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. Max A

    Don't worry Americans......there are still 300,000,000+ people in the country NOT unthinkably moronic enough to do something like this.

    If it was going to happen anywhere it would be New York City.....I mean c'mon....they approved building a Mosque a couple blocks away from Ground Zero. New York City isn't a representation of America.

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

      Maybe we should stop teaching them math too because it stresses them out.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • john

      "they approved building a Mosque a couple blocks away from Ground Zero" ... apparently you were never educated on the meaning of the First Amendment.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
  2. dc

    Sounds more like what could be expected by California liberals......

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

      If anything we should start teaching them more words like charlatan and imbecile.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
  3. Paulie

    Yes lets stop teaching children words in school liberals. That will make them smarter. /rolleyes

    March 29, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  4. Teacher

    I'm amazed at how comments on here always attribute anything bizarre in the school system to liberalism. I'd argue that it's actually more liberal to be open and honest about these issues, including in the school system, but the issue here is that too many school districts are afraid of the wrath of angry (usually religious fundamentalist or politically motivated) parents who want to censor what their children learn. The school districts and the DOE needs to "grow a pair" and quit fueling the fire by making it clear to these people: if you don't want your children exposed to these issues, send them to a private school. Instead, they walk on eggshells trying to appease these people with absurdity like this. Quit forcing our teachers to dumb down their lessons in order to appease these people.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • Dale

      Nice try. All of this nonsense is due to Libs like yourself.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • Teacher

      Not at all, Dale. This non-sense is a result of certain groups of parents who wish to stop educators from teaching their children the facts of life (e.g. evolution). Then you have school districts that give in to this rhetoric. The 2005 Kansas evolution hearings is a perfect example. The Kansas Board of Education should be ashamed.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • pig in a poke

      That is what they want you to think, but the progressive liberals are just this side of facists and are getting closer all the time. Look at what party and more specifically, who has created the laws that limit individual freedom in the past 30 years.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • DR Knowitall

      If you are so "open" then why would you come up with a list ? WHy do liberal athiests continually fight religion ? If you are so open and so right, you should not fearanything, you discussion and knowledge should always win the debate.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • Dale

      Judging by the comments, looks like you and about 1 other person share this opinion. Good luck with that. Per usual, you Libs over-reach to the point the average dolt takes notice. The tides are turning...

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

    Do I have to get permission from Canada to call my dog a "Labrador" retriever?

    March 29, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • Dan

      I'll reply on behalf of Canada... you owe us a royalty payment.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
  6. Christopher Chance

    What te heck? How narrow minded have some people become? Too politically correct? Knock that off! Leave things the way they are, Once obummer is out of office it will all go back to normal anyways! Geeze people we are supposed to live in this country. If the word pepperoni upsets you, consider seeing a therapist (I am only kidding because I don't think there is a person who exists who is upset by the word pepperoni). This is worse then when the focus was on a childs self esteem, when everyone won an award which wa sdemeaning to the real winners and gave the others no reason to try. That period is exactly why this happens. It turned out a bunch of whiney babies with no backbone, who can't stand to see others do well because they don't really want to put the effort out. Geeze, lame to the max!

    March 29, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  7. Kahaleed Tillman

    I'd say at least their hearts are in the right place. Why don' they also get rid of "fat" and "black" too?

    March 29, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
  8. Dane

    cot dam liberals are idiots

    March 29, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
  9. Larry L

    Children need to learn to deal with all of the "words". Life isn't free of aggressive terminology or words that conflict with our base values and concepts. We will have a viable and progressive (another threatening word?) population when they can address all of our issues and use wisdom, logic and compassion to make decisions. Hiding from reality is cowardly and serves no purpose – unless your purpose is to create children unable to deal with the real world.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    Jehovah's Witnesses don't care what words are used. It's actually pretty hard to offend most of them. Changing words for them is silly and it just gets people mad at them for no reason.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • MorefromMO

      Try next Saturday morning when they knock on your door to save your soul.

      "Saturday" should be banned as well.



      March 29, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
  11. Imminent

    I wish the closet communists trying to control everything we see and read would get the hell out of America. I'll tell you what's loaded, the morons who worry about make believe loaded words. You don't like the way regular Americans run our educational systems? Get out! Pack your garbage and get out of America.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • DR Knowitall

      We are at the facist level now.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
  12. Caneman

    Can we ban thoughts, too?

    March 29, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
  13. mike.g.hall

    asinine! there's a word for u new york!

    March 29, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
  14. ljdr48

    ...I am gasping for words. Un-flppin' believable; the logic escapes me just as most political correctness escapes me. It's a mad, mad world and it's being run by escapees from insane asylums.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
  15. Rob

    I once recieved some really bad news. The word "the" was used numerous times when I recieved the news. Please ban this word!

    March 29, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
  16. Brad

    Teach them how to suspend emotional responses in the midst of problem-solving, and you won't have to ban ANY words.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
  17. LOL

    This is hilarious. I'm cracking up at all these Dinosaur comments! I am a faith believing Christian and can tell you today I have no problem whatsoever with the word "dinosaur". I am, however, (on a non-religious personal level) highly distressed by the word "Math". Can we have that one banned instead?

    March 29, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • ohmylawed

      I aint afraid of no ghosts.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • Samuel Morgan

      Lets just burn all books.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
  18. Caneman

    This is truly... double plus good.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  19. Steve

    Publishers make up the tests??? Thats messed up.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  20. Trey

    this is exactly why America is getting dumber and dumber. We are the laughing stock of the world because of this crap

    March 29, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      You're correct, and it's even worse. It's depressing how many people vote for the very candidates who would destroy science education in this country by requiring creationism to be taught in science classes.

      Now that is as Judge Jones stated in his ruling in Dover PA creationism case: BREATH TAKING INANITY!

      March 29, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
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