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Textbook War


The intent of this page is to provide graphic examples of why the parents were upset in 1974 and why parents should still not expose their children (of any age below 18) to public school curriculum.

The image above is from a full page ad placed in Charleston newspapers by the Business and Professional People's Alliance for Better Textbooks on November 14, 1974.

For an elaboration of the anti-Christian and humanistic content, see Chapter 4 of Protester Voices--The Textbook Tea Party.

Because I want my book to be used by students in homeschools and Christian schools, I highly editied the material in my book and referred readers to this page.

WARNING: The following material is not pleasant reading. Much of it is extremely offensive. In some cases I could not bear to post the actual language that is in the book which was (and is) used by Kanawha County students.


A pro-book spokesman, the executive secretary of the West Virginia Council of Churches, claimed that the protesters felt powerless and rejected. He was able, on his own, to prove his form of churchianity when he was questioned by L. W. (Bill) Seaman, one of the protesters serving on the review committee. Mr. Seaman asked the liberal minister if he was offended by the term “f--- you.” The minister replied that “It would depend in what context the words were used.” The pro-book textbook consultants tried to defend the minister by pointing out the term “f--- you” was only in the teacher’s manual. Mr. Seaman pressed the religious man to answer, “What about goddamn, son of a bitch, Christ, and Jesus (as profanity)?” Seaman pointed out that “goddamn” was used 49 times in one story. Once again the Council of Churches official claimed it would depend on the context and, besides, he hadn’t bothered to count the times the word was used. (October 23, 1974 Charleston Gazette)


A good idea of what riled the protesters is found in Chapter 10 of Schools in Crisis: Training for Success or Failure? by Carl Sommer (Advance Publishing, Inc., 1983. 2 nd ed.). Mr. Sommer came to Charleston during the protest to see the books for himself. He wrote:

Under the caption “Talking About Your Own Ideas,” a Communicating series published by D. C. Heath and Company, three objectives are listed for the teacher: “(1) to discuss personal experiences or ideas; (2) to tell or write about an experience or idea; (3) to read what one has written.” The eight year-old children are asked in their textbook the following questions:

1. Most people think that cheating is wrong, even if it is only to get a penny, which is what Shan did. Do you think there is ever a time when it might be right? Tell when it is. Tell why you think it is right, 2. Have you ever cheated or stolen something7 What happened? How did you feel when you did it? How did you feel after you did it? Did you get caught? If so, tell about this too.

Parents object when their eight-year-old children are asked to justifycheating and resent having teachers probe their private lives. In the same book the children are instructed to make their own myth:

There are a lot of puzzling things in our world:

1. Why do we have pain?. . .

One way to make up a myth is to think of a question like one of these. Suppose your question is Why do men have pain? Now, imagine a time when man did not have pain. Pretend that the first men on earth went around without ever feeling pain.

Next imagine that some kind of god walked among men and something happened. Maybe a man did something bad or made a bad mistake. Because of this the god punished men, giving them pain for the rest of their days.

Anyone acquainted with the biblical story of Adam and Eve can see a near perfect correlation. Across the nation millions of homes and thousands of churches hold to the literal account of Adam and Eve. These parents do not want their children to be encouraged “to make up a myth” about a god that tends to undermine their faith. Then the sixth-grade Communicating series mockingly describes a group of religious people as “shuffling Holy Rollers at an all night inspiration.”

In the same book children are taught how to use “standard” and “nonstandard” English. “Rewrite the paragraph below so that it looks like ‘standard’ English to you.” The example presented is the antisocial reaction of a young bully who justifies his stealing: When I was five years old, I was just about the biggest kid in kindergarten. I didn’t take no lip from nobody, not even in first grade. My

mom, she said I just growed and growed like a sunflower. So I guess that’s what give me this view of life I seem to have took. I weren’t mean by nature. It just seem to me that, you know, I can get anything I want just by taking it. Nobody ever stop me.

One of the junior high school books adopted by the school board was a three-act play, Scripts 3, published by Houghton Mifflin Company. It was to be read aloud by 12- and 13-year-old children. The play shows Arthur and Ernie conversing about Clifford Truckston, who was gettingdrafted next month and had got his girl “knocked up.” Clifford was going to “get four other guys to swear she’d put out to them , too, but then he decided he’d better do the honorable thing and get her an abortion.

ARTHUR. ( A great effort to be nonchalant and keep up hispart of the “man of the world” act. ) I’m gonna be really careful from now on!

ERNIE. A guy’s gotta be. (A very short pause.) Did your old man ever take you into the bedroom and give you the old peptalk? About women and diseases and all?

ARTHUR. No, he never.

ERNIE. Mine did. He really did. Only he waited till I was twelve, for Godsake! All I could do to keep a straight face.

The following scene is found in Act Two:

ERNIE. Okay! That’s all you had to say! They would’ve stopped talking about their goddam problems, but you didn’t want them to stop and listen. You were scared they’d hear you!

ARTHUR. ( Turning on him, viciously. ) Get out of here, you sonofabitchl Get out! (He rushes ERNIE, who turns and exits up the steps to the yard with ARTHUR pushing him.) Get out, God damnitl Get OUT!

Here are some additional phrases children will learn in junior high from this approved play: hell, fat old bitch, by God, work your ass off, stupid son of a bitch, and Christ, no .


During the 1974 protest, a local television station allowed Alice Moore to read from one of the books only after broadcasting a statement that the “subject matter might be inappropriate for children (Manzo, Kathleen. “Book Binds” Education Week 12 January 2000: 30). A prime example of why I say that the public schools cannot be redeemed is that in 2000, during the Pandas Battle, I went to a Board meeting to request the Board to adopt a supplementary science book. I was the first speaker and urged the BOE not to censor the book Of Pandas and People. Shortly after me, a very professional looking and well-spoken parent addressed the BOE. (I had received email from this fellow, but had never met him and had not planned any strategy with him.) He began to read from a book which had been assigned to his daughter (a high school junior). Before he completed a paragraph the Board president stopped him because of the sexually explicit material. Board member Betty Jarvis started a discussion about why students were required to read material that could not be read at that meeting (which was televised locally by tape delay). In the discussion, Ms. Jarvis pointed out the BOE was preventing teachers from being exposed to Pandas while allowing students to read material that is highly offensive. The Board rejected Pandas and deferred the obscene book to a committee which meant that nothing would be done about it.

A newspaper article had this to say:

In other business, the board agreed to place a written parental warning on the televised version of a regular school board meeting taped last Thursday, during which a delegation read aloud from the John Irving novel, "A Prayer for Owen Meany."

"I thought we should bleep out the offensive words since children are going to be watching," Luoni said, before conceding that he probably didn't have the votes for such an action.

Luoni halted Nitro parent Brad Liston in mid-reading last week when the text he read began making reference to male genitalia. 

(Daily Mail April 25)

For video of this see “See for Yourself”.

The Board used the same old 1974 tactics to keep the trashy tax-payer funded book and to force the Christian students to be under pressure to find an alternative book (“With similar subject matter that the teacher knew something about.” said Mr. Lister. When informed that his daughter did not have to use the book Mr. Lister reasoned, “You don’t have to work, but it’s a lot easier if you do.” He went on to make this profound statement which was ignored by the Board: “If these words were illustrations we’d all be arrested for distributing pornography to children. One goal of literature is to use the power of words to plant an image in the mind of the reader.” Mr. Lister also revealed that his daughter had been prohibited from singing “Jesus Loves Me” in a Show Choir production!

At this meeting the Board refused to purchase—FOR TEACHERS-- a supplementary (non-religious) book exposing evolutionism! The book was recommended by the officially selected (by the Board) teacher textbook committee.

Why couldn’t the Board have stated that any atheist students who were “offended” by hearing scientific facts disproving Darwinism could select another book? That is not a good example because the atheists already had another book—the textbook. While the majority of students heard censored science the atheists could have gone to a designated area to work for a class or two.

What the Board did at that meeting is absolutely absurd!

The book the Board allowed (A Prayer for Owen Meany) has sex, religion, profanity, inappropriate (including pornographic and even deviant) behavior, and liberal politics from beginning to end. I have read the book, but will use a few comments from a neutral reviewer to make my points.

WARNING : This is not pleasant reading.

Chapter 1

John Wheelwright, the narrator of the story, writes that he will always remember Owen Meany--not because of Owen's loud voice or his tiny body, or even because he was the instrument of John's mother's death, but because Owen Meany is the reason that John believes in God. John describes his history of religious faith, his conversion from Congregationalism to Episcopalianism and from Episcopalianism to Anglicanism. He says that he is not exactly a devout Christian, but he is a regular churchgoer and reads his prayer book often--more often, in fact, than he reads his Bible. He says that when he dies, he will attempt to be buried in New Hampshire next to his mother, though it will be difficult to have his body returned to the United States from Canada, where he now lives. He says that he has a "church-rummage " religious faith--one that needs patching up every Sunday. But he owes the faith he has to Owen Meany… In Sunday school, the teacher, Mrs. Walker, often walks out of the class--ostensibly to leave the students to think about their lessons, though John suspects that she simply needs a smoke… never even knowing who his father was. John's mother occasionally referred to John's father as her "little fling."

Chapter 2

John remembers waterskiing with his cousins on Loveless Lake, and playing King of the Mountain with them on great sawdust piles in Uncle Alfred's lumberyards; but he says that what really made the contests thrilling was the presexual tension he associated with Hester… Hester's only recourse, when she was slightly older, seems to have been "to intimidate every girlfriend either of them ever had and to f--- the brains out of every boy they ever knew."… He remembers being forced to kiss Hester as a penalty for losing games; the first time, they had to tie Hester to the bed, and later, John began losing the game on purpose… They play a game in which Hester hides in the closet of John's grandmother's attic, and the others attempt to find her; the rule is that if Hester can grab the searcher's "doink" before he finds her, she wins. When Owen finds Hester, she tickles him instead of grabbing his penis… John considers the idea of a designated fate--a "special purpose" in life. John remembers a recent day--January 25, 1987--when he thought of Owen Meany while celebrating the Anglican holiday of the conversion of St. Paul. He identifies with the idea of conversion, he says, because Owen Meany converted him… GOD HAS TAKEN YOUR MOTHER. MY HANDS WERE THE INSTRUMENT. GOD HAS TAKEN MY HANDS. I AM GOD'S INSTRUMENT." In other words, Owen was saying that he was appointed by God to carry out a specific purpose…. When Owen and John were seniors at Gravesend Academy in the '60s, Reagan was merely a politician in California, and did not understand anything about the Vietnam War, according to John. Owen, however, did understand, and he and John followed the conduct of the war very carefully. Owen understood everything, and criticized the American presence in Vietnam from the start. By 1971, John had retreated to Canada and applied for Canadian citizenship. Without explaining what he means, he says that it was Owen who enabled him to evade serving in Vietnam

Chapter 3

Later, after Owen's baseball kills John's mother, Owen will become vocal about his belief in predestination, the idea that every action and every person serves a specific purpose and that every deed is fated. He believes that, when he saw the angel in John's mother's room, he disturbed it, and therefore interfered with the scheme of fate. After the baseball kills John's mother, Owen refers to it as "fated," and John realizes that he believed the angel was not a guardian angel--it was the Angel of Death, and he deterred it from its work… John vastly preferred the Congregationalists, whose pastor, Reverend Louis Merrill, was a serious, doubtful, educated man, to the Episcopalians, whose rector, Reverend Dudley Wiggin, was a Bible-thumping ex-pilot… During the party, Hester went into the bushes to pee because she wanted to avoid the long line at the ladies' room, and she handed Owen her panties, which he embarrassedly stuffed into his jacket pocket…. Harry was later killed in Vietnam, and his mother became a war protester in Gravesend… Buzzy Thurston, who reached base on an error before Owen batted, did not attend the funeral. Later, he evaded Vietnam through drug use… As he writes his story, on February 1, 1987, in Toronto, John says that he has come to believe in angels. He says that this belief has not much helped him--he was not even elected to a parish office during the last council session at church, though he has held many offices in the past. He says that he was irritated by the service, too, which emphasized the beatitudes of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. He does not like the new canon, either. But the psalm rang true: "Leave off from wrath, and let go displeasure: / fret not thyself, else shalt thou be moved to do evil."

Chapter 4: The Little Lord Jesus

Over the Christmas holiday, as Owen and John snoop through the empty rooms of vacationing boys, they learn where to look for pornography… In one boy's room, they discover condoms, which Owen gleefully announces are banned by the Catholic Church. They take turns putting one on their "tiny penises," which John sees for Owen as an act of religious rebellion--one more proof that he has escaped the Catholic Church… Writing in 1987, John says that he prefers to go to his current church, Grace Church, for services on the weekdays, when there are no sermons and no families with children. He describes the usual experience of sitting behind a family with children dragged to church against their will… Owen and John hide, and the Brinker-Smiths proceed to have sex gleefully on the dormitory bed, enjoying their mischievous retreat from their children.

Chapter 5

Barb (the preacher’s wife KCP) picks Owen up to carry him to his spot in the manger. She presses him against her breasts, and gives him a kiss on the mouth "for luck"; when she steps away, John can see that Owen has an erection protruding through his swaddling clothes: the Baby Jesus has an erection. John thinks that this was an act of intentional cruelty on the part of Barb Wiggin, teaching Owen the lesson that "someone you hate can give you a hard-on."… Mary Beth Baird, the Virgin Mary, becomes so overwhelmed that she dives onto Owen, who can only shoo her away by goosing her. He directs a contemptuous glare into the audience that quiets the murmuring; but then he sees his parents in the crowd, his mother sobbing incomprehensibly, and is plunged into a rage. He cries out, "WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING HERE?" The Meanys leave… Enraged about President Reagan's nuclear weapons policies, John launched into a diatribe against America and Americans… John writes that the vision of Owen Meany as Christ has replaced the actual Christmas story in his own mind: "a vision of the little Lord Jesus as a born victim, born raw, born bandaged, born angry and accusing; and wrapped so tightly that he could not bend his knees at all."… John is forced to sleep in a room with Germaine (The young maid. KCP), who is frightened and superstitious. Suddenly, and strangely, he finds himself consumed with lust for Germaine, and even thinks about climbing into bed with her. Only eleven years old and unfamiliar with the idea of lust…

Chapter 6

Owen watches a movie about a nun, and gets what he calls "THE SHIVERS"--he despises Catholicism so deeply that nuns frighten him. He and John throw chestnuts at a statue of Mary Magdalene, and they are chased away by nuns, whom Owen calls "PENGUINS."… On the subject of lust, John writes that he regretted not seeing more of Hester during those years; now that Simon and Noah are both at the academy, he had hoped for more frequent visits. Owen reminds John that Hester is his cousin, and says that it is probably best that she is beyond his reach… He begins to smoke Camels, and the boys discuss the breasts of the girls in their grade.. In May of 1987, John writes another diatribe against Ronald Reagan, saying that the president does not care about remaining within the law.

Chapter 7

John frequently interrupts his narrative of 1961 with increasingly hostile attacks on America and the Reagan administration.. His anger consistently makes him think of Vietnam, and he rages at length against that war, mentioning innumerable figures, dates, facts, and references. He remembers how he, Owen, and Hester spent their New Year's Eves from 1962 to 1968, noting during each year how many troops were in Vietnam and how many were killed; every year, Hester passes the stroke of midnight by vomiting after drinking too much.. When Larry Lish is caught buying alcohol with a fake ID supplied by Owen.

Chapter 8

They spend their evenings waterskiing on Loveless Lake, and Noah and Simon set John up on innumerable dates with local girls; despite their help, he is still unable to lose his virginity. Owen and Hester live together in Hester's apartment… He also describes overhearing Katherine's husband refer to him as a "non-practicing homosexual"; he heaps scorn upon the description, but does not directly comment on his own sexuality… By February of 1966, John's own situation seems perilous; he will attend graduate school at the university next year, and will thus be exempt from the draft; but the year after, the graduate deferment rule will end, and he will be eligible to be drafted. Everyone in his life encourages John to take steps to avoid the draft… He gives John a great deal of beer, then reveals his intention to cut off John's right index finger with the diamond-wheel saw used for etching tombstones. Without a trigger finger, John will be ineligible for the draft.

Chapter 9

Hester has actually succeeded in becoming a rock star. Calling herself ‘Hester the Molester"… Hester always tells the girls that John is a virgin. The girls think she is joking, but she is not. John says that he is not a "non-practicing homosexual," but that what happened to him has simply neutered him… John remembers that before Owen died, Hester vowed not to attend his funeral: she told him that she would marry him and follow him anywhere, but that she refused to attend his "f---ing funeral" if he insisted on going to Vietnam… as Mrs. Meany angrily objects in the background--tells John that Owen was not natural; he was, Mr. Meany claims, a virgin birth… John knows at once that the Rev. Merrill is his father… John, numbly disappointed to learn that his father is the spineless Rev. Merrill… The reverend comes outside, sees the dummy in the red dress, and believes that it is Tabby Wheelwright come back from the grave. He falls to his hands and knees, his faith restored… Mrs. Meany's death not long after Owen's--she burned to death when Owen's army memorial flag caught fire in her living room… They spend a few days in a motel, drinking beer by the swimming pool, and meet the trashy family of the deceased warrant sergeant, including his machete-toting half-brother Dick Jarvits, a hulking, fifteen-year-old giant who lives for the day he will be old enough to go to Vietnam.


Now, I will (while editing the profanity) provide some excerpts from the book. In the above SparkNotes and the following transcripts I have not included nearly all of the examples. There is hardly a page that is innocuous.)

WARNING : Although I have edited the profanity, the following contains obscene content.)

Chapter 1

John Wheelwright’s mother is killed by a foul ball during a Little League game.

Chapter 2

The author uses John Wheelwright to quote (three verses) from Jeremiah 1:5-9 while summarizing the other two verses. Then he talks about St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians and quotes a verse from that New Testament book.

Before that there is the part where the parent, at the 2000 Board Meeting, chose to read. The Board President would not allow the parent to complete the following passage.

“Last One Through the House Has to Kiss Hester”; maybe they realized, later, that I began to intentionally lose the game. And what did they make of the time they untied us and Hester said to me, “I felt your hard-on”?
“You did not!” I said.
“I did. It wasn’t much of a hard-on,” she said. (Hester is John’s first cousin and the others—Simon and Noah-- who had to kiss her are her brothers. KCP)

“J----, Hester!” Noah said. “What did you do to him?”
“I didn’t mean to,” came her voice from the dark closet.
“No fair pulling the doink and the balls!” Simon cried, still doubled up on the floor.
“I didn’t mean to,” she repeated sweetly.
“You bitch!” Simon said.
“You’re always rough with me, Simon,” Hester said.
“You can’t be rough with balls and doinks!” Noah said.

Chapter 3

What made Mr. Merrill infinitely more attractive was that he was full of doubt; he expressed our doubt in the most eloquent and sympathetic ways. In his completely lucid and convincing view, the Bible is a book with a troubling plot, but a plot that can be understood: God creates us out of love, but we don’t want God, or we don’t believe in Him, or we pay very poor attention to Him. Nevertheless, God continues to love us—at least, He continues to try to get our attention. Pastor Merrill made religion seem reasonable. And the trick of having faith, he said, was that it was necessary to believe in God without any great or even remotely reassuring evidence that we don’t inhabit a godless universe. (All italics are in the original. KCP)

Chapter 4

“Hardness! Hardness!” Ginger Brinker-Smith had screamed.
“Wetness! Wetness!” Mr. Brinker-Smith had answered her. And bang! Bang! Beat the bedspring on Owen Meany’s head.

Chapter 5

(WARNING: I include the following in order for you to see, without reading the disgusting book, what is now acceptable in Kanawha County Schools. Barb Wiggins is the preacher’s wife. The --- are not in the book, the actual profane/blasphemous words are.)

And I, Joseph—forever standing in the wings—saw what the envious Virgin Mary failed to see. I saw it, and I’m sure Barb Wiggins saw it too—I’m sure it was why she so shamelessly continued to torture him. The Baby J----had an erection; its protrusion was visible in spite of the tightly bound layers of his swaddling clothes.

Chapter 6

“Hester must have f---ed his brains out,” Simon said morosely.

“Hester f---s everybody!”

In his junior year, he’d gotten a town girl pregnant, and his mother—only recently divorced from his father—had skillfully arranged for the girl’s abortion…”

…and Lish’s mother, the divorcee, was a beaaauty and a whorish flirt, I’m sure that some of the faculty lived for the glimpse they might get of her on Parents’ Day; many of the students felt that way about Larry Lish’s mother too.

See the board meeting video for yourself. Public School Obscenity.



The following is an example of blasphemy of the name of God in the book.









Chapter 7
The edition used for these quotes was 2002 pages 406-407.

“J---- F---ing C----t!” said Randy White.

“Down the J---- F---ing C----t stairs!” Headmaster White cried.

“G—d--- J---- F---ing C-------keep that blowtorch away from my face!” we all heard the headmaster say.