The great state of Texas has forced textbook publishers Holt and McGraw-Hill to change language in health textbooks for high school students regarding marriage. Prior to the changes, the textbooks used gender-neutral phrases like "individuals who marry" and "married partners." The Texas Board of Education is insisting that the textbooks strictly define marriage as occurring between a man and a woman, and the parties involved as husband and wife.
Although this story is interesting (if disheartening), it's merely a minor example of an ongoing outrage. Texas, as the second-largest purchaser of K-12 textbooks in the nation, has a huge influence on the content of those textbooks. A little over a year ago, I read the excellent The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn" by Diane Ravitch, an education historian at NYU. In it, Ravitch exposes how interest groups from the left and the right and state boards of education have forced textbook and standardized test publishers either to adopt the blandest possible language in many cases, or specifically to include language that interest groups see as supporting their agendas.
I don't think enough people are angry about this, so I strongly recommend The Language Police to anyone interested in how children are educated. Not convinced? Visit the link above, and read the excerpt there from the book's first chapter, which gives some bizarre, almost unbelievable examples of reading passages that were removed from a standardized test because of bias or lack of sensitivity. You'll want to read the whole book to learn how pervasive these practices are.Posted by at November 9, 2004 4:15 PM