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Back to May Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 220 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS MAY 2004

Language Police Censor Texts, Tests
Diane Ravitch
Diane Ravitch
"Bias review committees" employed by state education departments, the federal government and publishing companies have managed to sanitize school textbooks and passages in standardized tests to a ridiculous extent, as documented by Diane Ravitch in her book The Language Police. Since publication of her book, numerous additional examples of censorship have surfaced.

New York is the worst offender, according to Ravitch, who recently learned that the states guidelines for language sensitivity requires nearly all references to age, ancestry, disability, ethnicity, nationality, physical appearance, race, religion, sex or sexuality to be deleted. These unpublicized guidelines were discovered by Candace deRussy, a trustee of the State University of New York, who had to use a state freedom-of-information law to obtain a copy of the training materials for the bias and sensitivity reviewers. (Wall Street Journal, 2-13-04)

The most comical example of how similar guidelines mangle literary passages is the following statement in a new textbook on human development brought to Ravitchs attention: "As a folksinger once sang, how many roads must an individual walk down before you can call them an adult." This is a gender-neutral rewrite of Bob Dylans folk song "Blowin in the Wind," which contains the line: "How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?"

Based on the training materials, the following is a partial list of words declared by the New York education department to be taboo, biased or to be avoided:
addict
alumnus
American
cancer patient
city fathers
elderly
fireman
gentlemans agreement
ghetto
grandfather clause
handyman
hostess
illegal alien
illegitimate
illiterate
man-hours
manpower
manind
manmade
masterpiece
mastery
penmanship
teenager
senior citizen
third world
uncivilized
underprivileged
unmarried
white, blue or pink collar
widow
widower
yes man


 
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