by David M. Kinchen:
My only complaint about Diane Ravitch's "The Language Police" is the title. It needlessly insults police! Perhaps the author, a distinguished historian and academic, should have titled it "The Language Gestapo." However, considering the sorry state of education today few people would understand the significance of the word "Gestapo."
The subtitle of this surprising (or maybe not so surprising) bestseller outlines its scope: "How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn." What started out as a legitimate redressing of sexist and racist stereotypes in the 1960s has become a dead hand on learning, Ravitch argues. And it has undoubtedly contributed to the dismal state of education in the U.S. today.
Ravitch, ... thoroughly examined the K-12 textbook production and selection process, .... She finds the content of her research discouraging. Censors and pressure groups on the right and left have formed a de facto unholy alliance to dumb down textbooks, leaving a large majority of them are worse than useless-they are harmful.
She writes: ...Right-wing groups exert more influence on general books while left-wing groups concentrate on textbooks. Both have lined up to attack such literary classics as Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." Fundamentalist groups are well known for attacking textbooks that discuss evolution without balancing Darwin's theory of evolution with biblical creationism.
....One of the appendixes of the book is a list of banned words, phrases, concepts, etc. This glossary includes such shockers as "manly" (sexist); "maven" (regional or ethnic bias); Navajo" (inauthentic, replace with Dine'); "Gringo" (offensive); "handyman (sexist); "maid" (sexist, replace with "house cleaner"); "actress" (sexist, replace with "actor"-tell that to the Oscar people); "regatta" (elitist-tell that to the organizers of the popular Charleston, W.Va. Sternwheel Regatta held every Labor Day). Avoid anything with the dreaded three-letter word "man" in it; use "it," not "him" or "her" in referring to animals.
"Let us, at last, fire the language police. We don't need them. Let them return to the precincts where speech is rationed, thought is imprisoned, and humor is punished