Can YOU Pick the Right Decade?

I guess I should see a doctor. Reading the news from Highland Park, Texas, I had a dizzying sensation of whirling around in time, not sure if it was 2014 or 1974. The Dallas-area controversy over school readings sounded so similar to one that happened forty years ago, I’ve come up with a reader challenge: Can you put the quotations below in the right decade?

Here’s some background: As I describe in my upcoming book, in 1974 Kanawha County, West Virginia was roiled by a ferocious controversy over a new set of language-arts textbooks. Conservative protesters worried that the books had an anti-American tone. They worried that the books promoted a vicious sexuality, an angry rebelliousness, and an unhealthy sense of anti-authoritarianism. Until the books were removed, parents boycotted the region’s public schools. It got ugly. Buildings were firebombed, cars and school buses were attacked, and two people were shot.

From Trey Kay, "The Great Textbook War."

From Trey Kay, “The Great Textbook War.”

This year, as the New York Times reports, an eerily similar protest took off in Highland Park, Texas. In that fancy Dallas suburb, a short list of books were pulled from school shelves. Parents had complained that the books promoted a precocious deviant sexuality. After counter-protests, the district’s superintendent put the books back in schools.

So here’s the challenge: Can you guess the right decade for the quotations below?  Each quotation comes from a conservative challenge to school textbooks.  And the bigger challenge: Can you figure out if this means we are trapped in a never-ending cycle of educational culture wars?

QUOTATION 1: The books include “seduction, rape, child pedophilia, whether oral sex is sex, premarital sex as normative, reincarnation, or that those in authority over them approve of foul language.”[1]

QUOTATION 2: “I found this book to be crass, vulgar, and indecent for students.”[2]

QUOTATION 3: Offensive textbooks are “negative, racist, impulsive, and in some cases right-down vulgar.”[3]

QUOTATION 3: “The book introduces ideas . . . such as beastiality [sic], and sexual penetration by an object, among others.”[4]

QUOTATION 4: “In all of these books . . . I’ve seen many references to God and to Christianity . . . and every time it’s been derogatory.” These books “ridicule Christianity again and again.”[5]

QUOTATION 5: “A child’s formal education should expose him to a broad spectrum of views, but explicit and vulgar writings are not warranted.”[6]

QUOTATION 6: One objectionable book “seeks to frighten children of authority figures, asks children to criticize their parents and invasion of privacy is almost commonplace throughout.”[7]

QUOTATION 7: The offensive books “dwell at length on the sexual aspects of human relationships in such an explicit way as to encourage promiscuity.”[8]

How did you do?  Could you place the conservative protests in the right decade?  Without cheating?

More important, what does it say about our continuing battles over proper education that these parent protests sound so similar?


[1] From the NYT article, 2014

[2] From conservative committee member minority report, 2014

[3] June 13, 1974: conservative protester speaking at school board meeting in Kanawha County.

[4] From conservative committee member minority report, 2014

[5] Conservative leader Alice Moore, speaking at school board meeting, June 27, 1974.

[6] From conservative parent protest website in Highland Park, 2014

[7] Judith Casto, “3 basic Kanawha book objections evident,” [sic no caps] The Herald Advertiser [Huntington, WV], November 24, 1974, 41, 44.

[8] Elmer Fike, “Textbook Controversy in Perspective,” Elmer’s Tune, n.d. [fall 1974].


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