May 06, 2003

WHATEVER YOU do, don't mention

WHATEVER YOU do, don't mention the owls:

Several years ago, a bias and sensitivity review panel working on contract for the federal government ruled that, when testing the reading comprehension of fourth graders, any mention of owls ought to be verboten.

The reason - that owls are taboo to the Navajo and might upset someone of that ancestry - may have seemed farfetched, had the panel not made an even stranger decision to eliminate a story about a dolphin. That story was judged to be "regionally biased" and potentially confusing to kids who didn't live near an ocean.

The above is from a review of The Language Police, by Diane Ravitch, which might become to publishing what Bjorn Lomborg's Sceptical Environmentalist was to the green movement. Some more censor highlights:

A typical publisher’s guideline advises that:

* Women cannot be depicted as caregivers or doing household chores.

* Men cannot be lawyers or doctors or plumbers. They must be nurturing helpmates.

* Old people cannot be feeble or dependent; they must jog or repair the roof.

* A story that is set in the mountains discriminates against students from flatlands.

* Children cannot be shown as disobedient or in conflict with adults.

* Cake cannot appear in a story because it is not nutritious.

Which explains why my groundbreaking children's text, Dr. Feeble, The Old Mountain Man Who Shot His Grandchildren For Eating Cake Then Made His Wife Clean Up The Blood, never made it to the bookshelves.

UPDATE. Dr. Alice sends a list of children's classics that wouldn’t have made it past modern book-slashers:

Grimm's Fairy Tales - Oh, forget about it. Disobedient children who go to hell/kill their stepmothers/are punished for not conforming to gender roles. Grimm, you are so busted.

Huckleberry Finn - the ultimate disobedient kid. Also uses the infamous "n word."

Mary Poppins - She's a caregiver! Even if she is a magical one. Away with her! Also, the father is a banker, and uncaring toward his kids (though he does change his ways at the end).

Green Eggs and Ham - a saga of virulent discrimination against these innocent ptomaine-bearing viands.

The Jungle Book - Mowgli decides he likes living with the wolves better than joining humans and contributing to the survival of the village collective. He is clearly an entrepreneurial capitalist and must be destroyed. Also, the book implies that it's okay for carnivores to eat herbivores and the vegan point of view is not presented.

Also from Dr Alice: via her trainer, the inside word on dogs. Labrador owners, look away in shame.

Posted by Tim Blair at May 6, 2003 11:35 AM