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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. PublicCries

    Nothing short of the wasted tax dollars, stupidity.

    March 30, 2012 at 8:14 am |
  2. Katie

    RIDICULOUS! Just plain RIDICULOUS! SMH!
    This is just simply RIDICULOUS!

    SMH! SMH!
    Lighten up NY!

    March 30, 2012 at 8:13 am |
  3. Christopher Dow

    And so we drive ourselves deeper into ignorance so we can cater to the misguided beliefs and irrational fears of ignorant, foolish people.

    March 30, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • tom4650

      Yes, and so remeniscient of George Carlin's 'seven forbidden words'. We wonder why it is our kids have such unrealistic expectations and wants? They learn nothing about reality. Utopia is a pipe dream, folks. PC has taken over every facet of our lives. Sort of makes you wonder if the 'prepers' know something we don't.

      March 30, 2012 at 8:17 am |
  4. Anti Sarah

    This is so outlandish I'd swear it was a Monty Python skit if this weren't happening in America. You know who else toyed with this? Hitler.

    March 30, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • Rich

      Face in palm

      March 30, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • Great Scott!

      You're absolutely right Sarah. Do we remember the censorship and "cleansing" and book burnings performed by the Third Reich? The Ministry of Truth is full swing Winston and there's no where to hide once the ball gets rolling. This is not a test.

      March 30, 2012 at 8:16 am |
  5. Daniel

    We have only ourselves to blame on this one. We've become so uppity and sensitive that we have to restrict ourselves to appease each other. If we want to advance as a society, we need to concentrate more on teaching children to discuss things openly and peacefully and less on censoring ourselves to avoid offending people. It's ok to be offended, that's how you learn what you think about things.

    If we keep this up, then everything will be ridiculously heavily censored to avoid offending anyone, regardless of religious affiliation, or in my case and many others, lack thereof. Keep in god we trust on the money, keep dinosaurs on standardized tests and for the sake of all that which is precious and good in life, let people decide for themselves what they believe.

    March 30, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • Suzanne

      Daniel wrote this:
      "We have only ourselves to blame on this one. We've become so uppity and sensitive that we have to restrict ourselves to appease each other. If we want to advance as a society, we need to concentrate more on teaching children to discuss things openly and peacefully and less on censoring ourselves to avoid offending people. It's ok to be offended, that's how you learn what you think about things.

      If we keep this up, then everything will be ridiculously heavily censored to avoid offending anyone, regardless of religious affiliation, or in my case and many others, lack thereof. Keep in god we trust on the money, keep dinosaurs on standardized tests and for the sake of all that which is precious and good in life, let people decide for themselves what they believe."

      APPLAUSE! STANDING OVATION! I agree wholeheartedly with this. Thank you for putting it so succinctly.

      March 30, 2012 at 8:42 am |
  6. Jack

    These people are Educators? What’s the matter with these people. What garbage. We are doomed.

    March 30, 2012 at 8:08 am |
  7. Sarah

    This has gotten to the point of being rediculous. We're not doing our children any favors by coddling them this way. If you want to be healthy, you have to exercise. If exercise is going to be effective, you need to have resistance which helps raise your heart rate, and to build muscle. Otherwise, you're just moving around with no advantageous result. The same concept is being done to our children in school. They need resistance too, which helps to build tolerance, character, and helps to prepare them for the world we live in - which is not nice. If our children grow into adults who have no ability to absorb and process what offends them, society will eat them alive and the tragedy is, these kids won't know why they can't make it as adults. This is a terrible thing to do to a person.

    March 30, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • Sarah

      These poor kids won't have any problem solving skills. They won't know how to resolve conflict, and their minds will be closed to considering ideas they are opposed to.

      The more I keep thinking about this, the madder I get. I keep thinking about Narcisis or better yet, Nero. Nero was a tyrant, who even murdered his own mother. When he was killed, did he feel any penitent sorrow for the way he lived his life, and for how he treated others? Heck, no. His last words were "Jupliter! What an artist dies in me". That's the kind of monsters we're asking our nation's people to be.

      March 30, 2012 at 8:17 am |
  8. JiminTX

    What a bunch of pu$$ies.

    March 30, 2012 at 8:03 am |
  9. CarolinaKate

    Are we close enough to April 1 for this to be an April Fools joke? If not, this is the dumbest idea I've ever heard of. ((And my PC apologies to those who are mute.)

    March 30, 2012 at 8:03 am |
  10. Joel

    Negative emotions????????????? These kids live in NEW YORK!!!!!!!!!!!! They have negative emotions programmed in at birth!! Maybe they should have those "word haters" (sorry is that to negative?) taken out...

    It won't be long before we all have to wear the same clothes, eat the same food, believe in the same things...etc, if this kind of stuff keeps up. If there is individuality left in this world, it will be gone soon. 1984 like a MOTHERF&CKER!!!

    March 30, 2012 at 8:01 am |
  11. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    If these words offend you .. you need counselling not coddling!

    March 30, 2012 at 8:01 am |
  12. Erik

    Pretty soon, there will no longer be such a thing as American history.....all these oversensitive groups, politicians etc....are erasing our history....because they may be offended by a word, or not believe in something...and we are coddling our children to a sickening degree...and they will no longer be able to handle the world on their own and not even know what history is....not know how to deal with a disagreement with someone....if one person celebrates xmas and someone else doesn't doesn't, big deal....deal with it! Among many other things......I'm tired of our country being ruined by all this political crap......we will be a third world country if this continues

    March 30, 2012 at 7:59 am |
  13. Billy

    I love reading comments from libtards criticizing conservatives on this issue when the whole BS topic of "test bias" was invented by libtards.

    March 30, 2012 at 7:59 am |
  14. Billy

    "test bias" more liberal BS made up by idiots who didn't do well on tests

    March 30, 2012 at 7:58 am |
  15. Reality

    Hey, this blog uses a filter for "offensive" words and word fragments numbering (based on the Word counter) at least 165. So in a way the topic prepares the NYC students for the computer world. No doubt newpapers and magazine publishers have word and fragment filters loaded on all of their PCs.

    March 30, 2012 at 7:56 am |
  16. erin

    It's not the conservatives or the liberals that want to 'shield kids from loaded words. It is the (wait for it) LAWYERS! Hello, everyone! In any moment similar to this one must ask the question, "Who stands to benefit financially?" Follow the money and it shall lead one to the fact that the NY schools are making themselves legal proof. That's all. There's no right/left conspiracy afoot, it's just good ol' fashioned lawyering!!!!!

    March 30, 2012 at 7:56 am |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 30, 2012 at 7:56 am |
    • abaddon

      you my friend are a high level a**clown and god hates you.

      March 30, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • Jesus

      You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.!

      March 30, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • blue13

      ...because, of course, Christians never engage in unhealthy behavior that negatively influences children or other living things. Atheism and immorality are not synonymous.

      March 30, 2012 at 8:12 am |
  18. Ali

    "Tolerance" is based on the idea of accepting differences. The group that came up with this list is trying to avoid offending the minority while in the process offending the majority.

    March 30, 2012 at 7:56 am |
  19. Jim D

    This is stupid! They're going to ban words that are "sensitive" yet these same kids will go home and play video games or watch TV programming tht highlights killing, death, hospital scenes, etc. When is NY state going to stop being an enabling parent and face reality: Our students are yanking our chains!

    March 30, 2012 at 7:56 am |
  20. Kennedy

    "Dinosaurs" evoking unpleasant emotions? The New York Post speculated that the "dinosaurs" could "call to mind evolution, which might upset fundamentalists.”

    For the record, most fundamentalists don't have a problem with dinosaurs. We just believe they were created, not a product of evolution.

    March 30, 2012 at 7:56 am |
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