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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. Joe

    I wouldn't have been so surprised if this story was about California. Or the Federal Dept. of Ed

    March 29, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
  2. Jerry

    This is the HUGE reason schools in the U.S. are lacking, because of stupid people running the system. Why don't we just ban the English language all together and everyone can speak any language they want. Even speaking the abbreviations they use in texting. That way nobody will understand each other and therefore not "offend" someone else.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
  3. Lilly of the Valley

    Are we going to start eliminating numbers that have negative feelings too? Like 13? or combinations of numbers like 666?

    March 29, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
  4. Kenna

    The school systems have the right to ban any word they want. Your child does not have to attend these schools and you may very well choose to home-school or send your children to private schools. I don't believe the children will be limited I believe it may actually lower some discrimination that is automatically placed in students minds at a young age.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • dsavio

      The PUBLIC schools do NOT have a right to ban any word they want. We have STANDARDS in this country. You're nuts.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • Jerry

      I can see you were offended by some simple word, because your simple mind was offended by it. I hope you don't drive as I think you are a danger other people lives if you saw an "bad" word.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • smw0813

      Yup, all that anti-dinosaur discrimination.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • Christa

      To be fair not all people have the option to home school or private school their kids. Sometimes its nearly difficult for them to just get their kids to public school. A lot of families and parents rely on school so they can go to work and so their kids can get at least one free meal a day. If the public school begins limited the children's minds now then what can they do?

      March 29, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • beth

      some people can't afford to home school or send their kids to private schools and looking at these words makes me think they might want to ban history as well because at least 13 of those 50 words were used in almost every history class I've ever taken. The worst part is I can think of over 50 words that are far worse and if heard in the schools would sen teachers and parents flying off the handle a lot more than celebrities or Halloween or divorce not to mention talking about computers in the home heaven forbid any of these words be heard. This is the dumbest thing I've heard of yet.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:11 am |
  5. ranchobernardorealtor

    They should put TEACHER on the list. If I recall correctly, there have been some TEACHERS that have had inappropriate relationships with their students. How about that!!!!!! I am sure that would conjure up some feelings that people would not want to deal with. That list is a total joke. I agree with the majority of comments that people have made.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
  6. chef

    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." let me guess the somolian"s dont want to heard the words pepperoni but they can take their prayer times in the middle of the test???? its just going to far!!!

    March 29, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
  7. the

    The word "the" offends me because backwards it's "eht", I want it banned from the language

    March 29, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
  8. Karen S

    It is clear that the New York Department of Education has far too much time on their hands. Whatever committee thought this one up obviously is not interested in educating the children.

    Banned books. Banned words. What's next? Banned thoughts perhaps.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  9. Christa

    I think this has taken things to far. The school system is suppose to educate students and broaden their minds on very aspect. If the school systems take away things just because it may offend a certain group does not mean that that is how it was being used in context. I believe that if NYC bans certain words that it will limit the knowledge of our future children.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Kenna

      The school systems have the right to ban any word they want. Your child does not have to attend these schools and you may very well choose to home-school or send your children to private schools. I don't believe the children will be limited I believe it may actually lower some discrimination that is sometimes automatically placed in students minds at a young age.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • ND

      Don't get caught up in the media. Better tests scores = more money for the state. Smart move to ban words that may detract a students focus based upon what their parents drill into them at home.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
  10. Concerned Student

    "To expand language is to expand the ability to think." – George Orwell, 1984 Restrict language, and you restrict thought.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
  11. Preston

    The very idea of taking a test makes me uncomfortable....therefore the school system should respect my beliefs and not give me tests...or homework. Surfing makes me feel good, so you can find me down at the beach this upcoming school year. LOL–what a joke.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
  12. ronnie

    One word they need to keep....IDIOTS...someone has to mch time on their hands

    March 29, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • javier

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      June 27, 2012 at 2:19 am |
  13. David

    Freedom of religion doesn't mean that we have to go out of our way to protect the irrational sensitivities of others.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  14. matt

    this is whats wrong with the world, this is what u get when only liberals wanna become teachers!

    March 29, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • Rob

      Liberals? Are you kidding me? How, on earth, do you equate the elimination of the word 'dinosaur' with a liberal belief?

      March 29, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Mitrut

      Apr26Aditya Khanal Sharukh does not need to make it a huge issue. Whoever comes to US must go through the sruteicy process, it is a normal procedure. When anyone is busted into sruteicy stuff, they may be questioned, the question session may go one hour to nine hour, it all depends on how well you cooperate to the sruteicy officials. In the same scenario, john abraham, Salman Khan has also gone through, but they never brought these into media so wildly, Sharukh is a normal passenger only when he goes through the airport, please request to shahrukh not to let his stardom go on top of his head. stardom has nothing to do with sruteicy check. Even US president should go through it. Please donot bring minor issue into media,,, shahrukh. we know you are smart in doing advertisement.

      June 26, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  15. drinker75

    Political correctness on steroids. Pathetic.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  16. Havanas

    Just doin' our part in the dumbin' down of Amerika. Let's cut out literacy altogether least someone reads an offensive word, comment, opinion, or idea. This is about the dumbest thing I have ever read!

    March 29, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  17. Jwal1490

    Has America lost its mind. I understand a certain level of sensitivity to words like "death" or "divorce" or anything along those lines, but "dinosaur" and "pepperoni". Really?? What child doesn't know what either one of those things is already. America needs to get a grip and stop being so sensitive all of the time, what reality is this country living in. PS this is someone who is left of center on most issues saying this

    March 29, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
  18. alphabatt1

    Dear Young Earth nitwits, fossilized Dinosaur remains are often found with the fossilized remains of their last meal contained inside their ribcage. So please tell me why no fossilized human bones have been discovered inside of Dinosaur remains? And don't try to tell me that Angels carried them to safety.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • BrandobCowz

      Hey Einstein, would you agree that tigers lived in the same area as humans several thousand years ago? How many fossils of tigers have been found with human remains inside of them?

      March 29, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
  19. kinchina

    you ban those words and introdcuce words like DRUGS, SHOOTING,LYING, KILLINGS...

    March 29, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  20. Krafty

    Isn't there an amendment about separation of church and state? Teach evidence in the science classroom please.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Freedom1776

      Actually, the first Bibles printed in America were by the U.S. Congress for use in public schools. This is another example of something that most people are unaware of, but overtime have been fed so much incorrect information that they start to accept it as truth and spread that misinformation to others. Just more proof that the country is on a downward spiral.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • Glenc

      All for it. Start by throwing out Origin of Species. It is not science and has never been tested as a "theory" (which by scientific definition OoS is not). I'm all for starting at Mendel. That was science. Darwin is just observation and conclusion, and wrong at that. Read it with an open scientific mind and ask yourself how much of it even makes sense today. Very little, if any.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:46 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.