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Parents Want To Boot History Text They Claim Is Too Conservative

November 14, 1987

AMHERST, Mass. (AP) _ A group of parents is trying to dump an eighth grade social studies textbook they claim is too conservative and paints too rosy a picture of the nation’s recent history.

″It’s very distorted, very biased and gives the children a supremist view of themselves and the country,″ said Honey Nestle, a peace activist and parent of an eighth grader. ″One of the parents described a picture of a slave camp as looking like the Club Med.″

″It’s not that it just oversimplifies. It glosses over facts,″ said Sophy Craze, another parent, who maintained the sections on current history ″read like they were put out by Ronald Reagan’s publicity department.″

″The book tries to glorify and resolve the issues and paint the U.S. as the tough guy fighting communism rather than teaching that ... there are differing opinions and no absolute answers,″ she said.

School Superintendent Donald Frizzle said he received a report Friday from a committee established to review the book and expected to issue a decision this week.

The book debate has been spirited in this town that’s home to two private colleges and the University of Massachusetts and has a centuries-long tradition of speaking its own mind. Amherst was one of the first communities to join the nuclear-freeze movement and the town meeting has voted to oppose every U.S. war from 1812 to Vietnam.

To Social Studies Department Chairman Robert Kelly the issue is one of censorship, this time by liberal, instead of conservative groups and a challenge to the authority of the district’s teachers.

″They don’t want to call it that, but what they are trying to do is no different from the creationists,″ Kelly said.

″There are always hazards when decisions on books are made on the basis of correct political disposition,″ agreed Junior High Principal John Burruto.

Judy deTunq, vice president of marketing for MacMillan Press, said ″The History of the American Nation,″ first published in 1982 and now in a second edition, has been one of its better sellers and has been used without controversy by a wide variety of school systems, including Chicago, Indianapolis, Rochester, N.Y., and Springfield, Mass.

John Patrick, who heads a social studies curriculum research center at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., and wrote the book with Carol Berkin, a professor at Baruch College, whose specialty is women’s history, said he was ″flabbergasted″ and ″terribly dismayed″ by the dispute.

″I’ve been an educator for 52 years and I’ve never run into a situation like this. ... It would be easier to deal with the criticism if it was coming from the other side,″ said Patrick, who described himself as ″rather liberal.″

The book was praised by Curriculum Review for its ″fine emphasis on women and minorities designed to redress previous negligence,″ and, he said, many of the parents’ criticisms of the treatment of such groups could be rebutted by an examination of the text.

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