Change Agents

Somewhat surprisingly, Mel and Norma Gabler, evangelical Christians who have gained national recognition for their efforts in textbook monitoring (including being featured on “60 Minutes”), credit feminists with the greatest success in changing texts over the past ten years. In 1975 alone, the National Organization for Women obtained 1,651 generic alterations in elementary spellers and math books for Texas, alterations such as changing “mother will bake a cake” to “father will bake a cake.”

However, the Gablers—and others within the conservative camp—are equally quick to point out that their own efforts represent the “silent” 75 percent or more of all Americans who, according to pollster George Gallup, hold to traditional moral values. “It is the publishers and educational bureaucrats who are out of line with the beliefs of the majority,” Mel Gabler says.

Statewide efforts directed toward getting publishers “back in line” understandably have had the most far-reaching impact on text makeup and selection. According to a 1980 survey on censorship practices sponsored by the Association of American Publishers (AAP), the American Library Association (ALA), and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), the statewide adoption of textbooks and other institutional materials in 22 of the 50 states is of great importance not only because it directly affects the range of educational materials used in the “adoption” states themselves, but also because it exerts a powerful influence on the materials that will be available in the 28 “open” states.

Heavily populated states such as Texas and Califormia have, as major purchasers of textbooks, the economic power to influence text development. School publishers ...

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