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. Grazzt

    PC is the single most destructive movement to this country ever. Wars ends, economy bounce back and forth PC is nothing but control and hate wrapped up in the illusion of consideration.

    March 29, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Grazzt

      And I mean Political Correctness... I could see where that could have went. heh

      March 29, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Heinz Doofenshmirtz

      PC should stand for pussified communication

      March 29, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  2. Heinz Doofenshmirtz

    Let me see if I read this correctly. They want to ban words that are fact so as not to annoy the ignorant?

    March 29, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Ferb

      Yeah, that sounds about right.

      March 29, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Heinz Doofenshmirtz

      There is no hope for mankind.

      March 29, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  3. DannyHolloway

    Participation trophies for the kids that aren't athletic enough to win. Now this.
    We're raising a generation of wusses. Absurd.

    March 29, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  4. geckopelli

    The subject matter offends me!
    There's no such thing as "protecting" the ignorant from knowledge. if Reality offends you, then offended you be!

    March 29, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  5. JP

    Every word out there eventually offends someone. So lets just use the seven dirty words and offend everyone!

    March 29, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  6. tfbuckfutter

    Dinosaurs exist even today....

    Just look at the GOP.

    Ba dum tsssh

    March 29, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Sup

      My advice for Obama – keep absolutely still. Their vision is based on movement.

      March 29, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Gary L.

      Do you seriously believe that these idiot jokers running N.Y. public schools are Republicans?

      March 29, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  7. Patrick Leahey

    I never met a kid that had a problem with dinosaurs and I have been teaching for 20 years, north and south. Will I get fired for using the word? How about my students? With this kind of judtgement, can you trust the NYC school board with any decision? The words "kill" and "war" bother me. Can we get rid of them too?

    March 29, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  8. Cyndi

    I've heard everything now. Please people, don't you have anything BETTER to do than this???

    March 29, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  9. Ted Ward

    This is pathetic. Is "PCB" not allowed in the test, too? It's in the classroom lights overhead in NYC. If they ban the word they should first ban and remove the toxic light fixtures. Of course it would appear the toxicity of nyc schools extends far beyond the classroom and into the administrative suites. It's ok to poison the children but it's not ok to educate them. Some school district!

    March 29, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  10. LPowers

    Perhaps we should ban reference to any form of food containing meat in case there are vegetarians taking the tests. Oh, and not to forget anything referencing wheat (food, national anthem, etc.) or other items to which there might be allergies ....

    March 29, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  11. MobiusEight

    I claim racism against Dinosaurs!

    March 29, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  12. Johnjon

    now I HAVE heard everything. this has to be the most asinine thing I've read in a while........... and I live in the south.

    March 29, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • babesinadland

      I couldn't have said it better!

      March 29, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  13. Lisa

    I can't believe taxpayer monies are spent paying people who coming up with these stupid rules.

    March 29, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  14. abs

    Being politically / religiously correct has gotten completely out of hand. Kids of any age should be prepared by giving them the tools to succeed in life, not be sheltered from it. Adults of any race or religious faith have got to learn that opinions vary from person to person. No one has to like them. And opinions are just that ... opinions. They're not laws or rights/wrongs written in stone. Having our individual rights and freedoms is what makes the USA a great country to live in. Conversely, our President/government seems determined to want to flush it down the toilet – but that's just my opinion.

    March 29, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  15. Christine

    TOLORANCE... hmmm... wouldnt it be nice if everyone respected the fact that everyone liked different things and believed in different ways and understood that all humans are different and want to be themselves, and realized that to others THEY might not seem so perfect so not to judge others so quickly, wow, I can imagine it, can you?

    March 29, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  16. Andrew

    I am a devout Christian man. I believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and in the resurrection. I oppose premarital relations, living together before marriage, abortion, consider divorce a last option in a marriage, etc. I think avoiding "loaded words" is one of the most ridiculous things I have heard of. If someone's beliefs cannot stand because of a word, then they need to reanalyze those beliefs. This "feel-good" culture we seem so hell-bent on creating accomplishes nothing. In fact, it is the trials we face and the struggles we endure that largely define us. Suffer breeds perseverance breeds character. Also, stop being so sensitive.

    March 29, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • zhaylin

      Very, very well said.
      I'm one of Jehovah's Witnesses and I think it's ridiculous to avoid certain words (as given here).

      March 29, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  17. Vern Smith

    Humans are becoming more stupid by the moment. We are in deep "dinosaur" doo-doo.

    March 29, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  18. Nocturnal

    Considering that most products of our education system are graduating while being functionally illiterate...banning words they most likely cannot pronounce seems a waste of time.

    March 29, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Joe M

      lol scary part it is true

      March 29, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  19. Thomas

    This NYC initiative creates a new depth record in abyssal idiocy.

    March 29, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  20. sts_121@hotmail.com

    OH for gods sake! Kids need to GET OVER IT! And so do the parents.

    March 29, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • blondie

      My sentiments exactly!

      March 29, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
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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.