Diane Ravitch, through her columns and books such as The Language Police:How Pressure Groups Reestrict What Students Learn, has been a true leader in trying to ensure our children receive a quality education. She has been in the forefront of exposing how "language police" (nee "thought police") have tyrannized school districts in order to impose an ideological view of history that in many cases is not a true version of history.
She is a true "liberal" (the good kind) in many ways, and her column today in the Los Angeles Times continues her campaign to improve our schools. She argues against the state of California mandating positive characters from all sorts of groups be portrayed positively in textbooks. Homosexuals and transgendered people are the latest demanding inclusion
Telling publishers that their books must instill pride only guarantees a phony version of feel—good history. Publishers, as a result, bend over backward to be positive, whether writing about the genocidal reign of Mao Tse—tung (presumably to avoid offending his admirers) or the unequal treatment of women in Islamic societies (to avoid offending Muslims).
Certainly, textbooks should accurately portray society in all its complexity. But to impose contemporary political requirements on how the events are portrayed only ensures that the history we teach our students is inaccurate and dishonest. History books have already grown larger and duller to accommodate every group's demands.
What the state should expect of publishers is that they produce books that are as honest and accurate as possible. Such narratives would be far likelier to instill humility, a recognition of human folly, an understanding of conflict and differences and a sense of our common humanity rather than a sense of pride.
While Tom Friedman hogs the spotlight regarding the need for schools to improve in order to compete in the coming years, Diane Ravitch labors on tirelessly and bravely in the shadows.
Ed Lasky 5 16 06