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The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn - Softcover

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If you’re an actress or a coed just trying to do a man-size job, a yes-man who turns a deaf ear to some sob sister, an heiress aboard her yacht, or a bookworm enjoying a boy’s night out, Diane Ravitch’s internationally acclaimed The Language Police has bad news for you: Erase those words from your vocabulary!

Textbook publishers and state education agencies have sought to root out racist, sexist, and elitist language in classroom and library materials. But according to Diane Ravitch, a leading historian of education, what began with the best of intentions has veered toward bizarre extremes. At a time when we celebrate and encourage diversity, young readers are fed bowdlerized texts, devoid of the references that give these works their meaning and vitality. With forceful arguments and sensible solutions for rescuing American education from the pressure groups that have made classrooms bland and uninspiring, The Language Police offers a powerful corrective to a cultural scandal.

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Review:
The impulse in the 1960s and ‘70s to achieve fairness and a balanced perspective in our nation’s textbooks and standardized exams was undeniably necessary and commendable. Then how could it have gone so terribly wrong? Acclaimed education historian Diane Ravitch answers this question in her informative and alarming book, The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn. Author of 7 books, Ravitch served as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education from 1991 to 1993. Her expertise and her 30-year commitment to education lend authority and urgency to this important book, which describes in copious detail how pressure groups from the political right and left have wrested control of the language and content of textbooks and standardized exams, often at the expense of the truth (in the case of history), of literary quality (in the case of literature), and of education in general. Like most people involved in education, Ravitch did not realize "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." In this clear-eyed critique, she is an unapologetic challenger of the ridiculous and damaging extremes to which bias guidelines and sensitivity training have been taken by the federal government, the states, and textbook publishers.

In a multi-page sampling of rejected test passages, we discover that "in the new meaning of bias, it its considered biased to acknowledge that lack of sight is a disability," that children who live in urban areas cannot understand passages about the country, that the Aesop fable about a vain (female) fox and a flattering (male) crow promotes gender bias. As outrageous as many of the examples are, they do not appear particularly dangerous. However, as the illustrations of abridgment, expurgation, and bowdlerization mount, the reader begins to understand that our educational system is indeed facing a monumental crisis of distortion and censorship. Ravitich ends her book with three suggestions of how to counter this disturbing tendency. Sadly, however, in the face of the overwhelming tide of misinformation that has already been entrenched in the system, her suggestions provide cold comfort. --Silvana Tropea
From the Back Cover:
“Lucid, forceful, written with insight, passion, compassion and conviction, The Language Police is not only hair-raisingly readable but deeply reasonable. It should be required reading not only for parents, teachers and educators, but for everyone who cares about history, literature, science, culture and indeed the civilization in which we live.” --Merle Rubin, Los Angeles Times

“Revealing and important... Ravitch richly illustrates her case... her compilation of evidence and argument is overwhelming.” --Daniel Kevles, New York Times Book Review

“Fiercely argued... Ms. Ravitch ... writes with enormous authority and common sense. She shows how priggish, censorious and downright absurd ''the language police'' can be, and she does so with furious logic. Every bit as alarming as it is illuminating.”--Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

“Ravitch (is) ... whistle-blower extraordinaire.”--Gary Rosen, Wall Street Journal

“It should make you scream.” -- Jane Eisner, Philadelphia Inquirer

“A stunning piece of research and exposition that uncovers the hidden censorship currently practiced in the public schools through all reading matter. The prohibition of a great many words and subjects and the substitution for some of clumsy phrases shows up the censors as both self-righteous and of feeble mind. They are not warring against the improper or the sophisticated, but against fancied causes of bias or upset through the unfamiliar. The net effect is to render any piece of print so vapid as to neutralize its capacity to teach the child anything new and certain to bore him cruelly.”–Jacques Barzun

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  • PublisherVintage
  • Publication date2004
  • ISBN 10 1400030641
  • ISBN 13 9781400030644
  • BindingPaperback
  • Number of pages288
  • Rating
    3.66 avg rating
    ( 683 ratings by Goodreads )

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