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History-Altering Textbooks

May 03, 2003

Thanks for the laughs in "Textbooks Distort History, Critic Says" (April 26), on political correctness in school textbooks. As someone who left teaching three years ago, I don't keep up with the latest developments in inclusiveness and avoiding controversy. So I wonder what high school juniors find in their American literature textbooks these days. Perhaps excerpts from Herwoman Melville's classic "Moby Duck," the story of Captain Ethel's obsessive pursuit of the great brown whale?

John Horne

Redondo Beach

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After reading your article on textbooks distorting history, I was outraged. Do we give our children so little credit for being able to think critically that we have to sanitize information prior to teaching it? Why are we so afraid to teach children the facts as they happened and then discuss the appropriateness or inappropriateness of those facts in the context of today's society? How in the world can children learn about history (and not forget the mistakes that were made) without the facts?

If students are unfamiliar with terms like "farm silo," teach them what it is. The term "founding fathers" needs to be correctly referred to for our children to learn how and why women became an integral part of government. If publishers are altering phrases because they publish "the books that the customers want," that's pretty scary. It's one thing for the state of California to be "gender neutral" but another to misrepresent history. Stephen Driesler, executive director of the school division of the Assn. of American Publishers in Washington, said it's not really censorship. The dictionary must have also undergone a change.

Patti Benjamin

Los Angeles

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Let's face it, distorting or denying history to appease political correctness is certainly nothing new in the public school arena. I'll never forget the day in early 1968 when my political science professor at El Camino College asked how many in the class had been born in the (Japanese American relocation) "camps." More than one-third of the class raised their hands.

I was dumbfounded. Until that moment, I was completely ignorant of that shameful episode in our history (and I had always been an A student in history!). The "thought police" in Colorado in the 1950s and 1960s had seen fit to deny an entire segment of World War II history to public school students.

I never again looked at a history text as "gospel."

Margie Roblin

Simi Valley

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With her well-researched studies and many books, education historian and former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch has certainly evolved into a position to know just how an extended generation of the education establishment has managed to tear down learning in this country -- and American history along with it. Historical revisionists, censors and elements of the self-absorbed boomer generation are responsible for deconstructing education and reconstructing history in their own image. Indeed, they have robbed generations of students of their education.

It is simply unconscionable how pressure groups and selfish interests have dismantled history by distorting the meaning of America and democracy and by engaging in the personal destruction of our founding fathers, one by one. Hopefully, the ongoing efforts to restore education by removing distortions will stop the mass production of functionally illiterate children and save our students from "culture sculptors" and prescribed failure.

Ravitch is leading in the right direction. Her books, including "The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn," should be required reading in teachers' colleges.

Daniel B. Jeffs

Apple Valley

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