To avoid offending anyone, the New York state Education Department has redacted large chunks of prose on its English Regents exam and the authors of those texts are not happy about it, reports The New York Times.
In an excerpt from the work of Isaac Bashevis Singer, for instance, a reference to "Most Jewish women" becomes "Most women" on the test, and "even the Polish schools were closed" becomes "even the schools were closed." In an excerpt from Barrio Boy, by Ernesto Galarza, a "gringo lady" becomes an "American lady," and a boy described as "skinny" became "thin," while another boy who was "fat" became "heavy" — adjectives the state deemed less insulting.
The changes were discovered by Jeanne Heifetz, who contacted the authors and publishers to gauge their reaction. That of Frank Conroy, whose memoir, Stop-Time, was changed to delete all references to sex, religion, nudity, and potential violence, was typical. In a letter to the education commissioner, Conroy said: "Who are these people who think they have a right to 'tidy up' my prose? The New York State Political Police? The Correct Theme Authority?"
New York state requires graduating public high school students to pass the test. Students are required to read the doctored passages and write essays and answer questions based on them. The Education Department said the changes were necessary to satisfy elaborate "sensitivity review guidelines." It said it did not want any student to feel ill at ease while taking the test.
Pacifying the Brothers Grimm
Elements of the traditional "Three Little Pigs" fairy tale are violent and dated and have been replaced in a new version more appropriate for children, reports the Greenwich Time.
That the third pig cooks the wolf and eats him for dinner merely encourages children to resort to violence themselves to solve their problems, says Connecticut filmmaker James Thomas, author of the new "Four Little Pigs."
"The messages from the original story are medieval messages, to be scared of the wolf, etcetera," Thomas said. "The lesson and messages are actually wrong. The solutions are violent. They are not relevant to modern children."
In Thomas' version, a fourth pig talks the big, bad wolf out of his lust for pork by challenging the wolf's stereotypes about the tastiness of pigs. Rather than resorting to violence, Thomas said, children should be shown that peaceful resolution is a better solution.
Forget the Alamo
School administrators in Texas are rewriting history lessons in that state to tone down the traditional Texan chest-thumping so as not to offend or alienate the growing number of Mexican-born students in that state, reports Fox News.
A new curriculum still teaches Texas independence, but administrators say it tones down the traditional "us vs. them" perspective in lessons about such subjects as the Battle of the Alamo and Texas' independence from Mexico.
"We don't want our Hispanic kids, or any kids, to feel like we're teaching a bias approach," said Angela Miller, social studies curriculum manager for the Houston Independent School District.
Blame the Parents?
Protestors outside a Las Vegas newspaper office claim a columnist who wrote that Hispanics in that city struggle in school because their parents are less educated than other groups is a racist and should be fired, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
In a May 15 column, freelancer Ken Ward said Hispanics drop out more and do poorly on standardized tests because they come from less-educated families. As a result, Ward wrote, the school district is burdened with the expense of special programs to help them.
Protestors outside the paper's office, some chanting "Free Speech, not Free Hate," said the column perpetuated stereotypes and misinformed the public about the education level of Hispanic students and their parents.
But Ward said his column stated "broadly held truths" which the school district must address. "I can't really apologize for what I wrote," he said. "I'm paid to have opinions and be honest about what my opinions are. The school district has poor test scores and one of the highest dropout rates in the country, and those numbers come largely from minority enrollment in the district."
Ending Discrimination on Campus
In response to criticism from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and other groups, Arizona State University has backed away from plans to prevent non-Native Americans from taking a history course on that campus.
This spring, an ASU course catalog said enrollment in professor Peter Iverson's History 191, Navajo History, was "limited to Native American students." Shortly after being contacted by FIRE about the course, the limitation was removed.
"Substitute 'The History of Slavery ... for U.S. blacks only,' 'The History of Israel ... for Jewish-Americans only' or 'The History of Germany ... for Aryan-Americans only' in those descriptions to understand how morally inappropriate and dangerous these requirements are," FIRE President Alan Charles Kors wrote in a letter to the university.
"The last century saw other misguided attempts to deny education on the basis of race; American universities should be the last institutions to introduce those shameful practices to this new century," he said.
One of the reasons the FBI didn't pursue terrorists before the Sept. 11 attacks last year may have been that the agents were afraid of being accused of racial or ethnic profiling or other politically incorrect law enforcement tactics, reports The Associated Press.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss says the handling of the Minneapolis FBI office's application for a warrant to search terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui's computer troubled him. The office arrested Moussaoui at a Minnesota flight school last August and expressed concern that he was seeking to hurt Americans and wanted to gather more information.
A letter from Minneapolis FBI counsel Coleen Rowley to FBI Director Robert Mueller about the Moussaoui case raised the issue, he said.
The letter alleged that terrorism supervisors at FBI headquarters rewrote the Minnesota office's warrant applications and affidavit and removed key information about Moussaoui before sending them to a legal office that then rejected the paperwork as insufficient.
Rowley wrote that some of the revisions "downplayed" the significance of intelligence linking Moussaoui to Islamic extremists and blamed the changes on a flawed communication process.
If the letter is accurate, "people were reluctant — there was a culture in Washington that said, 'No, we don't want to rock the boat. We want to — we're too worried about profiling, those kind of things,'" Goss said.
Stephanie Z. writes:
There are many time-honored traditions in America, and it appears that leveling accusations of bigotry/racism at George Lucas and the Star Wars franchise is now one of them. What entertains me the most is that these already ridiculous charges become 10 times more ridiculous on account of the fact that no research was done on the part of those who were offended. The actor who played the bounty hunter was not Hispanic, but actually Maori. Holy racial profiling Batman, I didn't think that there was any such thing as "looking Hispanic," but perhaps I am wrong, as Latino critics seem to feel that such a "look" exists. How deeply ironic that the PC Thought Police fight the fires of racism so valiantly with the same fire they so very much resent. Lighten up people, it's just a movie!! Would they have preferred if George Lucas had cast it with solely white actors?
Paul J. in Carlsbad, Calif., writes:
Just as Joe McCarthy found a Communist behind every desk in the State Department, so these self-appointed watchdogs see racism in every movie and TV show. People who've already made up their minds that our culture is racist will always be able to find some evidence to support their position. (As in, people who've made up their minds that UFOs are really alien spaceships will always be able to find evidence to support their position.) I think those people are far more racist than the movie they condemn.
Joel H. in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., writes:
Lost in all the furor over the "Latino" actors who play Jango and Boba is the fact that they are both of Polynesian descent. If anything, the Tahitians should be mad. Then again, maybe the panel will have gotten a life and realized that a fantasy movie like Attack of the Clones has one message for all races: "Come watch the movie and be entertained." <
Willie V. writes re the Stars Wars movie:
I might have noticed all of the mentioned racial encumbrances, except I was covering my face for most of the movie because it [STUNK!!]
Martin C. in Baton Rouge, La., writes:
Speaking of offensive commercials, why hasn't anyone whined about the one SO demeaning to men, especially white husbands. This dumb looking dude meanders through the grocery aisles holding up digital pictures of the products he's supposed to purchase. It promotes the product as the way to "husband-proof" your shopping list. As a long-time white husband, I demand apologies, equal time AND a huge cash settlement.
Robert G. in Las Vegas writes:
Let me get this straight: If you are white and you stand up to the bigotry and stereotyping directed at whites by a black college professor, you are akin to a "white supremacist" and are guilty of "harassment?" In other words whites can't win and are never right even when the hate under the guise of "teaching" is directed at them?
Clay L. in Spartanburg, S.C., writes:
The Tongue Tied piece about the Iowa State professor, Tracey Owens-Patton, I find somewhat amusing. If a fully qualified professor cannot defend her argument against an undergraduate, I would believe the argument to be specious at best and an out-right lie at worst. A course titled "Ethnicity, Gender, Class and the Media," would seem to promote debate on exactly those subjects. My question is, if Mrs. Patton was so held down for being African-American, then why is she even in a university let alone a professor?
I've always like this saying, "A mind is like a parachute, it only works when opened."