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. Awkwardly_scripted

    In a world where children can be fundementalists...............

    March 29, 2012 at 3:23 am |
    • Badda Bing

      Children can only be fundementalists if they are bad spellers.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:30 am |
  2. Henry

    Dear Young Earth creationists,

    How did they train the dinosaurs to be construction equipment and the mammoths to be showers? I understand the bird whistles but the rest seems to be a lot of work.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:21 am |
    • Dan

      I've always wondered how they got the flying dinosaurs to allow people to strap so many chairs on their back.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:24 am |
    • Bam-Bam

      Actually, our Young Earth technology was quite impressive, including instant cameras, showers, elevators, garbage disposals and vacuum cleaners, all powered by animals those idiot Darwinists say lived millions of years before us.

      It's really hard to tell how that all changed, because as we all know, nothing evolves and everything stays the same.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:28 am |
  3. SixDegrees

    "few paleontologists and geologists share this theory." – Let me correct you. You mean "NO paleontologists and geologists share this theory."

    March 29, 2012 at 3:07 am |
  4. I'm Outside

    We are now reaching the end of stupid. I'm afraid of what comes next.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:01 am |
    • dowman5744

      "Jersey Shore"

      March 29, 2012 at 3:11 am |
    • Mr. Tasteless

      And it's going . . . going . . . GONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! dowman5744 hits it out of the park for a grand slam!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      March 29, 2012 at 3:23 am |
  5. Mion

    If you don't believe dinosaurs existed, you deserve to be offended simply for being an insufferable idiot.

    I hate religion.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:00 am |
    • partysstink

      People of true religion belive they exsited just in a different time.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:07 am |
  6. drow

    what words make me uncomfortable? how about "New York City Department of Education"

    March 29, 2012 at 2:50 am |
    • leeann

      Why aren't there "like" buttons on this board? Anyway, to Drow . . . I "like"!

      March 29, 2012 at 2:57 am |
  7. Joe B-b-b-b-bob

    Let's also ban "hyper-sensitive," "treating kids like intellectual veal".

    March 29, 2012 at 2:45 am |
  8. dowman5744

    This is why Multiculturalism doesn't work. I will only surrender my land to a Native American, or maybe a relative of Leaf Eriksson.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:43 am |
    • Mr. Tasteless

      "Leaf" Erickson? Is he one of the Tree Stooges?

      Oh, by the way, I am Native American. Surrender your land – I want to build a casino.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:58 am |
    • dowman5744

      Sorry if my Norwegian/Old Norse skills are not up to par. I have seen it spelled that way though. Give me a month to pack my things, I bow to you. Sorry about the whole Trail of Tears thing, My ancestors are European, so I have no blood on my hands, But a promise is a promise,you may have my land Sir. 🙂

      March 29, 2012 at 3:09 am |
    • Mr. Tasteless

      Actually, I am only half Native American. I am the product of a torrid affair between Pocahontas and General Custer,so as it turns out I am very conflicted, alternating rapidly between victim status and white guilt.

      So I guess you should give me half your land, but I would have to give half of that to a native American . . . darn this redistribution of wealth stuff is difficult.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:21 am |
    • dowman5744

      LMAO you're awesome dude. LOL

      March 29, 2012 at 3:30 am |
  9. Oluparun

    They should also ban "ridiculous", "ignorant", "religious", " fundamentalists"

    March 29, 2012 at 2:34 am |
    • leeann

      "Religious" is okay. "Fanatic" is more the problem.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:42 am |
    • dowman5744

      religious/fundamental is like child/adult. Child becomes adult, adult becomes child. A modern moderate will be sen as tomorrows fundamentalist.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:45 am |
  10. Haydon

    Can we Ban the word ban??? I hope all these banning banners ban the word ban. I am so tired of these idiotic wastes of time i could scream! don't we have better things to do?? Seriously?

    March 29, 2012 at 2:19 am |
  11. Din

    I am vegetarian, so the word beef, steak, breast, leg and fish offend me...
    That is the most ridiculous situation in a suppose "free country".

    March 29, 2012 at 2:14 am |
  12. Barb

    Halloween is celebrated by many different religions. It is also a Catholic holiday. Anyone that associates it with only Paganism doesn't know the history of their own religion, I'm guessing. Either way, this is starting to get a bit annoying. I understand trying not to offend someone, but this is school and school should teach facts regardless of someone's religious beliefs. If people don't want their children to learn certain things, then they need to home school them or send them to a faith based school. It seems we're skimping enough on our children's education, I don't think we need to make it worse by banning specific words that could offend their parent's.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:07 am |
    • Does anybody read these articles anymore?

      Do you know what standardized testing is, and how small a part of the curriculum it is? Do you know that the teachers are not banned from using those words in lessons or all other tests?

      March 29, 2012 at 2:10 am |
    • Barb

      Yes, I do. I did read the article, but do you realize that once you ban something in one thing, it just makes it easier and/or more likely to be done in other areas? If it's banned on the standardized testing, it won't be a priority in the classrooms as much because it won't be in the testing. Sooner or later most of those words and anything leading to those words won't be taught at all, or just barely touched on.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:14 am |
    • Why Not

      That not really the point, is it? The concern is that the words are being banned at all.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:17 am |
  13. Denver

    I'm allergic to words. Therefore, I shall sue anyone who writes something that I read. It's an affront to my affliction.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:02 am |
  14. Holly

    As a teacher this really disturbs me. We are already forced to be painfully politically correct in our classrooms–what next?

    March 29, 2012 at 1:59 am |
  15. Dakota2000

    We should remember that educators are drawn from the bottom pool of grad school applicants. We cannot expect much from them.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:58 am |
    • Denver

      What a jerk thing to say. Even jerkier if you actually believe it.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:04 am |
    • Jon

      What a horrible thing to say! Its teachers that are responsible for shaping the hearts and minds of the next generation!! They are the ones who are going to be taking care of you Dakota.
      I'll bet you are the kind of person who doesn't tip the waitress or taxi driver or bellhop because you truly believe these people are beneath you.
      Get off your high horse and start treating people like you yourself would like to be treated and this world will be a better place I promise.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:39 am |
    • steven harnack

      Is that so? Who would it be that "draws" them? Is there a person or group of people who says you, you and you are going to be educators? Where would you get such an odd idea? You must be a Republican as they seem to have nothing but scorn for educators and educated people nowadays.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:54 am |
    • The bottom line

      Of all the people I have met who badmouth education, and I have run into a lot of them, not a one has more than a high school diploma, and only one or two could be said to have really gotten ahead in the world.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:04 am |
    • Thinks2010

      If it were true that educators are "drawn from the bottom pool", that would mean the education you received should place you somewhere in the drain.

      March 29, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  16. Dakota2000

    NYC makes themselves look like fools.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:57 am |
    • Margaret

      Welcome to the tin hat society. I am sure the Arizona legislature is going to grab on to this once they hear about it. I am just surprised they did not do it first.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:59 am |
  17. Daniel

    surprised they havent banned father and Dad either

    March 29, 2012 at 1:55 am |
    • Lizzie Borden

      There are better ways to deal with father than just banning him.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:58 am |
    • dowman5744

      Why you gotta bash dads? Maybe you were a bad girl "Lizzy "Bordon?" You rebel you.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:38 am |
    • Lizzie Borden

      Daddy Borden got 41 whacks because he kept spelling my name "Lizzy Bordon."

      March 29, 2012 at 3:10 am |
    • dowman5744

      .Daddy Borden got 41 whacks because he kept spelling my name "Lizzy Bordon." <-LMAO I like you now 🙂

      March 29, 2012 at 3:16 am |
  18. leeann

    Are you kidding??? When will we realize that living in a free country doesn't mean that you won't see/hear/read things you don't like or agree with? I don't drink alcohol, but I perfectly realize that my choice does not give me the right to run around claiming that every commercial, billboard, or store display that advertises alcohol is offensive and should be removed. Or maybe, these people who are so easily offended are really afraid they can't stand up for their own beliefs? By the way, no matter what their evolutionary beliefs are, show me one kid who doesn't think dinosaurs are uber-cool!

    March 29, 2012 at 1:52 am |
    • Does anybody read these articles anymore?

      Do you know what standardized testing is, and how small a part of the curriculum it is? Do you know that the teachers are not banned from using those words in lessons or mosts tests?

      March 29, 2012 at 2:01 am |
    • Why Not

      Once again, That not really the point, is it? The concern is that the words are being banned at all. Why would you be in favor of any word-bans whatsoever? What possible benefit could there be in even a 'limited' ban?

      March 29, 2012 at 2:19 am |
    • leeann

      To "Does anybody read these articles anymore?": Yes, I know what standardized testing is and I understand that the teachers are not banned from using these words. The fact that it ever came up that words like "dinosaur" and "birthday," just to name a few, should be banned is the concern. You can't remove swear words from a movie without being sued because it changes the "artistic" presentation of the movie, but you can ban "birthday" from a test, standardized or not? What has happened to us?

      March 29, 2012 at 2:26 am |
    • Really???

      Leeann: "few" means three...

      March 29, 2012 at 2:56 am |
    • leeann

      Hmm . . . maybe we better ban "few" . . .

      March 29, 2012 at 2:59 am |
  19. patrick

    this article offends me therefore it must be banned along with the words dinosaur, birthday, beef, as well as adverbs since adverbs offend me.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:51 am |
    • dowman5744

      I can't stand those things either! Adverbs are so , i dunno, abrasively, harshly, not so gingerly offensive to my ears and my eyes.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:41 am |
    • Joe B-b-b-b-bob

      Highly unlikely.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:49 am |
  20. Scott

    There's a difference between being sensitive, and suffering fools. DINOSAURS EXISTED. Fact. Period. You can argue whether or not the fossil record contains a proven link from apes to humans, or how literally we're supposed to interpret the first book of Genesis. But I don't care whose beliefs the truth offends, there is no justification for avoiding it. BTW, I am a "born-again" Christian.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:47 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.