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. tokencode

    And we wonder why our students do not rank among the top students in the world... Why not just make the text books and test white pages and tell the kids to draw what the feel.... oh yea because if they drawn soemthing offensive they'll be banned from school...

    March 30, 2012 at 12:46 am |
    • p

      blame the parents thinking bad words like sun is offensive pretty soon we will have nothing to talk about in public. I agree with all the stupidness is going is just stupiness we are so in to making laws for stupid crap make real laws like bettering education by keeping the government out it.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:50 am |
  2. p

    wow were are so trying to control every word every action are that fing bored to sit and think how to conserve ink and paper because we are to lazy to make a real test and study about things that made up planet. SUN = total destruction of the planets lets stop using the word sun and moon and space. Were are so self absorbered to control words that are so stupid and pity grow up people really

    March 30, 2012 at 12:45 am |
  3. Texan

    This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Who are these idiots to come up with such laws?? NYC is wasting money on these idiots to waste more money and create more problems. If this is going to take effect, that means that the schools have to buy new books for the students, which is just a waste of tax dollars, and what do they accomplish.......Nothing!!!! Use the money for something else. Banning these words won't make your children any smarter.....

    March 30, 2012 at 12:43 am |
  4. Ben

    Our country is becoming a laughing stock.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:41 am |
    • TheBob

      "Becoming"? You must not have traveled overseas lately.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:43 am |
  5. juice

    keep going, and pretty soon you'll be looking at a blank sheet of paper standarized test

    March 30, 2012 at 12:40 am |
    • p

      yup pretty soon we have to pay to see white page in front of students everytime there is test there so they can reclyce nothing lol

      March 30, 2012 at 12:48 am |
  6. Face

    How do Dinosaurs offend Creationists? Should they avoid discussing the Earth rotating around the Sun as well?

    March 30, 2012 at 12:39 am |
    • Face

      This could be the results we are seeing from Affirmative Action.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:40 am |
    • gman

      they don't offend creationist. creationist acknowledge the existence of dinosaurs. who ever these people are
      passing these laws , and lobbying for this crap , have a totaly alternative ultimatum. it's called the one world order.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:41 am |
    • Randy Johnson

      Anything exept the words Adam and Eve offend creationists. If you asked them what the 4 base pairs of DNA are they would open their bibles to find the answer.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:56 am |
    • gman

      not true randy , god is a holy god but people are human and sin is of satan.

      1st corinthians 13:5

      " love is not rude, It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,
      it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs "

      we might stray and god might kick our buts a little from time to time , but he's no fool and has seen it all.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:04 am |
  7. wowzerz

    holy ISHT! lets all close our eyes and pretend there are no problems in the world shall we!?

    March 30, 2012 at 12:37 am |
  8. WT

    The American education system is already terrible. Conservatives need to stop making it worse.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:36 am |
  9. Lizzy31

    Wow, how about we try to block all human emotions and become a world of "Stepford" beings... to sum it up in one word: IDIOCRACY!!!

    March 30, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • TheBob

      A country that elects a total idi0t – TWICE – deserves no better.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:40 am |
  10. buckybadger

    I guess that is easier than educating them.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • D


      March 30, 2012 at 12:43 am |
  11. motivationalhub

    Are we really still disputing the previous existence of dinosaurs? How's that for dumbing down the tests?

    March 30, 2012 at 12:34 am |
    • TheBob

      They weren't learning dick anyway. As offspring of sub-par and borderline illiterate m0r0ns, they'll be better off training to become cannon fodder.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:38 am |
  12. TROOF!!!

    Didn't some guy named Adolph try this in the late 1930's? What a forward thinker he was.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:34 am |
    • gman

      if you want to be politicaly correct just say he was a unilateral thinker.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:36 am |
  13. gman

    it's part of a budget proposal , less words to print !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 30, 2012 at 12:33 am |
    • G-force

      fewer words

      March 30, 2012 at 12:46 am |
    • gman

      @ Gforce , true , but the word fewer was banned when i went to school. ha, ha, ha,

      thanks though.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:50 am |
  14. TROOF!!!

    So this will mean that kids will be forbidden to read Danny and the Dinosaur and yet forced to read, My Two Mommys... I know which one conjures up "unpleasant emotions" in my mind. Thanks NYC Dept of Stupidity.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:31 am |
  15. Crad

    I love how, with all the words they are trying to ban, cnn closed in on "dinosaur" for troll bait.. Shame shame shame.. Ha ha

    March 30, 2012 at 12:29 am |
    • TROOF!!!

      That's because it's the scariest.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • someDude

      right, trolling (sarcasm implied). Because the other words on the list are completely and reasonably "loaded" words.

      Let's review a couple :

      – Halloween (probably referring to the Rob Zombie remake, cause we all know Carpenter's rocked)
      – Rock and Roll music (those damn Beatles and their long hair!)
      – Junk food (on tests, no. in the school cafeteria's and our obese children's stomachs, yes)
      – bodily functions (I thought everyone poops?)

      and then of course my favorite group I call the "if you don't say them, they aren't real" words:

      cancer, death, divorce, homelessness, loss of employment, poverty, slavery, terrorism, violence, war and birthdays (that last one is especially loaded to soccer mom's over 40)

      And if CNN was truly trying to troll, they could have just gone with EVOLUTION (not as subtle as dinosaur, I know)

      March 30, 2012 at 12:50 am |
  16. Dale

    NY has the highest percentage of unionized workers in the country (~25%), but I'm sure that's just a coincidence.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:28 am |
  17. TheBob

    How about we ban the words "god", "Jesus", "rapture", "heaven", "hell", "satan", "angel" and "sin". Now that's a movement I can get behind.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:28 am |
    • Ben

      Why only those? Why not also ban Allah or Buddha?

      March 30, 2012 at 12:48 am |
    • TheBob

      Pile it on brother.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:51 am |
  18. dr André Kruger

    Looks like "education" is being turned into "brainwashing" decided upon by some Politburo in New York.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:27 am |
  19. Grayson

    Nice little anecdote from today in my high school today: I literally laughed in a classmate's face because she said she didn't believe in the big bang because "how can the the sun and planets land perfectly in orbit after a big explosion". I face-palmed. Yeah though, our schools are getting "Nerf'd" to avoid offending anyone; just plain idiotic.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:26 am |
  20. ladyred

    This is by far the most weird country in the face of the Planet. The things I've read, seen, heard here(USA) are so...weird. I'm speechless. God help us all!

    March 30, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • Mabin

      You're right. This place is so messed up beyond any semblance of rationale or common sense. I really wish I could move away from here.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:34 am |
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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.