How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn
Author: Diane Ravitch
Publisher: Knopf, Alfred A
April 2003

>From the Publisher
Before Anton Chekhov and Mark Twain can be used in school readers and exams, they must be vetted by a bias and sensitivity committee. An anthology used in Tennessee schools changed "By God!" to "By gum!" and "My God!" to "You don't mean it." The New York State Education Department omitted mentioning Jews in an Isaac Bashevis Singer story about prewar Poland, or blacks in Annie Dillard's memoir of growing up in a racially mixed town. California rejected a reading book because The Little Engine That Could was male. Diane Ravitch maintains that America's students are compelled to read insipid texts that have been censored and bowdlerized, issued by publishers who willingly cut controversial material from their books -- a case of the bland leading the bland.

The Language Police is the first full-scale exposť of this cultural and educational scandal, written by a leading historian. It documents the existence of an elaborate and well-established protocol of beneficent censorship, quietly endorsed and implemented by test makers and textbook publishers, states, and the federal government. School boards and bias and sensitivity committees review, abridge, and modify texts to delete potentially offensive words, topics, and imagery. Publishers practice self-censorship to sell books in big states.

To what exactly do the censors object? A typical publisher's guideline advises that:

The result of these revisions are-no surprise! -- boring, inane texts about a cotton-candy world bearing no resemblance to what children can access with the click of a remote control or a computer mouse. Sadly, data show that these efforts to sanitize language do not advance learning or bolster test scores, the very reason given for banning allegedly insensitive words and topics.

Ravitch offers a powerful political and economic analysis of the causes of censorship. She has practical and sensible solutions for ending it, which will improve the quality of books for students as well as liberating publishers, state boards of education, and schools from the grip of pressure groups.

Passionate and polemical, The Language Police is a book for every educator, concerned parent, and engaged citizen.

Diane Ravitch is a historian of education and Research Professor of Education at New York University and Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. She was assistant secretary in charge of research in the U.S. Department of Education in the administration of President George H. W. Bush and was appointed to the National Assessment Governing Board by President Bill Clinton. The author of seven previous books on education, including the critically acclaimed Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform, she lives in Brooklyn, New York.

DDC Review:

With her well-researched studies and many books, education historian and former assistant secretary of education, Diane Ravitch has certainly evolved into a position to know just how an extended generation of the education establishment has managed to tear down learning in this country, and American history along with it. Historical revisionists, censors and elements of the self-absorbed boomer generation are responsible for deconstructing education and reconstructing history in their own image. Indeed, they have robbed generations of students of their education.

It is simply unconscionable how the academic elite, hyper-sensitive pressure groups and selfish interests have dismantled history by distorting the meaning of America and democracy, and by engaging in the personal destruction of our "Founding Fathers," one by one. Hopefully, the ongoing efforts to restore education, by removing distortions and turning around the factories of ignorance, will stop the mass production of functionally illiterate children and save our students from culture sculptors and prescribed failure. Diane Ravitch is leading in the right direction. Her books, including her recently published, "The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn," should be required reading in teacher's colleges.

Related story in the Los Angeles Times - April 26, 2003 - California section:

By Duke Helfand
Times Staff Writer,1,190844.story?coll=l a%2Dheadlines%2Dcalifornia

Also recommended:

A Century of Battles over School Reform
Author: Diane Ravitch
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
August 2001

>From the Publisher
For the past one hundred years, Americans have argued and worried about the quality of their schools. Some charged that students were not learning enough, while others complained that the schools were not furthering social progress. In Left Back, education historian Diane Ravitch describes this ongoing battle of ideas and explains why school reform has so often disappointed. She recounts grandiose efforts to use the schools for social engineering, even while those efforts diminished the schools' ability to provide a high-quality education for all children. By illuminating the history of education in the twentieth century, Left Back points the way to reviving American schools today.

Also recommended:


American Education, 1945-1980
Author: Diane Ravitch
Publisher: Perseus Publishing
January 1984

>From the Publisher
This book is a report on the state of the crusade against ignorance during a particularly tumultuous time in American History. Many other crusades stormed through the nation's educational institutions during these thirty-five years, sometimes complementing the crusade against ignorance, at other times subordinating it to some other worthy or unworthy cause.

This book "begins with the adoption of the GI Bill and the . . . postwar struggle over federal aid to education. . . . Ravitch then describes the . . . career of the progressive education movement and portrays the loyalty investigations in schools and universities during the McCarthy era. A . . . portion of the book is devoted to . . . documentation of the racial revolution and the schools. Ravitch assesses the reforms in education that followed Sputnik--the new math, the new science, the new social studies; gives . . . {an} account of the campus upheavals of the 1960s; charts the rise and fall of open education; and details the development of such recent issues as busing, bilingual education, feminism, and affirmative action." (Publisher's note) Annotated bibliography. Index.