Texas Education Commissioner Raymon Bynum removed Merriam-Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary from a list of approved textbooks for Texas high schools on the ground that the dictionary is "obscene, inappropriate, low, vulgar, profane, and a travesty of a textbook." The New Collegiate Dictionary has sold over 100 million copies since its introduction and now sells over a million copies a year. Apparently, the lessons of the Salem witch-craft trials, the book-burnings of Germany during the 1920's and 1930's and the excesses of the McCarthy era have been forgotten by the custodians of higher education in the state of Texas.
Bynum overruled the recommendations of the State Textbook Committee because the New Collegiate Dictionary had "numerous words and definitions which are not considered as widely used and are unsuitable for adoption." Thus, the Texas approved list contains no dictionary which has been revised since 1969. The dictionary would have been used in high school English classes to familiarize students with dictionary usage. Apparently, the English language has coined no words worthy of the Texas high school students in the decade.
Many diverse groups such as the Daughters of American Revolution, the Parents Union of Texas and others aligned with the so-called "Moral Majority" banded together to have the book effectively banned from Texas high schools. Banning Webster's will not prevent schoolchildren from using "four letter words" and probably knowing the definitions far better than the pressure group spokesman. I wonder when they are going after the Song of Solomon in the Holy Bible - but then who reads the Bible in public school, anyway?
The relative lack of media attention to the issue concerns me about the role of the press in society. Press coverage was minimal during the hearings and television coverage almost non-existent -- where were the minions of justice and truth. Goebbels had the newspaper and radio stations in Germany under his thumb -- who's doing the story selection in our managed-news society now.
The whole concept of approved book lists goes against my grain. The regimentation of thought implicit in such a concept was a theme of George Orwell in his book "1984." Public schools today do not teach students to think and judge the facts or interpret the nuances -- true/false questions are too easy to grade so perhaps rote learning is all that can be expected from public schools.
Educators have embraced new teaching theories and school taxes have steadily increased but the end result is a poorly-educated, almost illiterate high school graduate. Despite all the money poured into public education during the past 40 years, college courses are now required in elementary math, remedial reading, basic English, etc. to enable large numbers of high school graduates to function in college. Is it possible that today's children are born without the ability to learn-- or don't we teach them?
In 1980 of the Dallas high school teachers taking a basic competency test proposed as a prerequisite for high school graduation almost 20% failed. Is it any wonder that the kids don't learn. Private school enrollment has probably increased as much from the decline in academic excellence in the public schools as from integration.
The plain truth is that
Thus, minorities have become majorities and education levels as measured by test scores of high school graduates have decreased dramatically throughout the U.S. during the past 40 years.
State regulations prevent many highly qualified people from teaching since they have not received their state teachers certificate. Most Noble laureates as well as Thomas Edison and William Lead could not teach in the public school systems since they don't have the six required college hours in "education courses." Bureaucrats can not conceive of the concept of equivalent experience.
Webster's is not obscene -- school systems run by judges, parents who don't care, and administrators's who advocate advant garde programs and forget that the function of a school system is to educate and graduate a functionally literate individual -- now that's obscene.
But then - - 'Tis Only My Opinion!
OBSCENE= 1. Disgusting to the senses- Repulsive: 2. Abhorrent to morality or virtue
This issue of 'Tis Only My Opinion was copyrighted by A. R. Associates in June 1982.
It is intended to provoke thinking, then dialogue among its readers. Quotation with attribution is encouraged.
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Last updated - July 1, 2008