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. Herschel Budlow

    Just think, this proposal was supposedly suggested by a real thinking humanoid with an ability to discern logical thoughts
    from absolute inanity and bureaucratic nonsense. But, I pause to realize that this list was actually created by aliens
    disguised as humans determined to pollute our educational "system", and thus hasten our domination by the creation
    of a new order of a never-to-be-educated class controlled from outer space.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
  2. bryan

    They forgot the word stupid. Its not a surprise the education system is in such a mess.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
  3. Dale

    More ridiculous nonsense brought to you by the Libs. Wonder if they'll ban some of their own terms- "Eliminationism" comes to mind.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
  4. Keith

    This is just one more example of political correctness gone mad in our school systems. The eggheads have decided that words like birthday, Christmas and dinosaur are bad words so they must be banned? I have never heard something so ridiculous. They obviously have too much time on their hands. They need to find another line of work.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  5. S

    Please add the following words
    Food, eat, sweets, hamburger – I am fat, they offend me... oh, on that note, please ban fat, bloated, rotund, portly, large, obese, overweight, and "plus sized".
    Hamburger may also offend vegetarians, Hindus, and the children of pig farmers.
    Oh, please ban "wasp" as that offends my entire ethnic community.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  6. AtheistsSeeThePinkElephant

    Juice companies don't want you to know that it can transform into an exploding cow! I have evidence, but the juice companies are suppressing my data! But I do have billions of people believing in this belief, which makes it highly probable! Students need to know about what juice can potentially transform into! It's only due to the narrow, dogmatic views of juice scientists who swear that their is no evidence...

    March 29, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  7. Bert BigDongle

    Remember, liberals just banned the light bulb. Yes, you heard that right. Do you think these people would hesitate to ban certain words? Facists through and through, with Obama at the head.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  8. koreen

    He said such topics "could evoke unpleasant emotions in the students."
    yes...we wouldnt want kids to learn to feel...or have to deal with a different perspective ...and we wouldnt want to possibly offend anyone...ever....anywhere...ugh...people annoy me..

    March 29, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  9. 1hawk2eyes

    Well, I see HITLER has made to our school systems! How is it, the schools take out the TRUTH about the wars, and other things they should know, and teach them how to be so ridiculously POLITICALLY CORRECT, or what have you, that ALL of the books our kids use NOW will be outlawed soon!! think: FARENHEIGHT 451!!!

    March 29, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  10. Mike

    We should not be avoiding reality because it might offend somebody.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
  11. More Liberal Horsesh # t

    ....when is this nonsense going to end....? When Obo is thrown out on his a)s this November...

    March 29, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
  12. TPF

    They should ban the words New York State Dept. of Education. That's worse than any cuss words anyone could think of.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
  13. ANYK

    this is harmless...99% kids Google test answers / homework anyway..and most learn what the know from you tube teachers..because the real teachers just don't have the time to teach...adding or taking out a few words won't matter at all in the end.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Dan

      One would hope

      March 29, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
  14. Beth

    I'm speechless. All of my words have been taken away from me.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • patandfritz

      perfect response 🙂

      March 29, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
  15. ronald malaney

    if you get rid of half the word a child has to learn about, does that make them twice as smart or twice as dumb

    March 29, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
    • nyc456

      Oh just spend a few hours watching a school in the nyc public school system work....that'll answer your question in no time. You will be amazed at how mindless the administrators are.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  16. AtheistsSeeThePinkElephant

    This message may cause your monitor to transform into a Zombie and I demand this to be taught in the classroom as science! It's even more possible because me and millions of other people believe in it! Opposition to our demands is a conspiracy fueled by pro-monitor-Uniformitarianists!!!

    March 29, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
    • andrew

      You are wrong everyone knows that the easterbunny was the creator and you get 57 virgins if you are really supersticious. We should go to war and have millions of people die

      March 29, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  17. Dirty Harry

    Wish that Barney the Dinosaur would say screw the fundamentalists...go live somewhere else. Have we not lost all common sense? Bearucrats wasting time and resources on gibberish. There are simply more important priorities like speaking Math, Sciences, Reading, History, English for Pete's sake. Or is the word English going to be banned soon? We are dumbing down so fast as a society that it boggles the mind.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
    • 1954Nana

      I am a Christian conservative and this is the stupidest stunt I have ever seen pulled, this has nothing to do with religion, it's a bunch of idiots sitting around saying "how can we screw with the minds of some more people".

      March 29, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
  18. Mendoza

    Can't we just educate them enough that they can draw their own conclusions? Who has the world figured out in high school anyway?

    March 29, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
  19. nyc456

    This is beyond plain stupid. I've seen first hand what the NYC Public School education system is like and this is the LEAST of their worries. I am embarrassed as a New Yorker, that the education lacking in so many areas of importance, because all of the attention goes to social interaction and creative outlets instead of simply math and reading comprehension.

    But this case just makes me dislike it even more than before. It's no wonder every girl and their mom wants to be a teacher/ is a teacher in NYC public schools. It's a cake walk: they don't give enough/ proper homework assignments, do not follow up on whether it gets done. Don't worry though, all their students are bringing in their cellphones, iTouches and iPods with no punishments whatsoever, yet be sure that those standardized tests will not have the word Dinsaur in them....pheew. Thank them for that dumb decision.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
  20. syd

    Aren't unpleasant emotions part of life? Yeah, let's tell kids that if you think of something scary, unpleasant or that you don't understand, there's something wrong with you. Be happy all the time or we'll pump you with drugs. And Dinosaurs? DINOSAURS??? Extinct bird/reptiles (of which we HAVE THE FREAK'N BONES) are controversial but stamping "God" on all the money and shoving it into the Pledge is A-OK! How about banning "planet" sense those lights that move against the stars are obviously the work of a devil. And we must take out chicken and egg because an unanswerable question would shatter their little minds. And don't' get me started on birds and bees. If my kid's school ever tries this, next science fair I'm helping him make a volcano that erupts and wipes out a small island populated with puppies, unicorns, and Barney the Dinosaur. 'Cause guess what? Sometimes bad things happen; it's part of life. Sometimes we stub our toe and, yes, people (even good ones) die.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:31 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.