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. Mario

    This is just silly. Who cares what creationist freaks think or feel about anything. They're brain dead morons.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • Steve

      Because "Christmas" & "Religion" really offend conservatives, right?? You wouldn't look so stupid had you read the article.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • Steve

      For the record, I'm not a creationist.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:09 am |
  2. Steve

    This is why school administrators are such a joke. This is what they spend their energy on. God forbid they would actually try to produce graduates that can read, write, & perform basic math...

    March 30, 2012 at 12:05 am |
  3. xeno

    Interestingly, isn't it usually the more liberal minded people that want to stop the use of upsetting words? Almost all of these words are on the list because they might upset the religious right.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:05 am |
  4. Ken

    'Political correctness' is the whip being used to beat us into inoffensive neutrality. It's another term for social cowardice and we are teaching it to our children very well.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:04 am |
  5. Brandi

    Seriously? Aren't we taking the fear of offending others a little too far? I think American's should be offended by such actions like these that insinuate we are incapable of understanding and respecting that others may not share our personal beliefs. Removing the word "birthday" from standardize tests may prevent a Jehovah's Witness from being offended, but what about others that celebrate birthdays that just read that the word will no longer be on standardize tests? Why is there no fear of offending them.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:03 am |
  6. Alex

    Tomorrow morning I'm returning my calendar to the bookstore as it's faulty. It says it's 2012 but as "rock and roll" is being banned from New York City school tests, evidently it's actually 1955.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:03 am |
  7. xeno

    This is what our tax dollars go toward? People coming up with lists? You know what word offends me? Peanuts, because my son is allergic. Do I expect the whole world to stop using the word? No! I can't believe some of the words on this list. Birthday? Because some obscure religious group has something against it?

    March 30, 2012 at 12:02 am |
  8. CpNoodles

    Do we really have nothing better to do?!?!?!!??!

    Jeff you hit the nail on the head.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:01 am |
  9. Aaron

    This is completely idiotic. Words are words. They are in the dictionary and do not need to be banned.
    If people are so afraid of language, let's just ban the dictionary.
    Dinosaur is a "loaded" word because Christians complain about science and the fact that dinosaurs ARE millions of years old. People need to grow up now a days.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:01 am |
  10. galileo

    Lets remove homeless, infant mortality, freedom, rights, facts, science. Those terms all bother the conservatives. None of them exist after all.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:00 am |
  11. JohnnyW

    Wow, and they say the US students can't keep up with those from other countries. If the education system keeps playing revisionism as opposed to teaching scientific based education, we will never be able to keep up. If parents want to teach their kids reality, maybe they can home school them or send them to their local private religious school.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:00 am |
  12. ___

    I don't care who you are either, Joe...

    March 29, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  13. RYan

    Ban happiness, revolt, freedom, sad, upset, mad, angry, ..1984 we were a little late but looks like its in full swing.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  14. galileo

    Dumb citizens are easier to lie to. We want everyone to be like alabama or texas. No insult intended...

    March 29, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • Megan Grawe

      ....yes the liberal approach has been to keep'em Dumbed down, Doped up Desperate financilly and Democrat. History,mathematics, science and literature is definitely not apart of their agenda! For the last 25 years the U.S. proves this by placing last or very close to last scholastically for the top 25 industrial nations

      March 30, 2012 at 12:06 am |
  15. John

    Lets grow a bunch of pansies, we are already behind in Math and Science. Stop babying the kids, tell them to put up or shut up.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
  16. MandoZink

    As a Kentuckian I would like to sincerely apologize to everyone for both the Creationist Museum and Mitch McConnell.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
  17. gman

    Why don't we just put a computer chip in their brain so they learn at night while they sleep and know only what
    the government wants them to !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 29, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
  18. anon

    This country is going to have a civil war over this kind of nonsense sooner or later.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
  19. Uhn Tiss

    This is absolutely preposterous. I just had to use spell check for this response...how are these kids supposed to know how to spell these words? This is simply someone else's agenda to brain wash our kids even more.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
  20. Jeff

    Don't forget to also remove their "childhood"

    March 29, 2012 at 11:55 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.