2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Some Opinions are More Equal than Others,
This review is from: The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn (Hardcover)
Diane Ravitch is a historian who worked in the U.S. Department of Education during the George H. W. Bush administration and was appointed to the National Assessment Governing Board by Bill Clinton. In this book she expresses her concerns about censorship of materials used in public school instruction and educational testing. This censorship began with reasonable concerns that female and ethnic minority students not encounter offensive educational material. It "...has evolved into a surprisingly broad and increasingly bizarre policy of censorship that has gone far beyond its original scope and now excises from test and textbooks words, images, passages and ideas that no reasonable person would consider biased."
The book examines the original meaning of "bias" in educational materials and how that meaning has evolved in response to pressures from both ends of the political spectrum. The author's approach is noteworthy because of its even-handed treatment of conservatives and liberals. She shows how groups on the right and the left demand that test and textbook publishers to exclude controversial content from their products. Adoption procedures in the two largest textbook markets--California and Texas--constrain what is available in other states. Conducting "sensitivity reviews" and avoiding negative publicity, publishers produce materials that are simplistic, avoid controversy, and distort cultural and historical facts.
Ravitch warns that these boring textbooks in our schools are having serious effects beyond discouraged teachers and disinterested students. Learning becomes increasingly disconnected from the world students see online, in the media, and around them. Great literature disappears from reading lists because it contains blacklisted words, competing points of view, or an "unrepresentative" balance of ethnic and racial groups. Students' ability to study history with a critical eye, learning why some cultures thrive and others collapse, is diminished as they absorb text after text cleansed of any evaluative judgments. "Great history consists of great stories, surprising convergences, the conflict of powerful ideas, and the historian's insights into motivation and character that illuminate the life of a man or woman--but all of that has been sacrificed to the gods of coverage and cultural equivalence."
How do we fix these problems? There are three general strategies. First, we must take steps to restore competition to the textbook market. Individual schools need to have unconstrained access to a wider variety of textbooks from a larger number of publishers. Second, we need more "sunshine." The public needs to be made more aware of censorship by publishers, states, and the federal government. Third, we need better-educated public school teachers. They should have stronger credentials in the subjects they teach, preparing them to more effectively evaluate educational materials and supplement or replace them if needed.
I recommend reading this book and some of the sources it draws upon. It identifies an important problem in public education, describes it in useful detail, and recommends strategies to mitigate its effects.