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. Woof78

    The IQ of all our kids just dropped another couple of points. Thank you, you overly sensitive dumb-asses.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  2. AJ

    ONLY in America!

    March 29, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  3. The Jackdaw

    Big Brother is Watching You.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  4. JD

    Faith and Fact both begin with "F" but are very different.
    Who would defend a wacko who thinks dinosaurs lived at the same time as humans. Oh the egos of those people.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  5. Dave

    Time to ban the words "creationism, christianity, history, and realism" from tests as well, if this kind of small mindedness continues.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  6. Aletheya

    I thought New Yorkers were supposed to be bold, gutsy people. Sounds like the people on their board of education are the biggest bunch of pansies I've ever heard of. If they think their job is to dumb down education so as not to make anyone feel uncomfortable, it's time to purge the board membership and put new people in charge who believe in science and education.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  7. stahnky

    You've got to be kidding me....

    March 29, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  8. Eric McCann

    News Flash: In an update to their policy, New York schools have now decided to ban all words that may be offensive to anyone. From now on, the only words approved to appear on standardized tests are 'of', 'the', and 'kumquat'. Film at 11.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Aletheya

      I personally find kumquats to be offensive and very disturbing. Strike it from the list.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  9. mafness

    Additionally, we live in a world where our kids' role models are the likes of Kim Kardashian, Katy "Fall down drunk last friday night" Perry, Lebron "My Talents" James, and so on...

    We have Katy Perry singing a song about being hammered having a menage a trois, while dressed like a high school teenager. Dancing to a catchy beat, and we're wasting our energy on banning Dinosaurs?

    ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME!? My 12 year old nieces listen to this crap, and love it...

    I'm a musician so I'm all for creative expression, but this goes too far, It's not a song for kids, yet it's all over the TV, Radio, etc... BUT DINOSAURS ARE BAD !? I'm not saying Katy Perry should be banned, not by a long shot, I'm merely saying if you're going to filter what our kids are going to see, Maybe we should keep our eyes on the ball here and see the influences that will REALLY hinder their growth...

    March 29, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  10. Andrew

    Seriously, people sit around thinking about stuff like this? And they get paid for it???

    March 29, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  11. Reality


    Hey, this blog uses a filter for "offensive" words and word fragments numbering (based on the Word counter) at least 165. So in a way the topic prepares the NYC students for the computer world. No doubt newpapers and magazine publishers have word and fragment filters loaded on all of their PCs.

    ar-se.....as in Car-se, etc.
    co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, lubco-ck, etc.
    co-on.....as in rac-oon, coc-oon, etc.
    cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cuc-umber, etc.
    cu-nt.....as in Scu-ntthorpe, a city in the UK famous for having problems with filters...!
    ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
    ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, etc.
    ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, etc.
    ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
    jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
    ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
    koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
    pi-s......as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
    pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
    ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
    se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
    sh-@t.....but shat is okay – don't use the @ symbol there.
    sp-ic.....as in disp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
    ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, alt-itude, beat-itude, etc.
    tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, etc.
    va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
    who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!

    There are more, some of them considered "racist", so do not assume that this list is complete.
    Allowed words / not blocked at all:
    raping (ra-pe is not ok)
    shat (sh-@t is not ok)

    March 29, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Firmino

      drkstrong on March 20, 2011 @HarrynJessie Define what you would consider coristtaphac. The analogy I like to use is that you are told that the plane you are about to board hasa 10% of crashing and everybody on board dying. Would you catch that plane? I would not. With the climate we have a 100% of temperaturs going up 2C and a 50% chance of them going up 4C by 2100. There is a 10% chance of them going up 7C or more. That is the equivalent of the plane crashing.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  12. doc

    Dinosaurs? Birthdays? Words like these cause emotional problems? Thsoe who want to ban them have an emotional problem

    March 29, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • JD


      March 29, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Ding, ding, ding! We have today's winner.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  13. Retread

    Then they better ban the word creationists also for those who believe in evolution or they may also bother them. Where is this PC bologna ever going to end? The word dinosaur or creationists are never going to be used, at any time in the future, by either side of the "where we came from" belief so lets just take it out of the dictionary all together. It's a word for cryps sake! Just a word for the sole purpose of spelling (in this case).

    SOME individuals are so thin skinned they will be able to find ANYTHING to be "bothered" by no matter the topic so quit trying to NOT bother them. Eventually these people will get the fact that the world does not evolve...oops I mean revolve around them and there are much bigger fish to fry then every aspect of their daily lives both inside and outside their beliefs.

    In attempt to not offend anyone we end up offending EVERYONE.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  14. achepotle

    wow...what an insidious poison Christianity is...could we step up the war and prosecution, please?

    March 29, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  15. allens

    this is why people hate government. if it was not so sad it would be funny. they need to be fired for this action. to many good people are out of work and could make better decisions.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  16. leila

    I am from Italy and I am actually offended that the word 'pepperoni' is considered controversial!!! Please!!!!!!!!! This is insanity! Virtually EVERY word in the English language is sensitive to SOMEBODY! Perhaps we should just stop teaching completely!!!

    March 29, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  17. Tara

    Based on the typos and grammatical errors in this article, it would seem that the author must have benefited from the "dumb down public school system" too.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  18. A Reasoner

    Faith-based, that is to say, baseless, should never enter into decision making in the public domain.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  19. What?

    How about we just put stuff on the test that insults everybody, that way no one can claim discrimmination. thats better then removing stuff, when does it end? So many weiners in this world!!

    March 29, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • leila

      I agree! I just shared this article with my AP English students. Even they are incensed. They actually said the same thing you did. Just don't discriminate at all...make the whole test replete with alleged 'sensitive' words.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  20. The Janissaire

    Here's what I have to say on the subject:

    I hope you enjoyed it becuase if we keep going down this road you'll be able to say nothing, nothing at all. Good bye America Land of the free and home of the ..

    March 29, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
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