A study of the Georgia State Department of Education's ban on textbooks by Edwin Fenton

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The Holt Social Studies Curriculum and The Americans were social studies textbooks edited by Edwin Fenton, John M. Good, and others at the Carnegie-Mellon Center for Project Social Studies. These textbooks were an effort by Fenton and his associates to meet the demands for change in social studies curriculum and related instructional materials. Being produced during an era of social change, revolts, and an unpopular war, the textbooks reflected on controversial issues of that era which eventually led to restrictions on their purchase in Georgia. These restrictions, however, raised issues which made this study possible.

The Georgia State Board of Education in 1972 rejected the recommendations of its Professional Textbook Selection Committee to include the social studies textbooks edited, authored, or contributed to by Edwin Fenton on the state's approved textbook list. Only the textbooks on the state’s approved list could be purchased with state funds. This study is an investigation of the Georgia State Board of Education’s ban on the social studies textbooks from the state’s approved textbook list and the subsequent effects of the State Board 1s action on future textbook selection policies in the state.

This was the first time in twenty years that members of the Georgia State Board of Education had acted to remove approved textbooks from the Georgia public schools. This study is also significant because the State Board's wording of its action leaves the impression that they were opposed to the author, regardless of his works. This study describes a step by step account of the events which eventually led to the ban on the textbooks. It also describes the subsequent events which led to a change in the state’s textbook selection policies. While parents did not participate in the controversy, policy changes made their participation more likely for textbook controversies in the future.

Although the Fenton social studies textbooks were not adopted by the State Board, the approaches used in them are widely used in other social studies textbooks in Georgia today. For future textbook controversies in Georgia, the writer recommends that the lay representatives on the State’s Textbook Selection Committee be given voting power.

The writer believes the controversy reported in this study uncovered an inconsistency between the social science educators in Georgia and the State Board of Education on the goals of the state’s social studies curriculum. Therefore, the writer recommends that the social studies educators develop a clear set of objectives for the social studies curriculum and present them to the State Board of Education for approval. These objectives should be made available to the general public for scrutiny before they become the set goals for the state. Further, the State Board of Education should keep the lines of communication open with the educators of the state.

Finally, the writer recommends further study of the uniformity of Georgia's goals in education across the state, especially the social studies goals. Recently, the state has adopted a series of criterion referenced tests which are administered all over the state. A uniform testing system should dictate a uniform set of objectives.



Fenton, Edwin, Georgia