I just finished reading The Language Police by Diane Ravitch. It expressed some controversial ideas to say the least. She explains how political pressure groups shaped every single textbook in classrooms today. They forced publishers to sanitize the language, make sure the pictures were more diverse, and get this - change works of literature so that all groups were represented equally according to current statistics. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for equality. In fact, I’m a borderline feminist, but historically American women and minorities did not have the rights or opportunities that white, Anglo-saxon males did. Publishers even change genders and ethnicity inalready created and published worksto meet the demands placed on them. One of the main purposes of literature is to understand and examine ideas and mindsets from other times, and this cannot be done when changing the literature from the past.
Points where I agree with her
- It isextremelywrong to change past works of literature to fit today’s standards - this is counterproductive for any progress or education. If you don’t know the past how can you change the future?
- Historical texts should not be changed to include women and minorities when they were not present (If they were a major part of it, go for it! They’re important).
- Texts should not be changed especially without the authors knowledge or permission. (For this, she uses Ray Bradbury’s book Fahrenheit 451 as an example, a book expressly against censorship. He refused changing characters in his other books to meet textbook standards, and then was informed by a reader thatFahrenheithad been altered 75 times to meet standards of a different textbooks.)
- Textbooks should not be adopted on a statewide basis - they should be in a market with competition. If they had to fight for their places in the classrooms, surely the standards would rise. When she wrote the book in 2003, there were already only around 4 major publishers.
I disagree with these points:
- She said textbooks should not be forced to show minorities equally in photographs, illustrations, ect. However, when historical context is not changed, such as in a math or science textbook, I think representing minorities should be encouraged!
- She disagreed with the notion that national reading comprehension tests, such as the IOWA, should be extremely edited for a bias. She argued this made them dull and uninteresting. However, the point of a test like this is not to entertain, but to test skills. Since it is under a timer, and it is given to people of all classes, races, places, ect., it should be made so there’s nothing triggering or distracting for students - like suicide, racism, self-harm, or things that are place-specific. These things could alter the test scores for a particular demographic, and therefore not be a fair test of their skills.
I highly recommend reading this book. It was very interesting. What are other people’s opinions on the forced alteration of text books?