Banned Books Week: The Great Textbook War Lecture

Marshall University Libraries and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of West Virginia have teamed up to celebrate Banned Books Week along with Native West Virginian, Trey Kay to present his documentary podcast “The Great Text Book War”.

The Kanawha County Textbook Controversy was a religiously influenced educational protest that took place in West Virginia in 1974. The protest sparked the banning of books throughout the entire United States.

In 1974, the English Language Arts Textbook Committee of Kanawha County recommended 325 new textbooks to be integrated into the counties curriculum, many Conservative-Christian parents of the area were unhappy with the content within the books.

In front of over 1000 local residents, the Kanawha County School Board voted to approve the list of books that would be made available for teachers to use in their curriculums in the upcoming school year.

Many Conservative community members called on the community to protest the Liberal curriculum stating that their children should not be subjected to the outrageous teachings in the textbooks. These protests quickly became unruly and violent, many school buildings, school busses and homes of children still attending school were attacked with bombs, gunfire and even stoned.

Host and producer of the Podcast Us and Them, Trey Kay, spoke about the topic and his journey to find answers of why the issue was so important to the Conservative-Christians through his documentary “The Great Textbook War”.

“One of the reasons we bring programs like this to Marshall is so that we can broaden people’s perspectives and enlighten students who might not be exposed to this information other wise.”

— Trey Kay

According to Kay, the controversy came from the fact that local parents and community leaders, the Conservative-Christians, were not going to let outside influences choose the material for the curriculum their students would be learning.

“The textbook controversy was very important during its time because, I think, that it had a big impact on how it is that we in America chose what it is that we teach our students,” Kay said.

Kay said it is important to understand the culture wars on both side of the issue that sparked a national debate from West Virginia

“We live in a big world where there are a lot of people who hold views and values different than we do and we see it right now, everyday, in the culture wars,” Kay said. “I don’t know that this event is significant other than the fact it is just another example of how the culture wars have been playing out in this country.”

Assistant Vice President for IT: Online Learning & Libraries, Monica Brooks, spoke about the importance of bringing this subject to the attention of Marshall University Students.

“One of the reasons we bring programs like this to Marshall is so that we can broaden people’s perspectives and enlighten students who might not be exposed to this information other wise,” Brooks said.

Campus’ libraries provide all genres and level of controversial topics to students to ensure their need for their individual education and topics with in their major are being met and material is being adequately provided.

“We do not censor, we do add materials to the collection that some people might find offensive because they may be pertinent to support curriculum or research needs in a psychology class or a political science class or a health related class,” Brooks said.

AP teacher at Riverside High School, Steve Shamblin, spoke on his personal battle with the banned book issue in Kanawha County showing that even today many parents still have a problem with the material that is being taught in the current K-12 curriculum.

The full Documentary, “The Great Textbook War,” is available as a Podcast on Kay’s website.

Kelsie Lively can be contacted at [email protected]