Unit Author-Mark Swiger

This project encourages students as teams of investigators in glimpsing the impact of the Great Textbook War in a state and national context.

In "Jigsawing" the following five topics, each group will report back to the larger group their findings. Students are encouraged to develop their own documentaries such as those outlined on this link as a primary option using production and editing software such as Movie Maker, digital cameras and camcorders, flip cameras, etc. Other options include multimedia presentations, webpages, wikis, blogs, Facebook pages,Google Sites, or other media-rich options. See accompanying files at the bottom of the page for strategies for implementation.

Following the unit, students will interact through Skype, Google Chat, or Google + Hangout with the documentarians, historians, panelists, and other community members or experts who have insight into the controversy and state and global contexts.

Upon completion of the project, learners may register and complete the online survey and complete the student self-assessment activity as a culminating evaluation of the project. The following files allow teachers to develop comprehensive vocabulary skills, develop brainstorming maps for learners, randomly assign team members with jigsaw numbers and desk placards, and provide instruction on vocabulary development with a short instructional powerpoint on using this research based Frayer model tool.

If you’re having trouble downloading and reading the files on these pages, you should visit:
From there, download and install Acrobat Reader. The files on these pages should then be viewable.

Great Textbook War Background Information: Group One:
Concept: How has Christianity’s influence on government and politics changed over time? How have different political factions (e.g., Religious Right, race/ethnicity) realigned at different points in history? (e.g., shift of Whigs and Democrats to Republicans before/during Civil War, shift of labor from Republican to Democratic party during New Deal, shift of African Americans from Republicans to Democrats during 1960s, shift of New Deal Democrats to Republicans beginning in 1968 due to religious and social issues)?
Before the textbook controversy: In the Scopes Trial “Monkey Trial” of 1925, a teacher was tried for violating a state law against teaching evolution. The teacher was found guilty. However, the national media gave a good amount of coverage to the event and the local conservative evangelical Christians where portrayed to the rest of the nation as backward-thinking “hayseeds.” Subsequent to this event, people from the evangelical Christian fold, generally speaking, were reluctant to engage in politics. This was the case for the next forty years or so.

Also, prior to Richard Nixon’s presidential bid in 1968, he appealed to voters who were from the evangelical Christian fold. Nixon befriended Rev. Billy Graham, a popular evangelist and appeared at several of the preacher’s “crusade” services. In a way, this event signaled to conservative Christians, that with regard to politics, it was “safe to come back into the water.”

After the textbook controversy: The Kanawha County Textbook Controversy was one of the few examples of conservative Christian people engaging in protest. Before then, it was mostly liberal people doing the protesting. Many believe that the spirit of these protests led to future “New Right” Christian movements like the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition. These movements helped elect Ronald Reagan as president.
Also, in Kanawha County, an area where working class people held conservative values and voted Democratic, now found a home with GOP candidates.
Key points: What are other examples of Christianity intersecting with politics in American history (e.g., abolition movement, civil rights movement)? What does separation of church and state really mean (examine historically and philosophically)? How should we talk about the beliefs of different religions in an educational setting?

Great Textbook War Background Information: Group Two:

Concept: What is the main purpose of education? Again, how has this changed at different points in history?

Before the textbook controversy: Progressive education movement had been around since the late 1800’s, but in the 1960’s it was making headway in the nation’s school system. This movement was the opposite of the rote learning that was typical be for this period. Slogans often used by progressivists were: "Learn by Doing!" and "Learn by Discovery." It can be argued that television programs like Sesame Street came out of this movement. Without a doubt, the progressive education movement is what spawned the kinds of texts that were controversial in Kanawha County, West Virginia.
After the textbook controversy: The push back from conservative parents stalled the flourishing of the progressive education movement. Textbook publishing companies became more conservative in the books that they published and they touted the slogan, “We’re Going Back To Basics.”

Key points: What issues emerge between conservatives and progressives today? What issues did the textbook controversy expose between conservatives and progressives? Do these issues exist today in schools in West Virginia and throughout the country?

Great Textbook War Background Information: Group Three:

Concept: Why do cultural conflicts occur at particular points in time (e.g., Civil War, civil rights movement, textbook controversy)?

Before the textbook controversy: The late 1960’s and early 70’s was a time of great ferment. The Civil Rights Movement was going on. (MLK was assassinated in 1968.) The counterculture movement was at it’s pinnacle in 1969. (Psychedelic music and drugs, Woodstock, etc.) Vietnam War protests were full on in the early ‘70s. (Kent State shootings. May 4, 1970.) It was the beginning of the Women’s Liberation Movement. The Watergate scandal led to the resignation of President Nixon on August 9, 1974. Much of this ferment was reflected in the new textbooks.
After the textbook controversy: “New Right” conservative “think tank” groups like the Heritage Foundation used the issue of education, like what were the concerns of the protesting parents in Kanawha, as a rallying point for like minded citizens throughout the country.
Key points: In these events, what groups of people were on either side of the conflict? Who would have been considered the conservatives and liberals? Why and how have these labels changed over time?

Great Textbook War Background Information: Group Four:

Concept: What is the collective role of community members to effect change within communities (e.g., education, crime, economic well-being)?

Before the textbook controversy: Generally, this was a time of spiritual awakening. On one hand, more liberal people were experimenting with spiritual practices like transcendental meditation. On the other hand, this was a time when much of the nation became acquainted with terms such as “saved” and “born again.”
After the textbook controversy: In Kanawha County and throughout West Virginia, conservative Christian parents lost faith in the public school system and sought alternatives. After the textbook controversy, Christian schools started popping up like dandelions. In the context of the big concept, I think this reflects a shift in the idea of who’s responsible for educating children—due to the evangelical movement, many begin viewing education as an individual responsibility rather than a collective societal responsibility.
Key points: Movement toward Christian schools, growth of home schools, and challenging government-mandated education guidelines, curriculum standards, etc. Based on the whole “it takes a village concept,” what rights/responsibilities do community members and/or the government have to change the behaviors, values, etc. of others (particularly children)? Where should the limits be? In the context of education, government (via boards of education, schools, educators) are constantly shaping children. What should the goals and limits be?

Great Textbook War Background Information: Group Five:

Concept: If schools are supposed to be culturally relevant for the students, what does this mean in a school system that is 95% white (like WV)?

Before the textbook controversy: The history of West Virginia, its exploitation by industrial interests from the outside, the United Mine Workers Union conflict with coal owners divided the state when numbers of union members were high. Wildcat strikes helped laborers and citizens alike remain skeptical of how to solve worker problems. The lumber industry and coal industry lacked West Virginia ownership so all that the state received from these industries was worker income. When mines mechanized as well West Virginia’s other industries, the laborers began to move from traditional Democrat union supporters to conservative voters. Between 1950 and 1970, West Virginia lost 250,000 citizens to outmigration due to a diminishing labor market. While West Virginia still mines nearly as much coal when the coal industry employed 120,000 miners at the height of employment, it mines have the same output with around 20,000 miners today.
After the textbook controversy: West Virginia went from nearly 2,000,000 citizens at the height of its industrial boom to around 1,300,000 presently. In the 2010 census, West Virginia became the “oldest” state in the United States with the average West Virginian at 41 years old. The population is now older than Florida, the retirement state. The textbook controversy had the effect of strengthening conservatism in West Virginia and was exemplified by its support for Ronald Reagan in 1980 when it had traditionally voted Democratic in previous elections. Since 1980, West Virginia has generally supported the Republican Party in national elections, but continues to vote for moderate Democrats in state elections, a carryover from the period before the controversy. Skepticism of “outsiders” continues in most rural areas of the state. The state now conducts statewide textbook reviews.
Key Issues: Jobs vs. Careers, Absentee landownership, brain drain, median age, economic crises. What is dependency theory in the third world? How does absentee landownership affect the economy of the state? How will Marcellus Shale gas extraction be similar or different in regard to mining resources in the state?