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. Jason

    This is a joke.... right?

    March 29, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • Sikora

      It would be funny but these people in the Department of Education are dead serious idiots that are paid by us.
      They should be immediately fired and never given opportunity to work for public.Shame on us that we even need to discuss these. We all look like idiots.

      March 31, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  2. Michael

    Education exists to help people better understand the world we live in. Even if you don't believe in dinosaurs, Halloween, and birthdays, you should at least know what they are.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
  3. Tony

    "New York city schools want to ban 'loaded words' from tests"

    Why don't we ban banning instead. I'm sick of lazy people who don't want to have uncomfortable or honest conversations with children so they take the "ban everything" route. "I don't wanna explain what happened on TV so ban it so no one else can see it" "Don't want the kids to learn that there could possibly be a reality alternate to what the church has been pushing, best to ban it". Here's one for San Francisco "Don't want to teach my kids moderation, so lets ban Happy Meals so no one can enjoy them" True story! If you can't handle telling the truth to children and teaching them common sense you shouldn't be allowed around them; because all you are doing is grooming another idiot who I'll probably find 20 years from now doing 45 in the left hand lane on the freeway with the right blinker on.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
  4. Scott

    This is one of the most upsetting things I've read in the news today. Schools, teachers, and parents need to stop coddling kids. They are the reason our lower education system is so lacking. Specifically, we need to raise the standards and stop sheltering our children from scary things like the unknown, new ideas, and personal failure. Otherwise, they will be unprepared for the REAL world, and our country will fall further behind than it already has!

    March 29, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • Dale

      Ban Liberalism; problem solved.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • Tony

      Here's an idea Dale, lets ban idiotic Partisanship because it sure as hell hasn't done a damn thing for the country.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • Michelle D. Belisle

      I can't believe this is really happening in the USA!!!!

      March 30, 2012 at 1:18 am |
  5. McJesus

    Its ok to tell non-believers that they are going to suffer an eternity in some dubious underground demon infested underworld. But mention dinosaur! OH NO! THE HUMANITY!

    March 29, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • McJesus fan

      If you bring up a child telling them they will burn in hell for eternity if they don’t believe…….this is nothing short of brainwashing. I’ve never heard an atheist tell a child they will burn in hell if they don’t believe in the theory of evolution.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:00 am |
  6. Glenc

    Have we become a society so thinned skinned that 'dinosaur' is too scary to put on a test? Ridiculous.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
    • Richard

      Liberals and their P.C. beliefs should be banned from the education system.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
  7. gman

    who's bright frknnnnn idea is this ?

    let's put another light up in the farmers field in the middle of nowhere too ! frkkknnnnn idiots.

    don't fly a kIte or you'll get a ticket. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
  8. Sherry

    What a hoot - this is the biggest laugh I've had all week! (but it's not so funny if you remember that this is your tax dollars at work here)

    March 29, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • Star Tripper

      I would laugh – but it's very very scary.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:12 am |
  9. Alexander Rogge

    Here's a better plan: ban standardized tests. The incessant testing process, not the words on the tests, is the most serious problem.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
  10. Reality

    ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS:-–>>>>>............................

    Hey, this blog uses a filter for "offensive" words and word fragments numbering (based on the Word counter) at least 165. So in a way the topic prepares the NYC students for the computer world. No doubt newpapers and magazine publishers have word and fragment filters loaded on all of their PCs.

    ar-se.....as in Car-se, etc.
    co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, lubco-ck, etc.
    co-on.....as in rac-oon, coc-oon, etc.
    cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cuc-umber, etc.
    cu-nt.....as in Scu-ntthorpe, a city in the UK famous for having problems with filters...!
    ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
    ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, etc.
    ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, etc.
    ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
    jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
    ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
    koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
    pi-s......as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
    pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
    ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
    se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
    sh-@t.....but shat is okay – don't use the @ symbol there.
    sp-ic.....as in disp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
    ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, alt-itude, beat-itude, etc.
    tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, etc.
    va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
    who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!

    There are more, some of them considered "racist", so do not assume that this list is complete.
    Allowed words / not blocked at all:
    raping (ra-pe is not ok)
    shat (sh-@t is not ok)

    March 29, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
  11. America

    This country is out of control. It is over.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
  12. Tara

    Oh ffs...

    March 29, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
  13. dee

    Have they already banned the word "idiot". I don't think so because the NYC DOE is absolutely idiotic in paying people to come up with these so called banned words instead of putting the money to good use and teaching our kids.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
  14. Rumball

    how about 'White'. That needs to be banned. It incenses rage!!!! F U and good day to you fine gents and gentristas!

    March 29, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
  15. Scott

    how about banning colors for the colorblind and sounds for the hearing impaired? don't mention hands or feet because someone might not have a limb. in fact, let's ban all words because someone may be illiterate.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • Joe

      That's funny right thar, I don't care who you are

      March 29, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • ___

      I don't care who you are either, Joe

      March 29, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  16. Gracie

    Only one word for this. Absurd.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  17. ShawnG

    So, they want ban the word dinosaur but have no problems handing them a condom?

    March 29, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  18. jollyartdesign

    I'm a Christian too, and right now I'm trying real hard to not finish the sentence "What a bunch of --,--" with something very un-Christlike. It really sounds like people with no sense whatsoever and way too much time on their hands trying something "new and creative" to justify their jobs; people willing to sacrifice their own children on the alter of culturally sensitive dumb-coddling, just for another cheap—and completely and absurdly manufactured—shot at people of faith. And to be "fair", people of any faith. As they say down here in Texas, "Y'all aint raht."

    March 29, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  19. Elmer

    Here's a word that will be banned by the comments section here if spelled out, but sums up this banned word nonsense succinctly: BULLS**T!!!

    March 29, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
  20. Drew

    Why should people care how others feel? The main goal of a test is to show the knowledge of a student and not the belief system of a student.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:40 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.