The Sunday Times

from Rense Website

recovered through WayBackMachine website,5942,6382818,00.html

Mickey Mouse is a scary rodent. Harry Potter is anti-family. Christmas should be avoided. Dinosaurs are banned. In the wacky world of US education, the language police are out of control.

After 25 years of creeping censorship of school textbooks, the full scale of political correctness has been exposed in a startling new survey of official meddling in education.

In a book acclaimed as the first comprehensive expose of a national scandal, former US government official Diane Ravitch argues that a laudable attempt to rid US schools of racial bias and sexual discrimination has been taken to ridiculous extremes.

"Some of this censorship is trivial, some is ludicrous and some is breathtaking in its power to dumb down what children learn in school," said Ravitch, an educational historian who has worked with both Republican and Democrat administrations.

Her astounding glossary of words and topics that have been banned by individual state agencies or voluntarily suppressed by educational publishers has sparked a national row over an epidemic of what The New York Times described as "bowdlerising texts, whitewashing history and eviscerating prose".


A reviewer in The Chicago Sun-Times concluded:

"This book will cause readers to gnash their teeth as they read of the outrages against common sense."

In The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn, Ravitch reveals that a story entitled The Friendly Dolphin was rejected by one school committee because it discriminated against students who did not live near the sea. Another story, The Silly Old Lady, was rejected because it contained a "negative stereotype" of an elderly woman who put too many gadgets on her bicycle.


A story called A Perfect Day for Ice-Cream had to be rewritten without reference to ice-cream - because of a ban in California on any mention of junk food.

Mickey Mouse fell from favor in some schools either because of his rodent heritage or because he is also a corporate brand (banned in California and elsewhere).

Ravitch's list of test subjects that individual schools deem best avoided - on the grounds that they might distract sensitive students - includes disobedient children, ghosts, quarrelling parents, ski trips and birthday parties. In some schools, dinosaurs cannot be mentioned because they imply a theory of evolution that not all Americans accept.

Ravitch claims that the process of "cleansing" text in this manner is being applied routinely throughout the US school system. Book critics have hailed her research as the potential launch pad for a backlash against the "bias and sensitivity" panels that advise state education boards on reading matter for children.

Originally formed to eradicate blatant racial and sexual stereotyping, the panels now operate what Ravitch claims is,

"an increasingly bizarre policy of censorship" that has had the effect of "stripping away everything that is potentially thought-provoking and colorful from the texts children are to encounter".

Ravitch blames pressure groups of both the Left and Right for imposing dubious political agendas on the education process. She also complains that educational publishers have meekly complied in order to avoid controversy that might hurt sales.

As a result, she argues, too many US school authorities have forsaken the emotional, spiritual and aesthetic benefits of reading a good book in favor of a mechanical process they call "interacting with text".

US children, like their counterparts around the world, are at present reveling in the Harry Potter series, which breaks just about every law in the bias and sensitivity book.

  • Not only is Harry an orphan (banned - might be emotionally upsetting);

  • He is also depicted as "curious, ingenious, able to overcome obstacles" (banned - sexual stereotyping);

  • He is an "active, brave, decisive problem-solver" (banned - sexual stereotyping);

  • And, worst of all, he has a pet owl (banned - owls are taboo for the Navajo Indians and are associated with death in some cultures).

Ravitch warns that children will not be fooled by a diet of sanitised texts when they know that Potter and similar adventures lurk on bookshelves and in cinemas.


School is becoming,

"the Empire of Boredom", says Ravitch. "Something is terribly wrong here."

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