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. Joseph

    Dinosaur are you kidding me. Their bones are in every major museum..... that is science.. You know what is loaded the impact that poor education is having on American students. Here's a suggestion take the top scientists and educators and put them together for a government sponsored symposium add in the business business people and challenge them with the task each to build an entirely new and better school system and curriculum. Don't let them leave until we find a new path forward.. because attacking what worked to be politically correct is not working.. and Ethically it is dangerous to let science give up on what is not a theory... its fact dinosaurs were here before us unless they find human remains that are older than we need to get a grip as a society.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
  2. Colin

    Apes evolved from creationists

    March 29, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You never evolved at all. You're still primordial slime.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  3. LJ

    There is a whole diatribe about this in Fahrenheit 451. If I had the book handy, I'd quote it. It's very, very fitting...

    March 29, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
  4. Rob

    Jesus the Archaeologist just found his 100th Dinosaur fossil of the week and in all the excitement, he forgot his wife's Birthday. Jesus was already in the doghouse for the way he behaved during the company Christmas party and for a Television expose last Halloween where the Fox affiliate caught him dressed up as Satan for Halloween. His wife was ready to proceed with Divorce proceedings. If Jesus spent 5 hours a day at his archaeological dig, how many dinosaur fossils did Jesus find per day?

    I see nothing wrong with those words being used during testing....

    March 29, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
  5. tinastake

    New York Departement of Education??? They can't come up with a better way to improve upon their educational system? What a blatant waste of money. I would fire the whole bunch!

    March 29, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
  6. Bennett

    Does anyone have any idea when people will realize that everyone is different and just because something doesn't sit well with you doesn't mean it shouldn't be tolerated?
    I'm glad we're dropping more words for our kids to learn.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
  7. Teri

    for once, I'm speechless........

    March 29, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
  8. stvnkrs10

    what a croc of 5h1t! hows that for a loaded word?

    March 29, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
  9. Bryan

    Does anything more the Dinosaurs need to be said? Half of this country is living in a dream world.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
  10. asche

    this is the dumbest thing i've heard in a very very very long time. WORDS are not loaded, they ware words. idiots with loaded and clouded perception is the problem, if there is one at all. the fact that a so-called school is suggesting this just proves that education does not equal intelligence or reason. we are doomed.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
  11. valwayne

    Total politically correct insanity! Is there any hope for us at all?

    March 29, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • asche

      probably not. this really and truly is one of the dumbest things i've ever heard in my life-time. we are now too stupid to even manage words appropriately. everything is regulated for us, food, water, travel, walking, lightbulbs... and now even the language itself is too much for us to handle. weak minded generation and that is NO joke.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
  12. Hadenuffyet

    Just get over it already , people are just too thin skinned and wussified.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • asche

      i think dumb as a box of rocks is more like it. like mentally handicapped dumb.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
  13. ANYK

    ..please don't ban etch-a-sketch and moon colony's... this is all clearly Obama's doing

    March 29, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
  14. Dave

    You have got to be kidding me!!! What are the schools coming to now?? I'm sure glad I went to school in the 90's or I might be a really socially and shielded person right about now! this is flat out ridiculous, kids need to know what these things, if the family doesn't like it, they can put them into a private school or home school them.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • Linda

      Heck I'm glad I went to high school in the '60's –mid '60's things starting changing.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
  15. Sage

    Some kids may have English as a second language. Better make the tests in a uniform mix of all languages on Earth then.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
  16. Jason

    ThIs only affects standardized tests, a relatively minor part of school curriculum. You don't want kids having an existential crisis or being distracted about their birthday in the middle of a timed examination that determines the amount of funding a school receives. It's common sense.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
  17. Conservative

    Caving in to the Christian Taliban. How sad.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
  18. SPW

    How about we start with having kids learn to spell 'Dinosaur' before we tell them anything about it.

    Tired of seeing kids today try to sound out words, it's like English is a second language to them.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
  19. Lauren Tarantino

    Heaven forbid we evoke emotions in students-whether unpleasant or not. We have become a nation that baby's everyone. No wonder we are falling in our status as world leaders.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:24 pm |

    'Creationists' are cavemen.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • David

      Liberal media at it again...headlines should have read "New York Schools want to ban Christmas and Religion" and not just the words. Why did they focus on the one word they "feel" would offend christians when we know that 'Christmas' and 'Religion' offends the liberal left.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
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