Dr. Harold Ordway Rugg is a mild-mannered, talkative little man, a professor at Columbia University's Teachers College who writes history and social-science textbooks. Lively and readable, they are the most popular books of their kind, have sold some 2,000,000 copies, are used in 4,000 U. S. schools. But recently the heat has been turned on.
Five years ago a patriot in Washington, D. C. denounced two Rugg books as "communistic," but the District of Columbia Board of Education gave them a clean bill of health. No Communist, Dr. Rugg has espoused some radical ideas, was an ardent believer in Technocracy.
Once sympathetic with the Soviet Union, Dr. Rugg in recent years has rewritten his chapters on Joe Stalin, made them more biting.
Nonetheless, his critics object to the Rugg texts for picturing the U. S. as a land of unequal opportunity, and giving a class-conscious account of the framing of the U. S. Constitution. They like to point out that he wrote of the Constitution: "The merchants, landov/ners, manufacturers, they shippers wanted. and ..." Some bankers of were the given critics fail what to quote the rest of the sentence, which modifies the beginning: "... namely, a government which would stabilize the money and trade, keep order within the country and defend the nation against foreign enemies."
Two years ago Garden City, L. I. banned Rugg's books from its public schools. Soon reports of Rugg-beating emanated from many another town. Biggest row was in Englewood, N. J., home town of Hearst Columnist B. C. Forbes. Mr Forbes, a member of the Englewood Boarc of Education, charged that the Rugg books were "subversive," for a year agitated unsuccessfully to have them thrown out.
>In Philadelphia, Mrs. Ellwood J. Turner, a Daughter of Colonial Wars, denounced the books because they "tried to give the child an unbiased viewpoint instead of teaching him real Americanism."
>In Bradner, Ohio, School Board Vice President D. R. Plouck seized school copies, made a bonfire.
>In Binghamton, N. Y., two members of the Board of Education proposed a public book burning, and Superintendent Daniel J. Kelly ordered the books off school library shelves. Said Dr. Kelly: "Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. . . . Personally, I can see no harm in the books. In fact, they are just the type of material I wish my children and grandchildren to use."
By last term's end, the Rugg books had been banned from some half-dozen school systems.
Last month Professor Rugg, looking harassed and unhappy, rose before summer students at Teachers College, denounced "witch hunting." Cried he: "Those who say that we don't believe in private enterprise lie!" Meanwhile Professor Rugg's publishers, Ginn & Co., announced that fall orders for Rugg books were bigger this year than last.
But last fortnight Rugg book burnings began to blaze afresh in the smalltown, American Legion belt. In rapid succession the school boards of Mountain Lakes and Wayne Township, N. J. banished Rugg texts that had been used by their pupils nearly ten years. Explained Wayne Township's Board Member Ronald Gall: "In my opinion, the books are un-American but not anti-American. . . ."