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Remembering the 1974 Kanawha County Textbook Controversy
May 12, 2006 7:21 AM   Subscribe

Culture Wars: School buses are riddled with sniper bullets, gas lines are cut, windshields broken, and bomb threats disrupt schools daily. Teachers and custodians must remove nails and broken glass from their school parking lots each morning, and several school buildings have been damaged by early morning firebombs and dynamite. One minister has prayed publicly for the deaths of three board members. 'It was simply overwhelming.' Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. (via)
posted by Otis (27 comments total)

 
God damn. Can we just make a country called "Stupidia" and let these morons have their own sovereign state? Kind of like Israel, but for idiots. Having these people as countrymen depresses me.
posted by quite unimportant at 8:02 AM on May 12, 2006


Yes, of course. Fight intolerance with intolerance! Why haven't we thought of that before?
posted by muddgirl at 8:17 AM on May 12, 2006


Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

But this was a fundamentalist, racist revolt against moderate institutions. Today the situation is very much reversed of course, so bring on the repeat I say.
posted by beno at 8:19 AM on May 12, 2006


> Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Half truth. The other half is, those who can remember the past are doomed to repeat it anyway.
posted by jfuller at 8:23 AM on May 12, 2006


I'm confused - they objected to the Illiad? It's not godless - there are gods running all over the place in that thing. The gods are the problem - starting wars, messing everything up.
posted by jb at 8:25 AM on May 12, 2006


It's not really clear from the article or the list of books, nor a quick Google/Wikipedia skim, what the problem with the books actually was. Were they just littered with the usual PC stuff - illustrations featuring a happy multi-ethnic gang of kids, etc. - or was there something specifically 'shocking' about them? I'm having trouble imagining what a textbook 'unduly favouring blacks' might involve...
posted by jack_mo at 8:27 AM on May 12, 2006


It's not really clear from the article or the list of books, nor a quick Google/Wikipedia skim, what the problem with the books actually was.

from deep in the pdf:

----
Throughout June 1974 Moore and supporters from the Christian fundamentalist community toured the County distributing posters and pamphlets .... Petitions were circulated asking that textbooks be excluded which:

“Demean, encourage scepticism, or foster disbelief in the institutions of the United States of America and in Western civilization. We submit that among these institutions are the following:

• The family unit emerges from the marriage of man and woman;
• Belief in a Supernatural Being, or a power beyond ourselves, or a power beyond our comprehension;
• The political system set forth in the Constitution of the United States of America. The economic system commonly referred to as free enterprise where the exchange of goods and services is governed by the forces of supply and demand rather than a central governmental authority;
• Respect for the laws of the Nation, the State, and its subdivisions and for the judicial system which administers those laws;
• The history and heritage of this nation as the record of one of the noblest civilizations that has existed;
• Respect for the property of others;
• Advocate, suggest, or imply that traditional rules governing the grammar and vocabulary of the English language are not a proper and worthwhile subject for academic pursuit and do not, in fact, constitute the means by which well-educated people communicate most effectively.”
----

BTW, regarding that last point: WTF?
posted by beno at 8:39 AM on May 12, 2006


Yes, of course. Fight intolerance with intolerance! Why haven't we thought of that before?
I hate to state the obvious, but anybody who firebombs a school over a textbook deserves not one drop of tolerence.
posted by Skwirl at 8:44 AM on May 12, 2006


Advocate, suggest, or imply that traditional rules governing the grammar and vocabulary of the English language are not a proper and worthwhile subject for academic pursuit and do not, in fact, constitute the means by which well-educated people communicate most effectively.”
----

BTW, regarding that last point: WTF?
posted by beno at 11:39 AM EST on May 12


beno,
There is some additional background here that is well worth reading. This passage helps give that point some context:

Moore objected to a particular lesson that asked students to rewrite a paragraph using a “New England dialect” featured in a reading sample that contained “dat” instead of “that.” She complained that “English is being watered down”... She saw the teaching of dialect as antithetical to endorsing “standard American speech,” which she did not feign to define. She then announced with authority that the “NAACP opposes this approach,” ostensibly because it encourages the type of language, black vernacular – or “ghetto dialect,” as she called it on another occasion -- which presumably precludes the advancement of people of color. Contrary to Moore’s claim, the local chapter of the NAACP was not aligned with her opposition to the books or their approach. From the beginning, the NAACP saw the textbook protest as a racist effort. In addition to attending subsequent school board meetings, no doubt in response to Moore’s speaking on their behalf, members of the NAACP took action against the protesters on three occasions throughout the controversy.
posted by Otis at 9:03 AM on May 12, 2006


Grammar Nazis and traditional Nazis, COMBINED!
posted by Artw at 9:06 AM on May 12, 2006


Funny, because "dat" is actually Dutch... (as am I)
posted by beno at 9:23 AM on May 12, 2006


Well, it is well known that oppresed indiginous people will often be forced to not use their native languages. It is also well-recognized how the control of language has been a crucial factor in the rise of fascism.

So it might be that indignation over teaching "improper" grammar is a sheath or way of framing an attempt to control language at a higher level. Non-approved ideas could be cast as meaningless or non-sensical, the semantics could be tied to the syntax of the language to the degree where, as in 1984, it is impossible for some people to even form thoughts that do not conform to the approved production rules.

For example, what would it be like to live in a society where the concept of "transsexuality" or "reproductive rights" cannot be formed from the other pieces of language. Certain conceptual barriers or boundaries must be broken down for the components to be combinable in the new way. ("Reproductive rights? Reproduction and rights have nothing to do with each other.")

Even in casual conversation, people often try to nail down "the" definition of a word or phrase; more often than not, this is an attempt to control the frame of the conversation.

I don't think I described this very well, but hopefully you get the gist.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:31 AM on May 12, 2006


Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Hence the tragedy of the ill-positioned rake on the amnesiac's doorstep.
posted by RokkitNite at 9:56 AM on May 12, 2006


Very interesting. Good post.
posted by StarForce5 at 10:14 AM on May 12, 2006


It had to be done:

Metafilter: Kind of like Israel, but for idiots.

As for the article? Fuck those people. You can be sure I'm never going to spend my tourist dollar in Kanawha County!

(Not that they'd want my multiethnic ass anyway.)
posted by papakwanz at 10:21 AM on May 12, 2006


I suppose all manner of atrocities are possible when you really believe you're fighting a just war against evil.

I'm still amazed that 30 million Evangelicals don't come out of church each Sunday and immediately set about burning down the gay book stores and running the atheists and fags out of town on a rail.
posted by wfrgms at 10:25 AM on May 12, 2006


I'm still amazed that 30 million Evangelicals don't come out of church each Sunday and immediately set about burning down the gay book stores and running the atheists and fags out of town on a rail.

Perhaps your perception of Evangelicals is not entirely accurate.
posted by DWRoelands at 10:33 AM on May 12, 2006


This is really interesting. Thanks, Otis.

I love how these people are all about respecting authority until they disagree with the authority, then out come the pipe bombs.

I also find it very ironic that people from West Virginia object to students being taught about dialect.
posted by 912 Greens at 10:59 AM on May 12, 2006


All of this over nothing. Now if these people and their descendants could get as riled up about something that matters, we might have a country again.

"Can we just make a country called 'Stupidia' and let these morons have their own sovereign state?"
Are you volunteering? Because I think it's pretty well established that attitudes are as important as individuals. Persons are not stupid. People are stupid. Like when they make sweeping generalizations in order to conform to the local idea of cool?

"Kind of like Israel, but for idiots."
No comment.
(That's a joke, son, I said that's a joke, son. I don't actually believe all religious folks are idiots, as that'd be the same offense I was indicting qi for above. I think their beliefs are stupid, but I also recognize that that's just my own attitude, and not fact.)

Some would argue that those who dwell on/in the past are condemned to repeat it. Is there a more recent version of this controversy that provoked this post? I didn't read the pdf, I wholeheartedly admit.
posted by Eideteker at 11:13 AM on May 12, 2006


Perhaps your perception of Evangelicals is not entirely accurate.

Speaking as a former Evangelical, I can attest that the gay-hate is there*, but Evangelicals desire personal affluence, comfort and "security" enough that they'd never commit spontanteous violence.** Now, passing laws that have the same effect as the above is something they'd all love to do, but one can't rush out after church and do that. One must plan and exercise patience for 30 years or so to see that happpen.



*your average educated Evangelical will insist that it's not hate, but compassion for those poor misled gays that motivates them, but then one of my grandfathers believed that segregation was really in the best interests of black people.

**These desires are also, I opine, why Evangelicals are rarely good Christians.

posted by eustacescrubb at 11:49 AM on May 12, 2006


Everytime I hear of this kind of criticism for schools, I wonder what they object to specifically. What else in those texts did they object to? Surely, one lesson in New England dialects is not enough to warrant a bombing.
posted by clockworkjoe at 11:58 AM on May 12, 2006


The PDF states that one preacher advocated murdering families that wouldn't go along with the boycott.

Madness.
posted by delmoi at 2:48 PM on May 12, 2006


Yes, of course. Fight intolerance with intolerance! Why haven't we thought of that before?

How would you rather we fight it? With acquiescence or indifference?

The only reason the civil rights movement of the 1960s was a success was precisely because those leading the charge were tirelessly intolerant of injustice and intolerance.
posted by psmealey at 3:16 PM on May 12, 2006


"How would you rather we fight it? With acquiescence or indifference?"

Dammit, if only I'd paid attention to that movie about Ghandi.

ps, I think that you are using a different definition of intolerance. muddgirl is talking about not wanting to understand that your enemy is really your brother. You are talking about accepting the reality around you as a foregone conclusion and therefore refusing to fight. Don't get wrapped up in a particular word choice. As you say: "The only reason the civil rights movement of the 1960s was a success was precisely because those leading the charge were tirelessly intolerant of injustice and intolerance." They were intolerant of the injustice and intolerance, not of the individuals.
posted by Eideteker at 7:55 PM on May 12, 2006


My enemy is not my brother, he may be a member of the same species as I am, or even the same nation-state as I am, but that does not make him less my enemy. You do not succeed by whimping out and just trying to get along. Neither Ghandi nor Martin Luther King Jr. advocated that approach, they fought, and they fought persistently and without letup.

I think the worst problem with many of my fellow liberals today is the bizarre attitude that somehow you must tolerate and accept evil in order to be a tolerant and accepting person. You don't. That belief is simply wrong and could result in Onion stories like this becoming less parody and more prophecy.

I'm a free speech fanatic, and as such categorically do not advocate the banning of the speech of my enemies. But when you tell me that I shouldn't even be speaking out against them, but simply trying to understand them as my brothers, you've slipped into the realm of loser liberalism.

The "They were intolerant of the injustice and intolerance, not of the individuals" line, BTW, sounds exactly like a loser liberal version of the bigot's line about hating the sin but loving the sinner. You can't. If the individual is intolerant, or an agent of injustice, I am intolerant of him. Example: I will not associate with racists. If I discover that a person is racist I am utterly intolerant of that individual, I refuse to have anything to do with him and I will do my best to undermine his objectives, including his personal objectives. Why? Because he will be doing everything in his power to undermine *my* objectives, including *my* personal objectives (which include having a happy marriage with my wife who happens to be black, there's a personal objective that the evil members of our society would like to prevent me from fullfilling). He isn't my brother, he's an enemy and while turning an enemy into a friend is an excellent way of winning and I will certainly try it, I also accept the reality that he is my enemy, that I won't necessarially be able to turn him into a friend, and I will seek to win via other methods as well.

Intolerance of racists is an excellent way of stopping racism. Today if someone publically advocates racism he usually discovers that people act in an intolerant manner towards him (even if its limited to glares and mockery). Soon he'll stop publically advocating racism simply to keep people from expressing their displeasure with him as an individual. It might not make him less a racist, but it does prevent him from spreading his memes. I'd prefer him to stop being evil himself, I'll take stopping him from attempting to spread evil if the first isn't an option.

I am a liberal, but I am not a loser liberal. I intend to win and you don't do that by not fighting the INDIVIDUALS who are evil.

Injustice and intolerance cannot be combated in the abstract because they have no physical existence. They only exist in a form which can be combated when they are manifested by individuals. Therefore any effective fight against injustice and intolerance is a fight against the individuals who are human agents of injustice and intolerance. The attitude that we must tolerate intolerance is why the enemy is winning. The end result of the campaign by the forces of injustice and intolerance in America will be the sort of prison camps that have been seen in all places where injustice and intolerance win out. Some on the side of evil today are advocting such camps (Michelle Malkin, for example, or most of the people on the "Free" Republic). If you don't stand up and fight the individuals who are proposing such things they will win. But I do hope that as you're dragged off to a camp you can understand that the people running the camp are your brothers.
posted by sotonohito at 3:26 AM on May 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


After a while and cooling down a bit.

Perhaps I'm a bit harsh in the last paragraph. But again, perhaps not. There is no denying that right this second there is an active group in America which seeks to make dessent illegal. Mike Van Winkle a spokesperson for the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center [1] said "You can make an easy kind of a link that, if you have a protest group protesting a war where the cause that's being fought against is international terrorism, you might have terrorism at that [protest]. You can almost argue that a protest against that is a terrorist act."

If they win there probably won't be camps. That's too symbolic these days. They'll just use normal prisons, military prisons for those who are simply "detained" rather than given even a mock trial.

Maybe I'm being paranoid, but then I look at what people like Van Winkle are saying. I look at Coulter claim that liberalism is rooted in treason and an irrational hatred of America. I notice that Michelle Malkin has made a name for herself by writing a book defending prison camps for Japanese citizens during WWII. I see all this and I wonder if I'm being paranoid, or rational.

I do know this, and its the one point from my earlier post I won't retreat from. You don't win by not fighting, and you can't fight abstracts. If you doesn't oppose the individual spewing intolerance and injustice, but just rail about intolerance and injustice in the abstract, you will lose.

I also think that the phrase "loser liberal" has a nice ring to it, and I intend to keep using it to describe my fellows who refuse to fight.

[1] Which is a genuine state agency, if you live in California your tax dollars pay this fruitcake's salary.
posted by sotonohito at 2:57 PM on May 13, 2006


sotonohito, you might want to pick up the most recent copy of Harper's. It has a pretty essay in it by Kevin Baker, that exmplains how the right wing (in various nations/cultures) has relied on on a "they-stabbed-us-in-the-back" mythology time and again to consolidate its power. It speaks to a lot of the points that you've raised. Somewhat depressing but pretty dead-on accurate.
posted by psmealey at 11:57 AM on May 14, 2006


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