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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. Rafael

    Is that why we pay politicians for? I you feel offended for something I say because to me it is part of my everyday vocabulary, I might be offended by something you say which is part of you vocabulary, then next person might be offended for what you and I say, because he believes in something else, etc. The meaning of the words is nothing; is the way you say them and the way the receiver perceives them, teach you children common sense. We should oust all of these people from office.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  2. nigelrus

    This country has officially gone off the deep end. I quit.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Allah

      me too.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  3. Phyllis

    Oh, yes, let's protect all the little kids for anything that would possibly upset their overly sensitive parents... This country has gotten to the point that you will soon not be able to say anything to anyone or you might just offend someone who happens to be in the same building.. Just when did we become so thin skinned that we couldn't just turn and walk away if we didn't like something that we overheard. This is no longer a free country it is now run by big business, religious fanatics and politically correct self-appointed policemen. Give me a break.. I will say and do whatever I please and if someone doesn't like it they can just deal with it... I'm too old to put up with this nonsense...

    March 29, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  4. Brian

    If our President had a backbone he would stand up against crap like this. He claims to be Christian in order to get elected, just like every other fake politician, but he's too smart to be a Christian.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  5. GodPot

    We don't teach our 3rd graders Calculus, infact you could say that many of the higher fields of education are "banned" from the lower grades since a child needs to have a base of knowledge before they can explore the deeper concepts of the universe. So why the heII can't we give our children an education free of unfounded theories of intelligent design, religious soaked activities and bogus stories of Adam riding dinosaurs. The parents can teach their children all that cr@p if they choose.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  6. eastcoastMike

    That's a good idea....Let's dumb down our children to the level of religious zealots and third world Middle Eastern countries so we don't offend anyone.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  7. Reasonable1

    Rick Santorum should be elected. He will ban the word dinosaurs from every school in the US, not just NY.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  8. JD

    I can produce real dinosaur bones, date them scientifically, and put them in on a timeline compared with early human bones and tell you how old they are.

    Produce evidence that Jesus was a god or a son of god.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  9. Shawn

    Telling a child that the earth is only 6000 years old is wrong. 99.9 % of Phd’s in field agree the age of the earth is 4.5 billion years old. This is now fact. Religion is belief. We need to teach our children to believe in science, question everything but believe in evidence.

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

      Not just PhD's... but MS's, BS's, and anyone who has taken an intro-geology course as well.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  10. Brian

    So we should eliminate things from the curriculum that have already been proven to exist? Wow. God Bless America

    March 29, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Annie, Atlanta

      I'm afraid God is going to damn us if we don't use the abilities he gave us. This is just stunning, and not in a good way. Is this what happens when we let religion creep into our politics? If so, only we can stop it.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  11. /sigh

    America has one of the worse education in the world for a reason.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  12. Annie, Atlanta

    What in the world are we doing to ourselves. The word dinosaur is no controversial? To who? People who believe in Adam and Eve? So we ignore our history, we ignore the discovery of the bones, because it might offend the sensibilities of people who ignore those things and don't believe we evolved. Good God, like I said, what are we doing to ourselves? Or better yet, why are we allowing this?

    March 29, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • /sigh

      because Americans are dumb.

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

      ask U'r union reps that R more concerned w/ teacher tenure, benefits and pensions than the kids they teach.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  13. Sarcastic

    Whats sad is that I study chemical engineering in one of the top colleges in the country, and most of my classmates are foreigners from either Asia or the middle East. Its almost like American students are too lazy and dumb to take on the sciences...the last thing this country needs is more lame ass lawyers and politicians sucking the system dry.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  14. Allah

    This is why kids are so dumbed down today... everything is sanitized for their pure little minds full of mush by the unionized elite.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • palintwit

      Unionized ? I don't think so. More like the baggers and birthers.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Annie, Atlanta

      Unionized? As in unions? What in the world does that have to do with it. May I suggest you step away from the rightwing radio and tv for a week and give your mind a good cleansing? You're mixing up the groups you are being told to hate, that is, of course, if I understand you correctly, which is questionable.

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

      U have U'r rhetoric all turned around... 'baggers' don't want to exclude words like 'religion....' U must be a product of the system...

      March 29, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Allah

      yes – unionized.... who do U think runs the public schools? The UNIONS. Remember Wisconsin?!?

      March 29, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  15. hippypoet

    you are all going to die – and soon after there will be no one left to remember you... lets not tarnish our childrens childrens childrens future with poor choices but rather lets give them something even we don't have – true freedom of expression without fear of being censored!

    March 29, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  16. Violoncello

    This is crazy. Fossils alone prove the dinosaurs existed, and one can appreciate these relics whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, agnostic or atheist.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • palintwit

      Conservatives believe that the baby jesus planted these fossils just to mess with everyone's head. That baby jesus is quite the prankster.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  17. Southernman

    I've got a word for you, "MORONS". Does that bother anyone?

    March 29, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Allah

      LMAO – good one!

      March 29, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  18. kdf

    Um, really... i think we are taking things WAY too far and doing too much catering to our kids.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  19. Donald P

    This garbage makes me ashamed to be an American. No wonder we are falling behind the rest of the world in all phases of civilized progress. This is why religion has no place in government. Lack of Knowledge and the desire to learn the truth and expand our minds will return us to the stone age. When you deny science and the true history of our nation and the world around us then you will destroy all that we have achieved since we first became sentient. The US is becoming a country of Fools.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Allah

      exactly. well said.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Annie, Atlanta

      Thank you for stating it so clearly.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  20. OMG

    Don't they have private schools for this? Wowwww

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

      No kidding...

      March 29, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
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