The American Heritage Dictionary is banned in the high schools at Eldon, Mo., partly because it says the word "bed" may be used as a verb.
Six dictionaries, including American Heritage, are banned in all Texas schools because of similarly salacious definitions, not only for "bed" but for "shack," "rubber," "hot," "horny" and "slut."
In Goergia, a parents' group wants biology teachers to give equal time to "the theory of creation" and "the theory of evolution." In California, a lawsuit would require it.
And in New York's City College, students shouted down a professor and denounced him as a racist when he argued that urban civilization and writing did not begin in sub-Saharan Africa.
Across the nation, single-issue pressure groups that have made themselves felt in political forums are also at work on influencing schools and colleges. The basic issue is what moral and social values are taught to children. More than 200 organizations -- many grassroots citizens groups -- now pore over textbooks, reviewing content and critizing what they do not like.
"The American textbook is probably the most scrutinized product in America," said Robert Rasmussen, vice president for school texts of the Association of American Publishers.
Some call it censorhip -- but that perception often depends whose ideas are being excluded or included. Blacks campaigned for a generation against racist content in schoolbooks and feminists worked to expunge sexist references and images. Neither group thought of itself as a censor and neither do the new grassroots organizations, many of which tend to lobby for traditional moral values or social conventions now under assault.
One thing is clear: whatever the pressures are called, teachers and administrators are responding to them as never before. A combination of tight budgets, scarce teaching jobs and a new political awareness has given the clamor of outside voices an attentive audience in the academic community.
Norma Gabler and her husband Mel, a retired pipeline materials handler, preside over what they call a textbook review clearinghouse from their home in Longview, Tex. With a $60,000 budget from contributions, the Gablers' 200-plus file cabinets full of line-by-line textbook criticisms have made their Educational Research Analysts Inc. famous among textbook publishers.
The Gablers filed 163 objections to the Ginn 360 Reading Series, for example, when it was under consideration in Texas. A poem saying, ". . .you and I can hold completely different points of view and both be right" was opposed because it shows "no definite standards. . . situation ethics," they wrote. A question on the meaning of long hair to adults should be dropped, they said, because "it puts adults in a bad light."
Unable to keep up with all the new books, the Gablers invite concerned parents to do reviews for them, which are then distributed. One objected to praise of UNICEF because "it is a known communist front." Another said a question asking children to imagine the hardest job in the world would be "an invasion of privacy."
In an interview, Gabler said thousands of parents share these worries but do not know how to protest. Requests for help come from 23 countries, he said. Last year the Gablers objected to 28 of Texas' 300 proposed texts and 18 were eliminated. Most, he said, question the authority of parents, police, the state and religion and they do not reflect the generation gap but in fact created it, he added.
Minority groups have too much influence and "get a disproportionate share" of mention in current books, Gabler continued. "They should be more interested in what we are as Americans rather than what they were back yonder as a Chinese or Hispanic or whatever."
To those who call him a reactionary censor, Gabler responds that only those in authority like school boards can actually censor. "When they eliminate good books and put garbage in, they're the censors," he said. "All we do is point it out."
At the college level, professors who are fired or denied tenure have been calling that censorship of their political or philosophical views. When Dr. James Bayley, an associate professor of philosophy at City College of New York, was called a racist in his classroom, "it was an institutional affront," he said. "The idea of a college as a forum for ideas was under attack."
Other campuses report that students have shouted down speakers of conservative opinions, such as defenders of genetic inequality and pronuclear scientists. Joseph Kurland of the American Association of University Professors said the teachers' group receives 1,200 complaints a year alleging some kind of job discrimination.
But with older faculty members staying longer because of tight job markets, most colleges claim they can not grant more tenured posts. And Kurland added, "The financial straits the universities are in make them much more community conscious. There is clearly some self- censorship. . .some of it is simple cowardice."
J.W. Peltason, president of the American Council on Education, which speaks for most institutions of higher learning, noted that boards and committees now must rule on all firings to protect against unjust popular pressures.
"However, I wouldn't say you could teach at the University of the District of Columbia (which is mostly black) and flaunt a membership in the Ku Klux Klan. . .or smoke marijuana at a Southern Baptist College. Those are human institutions out there."
At the elementary and secondary school level, community pressures is more noticeable.
In California and Texas, special state textbook committees review line-by-line objections, sometimes 100 pages long, from anyone interested in proposed texts. Publishers respond with equally lengthy rebuttals. With fewer than 100 compaires competing for the $825 million in textbook sales last year, the stakes in each battle are huge.
"It's terribly expensive to everybody, but you have to respond," said John Riordan, senior vice president in charge of the school publishing group at Houghton-Mifflin Inc. "The absence of response would be taken as agreement."
Controversy swirls most thickly around sexual references, ethnic and racial usage and questions of parental authority.
In Island Trees, N.Y., parents objected to nine books about innercity teen-age life that contained realistic language, discussions of sex and drug use. The town board of education pulled them from library shelves, calling them "offensive to Christians, Jews, blacks and Americans in general."
Students filed suit, but two courts upheld the board. The courts have consistently ruled that parents have a right to object to course content and books used in the schools, and that school boards are justified in responding.
The National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers' union, worries that the decisions have a chilling effect on teachers. "These people claim they want education to be value free. . .but what they really want is for schools to teach the values of whites, middle-class, Protestant American," said Dorothy Massie of the NEA's teacher rights department.
"Academic freedom has to include parents, too," countered Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Cali.), a leader in urging parents to get involved. "Middle class is what western civilization is all about." He argued that educators who disagree seize on extreme cases like the Texas and Missouri dictionary decisions, which he said are not typical.
"You're always going to get the yahoos involved," he said. "Especially when the schools undermine their trust by putting a book about (cult murderer) Charles Manson in there."
The American Library Association, NEA and six other education organizations, convinced that more than just yahoos are attacking the schools, have formed the Academic Freedom Group to exchange information on what they see as a major problem. Members include the American Association of School Administrators, the International Council for the Social Studies, National Council of Teachers of English, the American Federation of Teachers and the Speech Communications Association.
"Certainly parents have a right to have a voice in what kids read. . . but there should be established procedures for choosing books and then for getting rid of them," said Jim Ward of the AFT.
"But a lot of teachers and librarians fear the loss of their jobs so they just don't want to get into a hassle. . .It becomes a form of self-censorhip when these pressures arise."