With all of the revisionism abroad today, which history are they going to teach? Hopefully, it will be His-story!
Wasn't "His-story" a Michael Jackson album title - talk about your revisionism. Actually, I'm appalled at the history texts in schools and point out the "mistakes" to my classes. That's also why even though we public school I make sure to do some homeschooling just to set things straight. It's a requirement to learn Texas history in 4th grade but a niece says she didn't and they didn't have any history last year. It's not just the schools as I've been known to holler at the Discovery Channel.
The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn by Diane Ravitch
Amazon.com The impulse in the 1960s and 70s to achieve fairness and a balanced perspective in our nations textbooks and standardized exams was undeniably necessary and commendable. Then how could it have gone so terribly wrong? Acclaimed education historian Diane Ravitch answers this question in her informative and alarming book, The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn. Author of 7 books, Ravitch served as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education from 1991 to 1993. Her expertise and her 30-year commitment to education lend authority and urgency to this important book, which describes in copious detail how pressure groups from the political right and left have wrested control of the language and content of textbooks and standardized exams, often at the expense of the truth (in the case of history), of literary quality (in the case of literature), and of education in general. Like most people involved in education, Ravitch did not realize "that educational materials are now governed by an intricate set of rules to screen out language and topics that might be considered controversial or offensive." In this clear-eyed critique, she is an unapologetic challenger of the ridiculous and damaging extremes to which bias guidelines and sensitivity training have been taken by the federal government, the states, and textbook publishers.
In a multi-page sampling of rejected test passages, we discover that "in the new meaning of bias, it its considered biased to acknowledge that lack of sight is a disability," that children who live in urban areas cannot understand passages about the country, that the Aesop fable about a vain (female) fox and a flattering (male) crow promotes gender bias. As outrageous as many of the examples are, they do not appear particularly dangerous. However, as the illustrations of abridgment, expurgation, and bowdlerization mount, the reader begins to understand that our educational system is indeed facing a monumental crisis of distortion and censorship. Ravtich ends her book with three suggestions of how to counter this disturbing tendency. Sadly, however, in the face of the overwhelming tide of misinformation that has already been entrenched in the system, her suggestions provide cold comfort. --Silvana Tropea
Censorship and politial correctness are everywhere, May 4, 2003
Reviewer: Richard K. Munro from Bakersfield, CA 93309
THE LANGUAGE POLICE is a good read and a fascinating read recommended to anyone who is interested in the "censorship" of style and content of the politically correct be they of special interest groups of the left or right. With the LANGUAGE POLICE, Diane Ravitch may have struck a powerful blow for education, common sense and freedom of expression in America a cherished first amendment right which could be eroded and undone word by word by unelected "committees" of political correctness.
The range of research and quotations is impressive covering a wide swath of famous authors present and past whose works have been banned or quietly bowdlerized or edited by testing companies and publishers without comment. Ravitch quotes an indignant Ray Bradbury who became aware of bowdlerized versions of his book Fahrenheit 451.I like the lists of censored books and the CENSORSHIP on the LEFT chapter particularly the quote on Mark Twain. Ravitch never wrote anything truer: "...Teachers and students alike must learn to grapple with this novel WHICH THEY CANNOT DO UNLESS THEY READ IT." Ravitch quotes Orwell " Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?" Has it every occurred to anyone that insipid dumbed down texts play a role in school house boredom and low achievement? Ravitch's well-researched APPENDIX of BANNED WORDS and PHRASES was great (but chilling). "Sportsmanship" and "lumberjack" are out -VERBOTEN- in favor of the gender neutral and extremely weak and uncommunicative "SPORTING CONDUCT" and "WOOD-CUTTER". As a language teacher I am concerned when words that are to found in HUNDREDS of classic literary tales and thousands if not millions of English-language books are not taught thus handicapping a generation of readers who will simply lack the vocabulary to read independently. If you think about on it, it just makes no sense and hurts the education of kids.
At the end of the book the sampler of classic literature compiled with Rodney Atkinson a well-respected teacher specialist in children's literature- was very well done not just another bloomin' list but commentaries to help remind us of the book or poem we may have forgotten or encourage us to read it or suggest others read these classics of cultural literacy a la E.D. Hirsch.
The bottom line is the LANGUAGE POLICE by DIANE RAVITCH is a good read, entertaining, informative, and worthy as a reference and a guide for the citizen, the reformer, parents and educators alike. Censored books mean bad books that suppress the truth. Untruthful, garbled text books make for bad scholars and bad teachers. Why should anyone care? Bored and low-achieving students could affect the survival and success of American democracy as well as our political and economic stability.
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