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New York city schools want to ban 'loaded words' from tests
"Dinosaur" is among the words New York CIty is looking to ban from tests, apparently over concerns it could bother creationists.
March 28th, 2012
07:19 PM ET

New York city schools want to ban 'loaded words' from tests

By Brian Vitagliano, CNN

New York (CNN) - Divorce. Dinosaurs, Birthdays. Religion. Halloween. Christmas. Television. These are a few of the 50-plus words and references the New York City Department of Education is hoping to ban from the city’s standardized tests.

The banned word list was made public – and attracted considerable criticism – when the city’s education department recently released this year’s "request for proposal" The request for proposal is sent to test publishers around the country trying to get the job of revamping math and English tests for the City of New York.

The Department of Education's says that avoiding sensitive words on tests is nothing new, and that New York City is not the only locale to do so. California avoids the use of the word "weed" on tests and Florida avoids the phrases that use "Hurricane" or "Wildfires," according to a statement by the New York City Department of Education.

In its request for proposal, the NYC Department of Education explained it wanted to avoid certain words if the "the topic is controversial among the adult population and might not be acceptable in a state-mandated testing situation; the topic has been overused in standardized tests or textbooks and is thus overly familiar and/or boring to students; the topic appears biased against (or toward) some group of people."

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Matthew Mittenthal, a spokesman for the NYC Department of Education, said this is the fifth year they have created such a list.  He said such topics "could evoke unpleasant emotions in the students."

"Dinosaurs" evoking unpleasant emotions? The New York Post speculated that the "dinosaurs" could "call to mind evolution, which might upset fundamentalists.”

But what the tabloid failed to realize is that those "fundamentalists" who oppose evolution on religious grounds, believe wholeheartedly in dinosaurs.

Young Earth creationists, or Biblical creationists as they prefer to be called, often point to dinosaurs in making their arguments.  They say dinosaurs and humans roamed Earth together, citing legends of dragons and say the fossil record shows the earth is 6,000 years old, though few paleontologists and geologists share this theory.

At the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, the heart of the Young Earth Creationism movement, dinosaur models and exhibits fill the museum displays and gift shop.

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Apparently many of the words on New York’s list were  avoided because of faith-based concerns.

For instance, the use of the word "birthday" or the phrase "birthday celebrations" may offend Jehovah's Witnesses, who do not celebrate birthdays. A spokesperson for the Jehovah's Witnesses declined to comment on the use of the word "birthday."

The Department of Education would not go on the record to explain the specific reasons for each word, which has left many to speculate and draw their own conclusions.

Halloween may suggest paganism; divorce may conjure up uneasy feelings for children in the midst of a divorce within their family. One phrase that may surprise many, the term "Rock 'n' Roll" was on the "avoid" list.

Piers Morgan's "Only in America": 50 banned words

And not good news for Italians: the Department of Education also advised avoiding  references to types of food, such as pepperoni, products they said "persons of some religions or cultures may not indulge in."

The Department of Education said, "This is standard language that has been used by test publishers for many years and allows our students to complete practice exams without distraction."

Stanford University Professor Sam Wineburg is an expert in the field of education and director of the Stanford History Education Group.

When reached by phone said Wineburg, after a brief pause on the line, "the purpose of education is to create unpleasant experiences in us. ... The Latin meaning if education is 'to go out.'  Education is not about making us feel warm and fuzzy inside."

Wineburg questioned the idea that the New York City Department of Education would want to "shield kids from these types of encounters."  He said the goal of education is to "prepare them," adding "this is how we dumb down public schools."

CNN's Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Church and state • Education

soundoff (3,780 Responses)
  1. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    Proven

    March 29, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • richunix

      Sorry, it has never been proven PERIOD.

      Stephen F Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

      Atheism is not a religion nor is it a belief.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Jesus

      ~Lying is a sin, you've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.!

      March 29, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  2. sharonmarie84

    Actually, I think this is a great idea! While we are at it, let's simplify ALL language in general so that those with small vocabularies do not feel stupid if they see a word they don't know and the state can help dumb us all down even more than we already are. In fact, George Orwell had some GREAT suggestions for this in 1984!

    March 29, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  3. skip

    common sense has gone the way of virgins – it will never return

    March 29, 2012 at 9:42 am |
  4. False Dichotomy

    If I insists that my religion teaches that 2 + 2 = 193, will they agree to remove math because it is offensive?

    The purpose of education should to replace ignorance with information, not to modify information to accommodate ignorance.

    March 29, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • Brad

      It is possible, False Dichotomy. Many years ago the Chilean junta "discouraged" the teaching of modern mathematics because terms like set, collection and even vector were considered inflammatory and counter to the values of their society.

      March 29, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • hippypoet

      very well said!

      HERE HERE!

      March 29, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  5. Beverly

    They are as "stupid" in New York as they are in Nebraska! In Nebraska if you are home sick from school you are considered "truant". Where do these people come from who get to make these decisions regarding what is "best" for chilldren? When they are hired one of the requirements definitely has to be "the ability to display NO common sense" in their decision making capabilities!!!!!!!

    March 29, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  6. humtake

    Ban Liberals, then we wouldn't have to deal with this nonsense.

    March 29, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Brad

      Nonsense would still be with us. Creationism, loyalty oaths, right wing revisionist history etc. The right wing has plans for our children too.

      March 29, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Queen Lattice

      I'm a liberal – and this is one of those things I am completely against. How about we just ban stupid people? Those are easier to spot... liberal, conservative, black, white, male, female, old, young, rich, poor... I have found that stupid people come in all sorts of categories!

      March 29, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • Marc Bolan

      Ban liberals? I thought they were looking to keep the flat earth right winger creationists from making a stink more than they already do whe the public schools teach things like science and history.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  7. William Demuth

    How transparent.

    If one has ever sold something to government they realize that MANY of this ridiculous expectations are merely an attempt to steer a contract to a preferred vendor

    Stacking the RFQ. I have seen it since the 70's. Nothing changes

    March 29, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @William
      It works that way with all governments, I think.
      When I worked for the Department of National Defence, we purchased a bulk load of defective monitors from a "preferred vendor". Every one of the things had a bad capacitor and a bad coil that eventually would fry.
      Repairing the things took around 10 minutes of soldering and $0.25 worth of parts – but instead of doing a base wide recall and letting me and staff do the repairs, the higher ups outsourced the repairs to another "preferred" contracting company who charged $70 per monitor.
      I once tried to requisition a $2 can of air to blow out keyboards/fans etc. and they instead got me an industrial air compressor!

      March 29, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  8. hippypoet

    dumb people strive to make others as dumb hence why christians try to hard to convert so many!

    March 29, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • Brad

      You're on to us, hippypoet. We will spread ignorance and intolerance as long as we can, but I can see our days are numbered.

      March 29, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • hippypoet

      brad, i meant no insult to those who don't attempt to convert at ever turn...but i do mean insult to those that do. 🙂

      as far as this being a so called "good thing" censorship is never a good thing – it is control of the population!

      more laws like this and we will be living very carefully...don't step here at this time of day...don't say that out loud.... don't wear that color, its offensive..... i am against any and all censorship – i can decide what is and what isn't acceptable for my kids during testing and if a word sparks a conversation then so be it – they are in school..... conversations are the precursor to learning...asking questions is the start of the outreach and the answers shouldn't be sry, we can't or don't talk about such things in school – i fought with my teachers every year about such crap and i believe it to be below us as so called evolved beings – or at the very least, civilized!

      March 29, 2012 at 9:38 am |
  9. Doc Vestibule

    Irrational numbers offend me becuase all things must have an ending. Let's make Pi = 3 like in 1 Kings 7:3.
    In fact, any kind of orb offends my religious sensibilities. Science classes should be required to teach Flat Earth Theory – teach the controversy!
    Furthermore, any book with the word "race" in it should be banned as the word connotes prejudice and intolerance.
    No "Tortoise and the Hare" for my pre-schooler!

    March 29, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • captain america

      We don't really care what you do in canada. Let US be Us.We don't need you or your bull sh it opinions. A test from New York is none of your F'n business. Go screw up ottawa. There's your sign

      March 29, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • William Demuth

      Cap

      I have a sense you have never cared about tests.

      March 29, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Cap'n Sayin' Atheism Isn't an Angry Pervert
      Hooza cwa.nky widdle twoll? Cappie is!
      If you can't play nice, no troll treats for you.

      March 29, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • captain america

      We will continue to call you ass hole then. Go screw yourself.There's your sign

      March 29, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Brad

      I had no idea that captain america represents a constituency. Where does this "we" come from?

      March 29, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • Colin

      Doc, I suspect Captain America and Just sayin are the same person. I have never seen them in the same room together.

      March 29, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • AGuest9

      He added a "Keith" last night. Probably needs a second Post-It note on the side of his monitor to keep track of them all.

      March 29, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Posts by 'captain america' contain instances of the ad hominem fallacy and the the circ-umstantial ad hominem fallacy.

      http://www.fallacyfiles.org/glossary.html

      March 29, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  10. OhYeah

    "Halloween may suggest paganism;"

    Yes and so does Christianity.

    March 29, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • AGuest9

      You mean "Harvest"? They have killed Halloween parties in schools, are now trying to kill Halloween parades and trick-or-treating. Pretty soon, they will do away with birthdays, because they upset jehovas.

      March 29, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  11. Jay

    Kids these days can use all the FOUL LANGUAGE they want. But DINOSAUR is BAAAADDD....

    HUH????

    March 29, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  12. NY Bill

    We honor PC you shall henceforth have freedom of speech as long as you don't speak.

    'Speak' includes both verbal and non-verbal .

    March 29, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • romaine

      And we wonder why we are behind in education...

      March 29, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • OhYeah

      "And we wonder why we are behind in education"

      Yeah, a new study came out and showed that 2 out of 3 kids in America are ignorant. I blame Christianity and all their stupidity.

      March 29, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  13. Jay

    Why dont they ban CURSING in school?! Have you heard the way some of these talk these days??? Its DEPLORABLE!

    March 29, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • NY Bill

      That comes under freedom of speech and has exclusive protection.

      March 29, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • Chris

      Actually, NYBill, you lose most "freedoms" at school. Schools should be a place of learning for the most, which sometimes means protection from a few. As inconsequential as cursing may seem to some, it tends to expand into more serious behaviors as kids feel they get attacked or insulted. Thus, why most schools do have policies in place banning cursing. Same reason schools can have dress codes or limitations on hair colors that could not be accepted in broader society.

      March 29, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • AGuest9

      I must be getting old. It is disgusting to have to listen to children leave a high school in the afternoon.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  14. Jay

    As one of Jehovah's Witnesses, I can a ssure everyone WE ARE NOT "OFFENDED" by the word BIRTHDAY or anyone celebrating their birthday.

    Thank you for your time.

    March 29, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • Tim

      Thank you for clearing that up. What is DOE of NY smokin these days?

      March 29, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • AGuest9

      Careful with that "WE", Jay.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  15. WWRRD

    This is just stupid PC nonsense.

    March 29, 2012 at 8:37 am |
  16. Bo

    Political correctness is such a nuisance is is nauseating. We live in a world where there are so many differences in opinion and beliefs that no body can be entirely satisfied. It is impossible to adjust to everyone’s view point. Look: we got along without all this "political correctness" thing for a long, long time, we can still do it.

    March 29, 2012 at 8:37 am |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    March 29, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • Volntyr

      Yes, Prayer changes things. Children would no longer be able to think for themselves, no criticial thinking, no more relying on scientific fact, etc... Just the belief that there is an invisible man up in the sky who grants wishes, if he feels like it.

      March 29, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • Jesus

      Lying is a sin, you've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.!

      March 29, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • just sayin

      Science is a gift God gave mankind, do not attempt the lie that science and God are opposites or incompatible.

      March 29, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • Really?

      "Science is a gift God gave mankind, do not attempt the lie that science and God are opposites or incompatible."

      Your god did not give us science since your god does not exists. Science gave us evolution and proves your bible is a work of fiction and not a historical book. Let's guess you read the book on Santa and believe he's real too, time to grow up.

      March 29, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • Bo

      Without going in to a long essay, my brother who was an atheist will tell you that his life was saved by prayer after contacting Bullou Penphigoid. (It took the doctors eight months to diagnose the disease.) After a week in the hospital the doctors sent him home to die, giving him only two or three weeks to live. All his Christians friends and relatives + more, prayed for him. After a month a bewildered doctor told him the disease was completely gone; he should have been dead.

      PS. if you look up this disease on the Internet, consider this: my brother was 72, diabetic and without most of his intestines, basically, not in very good health.

      March 29, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • romaine

      Then please pray that our children get a real education

      March 29, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • just sayin

      Evolution remains just a theory and God did indeed give science to mankind as God created everything. The Bible was not written to be a science text. The Bible was written to show people the way to have a relationship with God.

      March 29, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • Really?

      "Evolution remains just a theory and God did indeed give science to mankind as God created everything. "

      No there has never been any proof a god created anything but there is proof of evolution. Come on now prove just the simple fact your god actually exists.

      March 29, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Really?

      "Without going in to a long essay, my brother who was an atheist will tell you that his life was saved by prayer after contacting Bullou Penphigoid. (It took the doctors eight months to diagnose the disease.) After a week in the hospital the doctors sent him home to die, giving him only two or three weeks to live. All his Christians friends and relatives + more, prayed for him. After a month a bewildered doctor told him the disease was completely gone; he should have been dead."

      It' just proves the power of our brains to heal ourselves, nothing else. If we really started using the full capacity of our brains we would be amazed at what it is capable of doing, but idiots like you can't handle that real truth.

      March 29, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • emequetrefe

      I suppose you do not beleive that god is omnipotent and has the power to make 7 days as long as 10 billion years or the instant of the big bang, or that he was creative or intelligent enough to beget evolution. Who is to say that God cannot have created evolution. God has the power to do as he wishes and -if evolution was as he wished it to be, then it was so. God is in everything can do as he will. Who is to say that God was responsible only for the very moment of creation to get everything to work right, and since god is perfect he could just leave it as it was to let everything cascade to where it should be. The problem is that god is not a man with a big white beard as you beleive... God is everything because he made it.

      March 29, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • AGuest9

      If evolution is "just a theory", I hope you never get a flu shot!

      March 29, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Really?

      "Who is to say that God cannot have created evolution. "

      LMAO guess you don't believe in the bible which means your not a real Christian but a fake one headed to hell.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  18. mjd

    Unless I missed them, a few words left of the list are THOUGHT, FREE SPEECH, HUMANITY, and INTELLIGENCE.

    March 29, 2012 at 8:08 am |
  19. Me

    Not news!

    March 29, 2012 at 8:08 am |
  20. Reality

    ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS:

    Hey, this blog uses a filter for "offensive" words and word fragments numbering (based on the Word counter) at least 165. So in a way the topic prepares the NYC students for the computer world. No doubt newpapers and magazine publishers have word and fragment filters loaded on all of their PCs.

    ar-se.....as in Car-se, etc.
    ba-stard
    co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, lubco-ck, etc.
    co-on.....as in rac-oon, coc-oon, etc.
    cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cuc-umber, etc.
    cu-nt.....as in Scu-ntthorpe, a city in the UK famous for having problems with filters...!
    do-uche
    ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
    ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, etc.
    fu-ck......!
    ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, etc.
    ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
    jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
    ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
    ji-sm
    koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
    nip-ple
    pi-s......as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
    pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
    ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
    se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
    sh-@t.....but shat is okay – don't use the @ symbol there.
    sh-it
    sl-ut
    sn-atch
    sp-ic.....as in disp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
    ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, alt-itude, beat-itude, etc.
    tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, etc.
    va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
    who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!
    wt-f....also!!!!!!!

    There are more, some of them considered "racist", so do not assume that this list is complete.
    -–
    Allowed words / not blocked at all:
    anal
    anus
    ass
    boob
    crap
    damn
    execute
    hell
    kill
    masturbation
    murder
    penis
    pubic
    raping (ra-pe is not ok)
    shat (sh-@t is not ok)
    sphincter
    testes
    testicles

    March 29, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • drewzicle

      testicle is an offensive word? Am I allowed to say something like: Before Tickle Me Elmo leaves the toy factory the last thing he gets is two test tickles?

      March 29, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.