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John Leo on textbooks' smothering sensitivity(6/30/03)

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  • jpisc98357@aol.com
    Dear Friends, Some of my friends and relatives have occasionally asked me why with all of my knowledge of history that I never wanted to go into teaching. My
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2003
      Dear Friends,

      Some of my friends and relatives have occasionally asked me why with all
      of my knowledge of history that I never wanted to go into teaching. My
      response has always been that the curriculum in the schools these days has been
      dumbed down to the point of utter boredom with textbooks having been excised of
      anything interesting.

      The following article by John Leo will give you a taste of what I mean.
      Were I to actually go into teaching it would be on the condition that I would
      not use any of the "approved" vacuous textbooks now used in the schools for
      world and US history. I would look for old books from the 1950s or 1960s that
      were published before the thought police took over the field of education.

      If you took this dumbing down of the curriculum and its political
      correctness and combined it with grade inflation and political indoctrination you
      would get students who graduated high schools in the US who had not the vaguest
      idea of their historical heritage nor any context in understanding our
      political system.

      Our universities do not correct the problem, anyone graduating these days
      from our higher education system who has a good knowledge of history and
      politics that was not politically slanted got that knowledge from independent
      study. It cannot be gained from taking courses.

      Unfortunately, I see no solution on the horizon. Most of my friends are
      independent thinkers and self selected historians on the Internet because
      locally such people are so few in number that they are impossible to find. The
      Internet has provided the technology needed to allow us to find each other.

      Some of you will get several copies of this email because I think it
      important enough of a topic, to me at least, that I would like to share this
      little essay with more than just my friends on my political list.

      If you would like to write a little essay on our modern education system
      I would be happy to circulate it. If you would like to get onto my political
      discussion list, let me know.

      Best regards, John Piscopo
      <A HREF="http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/030630/opinion/30john.htm">Click here: U.S. News: John Leo on textbooks' smothering

      Now cut that out! By John Leo

      Browse through an <A HREF="http://www.usnews.com/usnews/opinion/jleo.htm">archive</A> of columns by John Leo.

      Which of the following stories would be too biased for schools to allow on
      tests? 1) Overcoming daunting obstacles, a blind man climbs Mount McKinley; 2)
      dinosaurs roam the Earth in prehistoric times; 3) an Asian-American girl, whose
      mother is a professor, plays checkers with her grandfather and brings him

      As you probably guessed, all three stories are deeply biased. 1) Emphasis on
      a "daunting" climb implies that blindness is some sort of disability, when it
      should be viewed as just another personal attribute, like hair color. Besides,
      mountain-climbing stories are examples of "regional bias," unfair to readers
      who live in deserts, cities, and rural areas. 2) Dinosaurs are a no-no--they
      imply acceptance of evolutionary theory. 3) Making the girl's mother a
      professor perpetuates the "model minority" myth that stereotypes Asian-Americans.
      Older people must not be shown playing checkers. They should be up on the roof
      fixing shingles or doing something vigorous. And pizza is a junk food. Kids may
      eat it--but not in a school story.

      That's what's going on in schools these days. Diane Ravitch's new book, The
      Language Police, documents "an intricate set of rules" applied to test
      questions as well as textbooks. A historian of education who served as an assistant
      secretary of education for the first President Bush, Ravitch offers many
      eye-catching cases of subjects vetoed: peanuts as a good snack (some children are
      allergic), owls (taboo in Navajo culture), and the palaces of ancient Egypt

      Back in the 1980s and '90s, lots of us chuckled at the spread of the
      "sensitivity" industry in schools. Words were removed from tests and books lest they
      hurt someone's feelings, harm the classroom effort, or impair morals. Most of
      us assumed that this was a fad that would soon disappear as grown-ups in
      education exerted the rule of reason.

      But ridicule had little effect, and grown-ups either converted to the
      sensitivity ethic or looked the other way. Textbook publishers, with millions of
      dollars at stake, learned to insulate themselves from criticism by caving in to
      all objections and writing craven "guidelines" to make sure authors would cave,

      No, no, no! Ravitch warns that these guidelines amount to a full-blown form
      of "censorship at the source" in schools and "something important and
      dangerous" that few people know about. She blames both the religious right and the
      multicultural-feminist left. The right objects to evolution, magic and witchcraft,
      gambling, nudity, suicide, drug use, and stories about disobedient children.
      The left objects to "sexist" fairy tales, Huckleberry Finn, religion, smoking,
      junk food, guns and knives, and what some guidelines call "activities
      stereotyping" (blacks as athletes, men playing sports or working with tools, women
      cooking or caring for children).

      What started out as a sensible suggestion--don't always show women as
      homemakers or minorities in low-level jobs--developed into hard reverse stereotypes
      (women must not be shown in the home, maids can't be black). "In the ideal
      world of education-think," Ravitch writes, "women would be breadwinners,
      African-Americans would be academics, Asian-Americans would be athletes and no one
      would be a wife or a mother."

      Whites are a group, perhaps the only group, not protected by smothering
      sensitivity. This follows multicultural dogma. One set of guidelines (McGraw-Hill)
      "express[es] barely concealed rage against people of European ancestry" as
      "uniquely responsible for bigotry and exploitation," Ravitch notes.

      What can be done? Ravitch recommends eliminating the current system in which
      22 states adopt textbooks for all their schools. She says it results in
      cartel-like behavior that allows extremists to manipulate textbook requirements,
      particularly in the two big states that matter most--California and Texas.
      Opening up the market, she thinks, would free teachers to choose biographies,
      histories, or anthologies, rather than sensitivity-laden textbooks.

      Panels that analyze tests and texts should include teachers of the subjects,
      not just diversity specialists, Ravitch says. She insists we need
      better-educated teachers and an end to secrecy about sensitivity: State education
      officials must put bias and sensitivity reviews on the Internet, listing the reasons
      that passages and test items were rejected.

      Unsurprisingly, The Language Police has gotten the cold shoulder from our
      education establishment, which usually limits discussion to three topics:
      promoting diversity, reducing classroom size, and increasing funding. Ravitch speaks
      for parents more concerned about something else: substituting censorship and
      propaganda for actual learning.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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