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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. CJ

    I'm a Christian and I have to say, this is absurd. People need to stop being offended by EVERYTHING. There is nothing offensive about dinosaur, even if it does bring up an evolution discussion. If you are religious, this gives you the chance to witness to someone about your faith so what's the big deal?! UGH!

    March 29, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • 1221

      Evolution was programmed into creation. Why would the creator design something as dynamic as the universe without imparting it with the ability to grow and develop? Call me crazy, but unless you have a very closed mind and are arrogant, creation was the beginning of evolution. I'm happy about dinosaurs because their evolution made ours possible.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      Dont you remember when Jesus plainly said that evolution is wrong and dinos are the invention of evil doers?

      March 29, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • 1221

      The Jackdaw: Only a uneducated fundamentalist that has no comprehension of what Jesus said would say that. Or someone with a hatred of religion. One is just as bad as the other in my opinion.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • watchtheborders

      I find dinosaurs offensive .. especially the ones I work with. They didn't prusue continuing education and are sooo out of touch. When will they evolve into human beings? I believe, personally that is, that many of my co-workers are from the Cretacious period, and were forzen in the arctic tundra for millions of years. It's possible, they did find a frog which when thawed hopped into a pot and evolved into Frogs Legs with white wine sauce. I think that is an extinction of a species yes? I mean how does a Frog Leg evovle into anything even a dinosaur .. I mean like ya' know?

      March 29, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  2. Context

    I was a child of divorce in the 60's, can't even imagine the word itself upsetting me then much less the children now. My 1/2 brother 8 years younger commented once that while I was the only kid in my class with divorced parents, he was almost the only kid in his class without divorced parents. Only 8 years apart. If children are so upset by words in tests, just do away with tests then they can't get upset at all. Just pass them along, pay the teachers much less because they are only babysitting and see what happens. The kids that want to learn will, just like they always did before school became mandatory and the kids that don't will sit home on welfare, assuming they can figure out how to find the office to file or fill out the paperwork.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  3. Karen

    When it gets this ridiculous it's time to do away with the tests altogether and the jobs of those who have far too much time on their hands to come up with these ludicrous lists. After all – – these tests "could avoid unpleasant emotions in students". Get a grip!! LIfe isn't easy or pretty. How can you effectively educate when you conveniently eliminate and effectively censor what can and cannot be said? Seems like a propaganda machine wanting to turn out a bunch of like minded kids living in a bubble. This is embarrassing.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  4. watchtheborders

    My point is, words can never be censored. the word that is used in F you and for the act of intercourse, was servied from the consctiption act forced upon the colonists. Forced Under COnscription to Keep. The colonists called it getting "Fracked" .. Even on a blog I can make the point. Censorship just breeds more creativity and revolt. Consider Prohibition and the result of that attempt to control behavior, again byt eh progressives. They are always present, always pushig to the left .. The National Socialist Party (Naxi Party) was a leftist party folks. Book burnings, censorship, behavioral constraints .. all in the name of prtecting a segment of society from something perceived as a thread.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • MDpay

      The Nazi's or Germanies National Socialist party under Hitler was a right wing party NOT a lefty group. Thus the other conversation expressing concern over Santorum, Plalin Rush and the rest.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  5. newpotty

    This article gives concise evidence for why the American education system continues to plummet towards new depths of incompetency.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • watchtheborders

      I'm not sure plummet is the correct discriptive. To plummet infers to be starting from a high point, where you can make a precipitious decline. Sine wave type modulations are NOT plummets. The NASDAQ index from 5500 January 2000 to September 2000 (during clinton), plummeted to 2600. The Dept Of Education has not plummetted, especially considering Union compensatory accomodations for teachers with tenure. The product (i.e. education) was never the priority, or they would never have allowed a failing student to leave with a diploma for minimal achievment. Think about it.. and get an education, as you are sorely lacking in the art of articulation. Perhaps your interest in continuing adult education has plummeted?

      March 29, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  6. Elliot

    I hope all your children grow up to realize religion is false and organized religion will disappear from this country along with the next generation. -Amen

    March 29, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • watchtheborders

      Religion cannot be "false", as religion never claimed to be "truth". It's commonly known that the bible is metaphorical. If it gives comfort to some, and controls the violent tendnacies of others, who am I to say it is a dinosaur. Science is the reeligion of modern times. Both Science and Religion attempted to explain our purpose and where we came from. For those dinoasaurs whio bely science, well evolution has already taken that into account, or if you are religious, God has, by making our lifespans short enough that dinosaurs cannot operate an iPad.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  7. Babak from LA

    I thought schools were for education ..... This is stupid!

    March 29, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  8. Colin

    When are they going to ban "Education" from our public schools? I think that religion should never be allowed to shape public policy. Religion should not even be mentioned by our political candidates. I think that all churches, synagogues, temples and mosques should be leveled to make way for public parks. I think that if you want to continue living in the dark ages than you're going to have to invent time travel, which means you're going to have to accept certain things about science that currently make you uncomfortable.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • 1221

      This has nothing to do with religion and more to do with stupidity. How does banning the word television impart catering to any religious persons not being offended? This is the type of politically correct c r a p that should offend religious and non-religious alike because it is based on ignorance. Not all religious people think evolution is some evil conspiracy, only the ignorant ones.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • watchtheborders

      I spent 12 years in public schools. I use nothing learned there, except how to sing one million bottles of beer on the wall. I'm almost done now bbrrrrp.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Tprt1

      As a scientist, these are ridiculous comments. Religion and science are not opposite realities. We have far too little education around both science and religion in the schools. Both are avenues in which to explore and understand the world about us. It is the uneducated who cling to one to avoid discussion of the other.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  9. Gia

    Idiocracy coming to fruition.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • watchtheborders

      Probably .. they do drink a lot of Koolade.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  10. KatranM

    It scares me that we've fallen so far that we're afraid to teach our children for fear they might learn something.

    Rome is burning. And I say this as one of the last few kids who had to study Latin in school.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  11. blaqb0x

    add "hoodie" and "affordable", "health care", and "act". "solar flare". "pedo", "catholic priest", etc, etc, etc.........

    March 29, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  12. JPX

    How utterly sad that we are moving backwards instead of forward in our society. It's another example of the dumbing down of America by people like Glenn Beck, Sara Palin, Bachmann, Santorum, etc. Why not ban "dog" or "cat" as well. I hate to break it to the religious nuts but dionosaurs once existed. We have more than ample proof of that. I don't see any proof of your non-existent "gods".

    March 29, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      Yup. Dumping down and systematic sissification. The goal is to make America one giant stupid consumer marshmallow.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Tprt1

      I agree, ban the words "dog" and "cat." My oldest son was scratched by a cat and still bears a faint scar on his nose. My youngest (6) has always been very scared of dogs – particularly the lovable and excitable 80lb. retriever mix next door. As a parent, I am very concerned their academic achievement will be limited by their aversion to the words "dog" and "cat."

      Just joking.

      I very much hope our school district does not fall into the nonsense of NYC.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Jeff

      Good point "JPX".
      we have loads of proof that Dino's one roamed the Earth but zero proof that a God or the Son of God ever existed.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • watchtheborders

      I agree. DOG and CAT should be banned words. Why you ask? Well simple.. DOG is GOD spelled backwards. CAT is a synonym for PU SS Y .. which we all know is a dirty word describing a dinosaurs privates. Mon sheri'

      March 29, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Phil Ologus

      You said, "I hate to break it to the religious nuts but dionosaurs once existed." BUT... as the article clearly states, "...what the tabloid failed to realize is that those fundamentalists who oppose evolution on religious grounds, believe wholeheartedly in dinosaurs." Before you attack us, you may want to understand what we really believe. And before you comment on a story, you should read the story. Thanks for your resonable consideration. 🙂

      March 29, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  13. The Jackdaw

    This kind of thing makes me sick. We are running around the world fighting for freedom when we apparently have none of our own.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • watchtheborders

      we are? Me too" I thought I was sitting at work bored out of my mind .. and all this time I've been running?

      March 29, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  14. Chad

    What happened America? You used to be cool.
    -A Canadian

    March 29, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Mel

      haha well said!!

      Your Fellow Canadian 🙂

      March 29, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • watchtheborders

      Past tense is applicable. You Kanuks are cool though. You even have weird winter olympic events and great hockey and subways with rubber wheels. Now that is cool. Yet the St Lawrence is not so cool, cause the water is freezing even in July. My ballz froze, and that wasn't too cool.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  15. watchtheborders

    When a DINO Flucks does it scream?

    March 29, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  16. grantcv1

    What's next? Democrat, liberal, Obama, or anything else the conservatives don't agree with?

    March 29, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  17. Cullen

    Dinosaurs were one of the greatest things in my childhood I can't believe that something like this would happen. Now what the hell are kids going to imagine now..besides T.V

    March 29, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • watchtheborders

      Man you are old. Dinosaurs were cool in your childhood. Wow .. and I thought I was old. Are you wrinkled yet?

      March 29, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  18. watchtheborders

    Did Dinosaurs smoke after s-x?

    March 29, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  19. The Jackdaw

    New York City – the progenitor of Small Speak. George Orwell was right once again.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  20. Steve O

    The great thing about this is it shields children from new ideas, which is the purpose of education.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      Yes, dinosaurs and TV. Compleatly new ideas.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Rich

      But... but... but... it might make them FEEL bad. We can't have that!

      March 29, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • watchtheborders

      Smack 'em upside the hay-ed with a dinosaur. That'll make them pay attention. Tusk tusk tusk. hee hee

      March 29, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
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