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. Mammoth1

    What an amazing society we are crafting for ourselves. Political correctness is choking common sense to death quietly in the corner and no one will stop it. I like to think that if heaven exists and our founding fathers are there watching over us they can't stop vomiting at how stupid we've become. Lawyers and the main stream media for the win!

    March 29, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Brad Adamakis

      This has ZERO to do with "mainstream media" or "lawyers." It's about trying not to offend narrow-minded people who cannot accept the reality that dinosaurs existed. Evolution is real. Climate change is real. Earth is billions of years old. These are realities that some conservatives cannot handle, so NYC bends over backward trying not to offend them by including "scary" words like "dinosaur" in standard tests.

      March 29, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • @ Brad Adamakis

      Where did you read that the concervaties were doing this? I mean, Christmas and Birthday made the list too; that would be enough to make Jerry Falwell crap his pants if he were still alive today. I think the focus needs to be on the Board of Education which is probably made up of people of various beliefs, faiths and political affiliations.

      March 29, 2012 at 5:39 pm |

    Well, if this is the education that the children are getting now, all I can do is hope that I'm dead when it's their job to run this place. What a bunch of twits with no clue about the world they will be. And it will be nobody's fault but ours...

    March 29, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Brad Adamakis

      Not in my state. Here, we even have an official state dinosaur, and every school child learns its name. It's called astrodon. "Dinosaur" is not a dirty word here!

      March 29, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • phil

      The removing of these so called words is because they are usually hard for aliens (mexicans, muslems< etc.) THis is AMERICA , our language being changed same as our rights, WAKE UP PEOPLE.

      March 29, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  3. Ana

    Television (aka the media) and Dinosaurs (science)...the words Republicans hate the most. Makes sense...

    March 29, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  4. paulmm82


    March 29, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Alex Gessong

      Yes, paulmm82. Truth, plain and simple.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Daniel5

      Well Said!

      March 29, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  5. SPW

    You tell to believe in Jesus before they have the ability to grasp the Bible, else they go to Hell.

    You snip their hotdogs before they have a chance to tell you 'No'.

    You shelter them from the world and tell them everyone who doesn't think just like you are puppets of the Devil.

    Now you want to take even more information from them, so they can't decide for themselves? Are you sheltering them or making it harder for more people to grow up and realize they don't want to be associated with a group that derived them of the freedom of free thought? Schools should teach everything, our children shouldn't be sheltered from LIFE. If Fundamentalist want to get upset over the idea of evolution, so be it, but we shouldn't gimp our entire school system just so they can make kids dumb enough to control them.

    March 29, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Wow, you should read the article

      Wow, you should read the article before writing such a long comment that has nothing to do with the story. It is NOT about religion. It is about political correctness (which religion certainly is not).

      March 29, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  6. sigh.

    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."

    Well said!

    There ARE words that should be avoided b/c there have been studies that show children often miss questions using them, but can correctly answer the question if they are re-phrased:
    discuss> talk about
    Analyze> Say why
    Trace> give steps for
    Infer> make an educated guess based on...

    There are more, but again, these "trigger" words have been identified as part of the reason why there is often a direct correlation to standardized test scores & socio-economic status. If a child uses a word like "dinosaur" in every day knowledge, there is no reason it should be edited out.

    March 29, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  7. JD

    Are you kidding me?!?!?!??!

    March 29, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  8. Got2BKidding

    Man, we're going back to a dark age. I had never thought it would happen, not in our country. That was years ago. Something really, really wrong is afoot... right wing extremism. I mean, I truly believe in God myself, my my belief stands up to what science finds, or philosophy says, its not threatened by it like these scared little extremists behave. Man, get some faith. Seriously!

    March 29, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  9. kiwilogic

    another perfect example of religion trying to stop people from learning and holding back information. I guess whatever it takes to keep people misinformed and stupid so they keep following blindly. I mean dinosaurs? rock n roll? birthdays? if these words offend anyone they should build a bridge and jump off it because they must live a pathetic existence

    March 29, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Justzisguy

      I also really doubt that it's a religious group, as "religion" and "Christmas" are words on the list. This is a rare instance of idiocy that can be ascribed to no particular thought system. Or maybe it's not so rare...

      March 29, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Not about religion

      This is political correctness gone wild, not religion.

      March 29, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  10. Justzisguy

    Not sure if this has been pointed out before, but this list of words is doubleplusungood.

    March 29, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  11. IceT

    I just prayed an Atheist gets elected President next term, and I didn't think I could make a difference.

    March 29, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • IceT

      that was meant as a reply below.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  12. Jonathan


    March 29, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  13. ltcoljpm

    This is part of liberal education policy. They want the mass of people to be dumb – that way they become dependent on government aid (public housing, food stamps, ...) and will always vote for Democrats.

    This is a way Democrats secure their votes for generations – making Americans dumber.

    March 29, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Justzisguy

      I would dispute that this is a "liberal" or "conservative," as words on the list could be attributed to both. I suggest that it is the "stupidist" party that I just made up, but is populated with a large segment of the population.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • True

      As the saying goes, "if you vote democrat, you have no job"

      March 29, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • Ana

      That's the republican agenda. The Christian Taliban , who don't believe in science!!!!!

      March 29, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • LOL Seriously

      Wait, you're blaming liberals for promoting creationism and religion in schools? Don't you know what the Christian Right is?! RIGHT WING CONSERVATISM! Wow...looks like the education system failed you too.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Alex Gessong

      @Itcoljpm: conservative education policy is to teach children that the Earth is 6,000 years old and humans and dinosaurs cavorted together. This article has zero to do with "liberal " education policy. It has to do with trying not to offend head-in-the-sand conservatives. Liberal education policy would be: "who cares what nutjobs don't like? Teach children the truth, which is based on objective evidence." This country was founded by liberals and radicals when the conservatives wanted to remain loyal subjects of the British king. "Liberal" means "free," and we all have the freedom to accept objective truth of the real world or to hide from it. People who want to ban "dinosaur" are hiding from the truth.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • lolwat

      What you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever read. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone on this page is now dumber for having read it.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • Seriously

      How on earth can you say this list of words the NYC school board wants to avoid on tests is somehow promoting creationism and religion?? You won't find the word dinosaur or birthday banned in any Christian school.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • Havildar

      True is right as the saying goes "vote Republican and you will have NO Job, NO Healthcare, NO Pensions, NO House,No Money etc.etc.".

      March 29, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • Larry McKone

      Are you stupid or what? This is political correctness, something you right wing nut jobs are supposed to be against, but I guess hypocracy is more a foundation of your sicko party than staying consistant. They are attempting to not hurt the itty biitty wittle feelings of Right wingers and tea party morons. It is one step towards removing evolution from the cirriculum because it disagrees with the bible and everyone knows the bible is infallable, Right? You Americans are so idiotic, you have no idea how much the rest of the world laughs at you. It is a good thing you are good at building bombs, if not you would surely be bullied by the rest of the kids, you are just so stupid and such an easy target.

      March 29, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Daniel

      I don't believe this is a "republican" or "democratic" or "athiest" or "Christian" issue at all but rather an issue of a bunch of dumb-asses who are trying too hard to be politically correct. I'm so sick of being politically correct – it's absurd. I've been in govt. for 22 years and work closely with republicans/democrats alike, christian and non – our rules come from those whom we elect and frankly, it's time that we get rid of all of them... ALL of them because frankly they're all corrupt.

      March 29, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  14. Herne

    Ignorance at it's best... Anyone can obtain a degree....in my life's experience, very few gain wisdom. Study non-wasp history for beginners. (I've known doctors, that can barely tie their own shoelaces)

    If anything, have a mandatory class, on how organized religion was designed and used by old world leaders as a means of mass control.

    Dumbing down the American people even more, is our governments way of securing a more obedient civilian population....Current politicians have corrupted our government so badly, the American people can not judge the difference between right and wrong. What is American, and what is not....hence, the tea party. (bunch of idiots)

    Mass Media, and sports hold a similar form of "obedience",.... I on the other hand. REFUSE to be a slave.

    Every single member of the New York Edu. Dept. in support of this ludicrous idea, should be immediately FIRED!

    March 29, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  15. NeoSHNIK

    Are these the same people who wanted to round π (Pi) to 3?

    March 29, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • cheryl martin

      I had no idea someone even thought of rounding pi to 3? What the heck?

      March 29, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  16. Teaching that there were no dinosaurs isn't education, it's ignorance.

    Teaching that there were no dinosaurs isn't education, it's ignorance.

    March 29, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  17. Kevin

    WOW this country is so mentally weak! Really, the word television and dinosour offend people..wow we suck

    March 29, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Alex Gessong

      @Kevin: speak for yourself, sir. The US does not suck by any stretch of the imagination. Like any nation, it has some misguided people, like the ones described in this article. Most people are wiser than that.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  18. bxgrrl

    This is idiotic. Oops. Did I offend someone at the Board of Ed?

    March 29, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  19. trek820

    What a boring, shallow society the next generations will have to expereince.

    March 29, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  20. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 29, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Don't worry folks .. I just prayed they don't adopt this ban so we're safe now!

      March 29, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • The 666 Club

      Religion is not healthy for children and other living things
      Intelligence changes things, not wishful thinking.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Alex Gessong

      Work changes things. Effort changes things. Prayer changes nothing. 3,000 years ago, you would have been praying to a stone idol.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • IceT

      I just prayed that an Atheist gets elected President next term, and I didn't think I could make a difference.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • just sayin

      Poor leadership is a curse of God on a nation.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Ignorance is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer is worthless.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • just sayin

      There is greater value in talking with God than in all the treasures on earth.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:57 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 5:18 pm |
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