Censorship » Liberal and Special Interest Groups » More about the guidelines

Politically Corrected

Diane Ravitch, well-known educator and author of The Language Police, an acclaimed expose of censorship in secular textbooks, reveals that educational publishers, test development companies, states’ adoption rules committees, and scholarly and professional educational organizations use a published collection of “bias guidelines” that severely restrict the use of language in secular textbooks.

Ravitch explains that “the guidelines regulate what writers are permitted to say about specific groups in society, including women, the elderly, people with disabilities, and members of racial and ethnic minorities. Anything that is published in textbooks must be satisfactory to representatives of these groups [which] must be presented only in a positive light.”1

Any word with a prefix or suffix that includes “man” is prohibited ...

This laundry list of banned words is quite extensive—over 500 restricted words.

For example, to please those interested in gender equality, textbooks must not include any reference to “man”—therefore, any word with a prefix or suffix that includes “man” is prohibited—words such as manpower, chairman, freshman, or even forefather.

The censorship expands to images as well. The most recent guidelines for California textbooks ban pictures of hotdogs and cakes or any other foods that do not appear to be nutritious.

The effort to avoid offense to any special interest group leads to some interesting contradictions. Ravitch offers an example:  “All educational materials [must] have a fair and balanced representation of people with disabilities. They must be shown with devices such as walkers, crutches, canes, wheelchairs, and braces.” However, none of these people portrayed with such devices can be elderly—because that image would imply a negative stereotype of the aged.2

Discover how these guidelines affect secular textbooks.

1Diane Ravitch, The Language Police (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003), p. 32-34.
2Ravitch, p. 38-39.