West Virginia University is leading the fight against educational censorship with the launch of the Great Textbook War curriculum for area high schools.
The College of Human Resources Office for Global Initiatives and Diversity and the West Virginia Humanities Council will host the Great Textbook War curriculum launch at a reception on Thursday, Nov. 17 at 3:30 p.m. in Allen Hall.
The reception, open to the public, will feature the Great Textbook War traveling exhibit, sponsored by Henry Battle and the Kanawha Valley Historical Society.
“The heightened emotions raised from the controversy makes the Great Textbook War worthy of study,” said Dr. Joy Saab, director of the Office for Global Initiatives and Diversity.
Textbooks incorporating multicultural education were first released in Kanawha County, W.Va., in 1974, and contained topics considered to be controversial. Parents and community members protested the textbook adoption because taxpayers funded the books, resulting in censorship and other severe First Amendment conflicts, and in some cases, threats of violence.
“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,” said producer and narrator Trey Kay in the Great Textbook War documentary.
Through multimedia components, the Great Textbook War curriculum teaches students the history of the controversy surrounding adoption of textbooks and the steps taken to overcome it.
The curriculum features Kay’s radio documentary, including perspectives of those affected: teachers, administrators and parents representing both proponents and opponents of the textbooks. Historian Stan Bumgardner produced Books and Beliefs: The Great Textbook War Story.
Participating schools include Morgantown High School, Grafton High School, John Marshall High School, Wheeling Park High School and Capital High School.
“The cultural war is still alive and well today, as seen in the censorship that occurs when textbooks are sent to companies for sanitization. They go through a wash before begin sent to the schools—scary,” Saab said. “It’s important for teachers to be aware of this censorship and history to help students think critically about what they are reading. The curriculum allows students to draw their own conclusions.”
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CONTACT: Christie Zachary, Human Resources and Education