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. Sarcastacles

    It's about time. I'm still having flashbacks from my standardized test. When I saw the word 'Dinosaurs' instead of the more PC 'Jurassic Americans', I nearly lost it. To this day, I'm mortified of ScanTron forms.

    March 30, 2012 at 2:16 am |
    • gman

      you might need cyber-therapy. , funny post dude. excellent.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:32 am |
  2. lobo

    are they serious? this is trash. purely disgusting. religious groups (among others) have no right to take away things like this. you dont believe in christmas? dont believe in dinosaurs? lets all bow down to you and go out of our way to 'not offend you.' heaven forbid.

    March 30, 2012 at 2:02 am |
    • gman

      dude , why do people keep blaming this on religious groups. don't you see in the article that faith based words
      are one of the things they want to ban. these people are not church going kind of people. they better fit into
      nazi germany era. they want to rule the world on their own terms and are indoctrinating our children into their idea
      of education. christians believe in free speech.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:08 am |
    • josh

      First off all, I see their point.. when you see words, your brain will start to randomly connect it to things, this is to help tests. Furthermore, you can take away our right to pray, our right to preach, and our right to have classes in school about our beliefs, and you're going to get mad? Maybe we should all bow down to those that seek to destroy faiths instead, coexist man, deal with it 😀

      March 30, 2012 at 2:15 am |
    • gman

      one other thing lobo, i truley believe being a christian that most faith based realist would gladly have equal
      opportunity for teaching. evolution vs creationism. we don't want to ban anything only have equal footing towards
      our beliefs. once again censorship is not the answer.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:25 am |
  3. Ty

    You would tend to think that if a person has even a single grain of conviction in thier beliefs they would not be influenced much by a simple paragraph designed only to test comprehension. If they are I would hate to be them because they must be miserable.

    March 30, 2012 at 2:01 am |
  4. Jeannette

    Who is the moron with this terrible idea ? I guess is better an idiot that can say I'm exited 44 times in the speech, because his vocabulary is so flipping limited

    March 30, 2012 at 1:59 am |
    • Just a suggestion

      If you are going to call someone a moron, it might not be best to follow it with a sentence like this: "I guess is better an idiot that can say I'm exited 44 times in the speech."

      March 30, 2012 at 2:03 am |
    • josh

      LOL, what the guy above me said... that was terrible spelling, grammar... everything hahaha

      March 30, 2012 at 2:17 am |
  5. gman

    one piece of crap lawmaker in the school system got mad at another piece of crap lawmaker over banning a
    certain word. so the other lawmaker figured i'll get back by banning something he like's. this went on and on and on
    for days, months, years. finally they had exhuasted the english vocabulary. in the mean time our kids learned
    nothing because they couldn't read or write anymore and flunked all there exams.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:56 am |
    • gman

      or is it their exams ? couldn't find the spelling on wicki. it's been banned.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:58 am |
  6. BBPatriot

    Is "oil company" on the list?

    March 30, 2012 at 1:51 am |
    • josh


      March 30, 2012 at 2:18 am |
  7. My2Cents

    If they are taking those words out why not put these in their place, words generally heard on the news. Economy, Layoff, Outsourced, Working-Poor, Deficit, and Recession these are words that the sooner they know the better.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:50 am |
    • Vaporbrains

      Let's ban the word "critical" if ever it appears alongside the word "thinking" – that way we avoid the whole embarrassment of missing the point of education.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:55 am |
  8. Creationist

    I love creationist when they say the world is only 6000 years old...I always laugh due to the amount of time it takes star light to travel to the earth...But hey to them..Science is the work of the devil...

    March 30, 2012 at 1:49 am |
    • My Name is "Bubba"

      A creationist set me right the other day – he said that God only wants us to think that light moves that fast. Hard to hold a straight face when I hear imbecilic nonsense like that...

      March 30, 2012 at 1:58 am |
    • josh

      First off, I'm a believer. Second off, you have no idea what you're talking about. You yourself don't even fully understand the theory of the big bang, or M-theory as it is now. The common belief is that light traveled FASTER then it does today! Sheesh. Also, the bible clearly says that God stretched out the heavens. But, to be honest, I always laugh when I hear people say billions and billions, when the mathematical calculation for a single strand of DNA occurring on it's own, is what we call absolute zero. Good luck with your theories 🙂

      March 30, 2012 at 2:21 am |
    • josh

      One more note here. The LHC recently had a particle that broke the speed of light, not by much mind you but it did. Also, we have totally stopped light as well in labs. And finally, time is relative and is very easily altered.
      I used to be an evolutionist until I started asking questions and not just taking people at their words. Evolution can't work, flat out. I'm sure I'm going to get some crazed atheist here soon, which is ironic because you people mock our faiths on here all the time, and fight to the death when it comes to defending your lack of beliefs.. haha. Anyways, I don't plan to reply, my faith doesn't require you to believe it, neither does God.. It was a gift for a reason.

      Regardless your beliefs or creed, I hope your life is well lived and long.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:39 am |
  9. SkyNet256

    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 1:45 am |
  10. jfb

    but why Dinosaurs?

    March 30, 2012 at 1:45 am |
    • My Name is "Bubba"

      was thinking the same thing... why not "volcanic" or "cave drawing" or "plate tectonics"? Shoot... let's just rip out the whole section on physics and astronomy...

      March 30, 2012 at 2:00 am |
  11. MAC1973

    Some people are ready to take offense about just about anything. The Bill of Rights says nothing about a citizens right "not to be offended." We are supposed to be a nation of religious tolerance. That means everybody tolerant of everybody else. Banning the use of "birthday" and birhtday celebrations because Jehovah's Witnesses don't observe them? Rediculous! How about banning everybody from eating meat on Friday's during Lent because it might offend Catholics? Oh, and how about making everybody fast during Ramadan because Muslums have to, and they might be offended if the rest of us eat. How would the atheists feel about that? Being forced to observe religious practices? Being sensitive to others beliefs is one thing being forced to observe them is quite another and is contrary to religious freedom. First they ban words; next they ban books.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:43 am |
    • gman

      don't forget – the right to bear arms ! it worked for hitler and other dictators.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:46 am |
  12. Nudetruth

    This is what happens when you let democratics run loose.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:43 am |
    • My Name is "Bubba"

      get over yourself, twit. this 'overgod' c.r.a.a.p. is mostly thanks to the REPubliCON GOD squad. Dems are happy to let the kids figure out creation and god when they finally got old enough to WANT to figure it out.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:03 am |
  13. pdxlight

    I think schools should also start banning sensitive numbers, like 9 and 11 due to the terrorist attacks and other numbers like 25 as many don't celebrate Christmas. I also vote for removing red crayons from pre-school as the color denotes blood and violence. Black too, as it implies evil. Oh, and boys shouldn't be allowed to use pink. We should also start removing other highly sensitive topics like the pentagon in geometry class and should ban the Three Little Pigs to avoid potentially offending Muslims.

    This is ridiculous. Our education system is an embarassment as it is.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:40 am |
    • gman

      LOL bro ,

      March 30, 2012 at 1:42 am |
    • MAC1973


      March 30, 2012 at 1:45 am |
  14. Morbus

    I wonder how many words on that list were chosen to avoid offending Mu slims.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:40 am |
  15. Mauricio

    What in the world is happening to this country? Banning words from standardized tests because "some people" might be offended? NY DOE is lead by a bunch of bozos who probably got a 2.0 GPA ... hmm.... most likely never even graduated. What "some people" need to do is deal with their issues, get some therapy and get over all this nonsense. I've had it with all this "let's be political" crap.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:39 am |
  16. john doe

    Personally, I fel good about this. Dinosaurs are a myth, created by those that don't believe. It's completely obvious that they were around when the planet was created 6,000 years ago. You'd be a complete fool to believe otherwise. And I feel that to inflict one's birthdate upon that person who' earthly date of birth is both uncivil and ingenuine and just plain mean. This genocide has got to stop and we all need to be Christians. Oh, and we all also need to believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:38 am |
    • josh

      Christmas and Easter are both pagan, and real biblical followers don't celebrate that trash. Finally, you seem to believe that all of us believers share these ideas, stop grouping us all together, we're very different.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:26 am |
    • Anon

      Christianity evolved from paganism.

      March 30, 2012 at 3:03 am |
  17. alfuso


    March 30, 2012 at 1:34 am |
  18. gman



    he doesn't play well with others ,

    he is very pig headed,

    he uses words like dinosaurs , god , creationism , wild fires , ect...;

    he even said Christmas ,

    sorry but we can not tolerate that kind of behavior in school. whoops i meant to say in a detention camp.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:32 am |
    • Dennnn

      You said "pig" go to the back of the line.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:24 am |
    • gman

      yes sir , just please don't send me to re-education.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:28 am |
  19. Mike

    This is absolutely absurd. These are words that ignite creativity, opinionated thought and emotional feelings – things that help students generate ideas they can write about and feelings they can describe. Slavery happened, dinosaurs may or may not have existed and birthdays are celebrated by most. Why have children take a test in a fantasy world? Controversial topics provoke thought and inspire emotion.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:31 am |
  20. sean

    Certainly these Jehovah's Witnesses were born...and it was a day of some sort...right...can someone check this out for me please my google is broken.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:30 am |
    • josh

      The reason why they don't is very simple, only two noted birthdays were ever in the bible, rather, celebrated. Both of these birthdays were some form of evil ruler, other then that nobody has a party.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:30 am |
    • Miike Finley

      Just in case you did not know, Jehovah's Witnesses do no celebrate birthdays but they also do not stand up and protest against people who do This article almost insinuates that saying JWs would be offended. The Bible only mentions birthdays twice and once resulted in the beheading of John the Baptist – look for it people, birthdays were not celebrated in the Bible.. Why this article by CNN mentioned Jehovah's Witnesses is unbeknownst to me and ticks me off more so because it is absolutely false.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:30 am |
    • gman

      @ mike finley, mike you don't know that cnn is implying that. it sound like these are things that were conveyed to the
      cnn reporter by the nydoe spokesman. because he states in the article evidently faith based words
      were removed for a reason. so it sounds like there were reasons implied by the doe person, not neccessarily
      the cnn reporter. he might just be bringing to light the implications of this article and in doing so exposing the
      falsehood of the doe statements towards your faith.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:44 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.