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Eve and Adam? — Get real!

SHARE Eve and Adam? — Get real!

WARNING: The list you are about to read is not a joke.

In her new book, "The Language Police," educational historian Diane Ravitch lists words and stereotypes that creators of texts and tests for schoolchildren are presently encouraged to avoid. For example, Adam and Eve should be replaced with "Eve and Adam, to demonstrate that males do not take priority over females."

Other examples of banned words, phrases and images (along with suggested substitutions) follow.

Busybody (banned as sexist, demeaning to older women)

Chief Sitting Bull (banned as relic of colonialism; replace with "Tatanka Iyotake")

Confined to a wheelchair (banned as offensive; replace with "person who is mobility impaired")

The Founding Fathers (banned as sexist; replace with "the Founders" or "the Framers")

Huts (banned as ethnocentric; replace with "small houses")

Inspirational (banned as patronizing when referring to a person with disabilities)

Lumberjack (banned as sexist; replace with "woodcutter")

Mother Russia (banned as sexist, replace with "Russia, vast land of rich harvests.")

One-man band (banned as sexist; replace with "one-person performance")

Slave (replace whenever possible with "enslaved person")

Snowman (banned; replace with "snow person")

Sob sister (banned as sexist, replace with "exploitive journalist")

So if you want to write a story about an inspirational lumberjack from Mother Russia who is confined to a wheelchair and lives in a hut, YOU ARE SO OUT OF LUCK!

(Unless, of course, his name happens to be Tatanka Iyotake.)

My guess is that most readers of this column will do what I did when I first read Ravitch's book — roll eyeballs and snort and make mock of political correctness run amok. And yet, it should be noted that on this very same list, the words cult and sect appear — along with the admonition that these words must NOT be used to describe someone else's religion.

In other words, the Mormon Church should not be referred to as a cult (or even a sect!) in any text used for educating or testing the children of America.

It's probably safe to say that very few DesNews readers would have a problem with this position.

Say what you will, this kind of linguistic nonsense is well-intentioned. The idea behind it is that language should never, ever be used to diminish or harm a person or group of persons. The people who compile these lists are aware of language's tremendous power to hurt and to disenfranchise. As George Steiner points out in his thoughtful collection of essays titled "Language and Silence," the Nazi propaganda machine deliberately and repeatedly referred to Jews as "vermin," knowing full well that human beings who might not destroy other human beings will rarely give a second thought to destroying vermin . . .

The problem with sanitized language and images, however, is that they do not reflect the reality children see at home and at school, let alone what they see on television. And thus they become cynical about the very texts that are meant to educate and enlighten them.

Parents face a similar dilemma, actually. Most of us have standards about what we want our children exposed to — especially within the confines of our own homes. I cannot tell you how nuts I go when I see what my kids are watching on MTV and how noisy I am when I yell at them to turn it off. And yet we must guard against pretending that other realities do not exist or that they have no validity, because guess what? Our kids will catch us on it every time.

Tough job, teaching children.

E-MAIL: acannon@desnews.com