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."

CNN's Belief Blog – all the faith angles to the day's top stories

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.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

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. dabble53

    OMG – no wonder the US is one of the stupidest countries in the world.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  2. OhWiseOne

    One more reason why we need to dump the entire public school system, and go to a pure voucher system instead.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • dabble53

      How will that help? The problem is "protecting" the kids (and adults, it seems) from ideas that don't conform to their own narrow views of the world. Vouchers are just going to exacerbate the problem.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  3. RoofDude

    Birthday? Offensive? Really? I think therefore I am... I was born, therefore I have a birthday. You can't deny that sort of thing.

    And, by the way, "Merry Christmas!" Screw "Happy Holidays"

    March 29, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Snap

      And MERRY CHRISTMAS to you too. This is one of the most frustrating articles I have read lately.
      O – Happy Birthday!!

      March 29, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Dale Schladetsch

      RoofDude– I commend you and stand with you! We all have 'BIRTHDAYS" . Oh yea, and Merry Christmas to you and Happy Easter also.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • longtooth

      And a Merry Christmas to you, too, Roofie!

      March 29, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • longtooth

      Stop the world. I want to get off.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  4. Anna

    Since they are care so much about not offending people, they need to put any word associated with an animal on this list because such words might offend vegans and vegetarians. But most importantly it might offend my dog.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  5. Barrie

    Are all New Yorkers this stupid or just the educators? This absurd view denies history to avoid possibly offending somebody's ignorance. This is political correctness gone viral!

    March 29, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  6. Julie

    Stupid. NYC should have more sense.
    A secular school system ought to allow exposure to a broad spectrum of "ideas" as are expressed by simple words instead of collaborating with personal prejudices and arcane religious beliefs. Schools prepare kids, theoretically, for the real world, which includes tolerance and understanding, if not necessarily submission to, the beliefs of others.
    It's sad to see NYC joining the No Child Let To Advance Intellectually movement.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  7. Dominic Lavallee

    You are going back to the Dark Ages pretty fast :(. It is sad.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 29, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Not for amputees.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • drkent3

      Yep, prayer has been changing things for thousands of years. That's why people eat better, live longer, enjoy freedom, etc. It has nothing at all to do with human ingenuity... On the other hand, humans are still self-centered, self-important and self-righteous. Yep, prayer changes things...

      March 29, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Annrafnk

      Is it healthy for adults and dead things?

      March 29, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Jesus

      .Lying is a sin, you've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.! . ..

      March 29, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  9. Chris

    B... Creationists are 45% again that's FORTY-FIVE PERCENT of American's. That's just embaresing

    March 29, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Carl Ingram

      ... so is your spelling ...

      March 29, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  10. pat

    I understand avoiding culturally sensitive terms on math and English tests since the use of these terms is somewhat arbitrary. If this were a science test, however, I'm sure we would use terms like evolution without concern for who accepts the science as fact or not.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  11. Paul

    NYC has reached a new level of liberal idiocy. Not that this should surprise anyone. But when NY and San Francisco starts anything like this the rest of the US follows because no one has the stones to make any waves for fear of their jobs. "Birthdays may offend Jehovah's Witnesses?" What business is it of theirs when someone want to celebrate a birthday?? Since when do Jehovah's Witnesses dictate what our kids learn in school? Don't they have their own schools where they can preach their silly tripe? Next they be tell us we can't give gifts on Holidays to anyone. "No more Christmas decorations! !" That's the line of crap they preach and I really wish they would stay in their own little hovels and do what ever they want but stop telling the media what the rest of us should be doing! Wineburg is RIGHT ON with his comments. Hopefully, with things like the Internet children as they grow up will see this nonsense for what it is and not be led around by the nose by a little make believe religion. And yes, I said "little"

    March 29, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • prohibition Harms

      Paul I think you have that wrong. it is the conservatives (read religious) that are causing this stupidity. A liberal would welcome all words to be used, but our conservative friends want everything their way (read marriage, anti-gay, etc).

      So please re-consider and don't blame the livberals this time

      March 29, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Lyle

      Paul, I am one of Jehovah's Witnesses. The term "birthday" does not offend me or any other Witness I know of. If you read the article, it says it was declined to be commented on. We don't take a position on this issue. That is completely up to the NYC School Board. While we don't celebrate birthdays, we don't expect others to change.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • i12bphil

      @prohibition Harms: Is that why so many of you subscribe to political correctness, because you welcome all words? That is a fallacy unto itself. And for the record, there are many creationists and religious peoples in this country who do not believe that the earth is 6000 years old! The Bible makes no mention of the age of the earth, period. There are also those who do not confine ourselves to thinking that creation and natural selection are mutually exclusive ideas. If you want to prove that liberals are completely ignorant and view the world solely under dicto simpliciter, congratulations!

      March 29, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  12. Willy4

    OMG – the inmates have truly taken control of the asylum.....

    March 29, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  13. Chris

    Hahaha... creationists are hilarious

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

    Seriously? So how much money is being spent for some idiot to study, research and come up with the 50+ words on this list. This list refers to standardized testing only correct? I'm in the wrong business. I need to be in the standardized test business. Gov. Rick Perry here in the state of Texas completely broke the education system. It is busted with no money, yet they just spent over $1 billion on implementing a new standardized test. The STARR now replaces the TAKS. I wonder how much of that money went to research words to ban on a test the students take once a year. I could really care less about the word...use it or don't. I thought words were cheap...I guess not.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  15. mattwileyart

    I'm offended by the letter A.
    All multiple choice tests will be listed B C D E and all instances of the letter A shall be rolled into the next adjacent non offensive letter. For instance, the opening line in Moby Dick now goes, "Cbll me Ishmbel" and the opening line in the Bible would go, "In the beginning, God crebted the Hebvens bnd the Ebrth."

    March 29, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Willy4

      Wait a minute, I find "Moby Dick" an offensive reference!! Please use the term "Extra large appendage" – Thanks!!

      March 29, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  16. Annrafnk

    Well look at Fred Flintstone, he was around dinos. That is a ll the proof I need.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  17. Fish

    Just because you can't use the word "weed" in Califormia tests, someone has been smoking lot of it... Dinosaur? Really? So what do we call them? "Big old creatures that used to be here a long time ago"?

    March 29, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • moonbogg

      Not a long time ago you IDIOT. They were here with us a few thousand years ago. Its only a matter of time before they find dinosaur saddles in the middle east.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Fish

      A few thousand years is not a long time? And I'M the idiot???

      March 29, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Batka

      omg.....bwwwaaaa haaaa haaa haaaa haaaaaaa dino saddles....

      March 29, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  18. Anita

    New York is giving a perfect example of precisely why America's Educational system is so far behind other countries. This is idiocy at it's best at work here. It is NOT the school systems job to protect the students feelings regarding what is taught, it's their job to EDUCATE, not just on the subjects that people want to learn about either. Take for example the word Dinosaur...if it offends someone who believes in Creationism, that's NOT the schools problem. Dinosaurs walked this earth, it's proven, we have skeletal remains, fossils, and DNA left from them....they are a fact, not something someone just made up willy-nilly. Banning that word (just using that one as an example) is doing nothing but having the school system sticking their head and the heads of the kids in the school system in the sand like an Ostrich. Other countries are laughing at us right now.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • iblase

      as the article states, the Creationists in question do believe in dinosaurs which makes the ban even more preposterous

      March 29, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  19. azmom

    I think it is time we get over being so "politically correct". this is what is wrong with the USA. Ban dinosaur? Soon we will have to carry around some sort of guide of what to say and what not to say in America. GROW UP PEOPLE. You can't criticize Jim because it might hurt his feelings. You can't mention to Lucy that she could lose some weight because it might hurt her self esteem. This is what is wrong with America. We need to quit walking around wearing kid gloves (oh i am sure I have offended someone with that term) and put on our man boots and get tough. America is a victim of pussification!

    March 29, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Anita

      AZ mom I couldn't agree with you more!! It's one thing to be considerate of another person's feelings etc, it's quite another to take this whole "politically correct" thing to this extreme. You can't say anything these days without SOMEONE getting up in arms about it...well you know what?! Pull your big girl panties up and grow up! Avoiding certain words doesn't negate the existence of the word...so you might as well get them out there and educate people to their meaning.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      The word panties offends me greatly!!! LOL!

      March 29, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • SunflowerMama

      AMEN!!!! Let's stop walking on eggs shells here! Use common sense! If people are "offended" by words, then our ol' world needs more help than just "banning" them. People need to stop being such egotistical babies! Stop worrying about being "politically correct". Let's worry about the things that REALLY matter, like stopping hunger, getting reasonable heath care for all, creating good jobs for people, and bringing our military home to protect us HERE! "Banned Words"? Really? How silly and how stupid!

      March 29, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  20. B

    We shouldn't ban every word that every lunatic doesn't like. Creationists are a minority fringe group of lunatics that should be ignored by the school system.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • jf

      "Creationists are a minority fringe group of lunatics"?? a) B didn't read the article – most creationists have nothing against dinosaurs. b) American society is so fragmented that most people could be labeled "minority fringe" in some area. Go easy with libels; you could be on the receiving end next time.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Rundvelt

      > Go easy with libels; you could be on the receiving end next time.

      It's not libel if it's true. Creationists are fringe lunatics. They place what they want to believe over facts

      I may be one of the few people who likes brussel spouts, but guess what, I'm not a raving lunatic because of it. I'm a raving lunatic if I claim that brussel spouts can run and swim, cause I like the idea, when it's clearly obvious they are incapable of thought or movement.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106
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.