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. TROOF!!!

    If we REALLY feel a need to "ban" something, Let's ban those DINOSAURS running the NYC Dept. of Education. And remember... Everyone gets a participation trophy cuz we are ALLLLLL Winners!!! YAAAYYY!!!!!

    March 30, 2012 at 12:25 am |
  2. Rachael

    Why don't we all just put our children in bubbles, and make them watch Disney movies all day! Our job is to prepare them for the real world. Not this imaginary, sanitary, politically correct version we are trying to "create". How do you expect these children to deal with the real world when the time comes.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:24 am |
  3. Dale

    The important thing to note here is that this obviously PC Lib action is being presented as something to protect people of faith. Nice diversionary tactic brought to you by CNN and the sniveling, self-righteous cowardly Left. What a joke.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:23 am |
  4. Are You Kidding?

    wow! i got a better idea...lets ban the people that want to ban the so called "loaded" words. Because they truly are a threat to children.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:23 am |
  5. Dave Seavy

    Instead of wasting time and money on nonsense like this – how about we simply get back to basic education. It should include how to balance a checkbook, how to make change, etc. You know – things you're likely going to use in real life. It's amazing how these words have been used for generations, and now – out of the blue, they could be offensive. Have you ever noticed that many topics, words, etc., don't really become offensive until some ninny somewhere starts something like this, then tells everyone that they should be offended? Americans (of which I am one) seem to thrive on creating problems that didn't exist, then spending gobs of money finding ways to "solve" the problem. Truly amazing.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:23 am |
  6. amber

    I am offended that they even consider this! It's a joke.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:23 am |
  7. Bob Brown

    Holy cra... smoke, Batman! And the taxpayers of New York are *paying* these nut-jobs?!? Your tax dollars at work!

    All of these are things that are part of real life. Even the creationists, misguided though they may be, do not deny dinosaurs. They take the Alley Oop route. "... and God made fossils of the Jurassic and Triassic periods. Very old madeth he them!"

    March 30, 2012 at 12:23 am |
  8. Peter

    There are people and cultures around the world who see this post on CNN, and they are not looking at this with a complimentary viewpoint.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:22 am |
  9. Bush Destroyed America

    Bush Destroyed The United States

    March 30, 2012 at 12:22 am |
    • Bob Brown

      And your comment, however misguided, is relevant because... ?

      March 30, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • gman

      be careful , brother or sister ,

      make sure you get permission to use an ex-presidents name from the government first.

      fill all the forms in triplicate and submit them to , enslave america , 1 pennsylvania ave !

      March 30, 2012 at 12:27 am |
    • Bush Destroyed America

      @Brown: The only thing misguided is your attention. And the pathetic state of this country being the result of the failed actions of a mentally challenged m0ron is always relevant.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:34 am |
  10. eeejay

    "What is it you seek?" NEE, NEE, THEY SAID THE FORBIDIN WORDS, NEE!! "What is it?" NEE!! "Who are you?" WE ARE THE TEACHERS THAT SAY "NEE!!" Really folks? They tried this in the middle east... wow really...

    March 30, 2012 at 12:21 am |
    • TROOF!!!


      March 30, 2012 at 12:27 am |
  11. Zippy

    I'm tempted to call NYC's approach "rubbish," but I'm going to assume that word has been banned already or soon will be!

    March 30, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  12. TROOF!!!

    Divorce. Dinosaurs, Birthdays. Religion. Halloween. Christmas.
    So last CHRISTMAS, or was it HALLOWEEN I can never remember which because my ex-wife's BIRTHDAY is right in the middle of them. Anyway, it was shortly after my Divorce that I was driving along the freeway listening to ROCK AND ROLL and thinking about RELIGION. All of a sudden something ran across the road. I swear it was a DINOSAUR eating a PEPPERONI pizza. It really was amazing.


    March 30, 2012 at 12:21 am |
    • Tom in San Diego

      Fabulous spoof..thank you for your humor...

      March 30, 2012 at 12:31 am |
  13. Unknown

    When was the last time a dinosaur hurt somebody?

    March 30, 2012 at 12:20 am |
    • TROOF!!!

      Shhhhhh.... You are scaring me.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:22 am |
    • Bob Brown

      "Jurassic Park"

      March 30, 2012 at 12:26 am |
  14. gman

    what happens if a kid uses one of the words on a test ?


    """"" RE-EDUCATION """""""""""""""""

    March 30, 2012 at 12:20 am |
  15. amber

    Our country is becoming a freak'n joke. I feel terrible my kids are going to have to endure the ignorance of our nation. What are we doing to our selves!?

    March 30, 2012 at 12:20 am |
    • Tom in San Diego

      Do you speak another language...soon we wont have a country at this rate...

      March 30, 2012 at 12:33 am |
  16. johnh1625

    Ban textbooks

    March 30, 2012 at 12:20 am |
  17. mike

    Political correct Nazis at it again......oh they must be thrilled Hitlers birthday is comming. Remeber the slogan of the pc Nazi's Do as We Say and Not as We Do and no one gets hurt...

    March 30, 2012 at 12:20 am |
  18. PDXSerric

    Wait, seriously? The schools can't teach our kids that dinosaurs existed (fact) or that we evolved (fact) or maybe even whitewash history because some adults can't handle it? The religious fanatics on the fringe are waging a war on education just as they have been for centuries. The greatest threat to organized religion is education, after all. What a crock! How about this? Teach EVOLUTION alongside CREATION as theories, provide empirical evidence, and let the kids decide for themselves? Or, better yet, if you don't want your kids to be educated where ALL facts are being taught, pull them out and place them into private religious schools. Being tax-free, the church has to offer free schooling for their members, right? If not, maybe you 'adults' should reconsider just whose best interests the church has in mind. Yours or theirs.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • SirSean

      Hey man, Christmas was on that list too... so take your agenda elsewhere and stick to the facts.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:32 am |
  19. soulsoldseparately

    I had no idea it was this easy to ban words from tests, on a citywide scale no less. All because some people could be offended by a WORD?? Where does it end? By including the word 'dinosaur' on a test, the school is not forcing the student to believe that dinosaurs existed. The student can believe whatever he or she wants to believe. If it's on a test, all the student needs to know is how to answer the question, based on the instruction provided by the teacher. Halloween might be founded in paganism, but the schools are not forcing the students to accept paganism in their own lives.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • PDXSerric

      Well said. Remember, as kids, when we had an annual Halloween part at our school? Kids could come, win prizes for costumes, play games... all the while the school made money as a bake sale, etc. Or Christmas events? What about Easter egg hunts? An entire generation of kids will never know these things merely because some adults got their nose out of joint. WHO CARES if someone says 'Merry Christmas' to you, or "Happy Chanukah", "Kwanza" , etc. It doesn't matter WHAT is being said but the spirit in which it is given. Seriously... some people need to get over themselves in a huge way! What's next? No Valentine's Day card-swapping in schools an more?

      March 30, 2012 at 12:24 am |
  20. Dave

    Man this is getting out of hand. Some do gooder from, no doubt another country or some holier than thou person wants to get rid of "words". ""Dinosaurs" evoking unpleasant emotions". Good grief these public figures think kids in public school are stupid, can't read, out of touch totally with anything.... Let's just ban everything, maybe that will make these do gooders and whiners happy.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • mickey1313

      ya unpleasant emotions like, i dont know, disgust at there parents for lieing to them. All thiests need to grow up, you have a right to believe what you want, you do not have a right to push it on others.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:20 am |
    • PDXSerric

      mickey1313: But isn't that exactly the point here? Isn't the "Creationist Agenda" being pushed on these kids? Every coin has two sides...

      March 30, 2012 at 12:26 am |
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