Curriculum

Reminiscing About W.Va.'s Textbook Wars

August 26, 2009 1 min read

A friend passed along this story in the Charleston Gazette about the upcoming 35th anniversary of the textbook wars in West Virginia’s Kanawha County school district. The conflict over the district’s choice of textbooks was so contentious it led to violence, which made it on to the national news and was eventually chronicled in a book, The Storm in the Mountains.

One of the organizers of the long and drawn out protests against the textbooks held a reunion last weekend, which drew about 40 people, according to news reports.

The organizers have a Web site with a guest book where participants (and critics) have added comments about the controversy.

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a decade since I went to Charleston to cover the 25th anniversary of those battles, and their lasting impact on teachers and school leaders, and, indirectly, a generation of students. Here’s some of that EdWeek story:

There are no visible scars from the bomb that ripped through a darkened classroom at Midway Elementary School here a quarter-century ago. Evidence of the dynamite and pipe bombs left in and around several other Kanawha County schools, and of the bullets that hit school buses and police cars, is also gone. The threatening phone calls, too, are all part of the painful past for the educators targeted by protesters in one of the largest and most violent textbook controversies in the nation's history. In fact, just about everything in this 30,000-student district appears to have gotten back to normal years ago. But as the community learned when friends and relations turned against each other in the conflict over what and how students should be taught, not everything is as it appears. Though the name-calling has ceased and the fear subsided, all is not forgotten.

During my visit to the district, and discussions with educators, school leaders, and some of the protesters, I was taken aback by how fresh and raw the memories were for many involved, even a quarter-century after the fact.

From the Gazette story, and some of the comments on the group’s Web site, it sounds like some of those emotions are still running high.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.

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