[EAS]Censorship in Education

pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Wed Jun 4 14:23:20 EDT 2003

Subject:   Censorship in Education

This book seems like a good update opportunity on an insidious
process. These days we are usually roused only by the blatant, but
the cumulative effect of insidious processes is grave. Ideas and
reasoned thinking disappear as their habitats are progressively
"paved over." --PJK
(from NewsScan Daily, 4 June 2003)

      Education writer and former assistant secretary of education
Diane  Ravitch says that, in order to eliminate bias and harmful
stereotypes, school textbooks are now being policed beyond reason:
      "After many years of studying the history of education and
writing  about the politics of education, I discovered some things
that shocked me.  Almost by accident, I stumbled upon an elaborate,
well-established protocol  of beneficent censorship, quietly
endorsed and broadly implemented by textbook publishers, testing
agencies, states, and the federal government. I did not learn about
this state of affairs in one fell swoop, but one step at a time.
Like others who are involved in education, be they parents or 
teachers or administrators or journalists or scholars, I had always
assumed that textbooks were based on careful research and designed
to help children learn something valuable. I thought that tests
were designed to assess whether they had learned it. What I did not
realize was 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.  Some of this censorship
is trivial, some is ludicrous, and some is breathtaking in its
power to dumb down what children learn in school.
      "Initially these practices began with the intention of
identifying and excluding any conscious or implicit statements of
bias against African Americans, other racial or ethnic minorities,
and females, whether in tests or textbooks, especially any
statements that demeaned members of these groups. These efforts
were entirely reasonable and justified. However, what began with
admirable intentions has evolved into a surprisingly broad and 
increasingly bizarre policy of censorship that has gone far beyond
its original scope and now excises from tests and textbooks words,
images, passages, and ideas that no reasonable person would
consider biased in the usual meaning of that term."

for Diane Ravitch's "The Language Police: How Pressure Groups
Restrict What  Students Learn" -- or look for it in your favorite
library. (We donate all  revenue from our book recommendations to
adult literacy programs.)

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