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. sleepyinsf

    As an liberal AND and educator, I find this utterly offensive. I don't know what's going on with this country, but we seem to be losing our collective minds. There's nothing wrong with sensitivity toward others, but let's have some perspective. Unfortunately, in many instances, this is what passes for education these days; it's no wonder that we've have so many clueless individuals running around.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:28 am |
    • sleepyinsf

      *As a liberal and educator

      March 30, 2012 at 1:29 am |
  2. sean

    This is embarrassing.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:26 am |
  3. billy


    why because people doubt their past existance? or because they think the word will jump off the paper and eat them?

    March 30, 2012 at 1:26 am |
  4. T-Money


    March 30, 2012 at 1:23 am |
  5. Jacqui

    Unbelievable! I am getting so sick and tired of what may offend, what may be "politically correct"! Get a grip people!

    March 30, 2012 at 1:22 am |
  6. Sara

    Are you kidding me ??!! I am so thankful I live in Canada, where the only word we try to avoid is snow.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:21 am |
  7. gman

    i personaly have to take my hat off to CNN . thanks for posting this article. we don't even know what

    lawmakers are doing anymore behind our backs. this is pathetic. THANK YOU CNN FOR LETTING US KNOW.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:21 am |
  8. noname

    clearly the NYC dept. of education got sick of nickle and diming kids' education to death, so now they want to save a few pennies by not printing certain words

    give me a break. this is so dumb that the word to describe it doesn't exist in English (or maybe it was banned by these morons)

    March 30, 2012 at 1:21 am |
    • noname

      actually, I just realized they are doing this to make kids even more dumb then they are from the ridiculous level of US education so they continue to be hamsters for the capitalistic money wheel

      March 30, 2012 at 1:25 am |
  9. Crys

    Good grief-instead of banning loaded words, help teach children to engage with them and to deal with the conflict. better yet, teach the parents!

    March 30, 2012 at 1:21 am |
  10. Steve

    I happen to find the word "test" offensive but I bet that won't be outlawed. Just about any word now except the most common ones (the, a, an, I, etc.) could be considered offensive to someone. I bet I would get a perfect score on the ACT if that was all. That was on there.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:20 am |
  11. newton

    Sounds like the Dept of Education are a bunch of old dinosaurs smokin weed.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:16 am |
    • roly poly

      good one !!!! hehehe 🙂

      March 30, 2012 at 1:31 am |
  12. David

    This is bulls***!! i cant believe the u.s.a. sometimes

    March 30, 2012 at 1:16 am |
  13. americaz

    Seriously? Maybe we should ban the word Reality. Oh or maybe we should just all get together and have us one big fat book burning party 'cause we certainly don't want anything around that might possibly offend someone with no common sense, or no sense of reality; for God's sake let's be sure to protect those people at all cost. What a bunch of nonsense.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:16 am |
  14. John K

    While you are at it band these words; marriage, honor, ethics, religion, truth, honesty, freedom, promise, common sense, quality, and faith. Ban these words also and guess what it will only be a matter of a very short time until the end of this country and all it stands for and yes it will collapse from within i guarantee it!

    March 30, 2012 at 1:15 am |
    • Rob

      This country is already at an end, we are destroying it ourselves out of sheer stupidity among the masses.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:17 am |
  15. Larry Moniz

    Yup, let's make sure testing doesn't offend anyone, no matter if it then fails to prepare students for real life. Pretty soon, students who are able to correctly spell their own names will receive high school diplomas. Those that cannot will receive GEDs. Having read a book will qualify one for a bachelors degree in literature and knowing the difference between carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide will be the sole qualification for a bachelors of science. I worked in New York City for 15 years and can't think of a worse place in the U.S. to raise a child.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:13 am |
  16. J

    This is out-of-control political correctness. You can't take something out to make one group happy, because by taking it out, you run the risk of upsetting another.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:13 am |
  17. Cinic

    Ridiculous. How is ignorance better?

    March 30, 2012 at 1:13 am |
  18. JPowers

    Only in new york could you get someone this anal.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:12 am |
  19. SkyNet25

    The future is great. Our kids might learn that aliens can spontaneously be teleported if you juggle balls enough if an adequate amount of people lobby for it. I'm sure our nation's overall critical thinking abilities will soar! ..

    March 30, 2012 at 1:12 am |
  20. itylhive

    Computer is the new "C" word.
    Sally inserted floppy into her c!@#

    March 30, 2012 at 1:11 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.