Monday, February 06, 2006

Ssshhh...Not in Front of the Children

In class on Thursday, we were given an excerpt from Diane Ravitch's book The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn. This list is "a compilation of words, usages, stereotypes, and topics banned by major publishers of educational materials and state agencies."

I was overwhelmed by the two-sided page of banned words and phrases that we received in class--a list that is used by the publishers that make the textbooks I use in my own classroom. So, I immediately ordered The Language Police, which contains thirty pages of these banned items.

Among the things my students will not come across in text:
  • Bookworm (banned as offensive, replace with intellectual)
  • Chief (banned as a noun referring to a Native American leader)
  • Craftsmanship (banned as sexist, no replacement)
  • Devil (banned)
  • Gay (banned, as it suggests homosexual, replace with happy, lighthearted)
  • the Girls (banned as sexist)
  • God (banned)
  • Lady (banned as sexist)
  • Old (banned as an adjective that implies helplessness, dependency, or other negative conceptions)
  • Old wives' tales (banned as sexist, replace with folk wisdom)
  • Turning a deaf ear (banned as handicapism)
And a few images my students will never come across:
  • Women portrayed as teacher, mother, nurse, and/or secretary
  • Father expressionless and relaxed in trying circumstances
  • Boys playing sports
  • Women as passengers on a sailboat or sipping hot chocolate in a ski lodge.
  • People of color being angry
  • African Americans living in urban environments
  • Native Americans living in rural settings on reservations
  • Chinese people who have great food
  • Older people who have twinkles in their eyes
  • Older people who are retired, are at the end of their careers, have lived the most fruitful years of their lives, or are engaged in a life of leisure activities
  • Children as healthy bundles of energy

While it always pisses me off to see a woman sipping hot chocolate in a ski lodge, I think we may have gone a little overboard here. There is much more I can say about this, but I'm going to let the list speak for itself. Please comment, I'm interested to see where this discussion takes us.


SammieD said...

Overboard is right. And sometimes I think society is too sensitive about certain things and have completely ignored things that they should be more sensitive about. I think the fear is that some expressions/images have insiduous qualities that are planting negative perceptions in people especially our children. But to be honest bookworm and craftmanship? I didn't even know to give it a negative connotation.

~Samantha from NJ~

Anonymous said...

Nah, I think it's completely justified. I'd hate to have my children come home using such foul language as "lady," "God," or "old." And to think that anyone other than white people get angry is just laughable.

I'm glad to see our schools are teaching children about what the world's really like.

Selvi Sindu said...

Am a student too. I am Indian student now moving to an International school in Switzerland. As a teenager these words may sound cool but these words can really hurt. So its better to avoid them. But a Bookworm as I know is one who reads a lot of books and a craftman is someone who is damp good in drawing. Even in India we are not supposed to use nasty words.But a Bookworm was common used to those who read a lot of books. My pals used to call me a book worm coz I love to read and call me captain coz I was the Basket ball team captain.