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. palintwit

    Sarah Palin believes that the Flintstones is an accurate depiction of early man. She also believes that the first automobiles really were foot powered.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • PunksNotDead

      You are a sad little man.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Sadly, reading many of the comments on this blog, she is far from the only one.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  2. B. Russell

    No wonder our kids are becoming more dumb!!

    March 29, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
  3. Martin

    A new low!!! next is "Science", "Knowledge"...but first we'll ban all Archeological museums...
    This has got to be a joke!!! no?

    March 29, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Don

      I honestly thought this was an April Fools prank. You have to be #@#$$#@@ kidding! This coming from the people that educate our children? This takes politically correct to a new high. P.S., I don't like the word moist.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:02 pm |


    March 29, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
  5. Andrew

    I guess they should ban the words "medicine" "sick" "healing" and anything to do with treating the ill, since it might offend christian scientists. in fact, lets just get rid of all hospitals just in case a christian scientist is walking down the street, sees it, and gets offended.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  6. Don K

    You've got be kidding? Dinosaur is offensive to religious groups? I'm glad that I don't live in New York! A world without religion would do us a world of good!

    March 29, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Don

      AMEN!!!! I actually thought I was one of the dumb ones until I realized how many stupid people exist in this world. A god sitting up there in heaven watching us? Didn't sheep herders 2 thousand years ago believe in this stuff? Didn't they "see" angels? They supposedly had wings. I am not sure what they needed those wings for but made sense to stupid people back then.........and know?!

      March 29, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  7. Mike in NYC

    Lets get something straight here folks ... there is not one church or religious group asking for these words to be removed. Please do not blame religion for THIS one. What you have here are a bunch of over sensitive liberal pantiwaists that are SO stuck in their political correctness mentality that they're actually removing every day words because someone somewhere MIGHT get offended???? Talk about missing the bus!

    As was so intellegently pointed out by Prof Wineburg from Stanford – the PURPOSE of education IS to challenge students and create an ability to think critically. If you insist on castrating their language how can you possibly believe that any students will be able to develop an original thought?

    March 29, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Gene

      That the point they do not wants kids to have original thoughts.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • QS

      So if education is to get people to think critically, why would religious people want their kids to get an education?

      And honestly, if the religious crowd didn't ALWAYS get offended about SOMETHING having to do with their beliefs not being "respected", then I'd hazard a guess that the level of PC-ness wouldn't be this out of control.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  8. Lorri

    First off not all NYers are stupid. 2nd lets get real if a school banned all words that could be sensitive to students then there would be no school. Everyone has something and they need to get over themselves. Life is full of things that are unpleasant and the sooner children learn this the better they will be able to cope. Stop being so politically correct and get with the real world.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  9. QS

    "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."

    It's just so sad.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Darwin


      March 29, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • AGuest9

      The rock in which their fossils are located took HOW LONG to form? LOL!

      March 29, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • jimcantore

      Take a look at http://www.halos.com/
      It's kind of funny how those who are unable to prove the theory of evolution try to squash findings that support the creation account .
      True scientists will actually take "all" evidence into account, and sometimes have to adjust their previous conclusions.
      Most of today's "scientists" have been "brainwashed" into believing evolution despite a large amount of evidence supporting a young earth, as well as a worldwide flood. They have a "theory" to uphold/maintain, and all evidence must be manipulated or fabricated (i.e. Lucy) in order to support the cherished theory.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, The Piper's Son

      Creations warp facts to suit their pathetic belief. Real scientist come to a conclusion AFTER the facts.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Here we go with "the worldwide flood". "World-wide" in terms of the bible was the flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates valleys during the flooding of the Persian Gulf, which inundated many villages and cities, some of which have been studied by divers, and suggest that others lie in the mud at the bottom of the Gulf. Mesopotamian floods occurring in the 20th, 18th and 10th centuries BCE. Many civilizations list a flood myth, which are likely based on some major flooding event. The Chinese, for example, recalled the Great Flood, which resulted in the flooding of the Yellow and Yangtze – not the entire continent of Asia.

      You do realize that the amount of water that it would have taken to cover all of the landmasses on earth is roughly equivalent to all of the water in the solar system, don't you?

      March 29, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  10. pat

    it sounds like a bunch of bulls.... if they dont like it; leave

    March 29, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  11. Bfoxwell

    If we listen to these people, they would still be teaching that the world is flat.
    Creation has been proven false, just get over it!

    March 29, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  12. MrHanson

    Lol, Maybe they should ban the words 'design', 'purpose', 'meaning' from the list also, because it may upset atheist fundamentalists.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Most people who are atheist that I've met aren't as closed-minded as the believers.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  13. Lee

    And we wonder why we have so many poorly educated kids. WE HAVE IDIOTS TEACHING THEM.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • NJMom

      I totally agree. It is not surprising that this country is not leading the world any more and our kids scores so badly in international tests. No wonder many of my American colleagues want to move out of this country, at the latest when they retire.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Literacy helps: " allows our students to complete practice exams without distraction."

      This distraction isn't coming from the teachers.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  14. palintwit

    Southern evangelical christians believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old. They also believe that it's okay to boink their sisters and cousins, usually every Sunday right after church.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • PunksNotDead

      What an ignorant, idiotic thing to say. My aunt and uncle believe in that theory. I may not agree with their view of science and history but to insult ppl for their beliefs is asinine and quite frankly, just sad.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, The Piper's Son

      Funny the article says this is NYC. You must be a product of said education system.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, The Piper's Son

      @ PunksNotDead
      I’d rather be asinine than ignorant and delusional.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • PunksNotDead

      Tom – how am I ignorant and delusional? Fu**ktard...

      March 29, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  15. gager

    It should be mandated that only weasel words be used. That way you can steer clear of facts.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • AGuest9

      To turn out schools full of lawyers – THE HORROR!

      March 29, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  16. Draac

    The PC left is taking over and they are letting it happen....America has gone nuts !

    March 29, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • allanhowls

      Actually, it sounds like they're trying to placate the religious right. Try again, and quit letting your bigotry get in the way.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • PunksNotDead

      No Allan, sorry you are wrong. You took a few examples about religon and used it as your basis to insult someones comment. There were other words banned like divorce, and rock n roll. CNN however LOVES to hate on religon so they decided to make the story all about how the nation has to bend to the will of religon. Funny, dont see ppl like you complaining about the gov stepping in and trying to force religons to do things against their beliefs. Guess it only goes one way with liberals

      March 29, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Gasp! Not divorce and rock n roll! What would the minister say?

      March 29, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  17. PunksNotDead

    What a lame PC world we live in. Who cares if a word invokes feelings in kids? The word doesnt disappear from the childs life altogether just because its not on a test. Why do we continue to shelter our kids?!?

    March 29, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Kramer

      A PC world indeed....one created by atheistic Jewish 'intellectuals', who you apparently have been inculcated by.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  18. Weis1110

    This is the kind of garbage that has people all over the world laughing at Americans. Locally, this smacks of Emperor Bloomberg's B.S.! I can't believe as Americans we have to continue to bend to whims of every little population segment. So, here it is. I am offended by peas. I'd appreciate if the NYC public schools would refrain from using any reference to peas...idiots!

    March 29, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  19. Kramer

    I've got one for ya....how about we ban JEWS from America? Just kick out the whiny parasites....ship 'em off to Israel or wherever the heck they claim God gave 'em land. That would solve a lot of our problems - financial swindles, unnecessary wars, moral turpitude, the war on religion...hell, without those Shylock b-stards our country would regain its status as the 'light of the Western world'. If we can't ban 'em, I say we fire up the ovens and break out the Zyklon-B....I know, I know - the 'holocaust' was an enormous myth, but at least those hook-nosed goblins who framed Hitler gave us some good ideas for the future!!

    March 29, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • PunksNotDead

      I truly hope this is a joke. And if it is...still pathetic.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Kramer

      Not as pathetic as Judeophiles like yourself.....

      March 29, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • PunksNotDead

      Dude, what is wrong with you? Judeophiles? Thats not even a word....just another thing you fail at.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Kramer

      What are you, in Junior high school?Judeophile is a word, genius.....it helps to be educated before talking out of your ass. Seriously, you need to brush up on your grammar.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • PunksNotDead

      You are right about the word, but it isnt grammar, its part of a lexicon, so you still fail. Your truculence is nonetheless pathetic. Your world view, disgusting and your fear and hate will only let you down. Grow up

      March 29, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Kramer

      Aha! So you admit defeat: "Thats not even a word...." You fail. You lose. You gay.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  20. Bill

    I suggest the words "fact" and "evidence", are eliminated as they appears to offend too many people. We can add a new word "wuss-itis" (the condition of being a wuss) to describe the condition that so many people appear to be afflicted with.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
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About this blog

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.