Textbooks

The Great Textbook War

Nov 21, 2018

In 1974, a fierce controversy erupted over some newly adopted school textbooks in Kanawha County, West Virginia. School buildings were hit by dynamite and Molotov cocktails, buses were riddled with bullets, journalists were beaten and surrounding coal mines were shut down by protesting miners. Textbook supporters thought they would introduce students to new ideas about literature and multi-culturalism. Opponents felt the books undermined traditional American values.

 

Kanawha Textbook War
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On September 3, 2974, Kanawha County schools opened amid high tensions. Months earlier, school board member Alice Moore had objected to the content of new language arts books the county was adopting. She felt that many were anti-religious or anti-American. Fueled by the efforts of conservative ministers, an opposition movement to the books grew rapidly, particularly in rural parts of Kanawha County. Despite petitions bearing 12,000 signatures and public condemnation of the books by 27 ministers on the grounds of immorality and indecency, the board approved most of the books.

In this episode, I dig into one of my favorite culture war subjects: the battles in Texas over education.

For years, I’ve had a fascination with the fights Texans have had over education curriculum and textbooks.  This interest started with my research of the 1974 Kanawha County textbook controversy. 

When researching the events in Kanawha, I saw that a Texas couple named Mel and Norma Gabler came to Charleston to lend support to the textbook protesters.  At that point, the Gablers – a Mom and Pop team from Longview, TX – had more than a decade of experience of performing intensive reviews of public school textbooks.  Overtime, the couple would have a huge impact on what got into `– not just in Texas, but around the country.   

Trey Kay / Us & Them

  Texas students will be back in school soon and they’re going crack open some brand new social studies textbooks.  The books are the result of fierce fights over what kids should learn in school. Lots of American school districts struggle with this question, but nobody fights like Texans.

Trey & Alice

May 1, 2015

A blue state secular liberal and a red state Christian conservative have an unlikely friendship

From West Virginia Public Broadcasting, this is "Us & Them" the podcast where we tell stories from America's cultural divides.

The Great Textbook War

May 1, 2015

What should children learn in school? It's a question that's stirred debate for decades, and in 1974, it led to violent protests in West Virginia. People planted bombs in schools, shot at buses, and shut down coal mines. This radio documentary was honored with Peabody, Murrow and DuPont/Columbia awards. 

From West Virginia Public Broadcasting, this is "Us & Them" the podcast where we tell stories from America's cultural divides.

New radio documentary details curriculum battles in Texas

Oct 29, 2013

A new radio documentary from Trey Kay (producer of “The Great Textbook War”) delves into the culture war battles over public school curriculum content in Texas. Listen to The Long Game: Texas’ Ongoing Battle for the Direction of the Classroom on Thursday, Nov. 7 at 9 p.m. on West Virginia Public Radio.

The Great Textbook War

Oct 17, 2013
The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Charleston native Trey Kay examines the 1974 textbook controversy in the radio documentary, “The Great Textbook War.”

In 1974, Kanawha County was the first battleground in the American culture wars. Controversy erupted over newly-adopted school textbooks. School buildings were hit by dynamite and Molotov cocktails, buses were riddled with bullets, journalists were beaten and surrounding coal mines were shut down by protesting miners.

Textbook opponents believed the books were teaching their children to question their authority, traditional values and the existence of God.