I have a few loaded words I could use to describe this situation …
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.
Apparently they want to do this by keeping kids safe from words. Which are on the potential chopping block? Again, there are more than fifty, but here are a few:
Dinosaur, for fears that it could bring to mind the phenomenon of evolution and send a creationist to his or her fainting couch. But, as the article points out, most creationists believe in dinosaurs; they just think Adam and Eve shared the garden of Eden with them and Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a T-rex. I don’t know. Anyway, I see nothing wrong with reminding creationists that science and reality still exist, even if they don’t like the idea.
Halloween, because it could bunch some pantaloons over the fact that it has pagan roots. Even though the original holiday of Samhain was essentially hijacked by Christians and turned into All Hallows Eve, so the name itself should really bring Christianity to mind. Either way, I don’t care.
Birthday, because it might offend Jehovah’s Witnesses. I honestly see no logic here whatsoever.
Divorce. Well, okay, divorce might get a pass … I remember there was a wave of it when I was about eight or nine, and that hit some of my friends pretty hard. The last thing you need to get during a test is a reminder that you’re going to go home that night to a broken family.
Then there’s pepperoni. PEPPERONI. Why? Because it’s a food “persons of some religions or cultures may not indulge in.” I have fallen for an Onion article. They are seriously afraid people – I’m assuming Muslims and Jews – are going to be offended by reading about the fact that some people eat pork? I’d imagine our treatment of anyone even remotely brown in this country does a far more thorough job of offending people than mentioning cured pig meat on a standardizes test.
It’s bad enough that evangelicals in this country are trying to hide reality from children by telling them evolution is a lie, condoms cause HIV, or that starlight was created to give the appearance that it’s been traveling for billions of years. Now we have educators who are afraid of upsetting people with aspects of reality that they encounter regularly in many other aspects of their lives that they want to pretend the ideas don’t exist.
When reached by phone said [Stanford University Professor Sam] 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.”
… wait, that’s probably on the list too.