Former US Secretary of Education against censorship of school books

July 2003 -

Educational materials in the United States are subject to strict censorship. Publishers delete everything they believe could be construed as offensive, sometimes even from literary texts. This enables them to sell their books to the largest possible number of schools. Diane Ravitch, former Secretary of Education and a renowned researcher, describes how this censorship works in her recent book ‘The Language Police’. She presents strong arguments against this ‘method of undermining reality’.

There are at least five hundred words and concepts that are taboo. For example: yachting cannot be mentioned because it is elitist, old people cannot be portrayed as ill, because that stereotypes them, a woman’s body cannot be described as ‘boyish’ because that is sexist, and handicapped athletes cannot be praised for their performance because that is discriminatory. For the same reasons Asian Americans cannot be described as intelligent and hard working and Jews cannot be lawyers or dentists. Dinosaurs cannot be mentioned because that implies evolution, which some strict Christian groups deny. And mothers and fathers who divorce rarely appear in this universe, either.

According to Ravitch, politically correct thinking has gone much too far. What began in the sixties and seventies as a well-intended attempt to portray minority groups using fewer clichés has now evolved into an absurd fear of offending someone. This method of expressing respect for diversity leads to undermining reality rather than enriching it. Moreover it prevents children from learning what is really going on in the world. There is a huge gap between what they learn at school and what they see in the media. Ravitch recommends that her fellow countrymen contact their state education departments and demand a list of censured concepts.