Excerpts from Reviews of 

The Language Police

by Diane Ravitch



by Richard K. Munro


Diane Ravitch's
The Language Police is a wonderful book, worthy of the exposés of Ida Tarbell or the essays of Mencken or Orwell. ....." With The Language Police, Diane Ravitch has struck a powerful blow for education, common sense and freedom. Ravitch shows that it .... doesn’t matter ... if children are interested in the books they read in school, .... as long as the books meet the censors’ official guidelines. ....the censors.... are the publishers themselves, who ....have allowed themselves to be browbeaten by self-appointed representatives of various special interests.
Here are just a few of these silly guidelines that operate as a straitjacket heavier than the Iron Curtain for any teacher, writer or illustrator:
"Boys playing ball with girls watching," a possible scenario, "must be replaced by coed teams with boys watching." Similarly, "Mother bringing sandwiches to father as he fixes the roof must be replaced by mother fixing the roof.' Inuit not Eskimo... Native American not Indian... not African slave or Black slave but 'enslaved African'. ... Words like mulatto, sambo, oriental, niggardly, old maid or even massacre are disappearing from our textbooks. ....Massacre, for example, is a different word from battle. It is a French word that implies a general killing where no prisoners are taken. There is a reason this word exists, and it is found in history. Ask the survivors of the Malmedy Massacre (Ardennes, 1944) if they would like to pardon the SS retroactively, thereby insinuating that the murder of unarmed prisoners virtually to the last man was a 'battle'?


 by David M. Kinchen:


My only complaint about Diane Ravitch's "The Language Police" is the title. It needlessly insults police! Perhaps the author, a distinguished historian and academic, should have titled it "The Language Gestapo." However, considering the sorry state of education today few people would understand the significance of the word "Gestapo."
The subtitle of this surprising (or maybe not so surprising) bestseller outlines its scope: "How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn." What started out as a legitimate redressing of sexist and racist stereotypes in the 1960s has become a dead hand on learning, Ravitch argues. And it has undoubtedly contributed to the dismal state of education in the U.S. today.
Ravitch, ... thoroughly examined the K-12 textbook production and selection process, .... She finds the content of her research discouraging. Censors and pressure groups on the right and left have formed a de facto unholy alliance to dumb down textbooks, leaving a large majority of them are worse than useless-they are harmful.
She writes: ...Right-wing groups exert more influence on general books while left-wing groups concentrate on textbooks. Both have lined up to attack such literary classics as Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." Fundamentalist groups are well known for attacking textbooks that discuss evolution without balancing Darwin's theory of evolution with biblical creationism.
....One of the appendixes of the book is a list of banned words, phrases, concepts, etc. This glossary includes such shockers as "manly" (sexist); "maven" (regional or ethnic bias); Navajo" (inauthentic, replace with Dine'); "Gringo" (offensive); "handyman (sexist); "maid" (sexist, replace with "house cleaner"); "actress" (sexist, replace with "actor"-tell that to the Oscar people); "regatta" (elitist-tell that to the organizers of the popular Charleston, W.Va. Sternwheel Regatta held every Labor Day). Avoid anything with the dreaded three-letter word "man" in it; use "it," not "him" or "her" in referring to animals.
"Let us, at last, fire the language police. We don't need them. Let them return to the precincts where speech is rationed, thought is imprisoned, and humor is punished


by Sybil Maimin


 Diane Ravitch, author, advocate, and professor of education at New York University, has taken a strong stand against “the new literary terrorists from both the left and the right” who demand that certain words and concepts not appear in the texts our children use in school. She spoke passionately about her book, The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn, on a panel at The New York Public Library
....Ravitch explained that at publishing houses, textbooks below college level must be approved by “bias and sensitivity” panels that regularly remove words that “might offend someone.” Publishers, who want to avoid controversy and sell lots of books, “agree to everyone’s objections.”
...Ravitch provides numerous examples of bias and sensitivity panel pronouncements. Words and subjects that cannot be used include, “owls” because they are a symbol of death in certain cultures, “Mt. Rushmore” because it is sacred to an Indian tribe, and “peanuts” because some children are allergic to them. African-Americans should not be depicted as musicians or athletes, and Asian-Americans must not be presented as a model minority. Books about slaves and migrant workers are to be avoided. The elderly must not be depicted as frail, and mothers should not be shown in the kitchen. Ravitch reports that the National Council for Teachers of English bans use of the word “guy.”


by Jim Loy


There is an amazing censorship of school textbooks and tests going on. ....The results are sometimes extremely bizarre, and one effect is that the books students are reading are extremely boring and mindless. A typical example from this book: A test had a small true story about a blind man who climbed Mt. McKinley. The censors recommended that it be removed for two reasons: (1) a story of mountain climbing is objectionable to people in cities or in flatlands, and (2) the story suggests that blindness may be a handicap. Another example was that a story about a dolphin was objectionable to people who live inland. Another example: a factual article that said that there were rich people and poor people in ancient Egypt was objectionable to poor people. And so there are no mountains, or oceans, or cities (for that matter), or poor people, or rich people. Women cannot ever be portrayed as mothers or homemakers or secretaries; they are all scientists or similar people. Dinosaurs cannot be mentioned, except in a biology textbook. All characters and places are generic, and uninteresting. And our kids cannot read. No wonder. This is a thought-provoking book. It ends with long lists of objectionable words, phrases, and ideas (some make sense, some do not), as listed by publishers for their authors.