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. DismayedandDisenchanted

    Werthrough – LOL! Too funny!!!!

    March 29, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  2. Fritz

    This is censorship, pure and simple. Whatever your beliefs, let all be taught in schools. Parents have years to indoctrinate their children if they want to keep them ignorant.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • cocopuf

      Clearly, there IS an agenda behind each of these subtle changes over time. Like, man is getting better and better on discovery channel ... you know, the hairy MONKEY on the left walking on all fours, and the man on the RIGHT walking upright on twos (let's not forget the "attache case" – now that's important). Next thing you know, we will be like gods. That seems to ring a bell ... should be an alarm instead.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  3. DismayedandDisenchanted

    OMG! The word TEST really offends me. It's the worst! I am employed by a higer education establishment and this word sends chills down my spine. Does this count? I am also way stressed out over words such as "new economy" even though that's two words. The fact that it's two words way stresses me out. I am also very fearful of the word "planet X" and "meteor" and "sink hole" and "republican" and "newt" and "ghost" and "rip tide" and "shark" and "taxes" Oh, I hate that word most of all.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • GodPot

      And don't forget the word "Santorum" which by definition is not something I want to find myself standing in...

      Some other words where I prefer the slang word to the original:

      bottom (sounds like something a Pedophile would say)
      fecal/feces (shlt is so much better)
      penis (i'd much rather be called a dick)
      rectum (damn near killed um!!)

      March 29, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  4. luckymoose

    Although I agree that children need to exposed to these encounters and not protected to this degree, I believe it makes sense to try to create the most equal testing environment for children, as to not create advantages/disadvantages. As the article mentioned, if a child's parents were going through a terrible divorce, seeing the word might bring up distracting feelings. In the case of standarized testing, I believe some of the words are justified.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • grandmajoan

      how many tests did you take growing up that used the word divorce in them. sometime you take things to the extreme and it blows up into something ridiculous. Hopefully in that situation the teacher knows the situation and can watch for reactions and take action to help. Words are words, people make the difference in how they are used and perceived

      March 29, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  5. watchtheborders

    Proof of Concept 101. To expose liberal inanity, alwyas go for the joke-ular. They have no sense of humour, epecially when employing logic, satire and scarcasm. Only higher forms of life have a developed sense of humour, and are capable of laughing at themselves. Irish jokes are told by Irish. Liberal jokes are never told by liberals. Use the contrapositive as an argumentive logical to force a liberal into introspection. Then watch and laugh as their brain implodes. You can tell by the enlarged veins, and progessive redness upwardly visible from the neck to the protruding brow line. Enjoy and abuse at will.

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

      And how many conservatives laugh at how staunchy their views are? Thought neither liberal or conservative, though I tend to have liberal views, I do have to laugh sometimes and think "Are these people really on my side." No, we can laugh at ourselves and I do so often.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  6. D

    We have way too many idiots running things nowadays.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  7. BioHzrd

    Anderson Cooper... this is one for the Ridiculist

    March 29, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  8. grandmajoan

    I was appalled at this article. I feel that if we take away all the unpleasentness of the world, how will our children deal with it in their day to day lives. The majority of people celebrate their birthday, Halloween, Christmas and know about Dinasours and that God create the world in 7 days. If they do not hear all of the options how are they supposed to broaden their minds to the different possiblities in life. We limit their knowledge and soon much of our history will be gone and we will be told that nothing bad ever happens in life. We try to protect those who MIGHT be offended but what about those who ARE offended when you take away their freedom to learn everything in life not just what CERTAIN PEOPLE want them to learn. While I was growing up you learned facts, if you did not agree with them you looked for answers in different places, you did not simply sweep it away by taking it out of what you learned. GROW UP PEOPLE our children are not weak they need to be able to make logical decisions and know what others think.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • nichole

      You said it perfectly!

      March 29, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  9. Tim

    I really don't see the problem with believing in God and also believing dinosaurs existed, and you don't need to be a young earth creationist to do so. That's absurd. Many things in the Bible are not literal. My Grandmother always said 6 days to God would be millions to man. During that time, the earth evolved as science understands it today and part of that evolution was dinosaurs. Having grown up in a Southern Baptist church I can't recall anyone who ever had issues believing that dinosaurs existed.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • werthrough

      If dinosaurs didn't exist, where the hell did all of those bones come from, just askin..

      March 29, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  10. werthrough

    Looks to me like they just want to ban words that the kids in New York can't spell.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  11. Paul

    I can't imagine why China seems to be overtaking America in everything. At this point someone please cry about how they steal everything from us. If we continue to teach kids that myths are as valid as science they won't be stealing from us much longer. I doubt there are 1 billion Chinese clamoring for the secrets of creationism. Perhaps we should focus on teaching science so kids can grow up to create systems that can't be hacked instead of assuming a fictional deity will stop the Chinese if we just march around their country 7 times while blowing a few horns.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  12. Robert

    Hey Big Lansing...these are liberals like you

    March 29, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  13. palintwit

    Sarah Palin believes that early man rode their dinosaurs to church every Sunday and parked them in the Roman coliseum.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • nyc rich

      You got rome right...the true dinosaurs are in the vactican

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

      Early man, may not have ridden some dinosaurs to Church; but if you can only read and understand, early man just over 5000 years ago did. There are written records of them in practically every early civilization from the ancient Egyptians to early Chinese written records.

      Just because science doesn't want you to know this for fear of losing their research grants on macro-evolution, and lie to children in textbooks, doesn't mean that you are right or know much about the origin of life.

      Wake up and get off this brainwashing of yours. Snap out of it and lOOk around you 4 a change. :))

      March 29, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • cocopuf

      I know who is the bigger fool though. 🙂

      March 29, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  14. Guester


    March 29, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  15. nichole

    If we actually buy into banning certain words they may offend someone we might as well not even give the test. The kids will encounter these words on a regular basis in and out of school. I am quite sure every word in the world upsets 1 indivual or another but it doesn't mean we stop using it. We move forward and learn about the word wo we can then understand others who the word might mean something to. We just need to teach respect and humility in our children.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • grandmajoan

      I agree with you, many words used today in everyday language offends me but since I know the source, meaning of the word spoken I can ignore it or react to it. If these words are taken out of tests and schools they will just create new ones to mean the same thing.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  16. DismayedandDisenchanted

    Seriously? I will be SO offended if they obliterate "birthday" Does anyone care? I DO celebrate birthdays and I will be so so outraged. Will my squeaky wheel now get the grease?

    March 29, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • BiasMonger

      As an out-of-practice Jehovah's Witness, I can tell you that the school board is more offended than any of them over the use of the word. Growing up, I was never offended by the word birthday (since I did indeed have one listed on my birth certificate), or the celebration thereof. Our lack of celebration was based on a biblical principle rather than any particular disdain for it.

      This is all quite laughable.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • cocopuf

      You see, "birthday" may remind them of Christmas, which in turn, will remind them of Christ, which in turn is a no no at school.

      What is evil becomes good, and what is good become evil. Very slowly and carefully planned out by .... ...... Amazing people!

      March 29, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  17. watchtheborders

    As much as the lib tards want to supress this question, here it is again.
    If a dinosaur is in the woods walking, and there is no liberal present does it still have a name?

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

      Creationists are typically Conservative. How is your post valid?

      March 29, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  18. Big Lansing

    By coddling creastionists, flat-earthers and other ignoramuses as if they held legitimate viewpoints on a par with science, the New York Board of Education proves anew that if you don't stand for the truth, you will fall for anything.

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

      The earth ain't flat? Then what the heck did I fall off last night?

      March 29, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Chuck

      Amen Big Lansing. Incredible that they're are even discussing this. Might as well toss out physics, science, and all the Smithsonian museums.

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

      It is like the blind ... leading the blind. Eventually, they'll have to remove the words Christmas 7 tree. Amazing humans! I guess, once a fool, always a fool. lol

      March 29, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  19. Jim

    The only dinosaurs that should be banned are the ones making bone-headed decisions like this to exclude innocuous words from tests.

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

      They should replace them with anything else, BUT the truth. Amazing humans on this Earth. LOL

      March 29, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  20. Ron

    Political correctness run wild.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
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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.