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December 01, 1982 - Image 4

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1982-12-01

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4

OPINION

The Michigan Daily

Page 4

Wednesday, December 1, 1982

Behind the

scenes with American censors

By Nancy Needham
Many teachers and other Americans-par-
ticularly in the Northeast and Midwest-first
learned there was such a thing as a school book
depository on November 22, 1963, when the
president of the United States was shot by an.
assassin who was hiding in one.
Schoolbook depositories--warehouses for
textbooks-slipped back into, obscurity almost
immediately. But recently, staite adoption, the
textbook selection system the depositories
symbolize, has come to national attention.
THE REASON is censorship. State adoption
of textbooks is a process that some groups-
most recently from the conservative New
Right-seek to manipulate in order to influence
the choice of books used in the nation's
classrooms. Although state adoption occurs in
only 23 states, it can affect textbook choices
everywhere, because books apparently
designed with the big adoption states in mind
are what the rest of the country has to choose
from.
The 23 adoption states are mostly in the South
and West. Typically, local school districts in
these states may not buy (or may not use state
funds to buy) a book that isn't on the state list.
This contrasts with the practices in the so-
called "open territory" states, such as
Michigan, where local school districts are free
to adopt texts as they see fit.
The move to state adoption began a century
ago, when certain state legislators saw a good
political issue in the prices parents had to pay
for their children's textbooks. The idea was

that the state would select a single text for each
subject and contract with the publisher to sup-
ply it statewide at a fixed price over a fixed
period, called an "adoption period."
Depositories scattered around the state would
make the books accessible even in rural areas.
TODAY THE political battles over textbooks
concern not cost but ideology. In the last
decade, textbooks have changed a lot-most
noticeably in the way they portray minorities
and women and present alternative lifestyles.
Partly in reaction to such changes, religious
and cultural conservatives angrily charge that
many textbooks are intentionally designed to
change children's values.
For two such conservatives, Texans Norma
and Mel Gabler, textbooks are a source of "the
present epidemic of promiscuity, unwanted
pregnancies, VD, crime, violence, vandalism,
rebellion, etc." Beliefs like these have turned
the Gablers and other New Righters into
professional textbook critics.
Although textbook critics often make ap-
pearances in local districts, the statewide
adoptions interest them more-for several
reasons. First, the adoption states are home to
many of the conservative groups-Texas to the
Gablers' Education Research Analysts,
Virginia to the Moral Majority.
THEN, WITH state adoption, there's the ob-
vious advantage of statewide impact. And sin-
ce the proceedings are often formalized and
public, there's always the possibility they will
become media events, as they have in Texas.
Some adoption states put books that are up
for adoption on public display. Texas has 20
such regional display centers. Frequently, the

adoption process culminates in a hearing
before a state textbook committee, during
which citizens with complaints about texts can
testify. Or, failing there, they can try to get the
state board of education to overrule the com-
mittee's decision.
Texas-which is the leading state in terms of
money spent on adopted textbooks-doesn't
merely invite public comment. Until this year,
its adoption procedures allowed citizens (as
opposed to publishers) to make only negatire
comments about the textbooks.
THE GABLERS have become famous
because of their annual participation in the
Texas adoption hearings. They have used the
''negative only" provision to make hundreds of
pages of line-by-line objections to parts of
dozens of different books.
For example, in the 1982 hearing they
characterized this discussion question from a
civics textbook-"Should all kinds of
segregation be prevented?"-as an "invasion
of privacy" that "deals with student values and
is inappropriate for the classroom."
Another point in the adoption process where
critics can exercise influence is right at the
beginning, in the state education department's
wording of its announcement to publishers of
an upcoming adoption.
The Texas board of education has required,
at least since 1975, that a text must present
evolution as "only one of several explanations
of the origins of humankind," and as
"theoretical rather than factually verifiable."
Critics have also exerted leverage at the end
of the process, getting state superintendents,
state boards, even governors to reject the

recommendations of the textbook committee.
That was what happened recently to the Web-
ster's New Collegiate Dictionary in Texas,
which was rejected because it defines (and
labels as "vulgar" or "obscene'') common
four-letter words.
Simply adding up the numbers of books kept
off state adoption lists does not take into ac-
count the effect that criticism has on books not
yet written-the problem that some call
"precensorship" on the part of publishers.y
THIS AFFECTS textbooks in use in every
state. The theory-hard to prove but taken
seriously, even by the Gablers-works this
way: The adoption states with the biggest
enrollments (California, Texas, Florida, and
North Carolina) buy massive quantities of
limited numbers of titles. Consequently,
publishers try to create products that will win
adoption in those states. But textbook
development is expensive, so publishers do not
design alternative versions for the rest of the
country.
Accordingly, nobody should have been sur-
prised when, last June, New York City school
officials rejected three biology texts because
they did not give adequate treatment to Dar-
winian theory.
It isn't citizen participation in educational
policy that is at issue here-after all, that's how
America's public schools are run. What con-
cerns teachers is using the narrow criteria of
the few to judge the suitability of textbooks for
the many.
PUBLISHERS who harken to such criteria
shrink their coverage of controversial topics.
Or they try to paper over differences of opinion
with weaseling statements of the "Some-

people-thought-Senator-Joe-McCarthy-was-
right-but-other-people-thought-he-wasn't"
variety.
The problem is that students don't learn
much from information that isn't there.
State adoption should not be blamed for such
assaults on students' intellectual development.
Granted, the process attracts would-be cen-
sors. But some of the most vicious conflicts
over textbooks are occurring in states where
adoption is entirely a local matter.
The real source for the impulse to censor lies
not in any single process, but in a loss of trust in'
the public schools on the part of a minority of
citizens. Since that minority is probably
beyond the reach of a school's public infor-
mation programs, teachers will need to pay
close attention not only to their own textbook
selection systems, but to the process that
determines what those systems will be.
"In the long run, teachers should be more
assertive in influencing the policy decisions for,
selecting textbooks they use in their
classroom," says Sharon Robinson, director of
Instruction and Professional Development fors
the National Education Association. "Teacher,
have the professional judgment to know which
textbooks are best for their students, but they
also need to know how to get that book into their
classrooms.

This
Today.

article was excerpted from NEA

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Stewart

I

Vol. XCIII, No. 68

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board

I0

A nuclear anniversary

THE BOMB.
Two words are all that is necessary
to sum up the collective nightmare of
the 20th century. "The bomb," not a
nuclear reactor or some piece of
nuclear medical technology, is univer-
sally recognized and agonized over as
the symbol of the nuclear age.
To celebrate any anniversary con-
nected with the creation of nuclear
weaponry seems almost morbid, an
exaltation of the ultimate in destruc-
tion. To praise the pioneers of the
nuclear age also seems inappropriate.
They, after all, opened the most
horrible Pandora's box imaginable.
But 40 years ago this week, the mood
was very different when some 42 scien-
tists at the University of Chicago laun-
ched the nuclear age. There, in the
humble setting of an indoor squash
court, they achieved the first con-
trolled nuclear chain reaction-a
prelude to the first atomic weapon.
At that time, the scientists were full
of hope for the constructive potential of
their discovery. And todayin the
energy and technology fields, their
work certainly has had productive
results.
Their enthusiasm for scientific ad-
vancement, to their credit, did not ob-
scure the consequences of their
achievement.Even during their earliest

nuclear experiments, the scientists
held a variety of discussions and
seminars on the moral and
philosophical implications of the
atomic bomb. Eventually several of
them called for an international
demonstration of the bomb instead of
its use in actual warfare. They hoped,
.it seems, that proof of its destructive
potential could shock the world into a
state of permanent peace.
Today the temptation is strong to
bemoan the fact that these scientists
were successful. The victim of the 20th
century nightmare often finds comfort
in ignorance, in a longing for a simpler
time when man didn't know how to
blow himself up.
The simple fact is, however, that
ignorance breeds destruction, not the
weaponry itself. Ignorance has led to
an increasing pile-up of nuclear ar-
senals. Ignorance has spawned the
belief that such weapons can viably be
used and survived in a limited fashion.
As the scientists toasted each other
on their nuclear breakthrough 40 years
ago, they embraced a commitment to
promote the use of their efforts with a
moral purpose. Perhaps this week,
rather than curse the fruits of their
labor, we can commemorate their
moral commitment. And we can
honestly celebrate that these men left
a sane and humane example for us to
follow.

i.

I

I

LETTERS TO THE DAILY:
Study space remains a

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,, is
i,
st ,
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V' J
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'
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To the Daily:
As final exam time ap-
proaches, it seems ironic and un-
fortunate that students on cam-
pus seem more worried about
where to study than what or how
much. Study space is a big
problem at the University.
Attention to this problem
recently has been magnified due
to the proposed removal of the
library vending facilities. The
reasons behind this decision are
justifiable; books and other
resources are being damaged due
to sticky fingers and excess crum-
bs. And libraries should be
research facilities not social
facilities.
However, careful analysis of
-the alternatives provided for
students leaves one confused
about the real issue here. The
issue becomes not libraries, but
general study space. The
libraries and, subsequently, the

for combined study, snack, and
group meeting needs. The
proposed utilization of dorm
cafeterias, classrooms, and
renovations in the UGLi, plus the
new Union study and snacking
areas has not become a reality so
far. The closest we have come is
the opening of the Union, which
does not take place until Septem-
ber 1983 at the earliest. The
result is an uproar in the student
community.
The question now reaches far
beyond coffee or candy. One must
address the issues of security,
especially women's safety.
Students will continue to study in
both the Graduate and Un-
dergraduate libraries for long
periods, especially during finals.
They-as was stated in the report
of the Library Committee of
March 1982-whether serious or
not so serious students, will
remain in the libraries.
With this as a fact, one must

student's reality.
Study space must be inc
Libraries and library coll
must be preserved an
available for those using
Again, suggestions for
native study space must]
sidered. Contrary to sor
ministration opinions, th
cern is a campus problem
library problem. Suggesti
classroom study space, inc
efficiency in the UGLi
space, and possible centra
pus study centers such
Furstenburg attached1
Medical Library mustl
evaluated.
Headl
To the Daily:
Your headline that Uni
blacks are "mistreated"(
says 'U' blacks mistre
Daily. Nov. 18) is mislea

problem
It will take the efforts of
reased. students, administrators, and
ections library staff combined, since it
d kept affects all, to create adequate
them. study environments. We are used
alter- to excellence here. This does in-
be con- clude our libraries. It should in-
me ad- clude our study atmosphere. If
is con- you are cQncerned, we urge you
and a to contact LSA-SG or Dr. Richard
ons for Dougherty, the director of the
reased libraries with your opinions,
study ideas, and suggestions.
al cam- -Tammy Goldman
as the vice-president, LSA-SG
to the Jodi Levey
be re- LSA-SG councilmember
November 29
ine misleading
problems and challenges exist in
versity the area of University recruit-
( "Prof. ment and retention of the black
gated," student, but to say that blacks are
ding, a mistreated is inflammitnrv and

I -aF I WAVIAM4WI I

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