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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. Slin

    Children are (usually) extremely tolerant, loving and unprejudiced. You know where they learn all of their hate from? Adults.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  2. Susan

    When is it going to end? Hey, this is life, let the words stay. Sounds like too many people have too much time on their hands.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  3. larry5

    If a child uses one of these words are they expelled. Would they're be an entry on their records that would follow them to college. I'm sorry Johnny but we can not admit you to our college because in your records it shows that you used the word "dinosaur" in the classroom. The fact that you were only in first grade and saw one in a museum is no excuse. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, either. In fact we have a Policeman here to read you your rights and arrest you for making a false application. Please, hold out your hands for the hand-cuffs. You'll have plenty of time to make a phone call once you're booked. Don't worry, once you are sentenced you will be put in classes to help you get your mind right and stop you from trampling on the feelings of others.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  4. a normal human

    And these are the people teaching our children??

    March 29, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  5. Rose Wilson

    I vote to ban the word "WORK", it is sure to scare the kids once the figure out they will have to. OH Wait! The way things are going they wont! Never mind, let the government handle it!!

    March 29, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  6. Mark

    Is banning words ever a good idea?

    March 29, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  7. America4Americans

    Personally, it was the liberal agenda and political correctness that lead me to pull my kids out of public schools. I remember the look on my boys face when I showed him the video I recorded of 911, the Muslims cheering in the streets, and the murder of Danny Pearl. Its hard showing your kids the pain Satan has caused in the world but the sooner they know, the sooner they can understand the importance of a solid moral foundation.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Mark

      U are a psycho

      March 29, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Darcy

      Amen.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • a normal human

      looks like you have a couple of the cheering ones already here America

      March 29, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Pat

      I feel very sorry for your child.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • ORLY

      Really? Is this a troll comment or are you serious?

      March 29, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Lilith

      I hate to tell you A4A, abusing your kids using religion is NOT a good solid moral foundation

      March 29, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • America4Americans

      No, Pat, I feel sorry for your Child, who will probably not be brought up knowing or understanding Gods love. But, fortunately, within everyone there is a living witness of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All you, and everyone else for that matter, has to do is open your heart unto HIM. Turning from the seemingly easiness offered by Satan is not easy, but I am here to Witness to YOU that GOD LOVES YOU and wants you back in HIS flock.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Judas Priest

      Satan? So humans share none of the blame for the pain and suffering and misery and misunderstanding in this world?
      Attributing all the positives in life to the bearded white guy with the robe in the clouds, and attributing all the negatives to the pitchfork guy downstairs, lift all responsibility from the shoulders of humanity. Buck up, take responsibility, and carry your load. Don't pawn it off on fantasies.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Judas Priest

      A corollary: If Satan is to blame, then why would you hate and revile Muslims?

      March 29, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • MirrorMonolith

      Darn that pesky "political correctness"! What is dogmatically charged Islamaphobe to do??

      March 29, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • America4Americans

      Well Judas Priest, its really quite simple. Satan has taken the Word of God and corrupted it into a form of false testimony from a false prophet called Mohammed. It is the most diabolical of lies: one veiled in truth. They share many of the same scriptures as we but Satan has deceived them were it counts the most: the acceptance of a false Savior.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Judas Priest

      So therefore A4A, it is acceptable to hate them, revile them, kill them because they have accepted the word of a false prophet?
      Do you realize that that is exactly what some Muslims say about you?

      March 29, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • America4Americans

      The difference, Judas, is so long as we stay a moral nation bound by christian values, God will, and has been before, on OUR side.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • MirrorMonolith

      A4A, the dark ages called. They want their dog-ma back.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • MirrorMonolith

      I think this America4Americans character is trolling us all. Have i been taken for a ride?

      March 29, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • America4Americans

      Well, since this comment will soon be pushed down to obscurity and I have to head out soon...

      Yep! trolololololollololo!!!

      March 29, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • DemocraticStatesofAmerica

      Why you masterful SOB!!!! God Tier Troll

      March 29, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • MirrorMonolith

      Epic troll. I'm screen capping this to share on FB. You sir, are good.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • MirrorMonolith

      The thing is, your characterization was spot on. I do indeed know people that really believe such sentiment. The "GOD on our side" quip is a frighteningly realistic depiction of many on the far right, and it had me going.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Judas Priest

      A4A, we're not a nation composed entirely of Christians. There are a lot of different faiths represented in America. Even among Christians, there is a lot of disagreement as to how the word of God should be interpreted. Almost all of these groups claim to have the one true interpretation of God's word. Many of them believe just as you do, that all others have been deceived, and that it is acceptable to hurt, kill, enslave, revile, attack, shun these others, in the name of God. In short, they may worship differently, but they are all very alike in this one respect. In this sense, you are no different from the Muslims, and most others that you hate.
      It truly saddens me to see that so many believers are united by their hatred of everyone who believes differently than they do.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Judas Priest

      I just scrolled down and saw the troliolio. I done been rick-trolled. Bravo, well done!

      March 29, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  8. Bobby Dias

    NYC did not ban those words from ALL tests- only those provided by outside people. The powerful teachers union now have a monopoly on what goes into the tests, a sign of the corrupt society of NYC.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  9. Levi

    oh yes lets micromanage society based on personal stupidity... what do they hope to do by banning words in one city out of the entire world?? stoooopid!

    March 29, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Judas Priest

      Clearly they hope to protect New York City from the dinosaurs.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  10. Lilith

    Pretty soon our teachers will sound like the broken voice at a drive up window!

    March 29, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  11. D

    Seriously if Dinosaurs roamed the earth when man was alive how come there are no cave paintings of dinosaurs? There are plenty of paintings of bison, deer, horses, how come no T-Rexes? Or Velociraptors? Gee I wonder you silly creationists? Stick that in your Bible.

    Also to you people who believe the world is going to end in 2012. I got news for you. Julius Caesar is the one that invented the leap year in 45BC. There was no mention or calculation for leap years in the Mayan calendar. Since 45BC there have been around 514 days added to the calendar because of leap years. So technically right now it is around June of 2013 and if the world was going to end at the end of 2012 it would have already happened.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Lilith

      Since the Mayan calendar doesn't follow the julian calendar leap years have no effect. Those who interpreted the Mayan calendar followed it using solar cycles not our current calendar.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Judas Priest

      The date was calculated using the Mayan calendar, and then matched to the corresponding date in the modern one. Leap years are irrelevant.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  12. Tony

    This is why public schooling should end. Radical problems need radical solutions. Then parents could send their kids to whatever school uses the words they like.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  13. Don M.

    Looks like we are starting on the path to "New Speak". And we wonder why we have problems in public education.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  14. Darcy

    It's time to get the government out of the job of educating our children. They are so busy worrying about what is politically correct they have forgotten their primary job is to teach children reading, writing and arithmetic.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Judas Priest

      Some people will then dispute what should be read, how it should be written, and whether mathematics violates their religious principles. I weep for the future.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  15. RandomOne

    "Divorce. Dinosaurs, Birthdays. Religion. Halloween. Christmas. Television." Yeah, let's take these words off tests because kids will never hear them once they leave the classroom.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Levi

      I bet you do the same thing with your kids when it comes to nudity on TV or "bad" words. You censor them like you're helping them or something. Teach kids secks is bad but leave the other garbage in?

      March 29, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  16. peick

    Heavens. Creationists believe in dinosaurs. They just dispute where they came from.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Levi

      They're fallen angels... duh!

      March 29, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  17. C.R. Darwin

    What is this protruding from the bottom of NYC's spine... OH! How cute! It's a prehensile tail! 2000 years of EVOLUTION Out The Window! Sorry to those of you for the word "evolution".

    March 29, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  18. capnmike

    such topics "could evoke unpleasant emotions in the students."..WHAT A CROCK OF CRAP! These Students are going to have to learn to live in the REAL world, not some fairyland where everything is pleasant and inoffensive. These idiots in the schools are doing them a huge disservice. ..they are sure going to be shocked when they graduate and find out that there are some things in the world that are offensive, and nobody gives a fast crap about their poor little tender feelings!

    March 29, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Darcy

      You hit the nail on the head capnmike! I am pretty thick-skinned after fighting my way through the work-a-day world for more than 25 years and there are still some things that shock me. These pampered kids are going to curl up in the fetal position after one day in the real world. Life's tough – get over it.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  19. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    It seems the only choices we have now is either uber liberals or uber conservatives .. when will we get a good solid reasonable Atheist to vote for?!!

    March 29, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • peick

      Well, perhaps Josef Stalin has a living relative.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      I said a good solid reasonable Atheist .. not one that was born, raised and college educated in the Christian Orthodox church.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Judas Priest

      Slightly off topic here, but how do you know horses don't have gods?

      March 29, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • MirrorMonolith

      Atheists tend to lean towards extremes too, not as much moderation with them. I'd say vote agnostic if you want balance. I'm a believer but I wince at the thought of the hyper-religious right. Way-left is no better. Btw hope you see the humor in my statement.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  20. ran

    I think we need a ban on idiots, these schools systems are out of control

    March 29, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
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