The author of the series of books that helped teach 20 million American children how to read died last month at age 82. And although few of the students who studied her books knew her name--Elizabeth Rider Montgomery Julesberg--most children of the 1940's, 50's, and 60's knew all too well her central characters--Dick, Jane, Sally, and Spot.
In an interview a few years ago, Ms. Julesberg said she began writing the pre-primers and primers when she was a 1st-grade teacher in Los Angeles in 1940. According to The Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Wash., the author said she was "horrified at the available reading books. I knew nothing about writing, but I knew children needed books they could get interested in, not those dull things they handed out."
The result of Ms. Julesberg's interest in improving readers was the Dick and Jane series, which were taught to an estimated 20 million students.
It is almost impossible to determine how many copies of the readers were sold over the decades, says Richard Morgan, president of Scott, Foresman, the series' publisher, but his characterization of the series suggests its influence: "It taught generations to read."
Mel Gabler, the Longview, Tex., fundamentalist Christian who is a longtime textbook critic, has charged that a study that faults high-school biology textbooks for failing to adequately address the theory of evolution is "unscientific, undemocratic, self-serving, and false."
In a printed response to the study, which was conducted by People for the American Way, the civil-liberties group founded by the television producer Norman Lear, Mr. Gabler also termed the study biased. "William Mayer co-authored that report," he said. "It rated Houghton-Mifflin's textbook Biological Science first in its category. Mayer directed the writing of this book. How could the report be unbiased?"
Mr. Gabler, who, with his wife, Norma, frequently testifies on textbooks before the Texas state board, termed evolution a "sacred cow" and noted that "if evolution is scientific, textbooks should give scientific evidence against it as well as for it, like they do for other scientific theories. But they don't. Evolution gets special treatment."
Once again, Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit issue has been the target of censorship, this time by a public-school superintendent.
Kenneth Roetzel, superintendent of the Danube, Minn., public schools, wrote a letter to the magazine to protest its inclusion of 30 pages of semi-clad women.
"For the first time in my years as an administrator of public-school systems, I have been forced to censor an item in the library," Mr. Roetzel wrote in a letter published in the magazine's March 4 issue. "I removed your Feb. 11 issue from the shelves because the swimsuit feature is offensive, indecent, and chauvinistic."
Mr. Roetzel went on to say that the "usually fine" sports magazine had "stooped to the moral depths of Playboy and Penthouse." This is the 21st year the magazine has published the swimsuit feature.
The National Coalition Against Censorship's clearinghouse on school book-banning litigation has published a survey of re-cent court cases titled Books on Trial.
"The banning of books, magazines, and films from public schools has become an issue of increasing importance," the editors write in the introduction. "Censorship controversies have erupted in schools and communities across the country, and, while a decade ago almost no case law existed, numerous court suits have been filed in recent years, culminating in the Supreme Court decision in Board of Education, Island Trees v. Pico."
The 24-page booklet explains the Pico case, in which the High Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for a school board to remove books from school libraries "simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books," according to the publication. It also provides summaries of four current cases and 16 previous cases. And it lists the names of books that have been banned in schools across the country and the names of lawyers who have been and are involved in book-banning cases.
For information on receiving copies of the booklet, which sells for $5, write to ncac, 132 West 43rd St., New York, N.Y. 10036.
To promote the use of science fiction in elementary and secondary classes, Teachers College at Columbia University is offering a three-part seminar series beginning this month for teachers, librarians, parents, science-fiction buffs, and others.
"For many years, science fiction has been thought of as a nonliterary form," said Kay Vandergrift, associate director of the Milbank Memorial Library and director of the series. "Because of its origins, science fiction has not really gotten the serious attention I think it now deserves."
But the science fiction of today involves more than just laser guns, interstellar rocketships, and cosmic escapades, according to the release. "It's a more philosophical genre that is winning a spot on educators' bookshelves as a valuable form of reading, especially for young people."
The program, titled "Tuned to the Universe: Science Fiction for Young People," will examine the history and nature of science fiction as a form of modern myth, and will address the impact of science and technology on human life.
The series, to be held on Saturdays in New York City, costs $125. Registration information is available from the Office of Continuing Education at Teachers College, 525 West 120th St., New York, N.Y. 10027; (212) 678-3065.
The Music Educators National Conference has begun publishing a new quarterly tabloid called Soundpost. The publication is designed to serve as a "bulletin board of information" about music education nationwide, according to its premiere issue.
The newspaper is intended to serve as a forum for representatives of state and division organizations and related arts groups "so that all of us may better understand both the breadth and ultimate unity of our purpose," according to Mary Ann Cameron, director of communications.
The first issue featured information on m.e.n.c.'s national executive board and constitution, the establishment of a music educators' hall of fame, and an arts-in-education bill that has passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. It also included a calendar section and information on forthcoming conferences and programs.
For subscription information, write Soundpost, c/o m.e.n.c., 1902 Association Dr., Reston, Va. 22091.--ab