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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. MrHanson

    Thanks CNN for bringing up something that is this ridiculous just so that atheists can get their flaming posts in. By the way, atheists are fundamentalists too. They believe that in the beginning, there was nothing and that nothing exploded into something and eventually turned into dinosaurs and us humans. They have a strong faith.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • JCMars

      You're wrong. We're all still nothing. Everything is taken on faith.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • max33333445555

      as an atheist i can say that isnt necessarily so. i believe in proof. i think the big bang theory is far more likely than the flying spaghetti monster but ive seen other theories that had some plausible arguments.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  2. Kelley

    'Halloween may suggest paganism'? It does not suggest anything it is Paganism and that is a good thing. Religious diversity is a good thing.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  3. WASP

    why do people immediately start blaming liberals. i'm liberal and an atheist. i think it's more of a conservative thing to want to control what people say and do. just look at how they want to control womens ability to do with her body as she sees fit. so stop blaming liberals for your problems and do something about it.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Jimbo

      So conservatives run the New York School systems? That's news to me.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Pandemic

      I'm not going to comment on whether or not I think it's liberals, but I would the reason people would think it's liberals is because nothing this ludicrous was ever done in the past. And that's the idea of the Conservative – not making radical, asinine changes for apparent reason.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  4. Pandemic

    (Checks address bar) Wait...this isn't an Onion article...?

    March 29, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  5. MA

    if i had a complete lack of emotion to subjects i was taught, i would never have felt pulled towards any specific thing. i would lack passion. i would have no motivation to go out and contribute to society. or some cause. if me having a birthday offends a jehovahs witness. then they have two options. accept that they dont celebrate their own, or convert so they can have one. the world doesnt need be hush hush on every subject that potentially could offend someone. if we dont teach both sides of things, how can young people formulate their own opinions based on an understanding of differing schools of thought. how can one understand the purpose of debate, or cultural/religious differences. i cant believe how ridiculous we are getting. COMMON SENSE IS THE FIRST CASUALTY OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Context

      Well said.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Pandemic

      Agree with Context. We may as well just figure out a way to create artificial intelligence and let robots take over if this is the direction this country is headed.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  6. Jimbo

    How about we just ban school all together, I mean that is where kids get their feeling hurt anyways. School is a scary place for kids so we should just say the heck with it and lock them in basements where they will be safe and won't ever have to worry about real life and being offended.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  7. MyTake

    Ignorance of the highest order.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  8. Lilith

    Religious affiliation should not even be considered for public school test criteria .. hair color is more relevent. Even if studying the history of the worlds relilgion, current affiliations make no difference. This is why Atheists need to make their voices heard.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  9. Pope on a Rope

    It's pretty sad when contradictory opinions are given the same standing as established fact. If your personal religious opinions can't hold up to scientific fact, then maybe you should change your opinions. Because you can't change fact.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • JCMars

      Please explain that to Obama and members of his administration. Economic facts and realities escape them.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  10. watchtheborders

    If you are religious and don't believe in dinosaurs you ARE a dinosaur. I suppose all educational field trips to the Museum of Natural History to see the dinosaurs will be cancelled. After all, they can see them at school in the front of the class facing them. One question, do the students get to sing one million bottles of beer on the wall all day in class as a compensatory measure?

    March 29, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  11. Mike

    Why would you ban dinosaurs unless you're trying to ban free thinking like China? Most people in china don't know about the tiananmen square massacre from 20 years ago because their government has censored it. That is scarey! Man I can't wait for the upcomming election! Time to vote out these fake charlatans who aren't vonting in our best interests and don't seem to have any kind of good education or common sense to base their decisions on. Time to CLEAN HOUSE!!

    March 29, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • watchtheborders

      I've got news for you buddy. Most people in the USA don't know what started WWI or WWII, or what the Wiermar Republic was .. amongst most other significant historical events.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Truth

      Go ahead – clean house. Then say hello to the new leader, same as the old leader. Rinse and repeat as needed.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  12. monomial

    and you wonder why our students fail when compared to most other industrialized nations; what a joke

    March 29, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  13. George Orwell

    War is Peace.
    Freedom is Slavery.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Mopery

      Ignorance is Strength.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • JCMars

      Obama's Economic Policies are working.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • bloodghost

      thought crime will be impossible because the implements will have been destroyed.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  14. JCMars

    I think the people who are concerned only about the word "dinosaur" in this article are completely missing the point. Why ban any words you thought control liberals? You do NOT have a right to not be upset by words someone uses. This is brought to you by the same people who created "hate crime" and "hate speech." This proves to me the that the invertebrates in the Democratic Party are winning. So much for evolution, we're all heading back to the swamp. Another Soros victory.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • What's the world coming to?

      This isn't about Democratic Party!

      March 29, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • yeahalright

      Really, people don't have a right to be upset now? I agree banning words is stupid...but you want to ban an emotion? I thought you guys were hands off?

      March 29, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  15. alittlenuance

    CNN should correct the error in this article:

    "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." should read : "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 NO REPUTABLE paleontologists or geologists share this theory."

    Stop with the false equivalencies and improve your journalistic integrity.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • watchtheborders

      Dinosaurs and humans walk the earth togehter now, except when they board airplanes togetjher, in shich case the fly together, and er when they go swimming togehter. I found an elephant in my pajamas the other day .. how he got there I'll never know.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  16. jdaniels

    This country cannot get more stupid if it tried.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • watchtheborders

      Try me .. I'm game.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • GIgi

      How true! But people are still making the effort to become more simple-minded. Just watch the Republican base,they get an "A" for effort.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • MyTake

      Well at least the GOP culled itself from the most ignorant candidates ... there is hope

      March 29, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Context

      Yet it seems up to the challenge.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Can't Believe How Stupid

      I am sure it could... wait until gas hits $5 or $6 a gallon and then see how stupid things get...

      March 29, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  17. Jim Weix

    The political correctness police are turning this nation into morons.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • max33333445555

      yeah. im sorry that there are religious folks that believe the earth is 8000 years old and that humans and dragons coexisted. just because these people are not convinced that carbon dating is a viable technology (btw, the atomic clock is based on the same concept) we should placate them?

      they are deluded on the drug of religious faith to the exclusion of proven facts.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  18. RoseMcB

    Oh, for heaven's sake! What next!?! The word television will upset someone? We should not discuss Christmas (a holiday even commercially celebrated in non-Christian countries because it's fun and magical)? Discussions of dinosaurs might upset the religious right who live on the planet of Tutti Nutti, but think the earth is younger than Egypt? Our society is spinning out of control.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • watchtheborders

      What does Heavens sake have to do with it. I like sake especially with sushi.. but heaven can fend for herself. She can't have my sake.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  19. Tim W.

    Congrats NYC ! I will not go into what sense this all makes to anyone but you ! BUT I will say that you have Affirmed to me and a large number of Americans that you are the dunbass of North America ! Even a child of DIVORCE dressed as a DINOSAUR on HOLLOWEEN, a AGNOSTIC (RELIGION) watching the CHRISTMAS parade on TELEVISION while eating their BIRTHDAY cake and the cancer patient smoking WEED in California while watching TELEVISION about the WILDFIRES caused by a HURRICANE in Florida will tell you this is the most dumfounded idea they have even heard !
    Here are a few more words that "could evoke unpleasant emotions in the students.".......9-11, WORLD TRADE CENTER, TERRORIST, MUSLIM, AIRCRAFT (PLANE) and USS NEW YORK LPD 21 !

    March 29, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • What's the world coming to?

      Amen

      March 29, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Alex

      I actually heard in a different article that "terrorist" made the list as well. Congrats NYC, really.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • watchtheborders

      And what is to become of BIG BIRD ?? HE IS OBVIOUSLY A PREHISTORIC DINOSAUR !!!

      March 29, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • Can't Believe How Stupid

      Nice way to string them together 😉

      March 29, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  20. Like a BOSS

    This smells of NAZI Germany...

    March 29, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • George Orwell

      The most dangerous weapons are ideas and free thought. Control words and you control thought and you control the people.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • watchtheborders

      If it smells like it, and looks like it, and flies are gathering, best advice is to avoid the taste test.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Mike

      Or How about China? Where they're OWN people don't remember the tiananmen square massacre that happened only 20 years ago because of censoring. Just saw a show on CNBC the business channel on it. China has basically rewritten their own history on the past 20 years. You can hold a photo up for the man in front of a tank and people in China will look at you blankly because they've never seen the picture before.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
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