Losing Our Language: How Multicultural Classroom Instruction Is Undermining Our Children's Ability to Read, Write, and Reason

Article excerpt

Sandra Stotsky, a researcher at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has for over 20 years studied the cognitive and political (she prefers "civic") consequences of contemporary educational fads, as well as their historical predecessors. Losing Our Language argues that during the past 30 years the pedagogical theories and strategies used to teach children English have harmed their cognitive development by supplanting academic goals with social goals and increasingly antiintellectual methods and materials.

Stotsky reports that contemporary English "language arts" readers misrepresent American history by refusing to tell children about great American leaders, inventors, and scientists because they tended to be white males. Thus children are given to believe that Amelia Earhart invented the airplane, and the only "George Washington" they hear of is George Washington Carver. When presented at all, white males are portrayed as despicable racists. The focus, instead, is on American Indians, blacks, and Hispanics, all of whom are presented as victims.

The editors of these readers, and the professors of education and state education commissars whose recommendations they follow, are concerned primarily with quotas for the number of politically correct readings by writers who are black, Hispanic, Indian, disabled, and sa on. The quotas and ideology leave little room for exciting, new children's literature, and since classic children's literature largely comes from the politically suspect pre-1970 "dark ages," it has practically been outlawed.

Stotsky cleverly intuits that the claim of prejudice in classic children's literature (for example, by Robert Louis Stevenson and Rudyard Kipling) is a cover story for the source of multiculturalists' real anger: that the stories are so bloody good! The fantasy, whimsy, and relatively rich vocabulary of the great literature children have traditionally wanted to read creates a special, private world of the imagination.

Stotsky indicts multiculturalists as seeking to imprison children in a regimented, mean little public world. The preachy pseudoliterature they force on children uses vocabulary that is a mix of leaden, abstract nouns; useless foreign terms that are often presented with no guide to pronunciation; confusing pidgin languages such as "Spanglish" and "ebonics"; and little or no vocabulary that children can build on in their future studies. Thus at ages when children's Learning should be accelerated, it is actively decelerated. And instructional guides demand that teachers Lead small children in discussions of grownup concerns such as the evils of capitalism and racism. …