THINK OF THE CHILDREN: Lincoln said that "you can't please all the people all of the time", but apparently textbook writers are care less about pleasing everyone than they worry about offending anyone. Dianne Ravitch's new book, "The Language Police", gives a list of 500 words that the four major textbook publishers have banned from their products for fear of offending various groups of people. This is hardly a new issue, but it makes me cringe every time I see it.

Among the words and phrases excluded:

... you can't find anyone riding on a yacht or playing polo in the pages of an American textbook either. The texts also can't say someone has a boyish figure, or is a busboy, or is blind, or suffers a birth defect, or is a biddy, or the best man for the job, a babe, a bookworm, or even a barbarian.

All these words are banned from U.S. textbooks on the grounds that they either elitist (polo, yacht) sexist (babe, boyish figure), offensive (blind, bookworm) ageist (biddy) or just too strong (hell which is replaced with darn or heck). God is also a banned word in the textbooks because he or she is too religious.

Obviously this type of nerfing is counterproductive -- it clearly inhibits actual learning, which is the point of textbooks. If a student is never exposed to anything different than what he already knows, how can he ever learn or grow? Textbooks should teach facts. Sometimes facts are unpleasant. People who live in the real world (as opposed to education-fantasyland) need to learn to deal with things they don't like without getting "offended".

Even the concept of being "offended" is ridiculous to me. People are different than you, deal with it. Some people do own yachts, some people are barbarians, whatever. Understand the context behind the words you don't like, learn where the connotations come from, and decide for yourself whether or not they're justified. That's what education is about.

Some people want to nerf the whole world and cover all the sharp corners with soft, squishy foam so that no one ever gets hurt or experiences an unpleasant moment. There already are such places: they're called insane asylums. Go live there and leave the rest of us alone. What will happen when your child is confronted with a real live blind person who own a yacht and plays polo?



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