Whose America?  Culture Wars in the Public Schools


By Jonathan Zimmerman

Harvard University Press, Cambridge 2002


Introduction: Beyond Dayton and Chicago

            In 1928 Walter Lippmann in American Inquisitors noted the Scopes trial in Dayton and attacks in Chicago on attacked Charles Beard’s work. 

            Chicago represents our progressive inclusion of more and more Americans in the grand national story.  On this side a compromise was reached, by including more and more.  But no one could challenge American ideals of progress towards more liberty.  Local control also allowed freedom that satiated demands for inclusion. 

            Dayton represents the struggle over religion in the public schools.  Local control again came to the rescue.  In the early 1960s the Supreme Court banned organized prayer and Bible reading and upset this tact of mollifying potential conflict.  Religious education campaigns blended with anti-sex education campaigns and the hope to restore morality. 

            After the 1980s the Christians went to the strategy of asking for equal time as an oppressed minority.  On this front easy compromise was not possible as a common language between the sides was lacking. 

            Overall the history wars are overplayed and the culture wars are underplayed.  

            Furthermore, the infusion of “diversity” into America’s textbooks has actually delayed rather than promoted the healthy dialogue a democracy requires. 



            Thompson, Chicago’s mayor, said the public schools taught pro-British propaganda.  His attack led to more ethnic inclusion in the textbooks.  Books that challenged America’s bigger themes rarely gained a foothold.  Harold Rugg’s social studies texts of the 40s emphasized economic inequality and were met with great protest.  The compromise on this front stopped short of allowing blacks to be positively portrayed.

            P. 10 Schools across the globe teach the glories of nationhood.  But truly creating an informed, critical populace would come from allowing our children to develop their own interpretations. 


Chapter One --- Ethnicity and the History Wars

            P. 13 Horace Kallen saw two alternatives.  One was conformity via the “Kultur Klux Klan” and the other was “Cultural Pluralism” a term he coined in 1924 to celebrate “variations of racial groups”

            At that time the 100% Americanism and Immigration Reform were happening and Charles and Mary Beard’s economic interpretation of the founding fathers was being attacked as treasonous. 

            Dewey said the “American, is himself a hyphenated character”

            Minority groups, however, did not like the economic interpretations.  Any diminution of America’s grand national story eroded their contribution to something great.  America good and England bad interpretations kept inadvertent bolstering of their contemporary control of Ireland and Palestine at bay.  They did not support radical interpretations of our Revolution. 

            While most ethnic groups struggled for a positive depiction, blacks fought active prejudice in the books. 


            ---New History and its Critics---

            Muzzey’s 1911 text said that there were two opinions  as to colonial rights and British oppression.  By 1925 the same chapter said our rights were against their invasion. 

The Battle of Bunker Hill went from one sentence to two pages. 

            By 1923 at least twenty-one legislatures were considering measures to regulate the content of the ‘new’ history textbooks.   Mayor Bill Thompson of Chicago’s was the 1927 conclusion. 

            In WW I a slightly pro-British sentiment crept in.  Beard’s economic interpretation could have helped relations between us and our former masters.  But willy-nilly changing of curriculum based on current affairs, it was said, would set a bad precedent.  The Beards themselves wrote a U.S. History book that went light on the economic interpretation.

            They syllogism ran – any censure of the Founding Fathers weakened the Revolution, weakening the Revolution made England seem better, elevating the English belittled America’s other ethnicities.     

            P. 21 The “new historians” were equated, by ethnic groups, with the KKK.  Assimilation cannot be synonymous with Anglicization. 

            The Irish Race Convention said that thirteen signers of the Dec of Independence had been Irish.  After the Irish free state was established their activism declined.  German-Americans, however, smarting from the WW I attacks became more vocal.  All fought all, though thought all white folk could agree on their hatred for England.  Blacks and Indians were still excluded.

            As the 1920s wore on increasing numbers of Protestant Nativists supported the “new” history as a way of stemming immigrants’ influence.  Bigots backed the critical reading to shut them out. 


            --- Cracks in the Coalition ---

            P. 25 Books downgrading England and flattering ethnic groups sickened William Morris.  The British and the historians were both ignored.  Did they need to be anti-British to be American it was asked.  Progressives wanted an immaculate Revolution to bash industrialists with.  Industrialists would be happier to muddy equality.  So ethnics and labor unions joined.  The “new” historian  Willis Mason West devoted many pages to labor leaders. 

            Cultural pluralism was used to reinforce ideological conformity.  Non-black folks got themselves inserted into the books.  The Revolution was glorious.


Chapter Two --- Struggles over Race and Sectionalism

            P. 32 In 1932 the NAACP launched attacks on book’s anti-Negro bias.  The South, meanwhile, complained that the books maligned them. 

            Southerners called for sectional books.  No such book splitting was suggested for the ethnic/Anglo conflicts.  Whose History?” they asked. 

            The 1898 war helped heal the North South divide.  Southerners conceded that secession was unconstitutional and that slavery was wrong.  But its evils were exaggerated.  Northerners acceded to this and attacks on Reconstruction as a compromise. 

Blacks and white confederate groups declined the compromise.  Blacks made their own books and Southerners get “lily white” editions. 

            There were three differences.  One the white editions were widely used.  Two, blacks wrapped themselves in the scientific history mantle and the southerners did cultural relativism.  Three, women were actively leading the southern historical revisionism into the 1940s. 


            ---Neo-Confederate Challenge---

            The United Daughters of the Confederacy led the assault on balanced texts.  They wouldn’t stomach “we thought we were right”, they were, and their children would learn that. 

            P 37 At the helm stood Mildred Lewis Rutherford.  Rutherford noted that Lincoln used foul language and once denied the divinity of Christ.  He was a bad role model for children.  Jefferson Davis never stood for coarse jokes. 

            They championed essay contests on how happy negroes were during slavery.  They asked why the New England negro lovers wouldn’t leave them alone, knowing, as they did, that the Negroes are an inferior Race of people. 

            P. 41 In the early thirties they got two unlikely allies in the Beards.  They wanted the Civil War turned into an economic clash, not a moral one. 


            --- The Struggle for Negro History ---

            Next to Du Bois, Carter G. Woodson was the best-known scholar of black history.  He was against black historians who claimed white folk (Christ, Socrates?) were black.  These folks were not, like himself, scientifically trained. 

            In 1926 Woodson created Negro History Week.  His Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) got black schools across the South to hold pageants, speeches and artwork commemorating notable blacks. 

            He started writing textbooks like The Negro in Our History.  He did elementary and college level texts.  Before any child received, however, a black-oriented text, white school officials would have to approve it.  Across the South, contrary to what he would think, white boards praised his books.  Prices were lowered to get them within the range of Negro affordability.  Local white boards approved of Black History Week too. 

            P. 46 a survey in 1933 showed that 50 of 174 black high schools offered black history electives.  Atlanta made it compulsive for graduation.   

            Woodson was frustrated, though, that black students did not want a black history course.  He told the ASNLH that they suffered from an inferiority complex.  How could  a physician assist a patient who declined the cure?  Irish and German groups also rejected separate texts, but blacks did it more. 

            Woodson placed blame on black instructors who believe that nothing should be said about blacks. 

            Up north the NAACP they instead resolved to change the “normal” textbooks by getting rid of anti-negro propaganda in school textbooks.  A pamphlet on this said the words “Nigger” and “Savage” should be taken out! 

            Du Bois voiced strong skepticism about this approach.  He gradually turned against the NAACP’s dedication to racial integration, particularly in public schools, he also doubted whether “integrated” textbooks could temper white racism. 

            Woodson complained that many of the black history books being published were more about Africa than America.  Claims were and are still made that all civilization comes from black folks and that they discovered America.  Woodson continued to argue for a more scientific history.  He said such works bore an ugly resemblance to white racism. 

            Marcus Garvey, meanwhile, said that blacks should construct a history every bit as racialist as the society they inhabited.  “Scientific” history is flawed as all history is written with prejudices, likes and dislikes.  The white man’s history is his inspiration.  Black folks needed to do the same.  Here Garvey echoed the UDC.


Chapter Three --- Social Studies Wars in New Deal America

            Harold Rugg’s impassioned texts were popular for most of the 1930s, but came under attack from patriotic and business groups near the end of the war.  But he thought that he, like the “new” historians, Muzzey and Beard, might survive the attacks and thrive.

            P. 56 Rugg and Becker were blasted for “class-based”, “socialist” views of the Constitution, industrialization, and especially the Great Depression.  Critics said it was all like a campaign brief for FDR.   

            Sokolsky led some of the attack saying he had the right to remove his child from any school that taught that the Supreme Court was a tool of the rich. 

            Whereas earlier battles of this sort were about interpretations of the Revolution, the new ones encompassed the nation’s entire social, economic, and political culture – its “way of life” – and the role of free enterprise within it.  It reignited the battle over popular control.  It was also different in that it excluded discussions of race and ethnicity. 

            --- From Ethnicity to Economics ---

            The late 1920s bore little hint of the shift towards economics.    The pro-British bias is what caught folks eye.  The modern attacks on capitalism as the source of all woes, at the expense of discussing the benefits, could lead the children into the hands of the bolshevist agitators. 

            One attacker, Campbell, said the books suggested that capitalism could be improved.   He said the issue was not whether the statements in the books were true or not.  The issue was whether or not they should be taught to kids.   “The schools of New York are interested in historical accuracy, but they are far more interested in Americanization.” 

            Americanization was being defined, not by ethnicity, but by a belief in capitalism.  The opposite of American was communist.  The battle over communism did not enter the history wars until it lost its Nativist cast of anti European immigrant. 

            During these years the hunt for red instructors also started.  More than twenty states created laws requiring teachers to take loyalty oaths.  Congress did the same for Washington D.C. educators. 

            Felix Frankfurter and Beard backed Becker and Rugg.  Beard wrote that Becker was not a communist but had a duty to present it factually so that students would develop the capacity to judge it.  But one textbook writer, Hill, in defending FDR’s court packing, said folks were hysterically attached to the Constitution. 


            --- The Attack on Social Studies ---

            P. 66 George Counts attacked Rugg and the new subject of “Social Studies”.  Throughout the thirties, ironically, no American textbooks were more popular than those of Rugg. 

            Anti-ruggers decried experts and intellectuals who had no common sense.  Rugg started to lose the course and could no longer say, let the people decide.  They shifted strategies to saying that the public should defer to experts.  The AHA backed him on this tact. 

            P. 72 Attackers said both sides should be presented and nothing opposite of the American truths.  In high school students might be able to grapple with controversial issues, but those who are 12, 13 or 14 take what they read as the gospel truth. 

            P 74-75 Those who attacked Rugg never wavered from the assertion that “free enterprise” was America.  Sokolsky wrote, in 1939, “Upon this economy, often called the capitalist system, depends the continuation of democracy in our country.”  Rugg created a defeatist attitude of “what’s-the-use-of-trying-if-you-can’t-get-anywhere.”  If unchallenged, the Rugg series could turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

            While defending capitalism they decried any hint that the Founders had pecuniary interests.  “Children can be made to believe that nothing matters but money . . . But is that what you want your children taught?”

            They attacked Rugg’s belittling of the Supreme Court. 

            As the New Deal started to emphasize consumption, Ruggs failed to keep up. 

            By 1943 the American Legion bragged that 1,500 schools had dropped Rugg’s text.  Sales peaked in 1938 and were down 90 percent in 1944. 

            It did not create an anticipated “reign of terror” against left leaning books.  There was enough anti-business feeling about to stop this from happening. 

            Merging the nativism of the 1920s and the “Red Scares” of the 1930s the Cold War sparked the most furious textbook controversies America had ever seen. 


Chapter Four --- The Cold War Assault on Textbooks

            P. 81 In 1952 William F. Buckley Jr asked American business to help fight “collectivism” in textbooks.  WFB Sr. supported the distinctly Catholic Educational Reviewer to this end.  Scholars have well covered those on the left that fought against cold war investigations, but little about those on the right who thought our culture was being subverted by socialists and communists.   They got some books removed, but never succeeded in having the American welfare state described as “collectivism” or “communist.”

            The label of subversion only stuck in southern areas where it was linked to integration. 


            --- Collectivism and Internationalism ---

            Magruder’s history book said that we have a mixed system.  The post office and progressivism are little bits of socialism.  Fries was a critic who said that this sort of statement bolstered the communist enemy.  Books unabashed love of the UN did too.

            The first text to be attacked was an NEA one that supported the accomplishments of the USSR called Build America.  These texts echoed socialist demands for full employment, public housing, and other reforms.  California rejected the books. 

            P. 85 Fries noted that the Magruder text called poor folk, “under-priveleged” rather than un-motivated. 

            They decried the UN as a godless institution dedicated to the advancement of socialist schemes.  UNESCO teacher’s manuals promoted “faceless citizenship” in a world government.  Bing Crosby and Cecil B. DeMille fought to have the manual removed as well as a $355,000 teacher training grant from the Ford Foundation removed. 

            Critics lambasted its advocacy of condoms and discussion of Mead’s Samoa research which could only make students question their own sexual mores. 

            They then joined their attack on communism, internationalism and sexual depravity to race.  The Klan, segregation and lynching were not to be mentioned. 

            This was not a popular movement. 

            Lane was the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder and worked tirelessly to get her mother’s books into schools.  She wanted the themes of self-reliance on the western frontier to counter the “predominant socialist influences” of American classrooms. 

            P. 92 Many in this movement were anti-Semitic.  Zoll was clearly and still got support in 1951 from WFB Jr.  The movement was not doing well when Hearst’s paper, the Chicago Tribune gave it a boost in 1947.  He warned that they had removed Rugg’s books only to have them replaced by books that praised the welfare services of Uruguay. 

            The movement’s next champion was John Flynn who read the Chicago paper.  Flynn’s weekly columns and radio commentaries attacked Magruder.  He said a national problem, textbooks needed a national solution. 

            Flynn enlisted the leadership of the American Legion, but its rank and file were not with the movement.  This was especially so as they changed their focus from communists to UNESCO.   The USSR had attacked UNESCO as a capitalist tool.  Businesses also defended these texts. 

            Rockefeller and Carnegie foundations backed the texts.  The organizers thought the foundations had been infiltrated by communists.  Obsessed with the future, the capitalists, ala Ford, could not understand the significance of the past.  They only saw that money is power and ignored ideas, just like the Marxists.  Lane actually said, “I agree with Lenin that there is nothing to do with them but kill them.” 

            P 99-100 Buckley noted that businesses were afraid to publicly take a side on this issue, but had the communists, not textbook censors, asked for money they would have gotten substantial help from Wall Street and the Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations.”

            ---Turning South----

            A government defender of California’s Building America Series, said that the law required indoctrination.  The problem was the principles to be indoctrinated.  The vast majority of Americans agreed that the schools should teach patriotism and eschew communism.  The gains in Ca were small.  Eisenhower condemned “book burning” in Vermont and they rejected a measure to establish a “state censorship board.”

            P. 102 By 1950 twenty-six states required teachers to take loyalty oaths; four years later more than 90 percent of Americans agreed that communist instructors should be fired.  But lawmakers drew the line at textbooks.  The failures undermined the claim that the censors spoke for the people. 

            Merrill Root’s 1958 Brainwashing in the High Schools changed things, at least south of the Mason Dixie line.  The Daughters of the American Revolution released a list of 170 objectionable texts in 1950.  By 1962 six Northern states had passed laws mandating special objective instruction about communism.  Anti-communist films were used in the South. 



Chapter Five --- Black Activism, White Resistance, and Multiculturalism

            P. 107 In 1965 California passed a law that required correct portrayal of the Negro and members of other ethnic groups.  Land of the Free was published as a result.  Its inclusion was met with hostility.  It was said to cause agitation among blacks and self-loathing among whites. 

            Critics noted that the end of Jim Crow had brought about Black Power, the Watts riots and the high Negro Crime rate.  Shortly after Philadelphia adopted it 3500 black Philadelphia students rallied for separate courses.  They wanted to be taught to “think black.”  They wanted their school to be named Malcolm X not Ben Franklin. 

            Most reports say that this liberal history reform of the 1960s was reversed by the conservative reaction of the 1980s and 1990s.  But the changes were always kept within bounds and never questioned the traditional themes of American high school history – freedom, progress, and prosperity. 

            Meanwhile black students increasingly said any national narrative would neglect or erase their distinctive experience.  More than historians have appreciated, the militants succeeded.  Many black courses were offered and a two race curricula was coming into being.  The separate courses subsided, but now our textbooks are huge. 

            Diversity and banality went hand in hand.  


            ---Pricking the American Conscience---

            Langston Hughes noted that every Negro History time and Lincoln’s birthday, pictures of famous colored people went up.  Following Brown v. the Board, blacks lost their passion for history.  Both he and the ASNLH (Woodson’s Association for the Study of Negro Life and History) exaggerated the decline of interest by blacks. 

            The 1950s movements for inclusion of blacks in texts hadn’t been successful.  The civil rights revolution of the 1960s changed texts forever. 

            By 1959 integrated schools had spurred the a call for integrated textbooks.  One, inclusion could persuade stubborn whites to revise their views on present-day quests for racial justice.  Second, new texts could get the whites to respect blacks.  Third black psyches needed the boost. 

            P. 115 Humphrey, LBJ’s V.P., said there was a Negro History Gap in American schools.  Under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, Congress earmarked $400 million for schools and libraries to purchase “multi-racial” books. They would not punish those that didn’t comply by cutting funds due to respect for the local control tradition.

            But if a publisher tried to get a book adopted in the South the first question asked was if there were any pictures of blacks in the book.  If the answer was yes, the book wouldn’t be adopted. 

            In the North, the switch to racist from economic themes was not appreciated.  Riots being blamed on racism was just an affliction of the liberal intellectuals, they said in 1968. 

            Texts started to talk of Nat Turner and Japanese Internment, but in a fashion marginal to the larger narrative. 

            The books were derided as vilifying whites and not having any heroes or heroines to look up to.  By 1966 Chicago books had 14 ethnicities represented. 


            ---Black Resistance to Integrated History---

            Blacks claimed in 1969 that their history should not be mixed with other history as a lot would be missed and what was presented would be seen as marginal.  Black history was always presented from a white perspective.  Whites thought inclusion undermined the grand narrative, blacks said it bolstered it. 

            Blacks wanted to choose their own heroes and wanted their classes taught by blacks, not negroes or whites.  If you want to be a carpenter you can’t be apprenticed by a bricklayer.  Even black math was required.  Especially in large cities, black students succeeded dramatically.  By 1970 black classes were widely offered. 

            P. 124 few blacks supported the Panther’s separatist political agenda, but many supported the cultural agenda.  And several prominent black educators refused to join the black-studies band wagon.  The NAACP included. 


            --- From Black History to Multiculturalism---

            The movement fizzled as fast as it flared.  Low teacher qualifications and poor texts made for boring memorization courses.  Created to spark pride among black youth, black history seemed to have the opposite effect.  NAACP director Hooks said that black interest in history had never been lower.  White kids had now heard of Paul Robeson and black kids hadn’t. 

            Dozens of states passes laws or resolutions requiring the study of American minorities.  In 1973 George Wallace proclaimed black history week. 

            One ironic stimulus to the rise of integrated textbooks came from the decline of integrated high schools.  By 1976 twenty-one of America’s twenty-nine largest school districts had black majorities due to white flight.  The books were made for black schools. 

            Guidelines specified that 25% of the photos include a member of a minority group, though only 14% of the public was nonwhite in 1963. 

            Southern schools, meanwhile, became more integrated.

            What texts could say was also limited by two factors.  First, the texts had to only include positive images.  Even Spanish Conquistadores were benign.  Second, the larger happy narrative was never to be questioned. 



            Both sides claimed victory in the Scopes trial.  Both sides were wrong.  Material concerning evolution was quickly pared from the biology books.  Creationists went on to create their own private fundamentalist teaching institutions.  They returned to the fray in the 1940s and 1950s, when a new battle about religion and schools shook America.  The question had switched from whether or not to teach religion, but which religion to teach.  Protestants, Jews, Catholics and Evangelicals thus clashed. 

            The Supreme Court’s 1968 decision in Epperson v. Arkansas struck down state bans on the teaching of evolution. 

            The Courts 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard decision rejected a Louisiana law that would have required schools to present “creationism” alongside evolution in the classroom. 

            Falwell said Scopes should not have been convicted because he was teaching both sides of the issue.  To skeptics, conservatives embracing of pluralism was a poloy to put religious instruction back in.  But a healthy democracy requires citizens who have the skills and desire to make up their own minds. 


Chapter Six --- Religious Education in Public Schools

            P 135 In 1946 a court upheld release time in schools where by you could go get your Weekday Religious Education (WRE).  By the end of WW II 1.5 million kids participated in this program. 

            Shaver, the WRE leader, noted that whereas mainline religion looked a Jesus’ message of peace and social justice, fundamentalists like him focused only on his promise of personal redemption. 

            Two years later, in McCollum v. Board of Ed the Supremes overruled the Illinois court.  Hugo Black said that the release-time system breached first Amendment’s “wall between Church and State.” 

            Nothing in the decision, however, overtly forbade Bible reading in the classroom.  Religious prayers, pageants, church music and other devotionals could also fill the gap. 

            Most historians look at the courts efforts to delineate when and how religion might be taught.  He, by contrast, will look at struggles between groups to control what the curriculum would contain. 

            In the late 1940s and 1950s faith seized American culture and politics.  Under God was added to the Pledge, and in God We Trust was added to the currency.  The Ten Commandments was a huge film. 


            ---Weekday Religious Instruction---

            In 1940 it was found that ½ American children did not go to Sunday school and so New York churchmen won release time.  Narrow “denominational” viewpoints were eschewed in WRE.   Off campus WRE happened too.  Both types declined during the Great Depression.   But it boomed post WW II. 

            Churches advertised their WRE programs in newspapers, radio spots and store windows.  They taught boys to reject secular pressures.  Some kids dropped out when they found out how much work was involved.   It got more popular by the use of the “project method” of elementary teachers.  Students build soap statues and produced puppet shows, did newspaper articles and comic strips. 

            In 1941, during Brotherhood Week, black and white students were brought together in NY for a radio broadcast.  Northern WRE instructors focused on bridging religious differences rather than racial ones.  But some were worried that this release curriculum would seep into the regular curriculum. 


            ---Debating WRE---

            P. 142 Louis Hurwitch was the Dean of Hebrew Teachers College in Boston.  He had many students in local synagogues for WRE by 1945.  He didn’t want to draw hostility upon the Jewish community so kept his doubts to himself and made what he could of the situation. 

            Within other religious communities there was also ambivalence towards WRE. 

            Ironically, only Catholics were solidly behind it.  For most of the century, dioceses had condemned WRE as a threat to Catholic education.   If religious ed happened in the school, kids would not need to attend parochial ones.  Some Protestants said they were behind its boom in the 1940s. 

            Especially after 1945, many WRE setbacks were blamed on “the Jews.”  Observers remarked that the nation’s “big three” Jewish organizations – the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, and the ADL had each condemned release time as unconstitutional.   But they initially had denounced court based attacks in favor of persuasion.  Some didn’t participate, some created their own release time programs.  Indeed, teachers of “Talmud Torah” became the most zealous Jewish advocates of release time.   Release time would show the Christian child that the Jew too has a religion.  Just as Christians exaggerated intra-Jewish harmony, they did of Christians. 

            The most vehement attack on WRE came from “fundamentalists.”  They were successful in getting many WRE programs away from the mainline churches.  For their part, the mainline churches reacted to the fundamentalist challenge with a patronizing mix of sympathy and disdain.  They did not like the fundamentalists emotional conversion tactics and thought rote memorization of the bible undermined getting its nuances.  Mainlines wanted to keep control and bring WRE in line with recent trends in child psychology. 


            ---Religious Education after McCollum---

            100s of churches and school districts announced they would continue WRE in defiance of the Court’s McCullum v. Board of ed decision.  The programs did flourish well into the 1950s.  Many, again, created in class curriculum to make up for the loss. 

            Someone noted that if the Court was allows to say what liberties Americans have every Monday morning, we are like the peasants of Russia.  It was a victory for “Godless Communism over American freedom.  \

            Realizing it wasn’t that serious, however, schools decided that it only applied to on campus WRE.  Locals said it was a state concern and vice versa in a dance of evasion. 

Four months after McCollum only three states had ordered a halt to in-school WRE and they found the ban unenforceable.  The decline was probably 10 percent. 

            Levels returned to normal following the Supreme’s Zorach v. Clauson (1952).  It upheld New York’s WRE system.  It said that the release time was outside of school and without public funds it was constitutional.  Still, in-class WRE continued.  In the North an estimated 32 percent of released-time classes met on school property. 

            In 1948 a leader noted what was needed was a nonsectarian moral code.  Fortunately, he noted, they already had one: the Ten Commandments, “he recognized moral code of the nation irrespective of denomination. 

            P. 154 Rereading statute books, ministers found that most states allowed Bible reading and that a dozen states even required it. 

            In 1952 the Court let stand a New Jersey law that affirmed Bible reading and the Lord’s Prayer in schools.  In 1959 in all of the 65 schools with a lunch program students recited some type of mealtime grace. 

            Supporters of release time often said it was a defense against the Red Menace.  It countered the materialistic philosophy of communism.  The concern about equating of religions and watering them down continued too.  The “common – core” program got denounced by Catholics and Jews.  They did not want a strange hybrid religion.   Some Jews saw the watery version as a way of sneaking in Christianity.  During Christmas Jews felt especially left out.  But comments about it brought threats of boycotts. 

            Jews didn’t participate and did not denounce.  But some went for joint Christmas-Hanukkah celebrations.  The search for a common core just highlighted divisions. 



Chapter Seven --- School Prayer and the Conservative Revolution

            In 1963 the Supreme Court banned the Lord’s Prayer and Bible reading from public school.  King agreed with the decision.  Wallace said he would go to any school and read the say prayers himself. 

            Both the liberals who emphasized the social justice aspects of the gospel and fundamentalists who wanted personal salvation to be the message agreed that religious education was necessary.  The Court’s ruling ended this accord.  Liberals supported the ban as they had integration and Fundamentalists denounced it as they had integration.

            A host of scholars have reminded us that “the Sixties” was a polarized era rather than a “radical” one.  Outside of universities most people started working on the conservative revolution. 

            P. 163 At the start of their campaign prayer advocates talked about America’s divine mission and the need to lead children back to God.  By the late 1970s they invoked “rights” and “oppressed” status. 


            ---Bootlegging Religion into the Schools---

            Leo Pfeffer had good reason to celebrate in June 1963.  As counsel for the American Jewish Congress he had already helped persuade the Supreme Court to strike down a state-composed school prayer in Engel v. Vital (1962).   Now the Court barred Bible reading and the Lord’s prayer in Arbington v. Schempp.  

            Outright defiance was most common in the South.  In the North quiet subterfuge and legalistic evasion was used.  By 1966 all but three southern senators backed a constitutional amendment to protect school prayer.  In 1965 nearly two-thirds of souther primary-level teachers reported that they still conducted morning devotionals at school. 

            In the Midwest only a fifth led their classes in worship and in the Northeast it dropped to 10 %.    But in the North holiday celebrations were upped.  “December frenzy” gripped American public schools. 

            By 1966 the moment of silence thing was big.  Since both the Star-Spangled Banner and America invoke god’s blessings, parts of these replaced the Lord’s Prayer.  A third tactic was prayer at athletic events.  Classes on education, generically, were used too.  As late as 1967 thrity-seven North Carolina districts offered “Bible” as a course. 


            ---When Should the Majority Rule?---

            Some black newspapers and commentators said that anyone that defied the school prayer ban would assist their racist foes.  But some disliked the decision.  One cartoon showed Jesus trying to protect a Supreme Court judge standing at the door of a school, like George Wallace, keeping Jesus from entering.  The caption said, “Sorry, this school’s segregated.”  America’s civil rights community was divided by this issue. 

            Most black supporters found a new liking for majoritarian rule. 

            Black leaders also noted the African American communities necessitated public school prayer as religious exercises had always been a big part of their curriculum. 

            Catholics had been for civil rights, but were against the prayer rulings.  Protestant liberals seem to have accepted the ruling though.  The leading liberal newspapers backed the court in both instances. 

            Is it right that nine men tell 190 million people when and where they can utter their prayers?  This question was asked by an LBJ friend Dirksen.  A Dirksen Amendment’s appeal transcended regional boundaries.  The Supreme Court was seen to have usurped the powers of Congress and the electorate and deprived the states of their rights. 


            ---Creating a School Prayer Movement---

            In the 1960s advocates of school prayer increasingly phrased their demands in the language of right-wing populism.  They were the ‘little people’ the ‘silent majority’.  They borrowed tactics of civil disobedience.  Last, they formed a loose national network around the goal of a constitutional amendment. 

            P. 175 Many leaders of this movement were Catholic women.  Before the ruling, Catholics had championed the separation of church and state.  After, they made a complete reversal.  They were against litigious minorities, meaning Jews.  Catholics had objected in the 1840s to protestant teaching dominating public schools.  They never opposed any and all prayer in school. 

            Falwell, and many evangelicals, had held that politics were below their mission.  Now Falwell and others reversed themselves.  After Engel the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) urged worshippers to go to PTA meetings and circulate petitions to retain prayer. 

            Activists admitted the ban on school prayer was not the sole reason for America’s epidemic of pornography, crime, and civil unrest.  Rather, the ban was the primary symbol of the evil decadent elite that was the source of such problems. 

            These activists even occasionally used guerilla theater.   “In case of atomic attack, the federal ruling against prayer in schools will be temporarily suspended” was posted on school property. 

            Pg. 180 Despite the bad taste, they finally relied on their enemy’s emphasis on rights.  The rights of the individual were being upheld, but not the rights of the majority.


            ---School Prayer and the New Christian Right---

            In 1982, the so-called New Christian Right held a family forum in which Jerry Falwell and Phyllis Schlafly  and Secretary of Education T. H. Bell spoke.  Parental control was the theme.  “Education is a family matter,  they said.

            Instead of activists evoking the virtues of America, or the need to correct families that had forsaken virtue.  Instead, prayer supporters would emphasize their being strangers in a strange land. 

            School prayer was quiet during the 1970s as the focus switched to abortion.  Falwell and Robertson had huge mailing lists, but didn’t make much legislative headway.  A prayer amendment passed the Senate in 1979, but got snagged in the House in 1980. 

            Under the old majoritarian argument, Christians would have to abandon school prayer once the majority turned against it.  The new outlook defiance no matter what was warranted. 

            A black minister said the schools could provide information about sex and drugs, but not spiritual values.  Black ministers were increasingly allied with whites. 

            The liberalism that characterized early Bible classes was replaced by more fervent advocates and fundamentalists curriculum. 


Chapter Eight --- The Battle for Sex Education

            P. 186 The sex education controversy reached Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1969 when Gordon Drake appeared to denounce the Sex Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS).  Margolis, for SIECUS, opposed him. 

            Margolis wanted to show sex as a good thing.  He noted that parents had primary responsibility for sex ed but their fears and limited background often stood in the way.  He said Drake had no training and was a Birchite. 

            The Birch Society, in turn, said they opposed sexperts and thought it worth noting that God had given children to parents and not to experts. 

            Like the advocates of school prayer, opponents of sex ed spoke the language of right-wing populism.  In prayer debates conservatives said that children’s rights should trump parental ones.  Here they made the exact opposite claim. Parents should take precedent over experts. 

            On prayer, liberals championed parent’s rights to not have their kid hear religion.  But here they were willing to ignore individual sensitivities. 

            In the 1980s, the New Right started to just ask for the inclusion of abstinence-only education.  They also accused liberals of instituting their own religion: secular humanism. 

Even the attempt, they said, to teach sex education without values attaches a value to it. 


            ---Sex Education and the Sexual Revolution---

            SIECUS’s director, Mary Calderone, got vitriolic hate mail in 1969.  The hate mail came from Louisiana where a law was passed banning sex education below ninth grade. 

            Mary Calderone was the lightening rod for hate.  But she did not create sex education.  It dates to the outset of the twentieth century.  It gained speed in the 1940s and 1950s.  Also, SIECUS was a tiny organization that sought to control- not unleash – children’s sexual impulses. 

            P. 191 Why the sudden strong reaction?  Frustration with the sexual revolution.  As early as 1964, both Time and Newsweek published cover stories describing a “sexual revolution”.  That same year Calderone helped found SIECUS.  It was started with thanks to a bequest from John D. Rockefeller.  William Masters was on the board. 

            She said she stood squarely for monogamy in 1968.  By then half of American school districts taught the subject.  They sold middle class morality.  They gave statistics on VD, abortion and divorce.  Such techniques led a scientific gloss to “hell-fire warnings” of the past. 

            This sex education would be frank and direct.  Terms such as erection, orgasm and masturbation would come out into the light. 


            ---From Soviet Subversion to the Sick Sixties---

            P. 193 Attacks on sex education were not new.  In the early 1900s Catholics said sex ed and Darwinism denigrated religious interpretations of human life.  They also did so after WW II.  But by then the loudest condemnation came from patriotic and veteran’s groups that said it was a part of the Communist’s drive to destroy our morals. 

            In California, the state Un-American Activities Committee even convened a hearing in 1947 to investigate “sex books in the schools.  They agreed that they were Communist in trying to destroy the moral fiber of America. 

            They declined, but reemerged as media became sex saturated. 

            The John Birch Society was founded in 1958 by Massachusetts candy manufacturer Robert Welch.   Welch even said Eisenhower was a communist.  They revived the communist charge against sex ed in 1969.  They used guilt by association when they noted that Calderone had been in the communist controlled teacher’s union of NY city. 

            Calderone blamed the Birchers for a nationwide attack on sex education.  The AMA took Calderone’s side and noted that the antagonism went well beyond the John Birch society.  It was not liked by thousands of sincerely motivated, but uniformed individuals who accepted the Birch themes of moral degradation and parental rights. 

            To Calderone sex was not just a means of procreation, but an essential component to human pleasure.  Her opponents said the recreational sex view put us as no higher than animals, who just did it whenever for pleasure.  They denounced masturbation as just being aimed at gratification of the self. 

            Sex educators often shared their opponents’ abhorrence of wanton sexual imagery in the media.  They worried that youth would come to “treat sex as a commodity” rather than an expression of love, trust and respect.  But they said this worry required the expansion, not elimination, of sex education.  “It’s time we acknowledged that most parents fail utterly to educate their children sexually.” 


            ---Parents versus Experts ---

            Calderone’s start was at a 1963 National Conference of Churches (NCC) meeting where they were honest about not knowing if a chastity message was correct. 

            Some were not confused and said, “We are paying more attention to Masters and Johnson than to Moses and Jesus.”

            A new sex ed emerged that was to focus on feelings, creating a healthy view of sex (not just the plumbing) and “sensitivity training”.  Critics said psychiatrists were brainwashing our kids.  They repeated black leaders fears that psychiatrists were medicalizing all behaviors that weren’t white.  They also said that usurpation of parental authority was the real cause of the generation gap. 

            Many that fought sex ed also deplored the removal of prayer.  If the teaching of religion is an infringement on the rights of the individual, so is teaching sex ed, they said.  In the religion controversy they were told that it would do grave harm to a minority religion student if they were dismissed from a popular activity.  Now they were being told to do the same to their kids. 


            ---Sex Education in the 1980s---

            Like the school prayer battle, the struggle over sex ed cooled in the 1970s.  By 1978, half of American students reported having studied the subject.  Masturbation and homosexuality were being taught as normal. 

            Contrary to popular perception, the teen birthrate halved between 1960 and 1975.   But the widespread fear created more funding for sex ed.  The Feds were doing it for birth control counseling. 

            The moral majority was founded in 1975 and big by 1980.  They said sex ed was like teaching someone how to drive and then expecting they wouldn’t.  Catholics also united with conservative protestants.  But the Catholic leaders were much more liberal than the parishioners.  They noted that homosexuals cannot make a family. 

            The moral majority popularized the idea of secular humanism being a religion.  Thus, it violated the establishment clause.  Some wanted equal time.   Other’s said that equal time undermined religion.  Others said abstinence curriculum was needed.  (Koop said condom use should start in the third grade.)   Schlafly just said that girls ought to know that consequences fall twice as hard on them.


Epilogue: Searching for Common Ground

            Sociologist James Davison Hunter wrote “culture wars” and told Clinton that they cannot be resolved.  You cannot speak with someone that does not share your moral language.  (Culture wars came from the German Kulturkampf, which referred to Protestant-Catholic battles over religion in school). 

            Was Hunter right?  The answer is clearer if we break it down into components.              Our history wars have usually been resolved via inclusion.  The price of which has been banality and triumphalism. 

            Battles over religion and morals have created no consensus.  There was only common ground here in tactics.  Both used the multiculturalist tactic, developed in the history wars, of demanding “equal time” and “respect”

            In 1992 Pat Buchanan said the culture wars were about gay rights and abortion.  After 1994, however, they included battles over race, ethnicity, and patriotism.  By 1996 an avalanche of books made “culture wars” synonymous with the struggle over multiculturalism in schools and universities and PC issues. 

            The warriors of both sides thought the issues were new. But previous battles have been larger and more influential than the current ones.   Some chroniclers have said the 1994-1995 rounds were just media events fought by elite politicians, journalists and professors.  The history, pc, multiculturalism culture wars are flat.

            Pgs 218-19 By contrast, the culture war over religion and morality continues to plague the public schools.  Blacks and whites in the south march together on this issue.  They want to be free to pray.  The majority of parent complaints are about moral or religious subjects, not racial ones.

            Furthermore, there does not seem to be a common vocabulary that will allow resolution of this issue. Stephen Carter has argued that religion should get the same respect and dignity as race and ethnicity.  The religious impulses of MLK and Lincoln have been thrown out.  Positive contributions of ethnics get put in so why not religions?

            But this positive contribution scheme does damage to history.  The texts ignore African slave trade (and Indian) and Indian human sacrifice.  They are presented as too pristine. 

            If the books took the idea of the triumph of individualism seriously they would encourage students to develop their own perspectives about the nation and its various races. 

            Ever nation does, its true, seem to invent certain parts of its history and forget others.  William McNeill said, “An appropriately idealized version of the past may . . . allow a group of human beings to come closer to living up to its noblest ideals.”  But this tact denies students the opportunity to wrestle with its real dilemmas. 

            For example, we see our nation as a triumphant liberal one with natives and race just bumps in the road.  This ignores, I agree, the real culturist character of our nation.  What does free mean?  High school students are mature enough to debate this.

            An obstacle has been the American public.  They do not give way to the other side in their debates. 

            The hero evangelicals are trying to include is God.  He is just like other ethic heroes in this discussion. 

            Zimmerman would like to suggest that we don’t “celebrate” anyone, to the extent that the word denotes unqualified hero status.  Like secular humanism, we take sides sub rosa, when we present some as villains and some as demons.  He suggests debate in all subjects, including sex ed, economics and biology.  This is the new compromise he is suggesting.

            For many, history is just facts.  History teachers often did not major or minor in it.   Some states certify teachers who’ve had no college history courses.  There is no strong evidence linking teachers’ academic preparation and instructional abilities, but stronger academic backgrounds are needed.  The assumption that folks only need to know how to teach, not the subject matter is wrong.  Teachers need to be prepared  with logic and debate courses.  

            This way has hope as fundamentalists have come to accept pluralism.  Madsen updated a Lippmann dialogue to show that fundamentalists now recognize that they must play by the rules of compromise and debate the system provides.  We should also be willing to debate.  Our differences may be the only thing holding us together.