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.
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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.
But let's be sure we include the words gay, transgender, sodomy and pedophilia.
Anotha gay brotha testifying.
I'm one of Jehovah's Witnesses and the word birthday doesn't offend me. A lot of people celebrate it. We don't. So who cares?
This is ridiculous. The main reason kids are sent to school is to learn how interact with other individuals that may disagree with them. It is called social skills; and if we ban everyday words from tests to accommodate some religious nuts or crazy people then we are doing a disservice to the kids. If they don't like their kids to become normal social individuals, they can always home-school.
Wasn't there some news about republishing some of Mark Twain's work with "politically correct" terms... this is in the same league. We want to put taboo on anything we fear, instead of learning from them.
Most kids probably find the word "test" controversial.
So true, Usher! A PLUS comment!!
I think we should get rid of the offensive letters to. Personaly I'm offended by "C". we have "S" and "K", "C" is just offensivly redundant
"... avoiding sensitive words.. " That's right. Take the cowards' way out. Sugar coat it so you'll be PC and avoid "offeeeeending" anyone. Wuz.
This is ridiculous. The main reason kids are sent to school is to be learn how interact with other individuals that may disagree with them. It is called social skills; and if we ban everyday words from tests to accommodate some religious nuts or crazy people then we are doing a disservice to the kids. If they don't like their kids to become normal social individuals, they can always home-school.
"The world needs ditch diggers too."
pretty sure even the bible mentions dinosaurs. creationists believe that humans walked with dinos, but that they still existed.
The notion that children should be protected from ideas because they are harmful seems counter to the purpose of education. Ideas do not cause harm. How people choose to ACT ON an idea can be harmful, but ideas in and of themselves are neutral.
That's why the US is so low on the learning curve. Stiffle the minds of the future to fit the correctness of the present. Our children do not read enough as it is, they are low in Math scores and now they are told not to think or be inquisitive about history. We are worst than some of the Third World countries. What a waste of human talent.
this is a joke right.
They should ban teachers with bad grades, abusive behavior. They all use the same blanket.
So instead of acknowledging unpleasantries in the world and different cultures, we avoid them? I'm white, so does my kid get to skip the entire month of February since it's Black History month? Or how about Cinco de Mayo?
Typical, liberal, thought control police.
Typical name -calling conservative. Typical to turn everthing into politics.
Do you think it's the liberal Jehovas that don't like birthday? Or the liberal right-wing nut-job Christians who don't like dinosaur? Do you know what liberals have that conservatives don't? An education. Not to many liberals who believe the earth is 6,000 years old.
Dinosaurs are real! They are Jesus Ponies!
they need to ELIMINATE the words GOD, JESUS, MOHAMMED, JEHOVA etc from school curriculum. Eliminate fantasies, focus on facts.
"Beleive in Dinosaurs" ? Whats to beleive in they existed...the skeletons and other evidence are indisputable. These guys are the dinosaurs!
Because there are people out there that believe the fossil record was planted by the devil to sway people's beliefs.