Mel and Norma Gabler

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Melvin Nolan Freeman Gabler (January 5, 1915 – December 19, 2004) and his wife, Norma Elizabeth Rhodes Gabler (June 16, 1923 – July 22, 2007) were campaigners against public school textbooks which they regarded as "anti-family" or "anti-Christian".

Work[edit]

The couple began their work in 1961 at their kitchen table in Hawkins, a small town in Wood County in northeastern Texas, after they claimed to have uncovered numerous errors in a son's history text. They established the nonprofit organization, Educational Research Analysts, a conservative Christian interest group based in Longview, the seat of Gregg County in east Texas.

Educational Research Analysts claims to uncover factual errors and examples of secular humanism, or the censorship of conservative political or social views in textbooks. Neal Frey, who worked with the Gablers (or, as Norma Gabler insisted they be called, "the Mel Gablers"[1]) since 1972 and now runs the organization, said that the Gablers' network of national supporters was invaluable to the cause. The organization has had national impact because Texas is second to California in population and is one of twenty-two states with a textbook-approval process which influences decisions made by other smaller states. Frey said that Mrs. Gabler’s larger public role was deceptive. "Mr. Gabler wore the pants in that family, and Mrs. Gabler wanted it that way", he said in an interview [2]

Mel Gabler claimed much modern education was designed to undermine traditional, moral absolutist education with a viewpoint based on moral relativism: "Allowing a student to come to his own conclusion about abstracts and concepts creates frustration. Ideas, situation ethics, values, anti-God humanism – that's what the schools are teaching. And concepts. Well, a concept will never do anyone as much good as a fact".[3] The Gablers also claimed humanism as a "religion" that taught ideas such as evolution, sex education, internationalism and an optimistic view of human nature.[4] According to writer Randy Moore, in addition to opposing textbooks that taught evolution, the Gablers also objected to "statements about religions other than Christianity, statements emphasizing contributions by minorities, and statements critical of slave owners." [5]

The Gablers were "volunteer workers", according to the organization website. Mrs. Gabler, however, often traveled to Austin to present her case against some textbooks. Son Jim Gabler of Phoenix, Arizona, recalled that his father was a behind-the-scenes force in the organization, while his mother handled public relations. "They made a real good tandem pair. My dad was very thorough, and really my mother was more the extrovert", he told the Longview News-Journal.

Famously, in 1973, they criticized a fifth-grade American history text that devoted six pages to Marilyn Monroe as opposed to George Washington, who was only mentioned in two paragraphs. “We’re not quite ready for Marilyn Monroe as the mother of our country”, Mrs. Gabler said at the time. In the 1970s, the couple had a major impact on the textbook riots in Kanawha County, West Virginia.

In 2001, Time magazine reported that the Gablers' "scroll of shame" of textbook mistakes since 1961 was fifty-four feet long. They even once found a book which claimed that U.S. President Harry Truman ordered atomic weapons to end the Korean War. In the early 1990s, Texas fined publishers about $1 million for failing to remove hundreds of factual errors that the Gablers had found in eleven history books[citation needed]. Some publishers even sent drafts of textbooks to the Gablers for their pre-clearance so as to avoid costly delays and challenges to being included on the state-approved list. Among some of the more glaring textbook errors found by the Gablers were:[6]
♦Napoleon won the Battle of Waterloo. (Waterloo was Napleon's worst defeat)
♦In 1957 the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead. (Sputnik was a satellite, not a missile, and it carried no payload)
♦Bill Clinton is the first Democrat to be elected President of the United States since the Second World War. (Jimmy Carter and John Kennedy were Democrat predecessors to Clinton who had also been elected to office)

One result of the Gablers' organization was reflected in 2004 when several publishers of health textbooks defined "marriage" as a "lifelong union between a man and a woman". They also insisted that textbooks refer to the Reagan administration's 1983 military intervention in Grenada, which rescued American medical students holed up in St. George's University, as a "rescue", not an "invasion".

Some of their objections were aimed at the story of Robin Hood on the grounds that it sanctioned stealing, and a history textbook that says, "The law that allowed slavery in America was wrong, so people could break the law." on the grounds that the statement encourages insubordination.[7]

Backgrounds[edit]

Norma Elizabeth Rhodes was born in Garrett, Texas, near Dallas. Melvin Nolan Freeman "Mel" Gabler worked in the oilfields, served in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II, and was a clerk for thirty-nine years for Esso, now part of Exxon-Mobil, until he retired in 1974. He later opened a Christian drive-in theater. The couple married in 1942. Melvin Gabler died at the age of eighty-nine of a brain hemorrhage after falling at his home.

Norma Gabler's death[edit]

Mrs. Gabler was diagnosed with vascular Parkinson's disease in 2005. She was on the association board until her death, but health problems had rendered her unable to be involved actively for the last two years of her life. She moved to Phoenix early in 2007 to be near Jim during her illness. She died at the Biltmore Assisted Living Facility in Phoenix.

In addition to James, who lives in Phoenix, Mrs. Gabler is survived by another son, Paul, of Houston, and six grandchildren.

Televised appearances[edit]

Over the years the Gablers became well-known nationally for their activist conservative strategy. They appeared on such television programs as CBS's 60 Minutes, ABC's 20/20 (twice in 1999), ABC's World News Tonight, the former syndicated Phil Donahue Show (3 times), ABC's Nightline, NBC's Today, CNN's The Freeman Report, PBS's The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, CBS's Morning News, PBS's former Firing Line with William F. Buckley, Jr., Jerry Falwell's Old-Time Gospel Hour and CNN's former Crossfire with Patrick J. Buchanan.

After Mel Gabler's death, columnist Gary North wrote that if one wants "a model of what the 'little guy' can do, begin with the Gablers."[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jenkinson, Edward. Censors in the Classroom: The Mind Benders. Southern Illinois University Press, 1980.
  2. ^ Douglas Martin (1 August 2007). "Norma Gabler, Leader of Crusade on Textbooks, Dies at 84". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  3. ^ Deckman, Melissa Marie. School Board Battles: the Christian Right in local politics. Georgetown University Press, 2004. (p.13).
  4. ^ Sheridan, Daniel.Teaching Secondary English: Readings and Applications. Routledge, 2000. Pages 117 to 124 discuss the Gablers' objections to English books that they believe advocated humanist ideas.
  5. ^ Moore, Randy. Evolution in the Courtroom: A Reference Guide. ABC-CLIO, 2002. (p.33)
  6. ^ New American, "Waging War on Textbook Errors for 37 Years", May 11, 1999
  7. ^ Dena Kleiman (14 July 1981). "Mel and Norma Gabler". New York Times. 
  8. ^ Gary North, Mel Gabler, RIP

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]