INSITEVIEW- - tom shugart's weblog

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Can It Really Be This Bad?
(0r, Thank God My Kids Have Completed Their Schooling)

I knew it was bad. I just didn’t know how bad. The excessive influence of the Christian Right is no mystery in these days of the Bush regime, a swill deceptively marketed to unsuspecting voters as “compassionate conservatism.”

What’s not so apparent is the influence of the Radical, Absurdist Left. One assumes that their day has passed. Not so. The more-correct-than-thou zealots are apparently wielding equal havoc on the public education of this country—in lock-step with their right-wing, protectionist counterparts.

As evidence, I cite some frightening quotes from a truly disturbing review of a new book, “The Language Police,” by educational authority, Diane Ravitch, appearing in today’s New York Times:

”some of the things students aren't supposed to find in their textbooks or tests:
Mickey Mouse and Stuart Little (because mice, along with rats, roaches, snakes and lice, are considered to be upsetting to children).

Stories or pictures showing a mother cooking dinner for her children, or a black family living in a city neighborhood (because such images are thought to purvey gender or racial stereotypes).

Dinosaurs (because they suggest the controversial subject of evolution).

Tales set in jungles, forests, mountains or by the sea (because such settings are believed to display "a regional bias").

Narratives involving angry, loud-mouthed characters, quarreling parents or disobedient children (because such emotions are not "uplifting").

Owls are out because some cultures associate them with death.

Mentions of birthdays are to be avoided because some children do not have birthday parties. Images or descriptions of a mother showing shock or fear are to be replaced by depictions of both parents "expressing the same facial emotions."

Mentions of cakes, candy, doughnuts, french fries and coffee should be dropped in favor of references to more healthful foods like cooked beans, yogurt and enriched whole-grain breads.

And of course words like brotherhood, fraternity, heroine, snowman, swarthy, crazy, senile and polo are banned because they could be upsetting to women, to certain ethnic groups, to people with mental disabilities, old people or, it would seem, to people who do not play polo.”

Thank God for the openness of today’s cinema so that these poor kids can get some glimpses of reality. In my day, back in the middle of the Twentieth Century, our cinema was nearly as protectionist as these Left/Right literary and social studies thought police of the current day.

But at least our lit and social studies teachers had degrees in the fields they taught, and selected, in consultation with their colleagues and department chairpersons, their own reading lists.

Today’s kids, apparently, are highly unlikely to have the kinds of stimulating experiences that I enjoyed in some of my better classes. We took it for granted. Little did we know the mischief that was coming.

Along the way, another bill of goods got sold to this country--the rise of the Educational Hierarchy—bloated administrations sucking the life blood out of our meager educational budgets, and now, from our curricula.


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