The Great Textbook War
I heard a great documentary on public (read: socialist) radio tonight. It’s called “The Great Textbook War”. It’s about a controversy in Kanawha County, West Virginia in 1974 about some new school textbooks. You can find the documentary’s download link in the sidebar of their website.
The whole thing sounds eerily contemporary. The one difference is that racism was one of the underlying issues of the 1974 controversy. Teabaggers aside, that is much less of an issue today.
You’ll hear the roots of our modern culture war playing out in microcosm. The textbook war of ’74 turned violent toward the end, with Christians justifying the violence with quotes from the Bible. Sadly, that was also a precursor of what we see today. Extremist fundie violence is rare in this country, but as any dead abortion doctor will tell you, it does still happen.
As for the controversy itself, listen with an open mind. The conservatives make one or two good points. I might agree that maybe the books went just the slightest bit too far. Including the writings of Malcolm X and Eldridge Cleaver, for example, would certainly be appropriate at the college level, and maybe even 11th or 12th grade. It isn’t clear from the documentary which grades included their writings.
Likewise, raising the issue of moral relativism is OK, even desirable, at any of the high school grades, but kids may not be equipped mentally to process such an abstract thought at a younger age. Again, the documentary does not tell us at which grades that issue was raised. (That is one of my few gripes with the documentary.)
Other than these points, I am completely on the side of the “liberal, academic, socialist elites” who tried to shove progress down the throats of a backward county in 1974. And who continue to do the same to a backward country in 2010.