What Johnny Shouldn`t Read: Textbook Censorship in America

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9780300057096: What Johnny Shouldn`t Read: Textbook Censorship in America
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In this lucid, disturbing, and provocative book, Joan Delfattore offers a behind-the-scenes view of the ways in which special-interest groups influence the content of textbooks used in public and private schools throughout the country.
Efforts to censor elementary and high school textbooks have proliferated in the past decade. Most challenges have come from ultraconservative activists who oppose evolution, racial and ethnic equality, nontraditional gender roles, pacifism, and a host of other issues that contradict their religious, political, or social views. Other protests originate with ultraliberal activists whose goal is to eliminate all negative or traditional descriptions of racial, ethnic, religious, or gender groups, without regard for accuracy or historical context.
DelFattore focuses on recent federal lawsuits involving attempts to censor or ban biology, geology, history, home economics, literature, psychology, reading, and social studies textbooks. She vividly re-creates the story behind each lawsuit, describing how politically sophisticated national organizations turn local controversies into nationally publicized court cases. She also discusses how both ultraliberal and ultraconservative groups in Texas and California pressure their state Boards of Education to demand that sections of textbooks be eliminated or rewritten as a condition of selling the books in those states.
Because California and Texas are such important markets, says DelFattore, publishers almost always make the required changes in the books, which are then sold nationwide. As a result, the content of American textbooks is heavily influenced by political and economic forces as well as by educational considerations.
DelFattore's investigation has profound implications not only for education but also for freedom of thought in the larger society. Her book will be mandatory reading for parents, teachers, school administrators, lawyers, librarians, and other concerned citizens.

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About the Author:

Joan DelFattore is Professor of English at the University of Delaware.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A frightening look at the pressures brought to bear on textbook publishers to mollify special interests by modifying schoolbooks. DelFattore (English/Univ. of Delaware) addresses the assault on the content of textbooks--and of supplementary literature like Huckleberry Finn--from the right and the left. Particularly notable are the attacks from fundamentalist Christians, who not only continue to challenge evolution but who bring to court such arguments as the one that being nice to animals could bring about the end of the world--which certainly puts most of Disney's fairy tales on the condemned list. DelFattore reviews in illuminating detail court battles in Tennessee, Florida, and elsewhere aimed at eliminating or radically altering textbooks and classic literature used in schools. Among the offenders: Chaucer, Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin, Emily Bront‰, and William Faulkner. Although courts frequently rule against protesting parents who challenge educators' choice of textbooks, often the textbook publishers have already scurried back to the page proofs and begun cleaning up ``offensive'' entries. Texas and California are the two states with the financial muscle--because of the number of textbooks they buy- -virtually to dictate the content and tone of some nationally distributed textbooks. And more liberal California isn't off the hook in this discussion--for instance, its practice of softening or eliminating discussions of past racist behavior and racist language distorts history, says the author. A disturbing report on who's actually influencing what children read in school, suggesting that parents, teachers, and administrators take a closer look at how schoolbooks are chosen-- and tampered with. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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DelFattore, Joan
Published by Yale University Press (1992)
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