Monday, June 30, 2003

Diane Ravitch shares more ridiculous textbook-censorship stories she's received since the publication of her book The Language Police

A contributor to a major textbook series prepared a story comparing the great floods in 1889 in Johnstown, Pa., with those in 1993 in the Midwest, but was unable to find an acceptable photograph. The publisher insisted that everyone in the rowboats must be wearing a lifevest to demonstrate safety procedures.....When it comes to illustrations in textbooks, certain images--women cooking, men acting assertive, scenes of poverty, and old people walking with the aid of a cane or a walker--are likewise considered unacceptable. The specifications for photographs, I have learned, are exquisitely detailed. Men and boys must not be larger than women and girls. Asians must not appear as shorter than non-Asians.

Here's what needs to end: statewide textbook adoptions. There. Get California, Texas and New York out of the picture, and give school districts the right to get whatever books they want. Increase competition, force a bit more quality. Not that school textbooks have ever been what inspired anyone to greater heights of learning, anyway, but this spinelessness in the face of interest groups - from fundamentalists to the PC crowds is getting, as Ravitch says, too funny, but in a tragic kind of way.