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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. eric

    Did anybody else noticed that Evolution is on the list but not Creationism ?

    March 30, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  2. Eaglestar

    Did someone even bother to read the news item? They want to avoid those words in math and EnglishTESTS, not altogether from class – kids will still be taught (at least I hope they will) about evolution, and the impact of religion on world history, etc. But I am pretty sure you CAN design a math test without mentioning dinosaurs or birthdays. "Why?" you might ask. I guess because they want children to focus on MATH (addition and multiplication and division and aquare roots and algebra and geometry) and ENGLISH (proper grammar and syntax, for example), rather than unrelated stuff. Maybe it's silly but hey, trigonometry is hard enough without bringing the Holy Trinity into it (though I wll confess to praying to the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost – and every other saint in the book – every time I had a trig exam.)

    March 30, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Lance Atkinson

      Censorship pure and simple You can please some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time This kind of censorship is retarded according to most people commenting here.Y are in the minority. We do not like like this kind of censorship. It smacks of of 15th century church doctrine that the earth is the center of the universe We are not going back there ever again Christmas Halloween Dinosaurs really How many dinosaur eggs can you count You either do not have children or ? That is what children relate to .That is what makes them interested Questions about Halloween or Dinosaurs on a test .What grinch religious zealot school did you attend .It apparently was not the school of free thought .

      March 30, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  3. jj

    This is an early April Fool's joke, right? I can think of many words that cause me 'trauma'

    March 30, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  4. ThePastaSauce

    I have a word for the Dept or Ed – "IDIOTS"!!!!

    March 30, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  5. The Jackdaw

    America smart being stupid. Stupid good. Smart bad. No learn. Want dumb kid. Dumb Kid good. World Bad! World mean. World hurt smart kid. Dumb kid no hurt. yay dumb. boo smart.

    March 30, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Kathy

      LOL you just made my day! hahaha

      March 30, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  6. Ingrid773

    Our precious darlings need to be protected from any and all realities and disappointments.... oh...wait...real life. How will they cope?

    March 30, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  7. count dracula

    Is this a prank? I looked at the calendar... not april fool's yet, so I'm guessing these people haven't read 1984 yet? Or have they...

    March 30, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  8. Mike in NJ

    And the word "Education" might conjure up thoughts of... education?
    Come on, people.

    March 30, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • VegasRage

      Maybe they should ban that word too 😀

      March 30, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Lance Atkinson

      With these simple comments we post .We educate the educators . Their censorship is wrong and stupid They are out of touch.They are elitist`s and apparent religious extremist's ! They are supposed to be educating our children. Let`s Fire them all I smell a recall ! Let`s do it Thank You

      March 30, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  9. Clyde M

    Question, anyone know why our children continue to fall further and further behind those of other industrialized nations in virtually every educational category again?

    Dinosaurs MIGHT call into mind evolution which MIGHT offend fundamentalists?

    Thank god I don't live in New York.

    March 30, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  10. Tom Kurtz

    This is undoubtedly the dumbest thing I've heard.
    We spend so much time worrying about potentially offending someone.
    No Christmas? That offends me. So does no Halloween. Oviously the atheists are worried about being offensive.
    And for that matter why would you spend so much time and money protesting something you doth think exists?
    Offended by Planned parenthood? How many of those children you are forcing people to carry to term are you willing to adopt? Or pay for?
    If you don't believe in something thats your right,don't force it on others.

    March 30, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Dangle66

      "And for that matter why would you spend so much time and money protesting something you doth think exists?"

      Well actually this article is an example of why. This is another example of how society continually bows down to religion. They want to remove words for fear of offending the religious. I mean come on. It is so taboo to criticize religion that even words are being banned.

      March 30, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  11. Lance Atkinson

    How about not offending the millions and millions of people who celebrate Christmas and Halloween .Dinosaurs are exciting to learn about It is important to make the scholastic tests exciting and culturally relevant Religion should have no say in public education Educators who are influenced by religion and push their religious views on others have no place in the public education system Thank You Lance Atkinson

    March 30, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  12. Tom

    I sincerely believe we need less fundamentalist religion in our lives. As for words, we need them to express ourselves and have a better understanding of the world.

    March 30, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Anthony

      You did read the story, correct? Fundamentalists are not call for the ban of these words in testing—it's the New York City's education department. Would you advocate less education departments?

      March 30, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  13. Enzo

    Our educational system keeps getting dumber and dumber. It is no wonder this country is on the decline when we have idiots like these running education. Banning words like dinosaur? The inmates are now running the asylum folks.

    March 30, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  14. TheFatherofLies

    Dinosaur. Wow. We've come so far.

    March 30, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  15. Thom

    My lesbian dinosaur has a birthday on Halloween where we will eat cake and play party games as we all have a tornado of fun! It's like Christmas, only better. Anyone offended yet?

    March 30, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • keith

      how dare you. "eat cake" . . . shame on you.

      March 30, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • pervert alert

      Are you saying dinosaurs went qu eer and that caused their extinction?

      March 30, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Lance Atkinson

      May I come to your Lesbian Dinosaur`s Birthday Party? Great Comment funny clever witty and sarcastic Somebody has to wake these dummies up Good job

      March 30, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  16. Chris Synfield

    So, the bottom line in this story is that New York City has lost its mind.

    March 30, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  17. Cosmos42

    And... America slips a few more IQ points.

    Heck, why don't we just ban teaching high schoolers about Al Qaeda so we don't offend 9/11 conspiracy theorists? Why don't we ban teaching kids that the Earth is round so we don't offend flat-Earthers? You know what, screw it. Let's just ban teaching kids anything in school. I mean, what is school really for, anyway?

    March 30, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  18. mcewenpe

    I think they should ban "request for proposal."

    March 30, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  19. Alicia Bowen

    I want the word "and" banned from schools! It is very traumatic for me to hear or see the word "and!" It's against my religion, too. "And" is blasphemous!

    March 30, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  20. John R,

    "Political Correctness" rears it's ugly head again.

    March 30, 2012 at 9:53 am |
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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.