The Couple Who Started the Textbook Wars

“Mel and Norma Gabler founded Educational Research Analysts in 1961. Funded through donations, they hired serious-minded believers like Neal Frey, a professor at a small Christian liberal arts college in New York, to help them page through mountains of material. In a 12-by–15-foot bedroom next to the garage in the Gablers’ house, Frey and a colleague spent as much as two months sifting through each textbook, searching not just for purely factual errors, but keeping an eye out for what they deemed relativist erosions of traditional, Judeo-Christian morality, free-market principles, patriotism and abstinence-only sex education. They decried a history textbook that paired Martin Luther, the 16th century theologian who sparked the Reformation, with Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights icon. ‘Martin Luther was a religiously dedicated, nonviolent man,’ the Gablers complained in one objection.

“Adoption by the state board at the time was vital to the success of a textbook, and publishers were willing to make almost any changes to earn a spot on Texas’ restrictive list of five approved textbooks per subject. With Texas, publishers could recoup the cost of production in a single state. Everything else after that was profit. It also meant that the peccadilloes of special interests like Mel and Norma Gabler reverberated not just through the Lone Star State but through much of the country.”

Brantley Hargrove, in the Dallas Observer, on how Texas creationists once changed the textbook industry, and how they’ve since lost power.

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