Classroom Wars: Language, Sex, and the Making of Modern Political Culture by Natalia Mehlman PetrzelaClassroom Wars: Language, Sex, and the Making of Modern Political Culture by Natalia Mehlman Petrzela

Classroom Wars: Language, Sex, and the Making of Modern Political Culture

byNatalia Mehlman Petrzela

Hardcover | April 2, 2015

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The schoolhouse has long been a crucible in the construction and contestation of the political concept of "family values." Through Spanish-bilingual and sex education, moderates and conservatives in California came to define the family as a politicized and racialized site in the late 1960s and1970s. Sex education became a vital arena in the culture wars as cultural conservatives imagined the family as imperiled by morally lax progressives and liberals who advocated for these programs attempted to manage the onslaught of sexual explicitness in broader culture. Many moderates, however,doubted the propriety of addressing such sensitive issues outside the home. Bilingual education, meanwhile, was condemned as a symbol of wasteful federal spending on ethically questionable curricula and an intrusion on local prerogative. Spanish-language bilingual-bicultural programs may seem less relevant to the politics of family, but many Latino parents and studentsattempted to assert their authority, against great resistance, in impassioned demands to incorporate their cultural and linguistic heritage into the classroom. Both types of educational programs, in their successful implementation and in the reaction they inspired, highlight the rightward turn andenduring progressivism in postwar American political culture.In Classroom Wars, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela charts how a state and a citizenry deeply committed to public education as an engine of civic and moral education navigated the massive changes brought about by the 1960s, including the sexual revolution, school desegregation, and a dramatic increase inLatino immigration. She traces the mounting tensions over educational progressivism, cultural and moral decay, and fiscal improvidence, using sources ranging from policy documents to student newspapers, from course evaluations to oral histories. Petrzela reveals how a growing number of Americansfused values about family, personal, and civic morality, which galvanized a powerful politics that engaged many Californians and, ultimately, many Americans. In doing so, they blurred the distinction between public and private and inspired some of the fiercest classroom wars in American history. Taking readers from the cultures of Orange County mega-churches to Berkeley coffeehouses, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela's history of these classroom controversies sheds light on the bitterness of the battles over diversity we continue to wage today and their influence on schools and societynationwide.
Natalia Mehlman Petrzela is Assistant Professor of History at The New School and a former public school teacher. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Slate, and The Huffington Post. Visit her website at for more information on her writing, teaching, and events.
Title:Classroom Wars: Language, Sex, and the Making of Modern Political CultureFormat:HardcoverDimensions:336 pages, 9.29 × 6.42 × 0.98 inPublished:April 2, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199358451

ISBN - 13:9780199358458


Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIntroductionPart One: Language1. The Beginnings of Modern Bilingual Education2. The Polarization of Bilingual Education3. "Birds of Many Colors": Language, Culture, and Community in 1970s San Jose4. "Some Kind of Precedent": The Ambiguous Legacy of Bilingual EducationPart Two: Sex5. "The Pot was Already Boiling": Parents, Teachers, Taxes, and Sex Education in San Mateo6. Family Life and Sex Education and the Unmaking of Anaheim's "Golden Age"7. "Which Way America?" California's Moral Guidelines Committee and the Forging of a Patriotic Morality8. "This Thing is Spreading All Over California": Sex Education in the SeventiesConclusionAppendixNotesBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

"What's the matter with Kansas--or with America--and its endless culture wars? According to a common liberal refrain, contemporary conservatives have invoked hot-button cultural issues to persuade Americans to vote against their own economic interests. But that claim is itself a liberalconceit, ignoring the many ways that the American Right wove cultural and economic grievances into a cohesive and enduring ideology. No matter which way your own politics lean, you won't be able to understand modern American conservatism without reading Natalia Mehlman Petrzela's brave and originalbook." --Jonathan Zimmerman, author of Too Hot to Handle: A Global History of Sex Education