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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. Bill

    I am a secularist. I believe that "under God" should be removed from the Pledge. I will not however get the vapors if I read the word "God" or "Christmas."

    March 28, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • † In God We Trust †

      Get away from this nation then..... I buy you one-way ticket. How's that?

      March 28, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • Bill

      Wow. It looks like someone can't deal with a different opinion - or read a comment in its entirety.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • think for yourself

      I agree that "under god" should be removed again, like it originally was. But I can skip over it for now. It is astounding that in 2012, so many Americans still think we should base our lives on a 2000 year old book.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • mickey1313

      I agree with you, except I want them to have a taste of there stupidity. I want all thiestic word banned from public discourse. And to your detraqctor one nation... You are an ignorant evil pig, shut your filthy thiestic mouth. Thiests deserve to be burned alive.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • Mark

      Wow – as an atheist, I do not condone the comments made by mickey. Mickey, you should be ashamed of yourself for this kind of hatred. If you spread this kind of hate, it only fuels theist's argument when they say we're "bad people".

      April 1, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  2. mickey1313

    it is against the federal law to ban words based on religon. They need to be useing words like hypocrite, and fool to describe thiests. When will thiests all drink the cool-aid and be done with it. Thiesm is the worlds leading mental disorder and we need to cure it by purging all of the devoute.

    March 28, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • † In God We Trust †

      You sound like Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. You should move to North Korea

      March 28, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • think for yourself

      "Purging" is not the thing to do when someone disagrees with you. That is what the religious folks do.

      We just need better education and for people to stop brainwashing their children from birth. Eventually, humanity will realize that the bible is false and christianity will be thought of just like we think of ancient Greek mythology today. Of course, some other mythology will take its place.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • mickey1313

      All thiests need to get a taste of what THEY themselves have dished to the civalized world for thousands of years. Let them be, untill they get long in the tooth, then yank there teath out in one fell swoop. If the thiests have a right to spew hate, then so do the secular huminists who are sick and tired of being bombarded with the lies of christianity.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  3. ncredulus

    Morons! We are, collectively, a pack of morons for permitting small groups of simpletons to make a laughing stock of our public education system and our culture in general. If one is offended by a word, tough . . . suck it up! Don't use it yourself, but I reserve the right to use an extensive vocabulary. Even the Taliban probably even laugh at us.

    March 28, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
  4. Jeremiah Diehl

    "† In God We Trust †
    Now stop fooling yourself around. Tell me America is a secular nation when Christmas and Easter are not holidays, In God We Trust is removed etc. etc."

    Christmas and Easter are pagan holidays.... Jesus wasn't born on December 25th, rather sometime in September. Also the resurrection happened on the Jewish feast of Passover, not Easter.... On top of that, printing "In God We Trust" on our money doesn't make us a Christian nation. The indicator of whether or not a nation is christian is actually the extent of christian values by which the country is governed – and to be honest, in today's America, we are not governed by christian ideals or values. America is not a christian nation. However if you mean to say that there are Christians who live in America... that statement would be true.

    March 28, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • † In God We Trust †

      Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Any person with normal function brain and mentally healthy know this.
      Easter is Christian holiday too. Yes, it's true that Jesus might not have been born on Dec 25, however it was decided to be that day.

      'In God We Trust' refers to the Christian God. If it refered to Islamic or Jewish God, it would have said Allah or G-D.
      Don't fool yourself... I know you know it already 🙂

      March 28, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
  5. Gill Avila

    I can't wait to see what next year's Newspeak dictionary will contain.

    March 28, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
  6. JayS.

    The scariest part of this absurdity is that a group of ostensibly educated people probably had several meetings on this topic, discussed each and every one of the allegedly, potentially offensive words ad nauseam, and still came up with this list. This is not Alabama, Mississippi, or Kansas kids, this is the oh so sophisticated, educated, cosmopolitan, capitol of American culture. Good luck with that argument in the future.

    March 28, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • mickey1313

      NYC became a pack of pants-peeing whiners on 9/11. They alowed the terrorists (the bush regime) to take there peace away, and now only fools make any plays in NYC. Who cares.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
  7. Amazing...

    We are so concerned that we might UPSET someone, that we are willing to tell our children not to use words like "dinosaur?"

    The pussifiing of America...

    March 28, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
  8. Linda Allen

    And they are never going to be exposed to these words and ideas in other places? Hope they don't ride public transportation or watch TV.

    March 28, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
  9. Michael

    Wow.

    This is political correctness taken to the most ridiculous extreme imaginable. Why don't we just burn all the books to inhibit free thought completely? Ever read "Fahrenheit 451"?

    March 28, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • Bill

      Please be more sensitive to the Celsius and Kelvin cultures.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • asdfghjkl;'

      @Bill

      ahahahahahah wut difference??

      March 28, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • Bill

      @ asdfghjkl;'
      You do realize I was joking right?

      March 28, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • Elsie E Connelly

      I have indeed read Farenheit 451 and have also seen the movie. It's pretty darn scary that this country has come to a point where a bunch of over-educated IDIOTS can ban whatever they think is offensive.
      THESE FOLKS ARE OFFENSIVE TO ME, CAN I BAN THEM FROM SPOUTING OFF THEIR DRIVEL? NO, DIDN'T THINK SO!

      March 30, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  10. Bill

    Let's outlaw all words because they might offend Mime-Americans.

    March 28, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
  11. Cheyla

    . . .and here we go further down the road to a theocracy. Why don't these people just move to Saudi Arabia or Iran if they want to live in a theocracy?

    March 28, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • † In God We Trust †

      It's a difference between Christian and Islamic theocracy.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • mickey1313

      ingodwetrust, no there is not. ALL thiests are evil, anyone who wants to suport religon, needs to know that christianity, and the devoute leaders of it, wish a shiria style laws system set up in america too. We all have the right to think what we want. But the 1st amendment does not give twistid thiests the right to impose there thoughts on others. We need to put all thiests in there place, thats 6 feet under.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • † In God We Trust †

      Please take your psycho pills... my tips to you!

      You belong to hell, and will be sent their (hopefully soon). Have fun!

      March 28, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @In God

      Putting yourself on a pedastal shows prideful thinking. I think I remember something about pride...wasn't it one of those seven deadly sins?

      March 28, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
  12. GH

    Christians and the politically correct crowd have to be the stupidest group of people on earth.

    March 28, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  13. 5x

    Great.

    Gonna go see if the professor has an extra seat on the Planet Express ship.

    March 28, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
  14. JB

    Gosh sometimes common sense is so far removed from educators. Admire the work of teachers and most administrators, but gee some are so weird.

    March 28, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • DL

      These are not educators making these decisions, but administrators. Big difference.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
  15. Robin

    REDICULOUS!!! Talk about just making kids more stupid...and sensitive... I can't even say anything more it's completely absurd!!

    March 28, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • † In God We Trust †

      Ridiculous*

      Consider taking ESL classes

      March 28, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
  16. pinpin45

    if we keep going like this we're gonna have the DUMBEST BUNCH OF PEOPLE IN ABOUT 20 YRS

    March 28, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
  17. † In God We Trust †

    "In God We Trust" refers to Christ and our Christian heritage, so prominent in our nation's founding, development, and growth, united in worship and freedom. It comes from the Old Testament.
    (Psalms 2:12; 4:5; 5:11; 7:1; 9:10; 11:1; 16:1; 17:7;
    18:2, 30; 20:7; 25:2,20; 31:1, 6, 19; 34:22; 36:7;
    37:3, 5, 40; 40:3; 52:8; 55:23; 56:3-4, 11; 62:8;
    64:10; 71:1,5; 73:28; 91:2,4; 115:9-11; 118:8-9;
    119:42; 125:1; 141:8; 143:8; 144:2)

    March 28, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • † In God We Trust †

      In 2006, on the 50th anniversary of its adoption, the Senate reaffirmed "In God We Trust" as the official national motto of the United States of America.[12] In 2011 the House of Representatives passed an additional resolution reaffirming "In God We Trust" as the official motto of the United States, in a 396-9 vote.[13][14] According to a 2003 joint poll by USA Today, CNN, and Gallup, 90% of Americans support the inscription "In God We Trust" on U.S. coins.[15]

      March 28, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • Lol Nope

      "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion"

      March 28, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Meaning putting god on our money and making the nations motto as such are unconsti.tutional.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • † In God We Trust †

      The United States Code at 36 U.S.C. § 302, now states: "'In God we trust' is the national motto."

      March 28, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • AGuest9

      That is correct, HawaiiGuest

      March 28, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • † In God We Trust †

      America is a Christian country.. get over it. Otherwise God wouldn't be mentioned in our money, buildings etc.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Sorry "In God", it is still unconst.itutional.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • Life is funny

      Not surprisingly, some of the most stringent opposition to "In God We Trust" was originally from Christians, who felt it sacrilidgeous to profane the name of God by putting it on money.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • † In God We Trust †

      Those were few 'Christians' who were closet atheists. The motto refers to the Christian God, everbody knows that.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      You know, it's pretty useless to have anything resembling a conversation with you "In God". All you can answer with is "Nope, Christian God, etc. etc. etc.". You will never look beyond the tiny little box you've enclosed your mind in.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • mickey1313

      WHAT A FOOL. In god we trust was added to our money during the cold war, you know another faux war on terror, that was american government waring against its own people, with zero justification, thank you baby boomers. It was added because the ignorant baby boomers thought that since we wanted to beat russia, and they were secular, that we should be religous. Oddly we beat them through exsesive spending, not anything about our morals. Read a history of the founding fathers and you would know that at best a few were diests, but not a singl one was devoute, and most were secular. All thiests are a drain on this world, and those who have the brains to see the lies need to stand up and put fools who think that fairy stories hold any truth, in there places, so sit down shut up, and read your awful violent and mean spirted book, aka the bible.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • † In God We Trust †

      Mickey..... your grammar is awful. Take ESL classes and then come here and discuss. I smell hatred and nonsense comments from you of which all is a big lie.

      Read the const.itution, read read read and you shut up! Move to North Korea

      March 28, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • Satanluv

      bunch of jibber jabber from a child who wants to live forever

      March 28, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
  18. Nick

    I suppose NYC should also remove the word bathroom just in case a person taking the test suffers from Lutropublicaphobia...or the fear of going to the bathroom. They should also think about removing any words that have to due with walking, just in case there is someone taking the test who can longer walk due to medical or genetic reasons.

    March 28, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
  19. Your Neighbor

    Belief without rationale basis in fact is irrelevant.

    March 28, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
  20. Erik

    Part of growing up is learning to live with uncomfortableness. Nixing certain words because of possible connotations is absurd. The words and emotions don't magically disappear.

    March 28, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
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