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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - September 28, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta Saturday, S.pt.mb.r 28, 1974 THE LETHERIDGE HERALD-5 Book banning incident erupts in Virginia By Phillip Revzin, staff reporter of the Wall Street Journal CHARLESTON, W.Va. Alice Moore curled up with a few English textbooks one evening last May and, as she continued reading, found herself more and more shocked. The books were about to be approved for use in local elementary and high schools, and Mrs. Moore, a member of the Kanawha County School Board, found that prospect horrifying To her, the books seemed anti-Christian, anti- American, pro-rebellion and subversive to the authority of parents over their children. Disturbed by it all, the thoughtful, intense wife of a fundamentalist minister told friends of what she had read; friends told others, and concern began to mount. Says Mrs. Moore, in retrospect: "I didn't realize what would happen." What happened was plenty. As a more or less direct out- growth of local objections to certain school books, two men have been shot and seriously wounded and another severely beaten. Coal mines for miles around are closed. Work at chemical plants, food warehouses and school-bus depots was disrupted or stopped for three days last week. All the turmoil here boils down to the fact that local residents are demanding that school authorities permanent- ly ban the books they dislike. School officials so far have resisted, although they did agree to a shaky truce that called for certain books to be removed for a month, so they could be reviewed by a newly formed citizens' committee; however, new demonstrations this week left the status of that agreement unclear. In relatively recent times, school-book cases have cropped up in such divergent spots as Strongsville. Ohio; Drake, N.D.; and Ridgefield, Conn. Scores of public libraries in other localities also been book burners' targets. In the Strongsville case, the board of education two years ago banned Joseph Heller's Catch-22 and Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, and Cat's Cradle from use in high-school literature classes. The board banned the books on the basis of alleged profanity at a heated meeting by a 3-to-2 vote on the recommendation of a citizens' textbook com- mittee. After the ban, an emotional, hotly fought school-board election in late 1973 resulted in two relatively liberal members replacing two members who had voted for the ban. Not long thereafter, the board approved use of Claude Brown's Manchild in the Promised Land, and Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The latest board action is being challeng- ed in a court fight by the same group of parents who initiated the ban on the other books. In Drake. N.D., the board of education banned late last year Mr. Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. James Dickey's Deliverance, and a collection of short stories including works by Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck. The books had been intended for use in literature classes and the school library, and the ban was imposed after a sophomore student com- plained that the books were profane. School officials then confiscated student copies of the books and burned about 35 copies of Slaughterhouse Five in the school furnace. The resulting community and press uproar saved the other books from the flames, but the ban stayed in effect. Book banning is almost as old as the art of printing. However, according to the American Library Association, in the past five years, the "number of local censorship cases has grown dramatically." While none of the books involved in recent dispute- comes under obsceni- ty laws, some authorities say 'he trend, already under way, gained steam following the controversial Supreme Court obscenity decision in June 1973 and subsequent decisions that refined the ruling. The court has upheld the rights of local communities to set their own obscenity standards. Re- cent instances of banning have also involved allegedly sexist or racist material, objected to by minority group and feminist leaders.) The trend is particularly worrisome says Irwin Karp. counsel to the Author's League of America: "Book banning is alive and well and has been healthy for the last few years. There is a continu- ing erosion at the grass-roots level of essential First Amendment rights. It's not trivial, crackpot conduct. In certain areas of the country, it's very dangerous because there are no strong forces op- posing it." Authorities are hard put to come up with an explanation of exactly why book banning is on the rise. But once a local dispute gets started, it tends to become a particularly emotional and divisive issue. Among other things, such dis- putes usually encompass a tangle of conflicting rights that involve children, teachers, authors, librarians and school administrators. In almost all cases, the welfare of children is at the heart of the dispute. Kenneth Donelson, an English professor at Arizona State University in Tempe who has studied book banning and written more than 30 ar- ticles on the subject, says most such drives get under way when a parent or two "try to protect their kids from evil or perceived evil." He adds that in the current political and economic climate, people disillusioned with national leadership after Watergate and fed up with rising prices feel helpless and lash out at figures over which they feel they have some control. "They can't fight city hall or Washington, but they can fight teachers and school he says. "They can't fight TV, bookstores or movies, which they think have dirty material, but they can sure fight a teacher." Perhaps nowhere have the issues and potential ramifications of book-banning disputes been drawn more clearly than here in the Charleston vicinity. People hereabouts, by and large, are hardworking coal miners, chemical-plant employees, devoted trade unionists. For the most part, they are also deeply religious Protestants. They believe in parental authority and feel they have a responsiblity to educate their children outside the schools in Christian morality. They want the schools to supplement, or at least not undermine this morality. "We won't tolerate children being taught things against the principles that have kept this country great for 200 declares the Rev. Marvin Horan, a self-ordained Baptist minister and one of the protest leaders. "We can't take a chance on undermining society by teaching children to rebel against God and their country like these books do." Says Mrs. Moore, the schoolboard member: "I'd rather have my phone tapped than have my child's mind tapped." Just what the books say or teach appears to be largely a matter of interpretation. One story often singled out by leaders of the banning move- ment is about a boy who cheats a schoolmate out of a penny. A series of questions following the story reads in part: "Most people think that cheating is wrong, even if it is only to get a penny___Do you think there is ever a time when it might be right? Tell when it is. Tell why you think it is right." Protestors contend that such stories, followed by such questions, undermine respect for the law and encourage dis- cussions of illegal and im- moral actions that shouldn't be discussed or considered in school But school authorities, who contend that parents shouldn't be allowed tc override a decision by professional educators, and many parents view the situa- tion differently. Nellie Wood, a teacher and chairman of the committee that originally selected the books in Kanawha County, says she believes the books are useful for their variety and different points of view. Rather than being un- American and immoral, she says, "I'd call them extreme- ly patriotic because they represent all kinds of Americans." Virgil Matthews, a Charleston councilman-at-large and the father of three schoolchildren, agrees. "They help prepare kids to take on life as it is, which isn't exactly like we want it to he says. Whatever the sentiment, the situation in the Charleston area shows that feelings and emotions on books run deep, can get out of hand and come to involve a tangle of other issues. A brisk autumn ride -t V Photo Bill Groenen Parents oppose educators over books By Vic Gold syndicated commentator WASHINGTON On reflection, the wonder is that the heated textbook controversy dividing Charleston, W. Va., has been so long in coming. Not to Charleston, particularly, but to thousands of'communities across the country where professional educationalist cadres have all but ignored the political and moral sen- sibilities of the people who pay their salaries. In past years there have been other textbook battles between irate parents on one side and school authorities on the other. But none so intense as the one taking place in Charleston, where a citywide strike shut down not only the schools but other community and business facilities. Is the issue there simply academic freedom vs. mob censorship? That, to be sure, is the story offered up by some leftwing observers of the Charleston book battle. Parents who took to the streets protesting the introduction of 330 controver- sial new textbooks into their children's school rooms have been variously depicted as Yahoos and book-burners. There is, however, another side to that story because those West Virginia parents, despite anything you may have heard, aren't really in- sisting on textbooks that teach only flat-world geography. Their objection is to textbook material they believe is obscene and "un-Christian." Now. in the jargon of the educationalist trade, such descriptions are generally set down as "value since definitions of what con- stitutes obscenity and Christianity are apt to vary from person to person and from community to com- munity. What doesn't vary. however, is the attitude taken by leftwing ideologues that some people's "value judgments" e.g., their own are more equal than others' in determining what should or shouldn't be taught in American public schools. Thus the outrage of a sizeable segment of Charleston's white Anglo- Saxon Protestant parents is brushed aside by elitists as be- ing anti-educational and benighted; while a protest against other school texts by groups whose sensibilities and "value judments" are attuned to leftist ideology would be viewed differently. Suppose, for example, that instead of WASP fundamen- talists in Charleston. W. Va.. those picket lines in recent weeks had been formed around an inner city ghetto school board, or one in a New Mexico school district? And what if the protesting parents at those sites were blacks. In- dians or Chicanes, expressing outrage over 350 textbooks which they found offensive to their cultural values? That is, they viewed them as the sort of "un-black." "un-Indian" or "un-Chicano" school material they didn't want their children subjected to, in classrooms? Be assured, there would be no leftwing outcries heard concerning academic freedom vs. mob censorship in those cases. Nor should there be whether parents in protest against an unresponsive educationalist elite happen to be black, red, brown, or fun- damentalist white. For the issue involved in the Charleston textbook battle, you see. has nothing to do with censorship or book-burning. Those are the fright words always thrown up by the elite when their powers and prere- quisites are challenged. Rather, the question posed by those West Virginia coal-mine country fundamentalists is: given the need for free academic inquiry in any genuine educational system, to what extent do the people of a democratic society have a voice in determining how their schools are run? In too many areas of the country the answer given by professional educationalists is that they, and they alone, are the ultimate arbiters in all such matters. Simply stated, the elitists feel that the educa- tion of our young is too impor- tant to be influenced by parents. What has occurred in Charleston then is a massive parental backlash against this set of mind. This isn't Yahooism. however. It's democracy. Let the sons and daughters of the National Education Association take heed: either they learn the difference between the two, or we may expect to see bigger, nastier versions of the Charleston book battle, from ghetto to suburb, in the vears ahead. Book review. Paralysed poetry "Drunk on Wood" by Charles Lilian! (The Sono Press, 92 Drank cm Wood is not an intoxicant Few of Charles LiHard's poems are at inebriating. The reader emerges from the book stone coJd sober. Alcohol is a central image in he book, as an anesthetic, and Lillard too often fails to transcend the numbness of his own imagery. Not that Lillard writes really bad poetry most of his poems are quite solid Solidity however is, by itself, a very uninteresting virtue. In poem after poem the poet's solid craftsmanship and obvious familiarity with his subject matter sit blandly on Ihe page, asking to be taken for good poelry. What is missing is a willingness to take risks, a certain danng shared by most good poets an air- craft The voice By Doug Walker A song on tlic radio an oldie, no doubl prompted me to burst inlo song at Ihc dinner Sable one day "You should have tried out for a part in The Damn Yankees." Elspetfi said "Yeah." said Paul, the part of the OLD baseball fan ;