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. Kangaroo123

    Hmm – seems that using a variety of words used to be called education. How about we add a class called "how to not be so gosh darn sensitive."

    March 29, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
  2. Shandra

    You couldn't pay me a million bucks to send my child to any public school in this country. Public educators can't even fricking teach anymore...too busy trying to follow every liberal, pc rule and agenda. No time and nothing left to teach.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
  3. SPW

    Lets continue going backwards, eventually we can have it so the Bible is the only book being taught in school.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
  4. DN

    If the word, dinosaur, might offend creationists, shouldn't all the world globes be taken out of the classrooms, too?! World maps are okay because they are flat!

    March 29, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • Sunnylovetts

      ‘He stretcheth out the north over empty space, and hangeth the earth upon nothing’ (Job 26:7).”

      The Bible foretold of the earth HANGING IN SPACE before science did so shut up, the Bible doesn't say the world if flat, I DEFEATED YOUR IGNORANCE! Enjoy the denial.

      March 30, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  5. Al

    People shouldn't be scared of disease, war, or even zombies

    They should be scared of stupid people taking over this whole country. They're half way there.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
  6. Tom L


    March 29, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
  7. dakethora


    March 29, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
  8. DNA

    Here are some words that make me really mad lately... let's ban them:
    "teacher" "school" "principal" "administration" "tests" "department of education"

    March 29, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
  9. zri v koren'

    watch "Idiocracy" by Mike Judge. The only wrong prediction in this movie, that he gave 500 yrs for stupitidy to get absolute power. I think its happenning much faster

    March 29, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • chemistphil

      hilarious movie!

      March 29, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • President Camacho

      I totally agree with you.

      March 30, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  10. Mark

    I think that we should ban all words. We can than all be like mimes and to try and communicate with each other. Wait....silent communication might be offensive as well. In fact, let's not have any contact with anybody. This politically correct culture needs to stop!

    March 29, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • jackinlondon

      This is Orwellian to say the least. Read 1984, about the Newspeak movement. The government essentially banned language they thought may hinder them gaining complete control over the population. Its a small step between these words being banned from tests and then these words being banned from the classroom. Doubleplusungood!

      March 29, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
  11. Amazed

    All I can say is only in California and New York do these insanely idiotic things come up. What the hell is wrong with these people. You can try and protect everyone with careful words and live in a little world where all is nice but the real world could care less and believe me there are allot worse things that will happen to little Johnny than hearing the word dinosaur.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • Corlathis

      Texas does this the other way. You can't say "Capitalism" because it implies negative, it has to be free enterprise

      March 29, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
  12. JohnK

    This shows how divorced these "educators" are from the real world. To avoid all "controversial" topics isn't education, its a cowardly form of PC indoctrination.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • azcounselor@juno.com

      Most Departments of Education are full of politicians not "educators". The "educators" are the ones stuck with the stupid rules that come from the DOE.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
  13. lee hamilton

    maybe the world is ending after all....................

    March 29, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
  14. jay

    people you fail at life. seriously, what the hell is going on around here. feels like ii woke up in an alternate universe.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
  15. Jacknyd

    I wish they would BAN the board Un educated . Who are this sicko's?

    March 29, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
  16. zri v koren'

    We'll all die from extreme political correctness
    Time to pull the kids out of school, so they still will have some chance to grow normal

    March 29, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
  17. George

    The only thing the NY department of education should ban is themselves.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
  18. ItSOnLyME


    March 29, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
  19. jonborg

    This is ridiculous. While I'm all for being sensitive, banning words like "dinosaur" and "religion" for the non-religious seems idiotic. How about we expose our children to the world? If that's not what you want, home-school them.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • Beadles

      jonborg – well said.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • yessir

      Homeschool my family I will! You all can have your banned words. I can't believe how crazy the public school system has gotten. With all of the school shootings, bullying, etc. I'm surprised there's not more people doing it. Not to mention your kids being taught by total strangers... I mean really?

      March 29, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
  20. Rob

    Funny how the further along the liberal PC agenda gets the more Orwellian it starts to look.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • ItSOnLyME

      Please don't lump all thinking liberals into a group with morons who come up with things like this. It doesn't represent liberal thought any more than Sarah Palin represents conservative thought.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • Jose

      If anything this would look like a conservative idea.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • The One True God

      What is funny is that most of the banned words are eliminated to appease crazy right-wingers. Look in the mirror, Rob.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • HeyZeus

      It isn't LiberalPC that creates issues such as this. Typically books are burned/banned, words are deleted due to far RIGHT fundamentalists. That is the real issue here, attempts to kow tow to the false Christian Religion has created this monster. The only way to to have a free and open society, one that allows study and learning of all facts and principles worthy of knowledge/learning is to get rid of the lies of organized religion.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • R

      Censorship generally isn't part of the liberal agenda. Besides, as others have noted, most of these have to do with tiptoeing around various faiths. I don't really see the point; whether they learn what a dinosaur is before or after they graduate high school, they will still learn about them, and still be offended by them if it's actually possible for anyone to be offended by dinosaurs. If they learn these things later, they'll just be less able to deal with it.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
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