New York city schools want to ban 'loaded words' from tests (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."

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.

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.

Read the rest here.


Political correctness, yet again.  Heaven forefend ANYONE should be offended or upset or become emotionally distressed at some word in a test ... or in a newspaper or a television broadcast or any one of a million other potential sources for thoughts that don't coincide with someone's belief set.  This is exactly the same mode of thinking which the radical islamists use to insist that NO ONE may insult their religion or their prophet.

And for the umpti-umpth time, I have to repeat:


The world in general can be remarkably hostile.  The laws of nature do not yield to human opinion or sensitivity.  There are 10,000 flavors of unpleasantness all over the place, which one can either adapt to or fall victim to.  Among the LEAST of these are WORDS.  Words harm only to the degree the listener gives them permission to, and in the case of the words mentioned in the article above, none of them should be considered so heinous as to warrant censure.

My prescription both for those who might be offended by such words, as well as those who would attempt to censor them remains what it always has been:


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Replies to This Discussion

I saw this on FB.  A former test administrator claimed that many of these words are already not used because it cause undue stress on kids that already are stressed about taking the test.  This has nothing to do with test topics but, reading comprehension.  The topics are still being taught in schools.

Up to a point, I can understand the qualification (stressed vs. MORE stressed), yet I still wonder about the degree of additional stress represented by a WORD.  My concern is that if an exemption is made in ONE circumstance, someone will demand that it be made elsewhere.

The slope just gets slipperier all the time.

"test" invokes unpleasant emotions for me.

Yeah, it USED to for me, sure as hell in college.  The one saving grace is that college is about 40 years ago ... and good riddance!





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