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The Language Police by Diane Ravitch

The Language Police (2003)

by Diane Ravitch

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Examines how the current publication of history textbooks and their perspectives on history have been profoundly affected by the interests of pressure groups from the left and right wings, sensitivity and bias committees, and state departments of education. It describes the publishers' bias guidelines for their editors, writers and illustrators; verboten topics all along the spectrum; even the ratio of men to women, people of color, disabled and abled in book illustrations. The author decries that today's textbooks do not provide rich language and that they confuse the stories of the history of the land, the origins of the American people and the history of the nation-state. (p. 154) All in the interest of "protecting" children and "boosting" their self-esteem. Revealing and depressing.
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
Timely report on the effect pressure groups have on the literature taught in The public school system ( )
  kellymaliawilliams | Apr 8, 2012 |
I'm only 5 or 6 chapters into this book, and already she's explained why the textbooks I was forced to read in school were so mind-numbingly boring! I would recommend this book to anyone interested in what schools are teaching.
  ArmyAngel1986 | Nov 21, 2006 |
There are many shocks to the senses one encounters as someone in her late 50's decides to finally pursue an undergraduate degree. I've arrived at a sort of peace with the body piercings, backwards baseball caps, and every sentence ending as a question, ya know? There is one thing which continues to intrigue me, however, and that is the textbooks. Beyond the fact that they were clearly developed for a generation used to information being summarized in factoid form, the efforts on the part of editors and publishers to present a perfectly unbiased, sanitized for social content text are amazing. I set out to find some corroboration for my perception of the textbooks and found Diane Ravitch's THE LANGUAGE POLICE on the library shelves. While her portrayal of textbooks swings the pendulum to the critical extreme, it does raise some interesting questions...questions that are important for anyone interested in how information is being gathered and presented...to any generation of students. ( )
2 vote owlsfeathers | Oct 13, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375414827, Hardcover)

The impulse in the 1960s and ‘70s to achieve fairness and a balanced perspective in our nation’s 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. Ravitich 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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:21 -0400)

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"Diane Ravitch maintains that America's students are compelled to read insipid texts that have been censored and bowdlerized, issued by publishers who willingly cut controversial material from their books - a case of the bland leading the bland." "The Language Police is the first full-scale expose of this cultural and educational scandal, written by a leading historian. It documents the existence of an elaborate and well-established protocol of beneficent censorship, quietly endorsed and implemented by test makers and textbook publishers, states, and the federal government. School boards and bias and sensitivity committees review, abridge, and modify texts to delete potentially offensive words, topics, and imagery. Publishers practice self-censorship to sell books in big states." "Ravitch offers a powerful political and economic analysis of the causes of censorship. She has practical and sensible solutions for ending it, which will improve the quality of books for students as well as liberating publishers, state boards of education, and schools from the grip of pressure groups."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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