My Turn: Language police need locking up

Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2003

I refer here to an article in the March issue of the Atlantic Monthly, "The Language Police," by Diane Ravitch.

Diane Ravitch is a historian of education and research professor of education at New York University. The glossary excerpted here will appear in her new book, "The Language Police," to be published in April by Knopf.

The substance of her article is, and again I quote, "this list of banned words and stereotypes in an abridgment of a lengthy glossary complied by a historian from bias guidelines issued by major educational publishers and state agencies. The guidelines are used by writers, editors and illustrators when preparing textbooks and tests for K-12 students."

Heading this brilliant, so-called glossary ban, is "Adam and Eve" - to be replaced with "Eve and Adam," to demonstrate that males do not take priority over females; end of first ban. Space does not allow me to enter the entire list, but bear with me for a few of the 74 mentioned: Bookworm, courageous, craftsmanship, devil, fairy (banned because it suggests homosexuality; replaced with elf), God, jungle, old, polo, snowman, West and Western, and yacht.

The list goes on and on, entering next into stereotyped images in text, illustrations, and reading passages in tests concluding this two-page bias guideline.

My first reaction to this incredible abridgment was outright rage. I threw the magazine, knocking a picture off the wall. I re-read the two pages, with a kind of distorted humor of ludicrousness, which immediately was replaced with fear. Textbooks and tests for K-12? Which loudly clamors a close alliance with Diane Ravitch, and the N.E.A. - already, in my opinion, equals the outfall of a treatment plant. This leaves me in dire trepidation of our "new age education." If this article doesn't scream loudly of bias, bigotry, sexism, and of being a separatist, what does the author portray? She cites ethnocentricity, Eurocentricity, being an elitist - is this what we are to become? This to me personifies women's lib.

I am not a sexist, nor bigot, nor do I feel "elfish" when I read little children their, yes dammit, "fairy tales." If this implies I'm homosexual, come and look me up, we'll re-educate that issue.

I am personally acquainted with women on a first-name, as well as a professional basis, if they support, or would align themselves with such a ludicrous group? I know their response would an emphatic no. These women - CEOs, surgeons, equipment operators, lawyers, governors, teamsters, professional women of every field - attained their goal with sweat, blood and tears, to better not only themselves but the world itself.

I can only feel pity and sorrow for Diane Ravitch or anyone male or female with such an outlook. Never stopping to "smell the roses" types, only adding more confusion, separatism and, yes, hatred, in a world already in over-abundant surplus in these things.

Perhaps Diane Ravitch and others who share her alliance would be more at peace on a space-station city, never having to worry about language misuse, having their own perfected speak-thought, never again having to be subjected to male chauvinism, or any other reason to "walk on eggshells." Let's go on this, NASA, and make Diane Ravitch and these people proud. I'm sure their fathers are.

Lloyd R. Martin of Juneau is a retired construction worker who is concerned with the "way this old world is headed."

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