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The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn
Author: Diane Ravitch
Publisher: by Alfred A. Knopf
Test scores continue to plummet, illiteracy levels are rising and public schools in the United States continue to be abandoned in favor of private schools or homeschooling.
One might ask; why would world's only superpower be experiencing such a precipitous drop in educational standards?
Could the answer lie in the nation's increasingly substandard and sanitized public school textbooks and bland-as-heck standardized tests?
One brave and honest author believes that's definitely a key factor in the dumbing-down of America's children.
The book in question is a fascinating read by Diane Ravitch called The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn, published by Alfred A. Knopf.
Ravitch has the credentials. She was an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education during Pres. George H.W. Bush's administration.
In her book, Ravitch outlines how rigid censorship and rampant political correctness have turned the nation's public school textbooks into dead tree versions of the insipid and annoying It's A Small World After All ride at Disneyland. Yikes!
For instance, for the years, words like "able-boded seaman," "cowboy" and "fisherman" were commonplace in our textbooks. Now they are viewed as sexist by the all-knowing publishing houses.
The word "huts" is banned by publishers because its allegedly ethnocentric, "massacre" is a no-no because it is offensive to American Indians. Laughably, "soda," "soul food" and "snow cone" are banned for regional bias. This is barely scratching the surface. Her glossary of banned world, usages, stereotypes and topics goes on for over 30 pages.
In the section addressing stereotyped images to avoid, Ravitch says the publishers don't want images of women in so-called stereotypical roles. Women portrayed as nurses, secretaries, or teachers are strongly discouraged, just as men shown as lawyers, doctors, and plumbers are also unacceptable. It doesn't matter if it reflects the real world we all live in. Clearly the politically correct publishing houses live in a parallel universe. It's truly unbelievable.
This thought control is truly chilling and Ravitch, who has thoroughly researched this subject, discovered that this is happening because powerful interests on the left and right have been hounding publishing houses for over 30 years getting them to remove certain words and images via Orwellian bias and sensitivity panels.
Persons working in the name of protecting the children are still at. Just last month, in the McAllen Monitor, a south Texas newspaper, the parents of local school children were upset that Aldous Huxley's Brave New World was read by their children because some sections might cause "sexual arousal" and therefore should be banned. One parent, Darlene Medrano, told the Monitor that Brave New World was a "vulgar" book that is "educationally unsuitable" and "should be removed."
Medrano and the other parents fail to understand that Huxley wrote the book in hopes of warning future generations against embracing ideologies where the individual doesn't matter and everything is supposedly safe and sterile, where and sex is loveless and bereft of commitment.
In The Language Police, Ravitch writes, "Rewarding groups that complain by allowing them to censor words and images that they don't like only encourages them. Censorship should be stopped, not rewarded by compliance and victories." Fortunately, she offers some solutions, giving the book’s ending a positive tone. Reflecting the real world in textbooks and on tests prepares children for the world that awaits them long after they've left the schoolhouse behind.
This book will challenge and encourage the reader to take a stand against the ever-expanding legions of censors on both sides of the political spectrum.
Andrew West Griffin 10/28/03