Diane Ravitch updates The Language Police in this morning’s Wall Street Journal:
In my book “The Language Police,” I gathered a list of more than 500 words that are routinely deleted from textbooks and tests by “bias review committees” employed by publishing companies, state education departments and the federal government. Among the forbidden words are “landlord,” “cowboy,” “brotherhood,” “yacht,” “cult” and “primitive.” Such words are deleted because they are offensive to various groups–feminists, religious conservatives, multiculturalists and ethnic activists, to name a few.
I invited readers of the book to send me examples of language policing, and they did, by the score. A bias review committee for the state test in New Jersey rejected a short story by Langston Hughes because he used the words “Negro” and “colored person.” Michigan bans a long list of topics from its state tests, including terrorism, evolution, aliens and flying saucers (which might imply evolution).
A textbook writer sent me the guidelines used by the Harcourt/Steck/Vaughn company to remove photographs that might give offense. Editors must delete, the guidelines said, pictures of women with big hair or sleeveless blouses and men with dreadlocks or medallions. Photographs must not portray the soles of shoes or anyone eating with the left hand (both in deference to Muslim culture). To avoid giving offense to those who cannot afford a home computer, no one may be shown owning a home computer. To avoid offending those with strong but differing religious views, decorations for religious holidays must never appear in the background.
A college professor informed me that a new textbook in human development includes the following statement: “As a folksinger once sang, how many roads must an individual walk down before you can call them an adult.” The professor was stupefied that someone had made the line gender-neutral and ungrammatical by rewriting Bob Dylan’s folk song “Blowin’ in the Wind,” which had simply asked: “How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?”…
Read the whole thing here.