"Old" is offensive, as is "the elderly." "Older people" should not be shown as physically weak, retired, living with relatives or prone to fishing, baking, knitting, reminiscing or naps; they should be not "funny, absentminded, fussy or charming" and their eyes should not twinkle.

Women shouldn't be pictured as teachers, nurses, secretaries, mothers -- or as aggressive businesswomen.

African-Americans should live neither in crowded tenements nor in "dull white-picket-fence neighborhoods." Asian-Americans should not be portrayed as "very intelligent, excellent scholars." Hispanics shouldn't wear bright colors. Native Americans shouldn't live on reservations.

Diane Ravitch collected guidelines for textbook and test writers from major educational publishers and state agencies. Read "The Language Police" in the March 2003 Atlantic Monthly.

Note that the politically correct phrases of the past are now considered offensive: "Differently abled" is out; "person who has a physical disability" is in. On the plus side, persons with disabilities shouldn't be described as "inspirational" or "courageous."

"Pagan" is ethnocentric, as are "fanatic" and "extremist." The sexist "Mother Russia" should be replaced with "Russia, vast land of rich harvests." Girls can't be peaceful, emotional or warm; boys can't be strong, rough, competitive, intelligent, logical, mechanical or good at math and science. Under regional or ethnic bias, "soul food" and "stickball" are verboten.

No wonder textbooks are so poorly written, and so wordy.

Diverse cookie prices prove divisive

UCLA Republicans held a biased bake sale to make the point that treating people differently based on race and gender is divisive. The Daily Bruin reports on the "affirmative action" cookie sale.

The sale, held on Bruin Walk on Feb. 3, offered cookies at different prices depending on the customer's race and gender. Black, Latina and American Indian females were charged 25 cents for cookies that cost males of minority descent 50 cents. White females were charged $1, and white males and all Asian Americans were charged $2.

Students selling the cookies were assigned name tags portraying them as "Uncle Tom," "The White Oppressor" and "Self-Hating Hispanic Race Traitor."

Humor-impaired Democrats are stirring up a fuss, including Art Torres, chair of the California Democratic Party, who's "deeply saddened and disheartened." Juan Carlos-Orellana, president of the Democratic Law Students Association, argued: "By reducing the complexity of this issue into dollars and cents and cookies they are working to stop discourse."

Simplifying stops discourse?

A similar bake sale at the University of Michigan raised $17, which was donated to the United Negro College Fund.

SAT for problem solvers

An experimental SAT measuring practical and creative skills as well as memory and analytical ability predicts college success and reduces the racial gap. UPI reports:

"We did better at predicting college success than the current SAT and high school grade point average, and we did better at reducing group differences," (Yale psychologist Robert) Sternberg said.

"In times when affirmative action's legal status is up the air, the useful thing about our test is it can help accomplish the same goal as affirmative action without using affirmative action," he said.

... In one section, students were shown cartoons and asked to write captions for them. They were also asked to write stories based on a list of titles. Others asked students to consider a common difficult situation and rate the best solutions numerically.

The new test is expected to supplement the current SAT exam.

G-U-N control lifted

"Gun" is back on the first grade spelling list at the Canadian school that banned the word to pacify a pacifist mother.

Chloe's class has moved on from "G" to "H" words now.

"And you know what?" Mrs. Sousa asked. " 'Hand grenade' wasn't on it. So I'm happy."

Just wait till "k" is for "kill."

Whoa-oh feelings

Matt Labash mocks Peter Yarrow's anti-bullying program, called "Don't Laugh at Me" (and disses Peter, Paul and Mary's folk music!) in the Weekly Standard. He goes to a workshop in Wisconsin, which is very much about getting in touch with one's inner victim. His partner, a middle school principal, tells his tale: As a seventh grader, he faced an older student who elbowed him every day as he got on the bus.

One day ... he slugged the bully in the face. "Then I jumped on top of him," he says, with barely contained relish. "Ya hear ya should never get in a fight," Erickson says, "but there comes a point ..." I ask Erickson whether, as a principal, he ever gives that advice to his students --whether he ever tells them what parents have been telling their kids for ages: to stand up to a bully. "As a parent I might," he says, "but as a principal, I'd never tell them that."

... When we head back to the group and share our childhood bullying stories, I notice that a surprising number of successful anti-bullying interventions recollected by these mild-mannered Dairy State teachers end with the victim slugging the tormentor, never to be tormented again.

There's no evidence such programs reduce bullying or school violence, Labash writes. And he questions whether eliminating bullying is a good thing, quoting a psychologist who says learning how to stand up to a bully is a valuable social skill.

Glancing down the "Don't Laugh At Me Feelings Inventory," I quietly reflect that I am being made "afraid, anxious, and exasperated" by what we are doing to these kids. I am "horrified, nervous, and paranoid" that we are not teaching them resilience, but rather, turning them into human flypaper. Every insult -- even ones formerly sloughed off -- now sticks, and gets reclassified and inflated, as children are encouraged to nurse the memory of petty hurts. I feel "sad, sorrowful, and suspicious" that we are teaching them to be nervous nellies and lunchroom litigators.

Yes, we don't want to "wussify" the younger generation, but there are many forms of bullying that go far beyond teasing and horseplay. Some kids aren't able to slug their tormenters. The trick is to draw the line between laughing at others (generally OK) and threatening to beat them up (not OK).

In Denver, a girl who'd lost a leg to cancer endured three years of teasing before harassment and threats pushed her out of her neighborhood middle school. The girls who bullied her are still there. I can't imagine how they justify their nastiness to themselves. But I'm sure they have a version of reality in which they are the hapless victims.

Letters

Margaret Kalb of Santa Clara writes:

At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, I can tell you why the Florida schools are focusing less on teaching "structured" writing: It's hard. I'm home-schooling my kids, and have just really gotten into the thick of teaching my third-grader how to write clearly. Believe you me, it's not easy, and she's a bright kid. Clearly, though, that doesn't relieve me of the responsibility to make sure she learns how to write a coherent essay. One can only hope Florida will clue into this eventually.

Joanne Jacobs used to have a paying job as a Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer. Now she blogs for tips at JoanneJacobs.com while writing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school. She's never gotten a dime from Enron.

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