By Fulton Lewis, Jr.
(Copyright, 1953, King Features Syndicate, Inc.)
WASHINGTON — A Tennessee state legislature committee investigation of school textbooks has been used by opponents as a dry run for their tactics in trying to halt a nationwide probe of subversive influences in public schools.
The Tennessee legislature set up a committee last month to examine school books. Nashville was the site of the first hearing. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville is to be target No. 2.
Despite claims by committee members at the outset that they were making no accusations and were merely interested in hearing witnesses on both sides of the question, the usual outcries of “smear” and “book burning” arose at once. As always, school officials and officers of the National Education Association behaved as though the investigation were a personal insult.
ONE OF THE MOST vocal critics of the Tennessee investigation is Harold R. Benjamin, chairman of the Division of Social Foundations, at George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville. He hurried to Washington, after appearing in Nashville, to inform the American Council on Education that “local school boards, and college trustees, not the legislature, are responsible for determining school policy.”
He described the Tennessee probe as an example of “two-bit politicians” mocking those in Moscow who tell “good Communists what to follow.”
While Professor Benjamin was babbling on in Washington, three more teachers were suspended by the superintendent of schools in New York City for refusing to answer questions about their Communist affiliations.
Bella Dodd, until recently a high functionary and heroine of the Communist party, testified before a U.S. Senate investigating committee that there are approximately 3,000 more teachers just like the three fired in New York who are still conducting classes in our public schools. The “two-bit” politicians in the United States Senate took due note of this, and investigations by committees of both the House and Senate have been scheduled. This is what is driving educational gadflies to distraction, as did the Nashville hearing.
SOMEWHERE ALONG the line large numbers of school officials and instructors acquired the idea that their business is nobody else’s business. They publicly denounce any check-ups on their activity, and generally resort to abuse when it is even hinted that some parents might object to what their children are being taught.
The trouble is, as noted in this space long ago, that some textbooks were written by those agog over the Soviet revolution and as is the case with most authors, they couldn’t keep their own enthusiasm from running away with historical facts. The point our professors miss, by and large, is that history during the past two decades was made by those promoting immediate social revolution in the U.S.A., and, whether they like to hear it or not, the textbooks reflect that enthusiasm.
In Nashville, critics of the investigation came right out and stated that school officials have an “independence” which is not to be tampered with under any pretext. In other words, if you submit your children to public education you surrender control over what is stuffed into their heads. Well, maybe so in some places, but not in America. In fact, those “liberals” who demand total “independence” in teaching ought to look over their shoulders at Soviet Russia, which is one country where parents really have no control over what is taught.
I HAVE YET TO find anyone burning textbooks in their country. The voluble critics of school investigations ought to put up or shut up.
Let me give you an example of what some of us parents are concerned about in public school instruction. The National Education Association, along with the John Dewey Society, The American Education Fellowship and Unesco, has prepared a series of handbooks which are in use in some schools. The series is entitled “Paths to Better Schools.”
Special lectures are used in conjunction with the series, which is devoted largely to making one-worlders out of our children. A recent list of speakers included the name of Dr. Harlow Shapely, the Communist front joiner of note. Among the recommended literature for our offspring unfortunate enough to encounter this project in school are books by Howard Fast, an admitted Communist writer; Owen Lattimore, indicted for alleged perjury and accused by a Senate committee of being a “conscious, articulate” propagandist for Russia; as well as Gene Weltfish, whose place in history will be noted by the fact that he agreed with Moscow’s charge that American troops are using germ warfare against Communists in Korea.
Would you like your children to be exposed to such blatant Commy propaganda?
The Chronicle Telegram (Elyria, Ohio) Feb 6, 1953