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.
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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.
I had to check the calendar, thought it must be April 1st.
Thank God I dont have kids.
you don't really mean God, do you?
Don't thank God. Won't help.
You better hope you are right, Shawn.
I don’t want to spend eternity with any being that demands to be worshiped. Perhaps if they underwent therapy and showed some personal growth I’d reconsider.
HAHAHAH Only in the USA. United States of Americants....can't use words anymore. Please do the world a favor and shoot yourselves now!
Please stop using words like "shoot" in a comment.
You're distracting me and making me emotionally uncomfotable.
OK. You got me...Where's the hidden camera!?
This is completely ridiculous and absolutely inane. When is this going to end?
You must all look, act, and think as we do. There can be no more free will, no more individualism. You vill be asimilated, resistence is futile.
Ignoring reality doesn't make it go away. This is insane.
Next time I go to NYC I am taking this list withme and repeating the words to every child I pass on the street.
Best answer yet! Right on!
I can just see you trailing some poor kid down the street, screaming "DIVORCE! DIVORCE! DIVORCE!" Sounds very healthy.
Sheesh let the kids learn and they will decide for themselves what is loaded and what isn't. From now on apparently censorship is going to be used in education too.
Isn't this country about embracing everyone's differences? ESPECIALLY in a school setting where it is crucial that kids learn and accept the things that make us unique and different. What a great way to get this country to stop being so prejudice. Make all impressionable children think that we are all exactly the same, so when they realize that there are differences between us they'll be confused and scared of each other....yay.
You hit the nail on the head. Those that push these policies are a real danger to what has made this country great.
When I think "melting pot" my vision is a big tasty stew with lots of ingredients. Each lending its own flavor to the meal. With progressives the "melting pot" is everything mashed into a brown slurrey where none of the ingredients is distingishable from each other.,
California avoids the use of the word "weed" ~ I'm sorry but i found this hilarious, i'm from cali.
What abuot God, angle, saten, heaven, hell, hades,and pork. It does make it easyer to pass kids on spelling (because no words are left)
How about you learn to spell first?
It's an April Fool's joke posted by accident 2 days too early. Really, it is, right?
I agree. This has got to be a joke. How about we just stop communicating all together so we don't offend anyone. Let's wear sunglasses too so they can't misread anything in our eyes. Oh, and tie our hands together so we don't make any unwelcome gestures. Lord, help us if these people are really serious.
Wow, if these are loaded words, exactly what words aren't loaded? Some people just won't be happy until all discourse is reduced to trivial, meaningless 120-character Twitter posts that can't possibly communicate complex thoughts.
Last time I mentioned Halloween in a bar, 6 guys kicked my butt. Just plain eveil those words!
He said such topics "could evoke unpleasant emotions in the students."
Yes, because lets shield children from cradle to grave...that will really help develop socially healthy people who can function in society *sarcasm*
What a bunch of buffoons. Let's remove words like "hurricane" and "earthquake"...burying your head in the sand and acting like these things don't exist doesn't mean they never will! We are raising a generation of children who are so fragile and socially shielded it's no wonder they crack and shoot up a school when they don't get their way. They can't deal. Time to drop all this pandering...geez
The bad thing they become Republicons!
I sincerely doubt that seeing as the education system in this country is unabashedly liberal. Any kid who doesn't have a strong conservative presence at home is more than likely going to grow up professing those values they learn at school, which are predominantly liberal.
How come Gun, hunting, pistol or rifle aren't on that list ? You liberal nuts are slipping.
Jack-Johnson – you too are a moron.
This an especially loaded work that many students in NYC public school will not understand or will otherwise considered "loaded". The especially loaded word is "algorithm".
When are the book burnings going to start? If I had a child in a school that had this policy I'd teach them every word and make sure that every homework assignment the handed in had at least one of them somewhere in it. If the teacher marked them down or complained ... we'd be off to court.
Everywhere else in the western world faith is on the decline thanks to the information age. The Brit’s ( who passed this hocus pocus on to us) have fallen to less than 50% belief. Religion and blind faith are corrupting our young minds not to trust science and fact. 6000 years old….????? Please…..read a real book.
Shawn, you are a moron. Not because of your statement of facts, but because you believe everybody else has to bow to your theory and let you diminish theirs. You and others that are so shallow minded and unable to think past a college level will continue to weaken what once was a strong nation. You are what is wrong with the world today.
Humans have created hundreds of religions. The spinning wheel just happened to stop on Christianity for Americans. If We were born Aztecs 3000 years ago we’d cut out our children’s hearts to make it rain. You my friend have been brainwashed, hopefully one day you’ll see the truth.
The spinning wheel just happened to stop on Christianity for Americans. If We were born Aztecs 3000 years ago we’d cut out our children’s hearts to make it rain. You my friend have been brainwashed, hopefully one day you’ll see the truth.
No, thats too nice. Facist State is more like it.
Lets all just live a vanilla life so we don't offend anyone. America is finished.