the school boycott and the miners’ strike were well under way. (638-639)

It is a conflict between diametrically opposed beliefs about the nature of truth and human behavior. (639)

Sometimes the deprecations of Christianity which the protesters point out are explicit. More often they are implicit and, therefore, even more dangerous. (He goes on to elaborate for five pages.) (642)

Perhaps the most important, though least well-articulated, objections had to do with what the protesters saw as pervasive gloom in the texts. (He goes on to elaborate for three pages.) 647)

But they (protesters) do not insist that the doctrine and arguments of fundamental Christianity be taught, or even alluded to, in the schools. (651)

It may be that to avoid such situations , and I think they should be avoided, we will have to abandon the public schools as we know them. In their place might stand a variety of schools reflecting real differences in their philosophical stances and educational methods. In the best of all possible worlds, parents and students would carefully examine the philosophies and methods of each school and select the one most appropriate to their values. Such a utopian, free-market, situation might even have the effect of improving the standard of instruction in the schools. (652)

(Note 7) On Novemeber 26, 1976, I spoke on this subject at the annual meeting of the National Council of Teachers of English in Chicago. For several weeks prior to my talk, Scott, Foresman, one of the publishers whose texts were involved in the protest, had been negotiating with me to join them in a revision of their American Reads series. They had invited me to attend a series of meetings in November 28-30, to prepare for helping with the revision. Six hours after the talk, I received a message from the vice-president for editing that I need not attend the meetings. I had used a Scott, Foresman text to illustrate the kinds of textbook material that the protesters were angry about. “You did what you wanted with your audience,” he said. “You made them think that perhaps the protesters were right.” (653)

Hillocks, George, Jr. “Books and Bombs: Ideological conflict and the Schools—a Case Study of the Kanawha County Book Protest.” School Review. University of Chicago, 1978. 632-654.