Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Banned Words in Lit Books, History Books and Standardized Tests--The Language Police Part 3

I finished reading "The Language Police" by Diane Ravitch yesterday and I am still reeling from what I have read in this book.  For post 1 and 2, please click on the numbers.

You would not believe that left wing and right wing pressure groups put so much pressure on the state text book people [who approve what text books to use] that text book publishers--[there are four major ones, only one a US owned company] have to be very careful they don't say anything to rile any group. Since Texas and California are HUGE textbooks suppliers and the schools can only used texts approved by the state oversight committee, they drive what is allowed in standardized tests and texts.

As I finished reading the book last night I came to Appendix 1 and was alternatively mad, shaking my head, reading parts out loud to Bob and actually laughing. So, for your enjoyment or for making you mad, here are some of the banned words, phrases and photos from actual state adoption committees. I have no idea how a contributing editor to a text book can even write anything that passes...

~Starting out with the first entry...
  • Able-bodied (banned as offensive, replace with person who is non-disabled]
  • Adam and Eve (replace with Eve and Adam to demonstrate that males do not take priority over females)
  • Lumberjack (replace with woodcutter) [My comment: Are they the same thing? When I say woodcutter does that conjure up images of flannel, men with cross cut saws and floating logs down a river? Not even close in my opinion, and many of the banned words do the same thing. They take away images, smells and so much richness.]
  • Birdman (banned as sexist, replace with ornithologist) [My comment--some guy on a roof with pigeons is not necessarily an ornithologist, is he?]
  • Pop and Soda (regional term, may confuse child, say name brand); [My comment: The interesting thing is California bans name brands so I guess they say carbonated beverage? And that is less confusing than pop or soda?]
  • Courageous (Banned as patronizing when referring to a person with disabilities.]
  • Craftmanship (Banned as sexist, no replacement.)
  • Cro-magnon man (Banned as sexist)
  • Devil,/Satan 
  • God
  • East, Eastern (banned as Eurocentric when used to discuss world geography; refer to specific continent or region instead)
  • Fairy (Banned because it suggests homosexuality, replace with elf) [My comment: Elves and Fairies are not the same things, and I think Fairies would not do well at making toys with Santa.]
  • Fellowship (banned as sexist, replace as friendship. [My comment: Friendship of the Ring??? I don't think so!]
  • Freshman (banned as sexist, use first-year student.)
  • He/She/Him/ Her
  • Jungle (banned, replace with rain forest, savannah)
  • Man (banned as a sexist verb, as in man the pumps.)
  • Middle East ( banned as Eurocentric, replace with South-west Asia--May be acceptable as a historical reference)
  • Papoose (banned as demeaning to Native Americans-[My comment-but in a history book?]
  • Mothering (banned as sexist, replace with nurturing, parenting)
  • All Native American Tribes such as Navajo, use names they call them selves, such as Dine
  • Old (banned as an adjective that implies helplessness, dependency, or other negative conceptions)
  • Snowball (Banned for regional bias, replace with flavored ice. [My comment: did you ever throw flavored ice at someone on a cold day? Have a flavored ice fight?]
  • Tomboy [sexist]
  • Workmanship (banned as sexist, no replacement)
  • Huts (banned as ethnocentric, replace with small houses [My comment: Really? Are those the same things?]

I could go on. "Balance names like Mary and John with Jose, Lashunda, Che and Ling. Do not compare humans with animals such as "eyes like a doe". Images to avoid: Women in jobs less powerful than men, women or men in stereotypical jobs such as women teachers and male doctors; Men and boy heavier and larger than women and girls; Mother comforting children, giving sympathy, hugs, kisses, hot milk at bedtime, girls playing in dresses,  Japanese people as law abiding {?}, older people who are cute, grumpy, meek, bitter, hard of hearing, rocking in chairs, baking, fishing, knitting whittling, etc.

I think you get the idea.

It makes me sad for all the children who have been educated over the past 25+ years with many/most of these bannings in place. In my opinion this is why it is so important that children are read and read for themselves real books, real literature.

Mario Vargas Llosa (novelist) has said literature offers a common denominator for understand human experience; it allows human beings to recognize one another across time and space...Nothing better protects a human being against the stupidity of prejudice, racism, religious or political sectarianism, and exclusivist nationalism than learning about other cultures and times through great literature.

Ravitch says, "Great literature does not comfort us; it does not make us feel better about ourselves. It is not written to enhance our self-esteem or to make us feel that we are "included" in the story. It takes us into its own world and creates its own reality. It shakes us up; it makes us think. Sometimes it makes us cry."

I will close for now, but I urge you if this sparks your interest at all, please get "The Language Police" and as always read to your kids. There is nothing better you can do than to share great literature with your children. If you don't know what to read, shoot me an email and I will be glad to help you.

Take care,

See other posts by going here:

See post 1 here
See post 2 here.  
See Post 3 here.

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