Thursday, March 10, 2011

I am an embarassment to my culture--or something like that

I continue reading "The Language Police" and it makes me madder and madder.

There is a lot to make anyone mad about what textbook and standardized test makers  have to go through to sell their products. At first I was mad at them for deleting everything worthwhile out of their products, but then as I read more they do it because there are so many pressure and special interest groups that will put up such a stink if their interests are not taken into account.

 In a reading or social studies textbook, for example, there have to be the same amount of female and male characters. Same amount of men to women, same amount of boy animals to girl animals. If there is an nanny goat, there better be a male animal to balance the book out.

No African American can be shown as an athlete; no Asian person as a cook, no older person with glasses, apron, cane or anything that makes them seem old [I think gray hair is OK :)-even fishing and baking cookies is out!], no woman can wear an apron or be cooking or caring for children...and so it goes. The reason? This is stereotyping and is insulting to the group you are stereotyping.

What?  [So, this is how I am an embarrassment--and maybe you are too.]

I think it is insulting to act like I am somehow an embarrassment to society because I care for children, cook a meal or wear glasses?? I mean isn't it really wrong to NOT show people doing things they actually do? I don't think all Asians shown should be cooking, or all African Americans should be athletes--any more than I think that all women should be shown as caring for children or baking cookies.

But none! Really!

As a woman who loves being a homemaker and who is a glasses-wearing, cooking-baking grandma, I resent the idea that showing a woman in that capacity is demeaning.  In my opinion it is demeaning to me  if you leave out anyone at all that looks traditional or is doing something that many people actually do.

I am still reading this book, but it makes me glad my kids got to read and have read to them, REAL BOOKS. Books that show people how they are--in all capacities.

Oh, and I forgot to say that grade school readers and standardized tests have to have questions that are location neutral. What I mean is that something can't be happening in the desert, or near the ocean or on a mountain or somewhere where it snows. The reason? Children who don't live in those places won't understand what those places are like and will somehow feel bad that they don't live by the beach  or have snow, or whatever!!

So, we have watered down stories about a non-traditional person anywhere doing something. Wow, how educational is that? I think about The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. We didn't have to have snow to understand how cold and depressing the Long Winter was. We didn't have to experience hunger to understand how hungry the whole town was. If you take away the location and the actual things people do [Ma cooked and took care of the girls, Pa took care of the animals and went to get fuel to burn--my how horrible for my children to see people doing these traditional chores!] what are you left with? Where is the educational value of books?

It makes me sad for students and for us as a culture.

Take care,

My Other Language Police posts:
See post 1 here
See post 2 here.  
See Post 3 here.

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