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. Voice 'O Reason

    When will these words be banned from the LIFE that schools are supposedly preparing our children for? I find it distracting to work and concentrate while around me I hear words such as "layoff", "recession", and "pay cut", yet I have no abiltiy to ban those words, nor change the bad news concepts that they represent. As long as we continue to value "feelings" of our children more than preparing them for life and the hard knocks that come with it, our scociety will contine to decline.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  2. scott

    How lame.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  3. Mont Schroeder

    Dont ban high performance wording, ban low IQ performance thinkers!

    March 29, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  4. Smart Human

    Absurd. America is doomed.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  5. NastyBuzzard

    I think Newt should be bad. Sounds nasty to me!

    March 29, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  6. palintwit

    If the toothbrush had been invented anywhere but in the southern states it would have been called a teethbrush.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  7. Better

    If you want a better education, then you dont go to a public school system. (you can now see why). You put your kids into a private school. Most private schools have better morals and smaller class sizes anyway. They also will provide you with financial assistance too.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Catholic

      Catholic schools are awesome! And you dont need to be Catholic to attend. They always have great teachers and focus heavily on no bullying and teach prayer and values. Something missing in our public schools.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      That is a generalization and you know it. Each Catholic school is different, you may have had that experience, but I've had a very different one. I went to a Catholic school, and the bullying was horrible all throughout, many of the teachers were not knowledgable about their subjects, and I was there from 1st through 11th grade. I switched to public school in my senior year. No bullying, teachers that knew what they were talking about. The public school had classes that weren't even offered in the catholic one. I know that my experience can't be the standard, but what I'm saying is, that catholic school are not inherently better than public schools.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  8. tore bore

    They better ban the word "Ice". I am offended by the word "Ice" because it reminds me of someone killing someone else which is violence and I dont like violence. We should not be teaching our kids to be violent. Ban "Ice". Lets all get on the ban wagon! Whoohoooo! All aboard!! Whoohoooooooooooo!

    March 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  9. Tom

    Please fix this line " the Latin meaning if education is 'to go out.' "– 'if' being 'is'?

    Also, who cares if the tests mention things someone doesn't like? I don't like testing, so please remove testing from the tests. America is quickly becoming a large group of gutless idiots. I guess NYC is trying to compete with San Fran these days.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  10. SuperDave

    I think we need to ban the phrase "smart educator". Unlike the list proposed, we now know "smart educators" really do not exist.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • jayh

      Blame the administrators – not the educators...

      March 29, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  11. jayh

    Jesus Christ!

    March 29, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • GaJanie

      Oops, can't say that either.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:25 pm |

      Please don't use this "Jesus Christ" that could offense muslin jihadists.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Jim in PA

      That's also banned.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  12. Athiest > Fairy Tales

    Oh my.. what the. What do you idiot theists think these giant skulls and teeth from the ground are if they aren't dinosaurs... Dragons? Go back to the dark ages you small minded imbeciles. I bet you think the Earth is 6,000 years old as well. And they let you people vote and have a drivers' license... and reproduce. Yikes.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  13. sdf

    peeps just need to get a thicker skin like.. um a Dinosaur.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • R. Wiggum

      Or a Jusus pony.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • R. Wiggum

      Sorry, Jesus pony.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  14. Shana

    In order to prevent offending anybody, lets just ban all words in every language. No more talking, writing, nothing. Lets see what they have to cry about then. Give me a break people......

    March 29, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  15. Matt

    Ah the "enlightened" left.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • jayh

      I don't think this has anything to do with the "left"...

      March 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • palintwit

      Ah the "enlightened" baggers.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Mack

      Pandering so as to not upset the inane sensibilities of the right, is definitely left.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  16. Donald P

    It is time for sensible people no matter what their religion is, to stand up and throw the fools out. When a certain group starts to force the rest of us to follow their beliefs while telling us we are sinners then it is time to defend our freedoms.You now have a few presidential hopefuls who if elected will try to tell us what type of underwear to wear let alone what rights we have ignoring those our Parents and ancestors fought and died for. I know my father and Grandfather who was an immigrant to this country would roll over in his grave if he could see where these fools want to take us.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  17. The Jackdaw

    And the writing is on the wall.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • Chris

      With any offensive words covered over.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Chris

      So they don't offend.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  18. SHurst

    April Fools!

    March 29, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  19. Yea

    I am offended by English, please get rid of it. I will go home and cry all day because I have to hear English. I hate hearing words I dont know the meaning to and I hate hearing English, it gets on my nerves. I will call a lawyer to help me ban English. Please for the love of God, ban English and impose so I can think!

    March 29, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  20. John

    Better ban numbers larger than 6,000 as well. Jesus juicers don't like thinking anything could go past 6,000.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:15 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.