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.
"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."
Huh? "Few paleontologists and geologists share this theory?" Don't you mean "NO" paleontologists and geologists share this theory? Did you write "few" because you were afraid saying "no" scientists at all believe the Earth is 6,000 years old "could evoke unpleasant emotions" in the religious readers?
Maybe self proclaimed scientists that graduated from one of those ministry schools that don't understand the scientific method.
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Just let the Department of Education fill out the blanks...smh...
Hah, this is probably the best case of a fearful educational system. They don't want to upset anyone - and rightly so, I should think, given the history of conflict this nation has over words.
Looks like New York felt left out of the ignorant club along with Kansas, Oklahoma and Kentucky and wanted to be part of the freak circus show.
Perhaps we should eliminate the phrase "Department of Education, " so that will all not be revolted at the thought of these fools.
Ron Paul would agree with you. The phrase department of Education is highly offensive to him
Well considering this country spends more money on education than any other nation in the world per student and we have some of the dumbest kids around, he should be offended....the department is a joke.
dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb.
Can we also ban the word "bible" so as not to offend the unbelievers among us?
Obviously they already banned the word "religion" and "christmas". I'm assuming "bible" is somewhere in there too.
Oh, for crying out loud! You can't remove certain words on the chance that they might be insensitive to children. What the bleep? Is there a plan to drop the teaching of historical wars as well? Lots of death and destruction involved there. Should we shield our children from those truths as well?
Wow, Americans are getting dumber by the day. Sad that you are trying to please everyone. If disaster strikes, then you claim to be a Christian nation, but you want to remove Christmas from your tests?
Ok so let's shield children from EVERYTHING, great idea! I'm sorry but this is ridiculous, peoples different beliefs and words like "Dinosaur" are all over the place, one day when they have to take care of themselves in the real world, they are in for a reality check. I don't get how some people think!! The world survived 30 years ago with those words, I'm pretty sure they'll be ok today. How Stupid!
The article reads: "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." I wonder why California avoids the word weed because I live in Ca and am located about 100 miles from a small town in Ca named "Weed". LOL! It's a small tourist attraction that sells items such as tee shirts with a marijuana logo on it.
Waaaaaaaoo what kind of eductaionn will the state have if they are not free to learn or use some words ....
Political correctness really can go to far can't it.? How did we ever get along before the political correctness that has swept the last 20 yrs? Uh, we realized that there was a thing such as freedom of speech, and we were more tolerant than I think than we are now. Now we have to ban this and ban that, and censor this and censor that. I hope this post isn't censored too for fear it may offend someone.
Religion is so ridiculously frail and incredulous that the "shepherds" of Religion must go to these lengths to keep the scam going. To believe in the unbelievable, to believe in the unreal, requires an unreal vocabulary.
In America we are literally policing what people can even THINK about to continue to keep the "Monkey of Religion" on our backs. Our Education system is under attack by Religious Fundamentalists who seek to create a population of Adult-Idiots.
This is SHAMEFUL, it is ILLEGAL, and it is STUPID. You are all being had and your Freedom will soon evaporate.
I am glad that there is a media apparatus that is much bigger than our Education system that has an ever-greater role in "Educating" our population.
sir: "In America we are literally policing what people can even THINK about to continue to keep the "Monkey of Religion" on our backs. Our Education system is under attack by Religious Fundamentalists who seek to create a population of Adult-Idiots. ... This is SHAMEFUL, it is ILLEGAL, and it is STUPID. You are all being had and your Freedom will soon evaporate."
So let me see if I have this right. You're worried about the U.S. losing its freedoms, while at the same time wishing that religion would evaporate from the earth and that the government will suppress it as far as is possible?
Slow news day CNN? This is a stupid article if I ever saw one.
What a waste of administration's time. I believe there a much larger issues their time could be spent on.
Not only do biblical creationists not have any problem with the word "dinosaurs," we don't have any problem with the teaching of evolution either. We want only that competing theories such as creation be taught in schools too. We aren't afraid of competing theories because the evidence for creation is very strong. It is the evolutionists that are afraid of scrutiny, because their theory lacks valid supporting evidence. Examples are the appearance fully developed functional forms throughout the fossil record with minimal evidence of transitional species. And, the lack of a biological mechanism that produces completely new genes that create new traits, which would be necessary for evolution to be true. All we see is variation within gene types, which can produce variation such as tall people/short people, dark people/light people, big dogs/small dogs... No winged dogs or people.
I think the reason that we don't want creation taught in schools is because it produces people that think the arguments you presented are real arguments.
Its not a competing theory, its mythology.
reality: "Its not a competing theory, its mythology."
The irony in this statement is astounding.
You've met dogmatism from fundamentalists with non-scientific dogmatism of your own.
You demonstrate a clear lack of understanding of biology and the mechanisms of evolution via natural selection. You're ignorance doesn't make you correct.
Why don't we just not talk or write or take standardized tests at all? That way we can't offend anyone!
If an individual has an anxiety about a certain word, they need counseling not coddling.
Horses do have Gods, they're called humans.
To quote Tim Minchin,
"Science adjusts its views based on what is observed. Faith is the denial of observation so that belief can be preserved."
So your argument suffers from four fallacies. An invocation of "authority" with a conclusory statement based on an over generalization, all of which is aimed at an ad hominem.
If only I would have opened my statement with an emoticon, as you have, perhaps it would have had more impact.
I invoked no "authority", I merely gave credit to the statement's originator. If the comment is, as you claim, "ad hominem", who exactly was I attacking?
Faith is the recognition of observation that is not evident outside ourselves, not the denial of observation! Whoever said the earth was a few thousand years old was missing a few screws. That "doctrine" has nothing to do with Christianity, but it is a convenient distraction from the messages we are supposed to be getting. It's amazing how many people will go along with something without really thinking! Christ admonishes us to think – and Genesis lists the very sequence that science gives us in the evolution of the earth as we know it today. The unfortunate wording, using "day" to mean both a 24-hour cycle and an era in this sequence, has caused much misunderstanding. Read 2 Peter 3:8, where this very issue is discussed.