Operating under the fear that certain keywords or phrases may cause an unpleasant emotion in students, the New York City Department of Education is requesting 50 or so words be removed from city-issued tests — and “yes” the word “guns” is on that list.
WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond, reported on Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott’s explanation of why several of the words had made the list. The word “dinosaur,” for example, ties to evolution — something creationists may find displeasing. “Halloween” could be connected to paganism. While “birthday,” though we all have one, may rub Jehovah’s Witnesses the wrong way as it’s something they don’t celebrate.
The full list – featured below – goes on and on, including other words and phrases like “celebrities,” “computers in the home,” “junk food,” “rock-and-roll music,” “television,” and of course, “hunting” and “weapons (guns, knives, etc.)”
Not all parents agree with the DOE’s plans, however. Julie Lewis’ family recognizes both Christmas and Kwanza, but she wants her children to be able to learn and take part of other culture’s and their holidays too.
“They’re going to meet people from all walks of life and they’re going to have to learn to adjust,” Lewis said.
Any allusion to wealth could stir up envy or jealousy, so that’s out too. On the other end of the spectrum would be “poverty,” which again holds a place on the list.
“The Petersons take a vacation for five days in the Mercedes … so what? You think our kids are going to be offended because they don’t have a Mercedes? You think our kids are going to say ‘I’m offended; how could they ask me a question about a Mercedes? I don’t have a Mercedes!’” said Sy Fliegal with the Center for Educational Innovation.
According to Walcott, the DOE only offers the list as a source of guidance for test developers.
“So we’re not an outlier in being politically correct. This is just making sure that test makers are sensitive in the development of their tests,” Walcott said.
Banning words from tests is nothing new. School districts nationwide have employed similar, if not lesser, measures. Walden explained that New York City’s student body is very diverse, thus requiring a considerably more exhaustive list.
Following is the full list of words that could be banned:
- Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological)
- Alcohol (beer and liquor), tobacco, or drugs
- Birthday celebrations (and birthdays)
- Bodily functions
- Cancer (and other diseases)
- Catastrophes/disasters (tsunamis and hurricanes)
- Children dealing with serious issues
- Cigarettes (and other smoking paraphernalia)
- Computers in the home (acceptable in a school or library setting)
- Death and disease
- Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes
- Gambling involving money
- Homes with swimming pools
- Junk food
- In-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge
- Loss of employment
- Nuclear weapons
- Occult topics (i.e. fortune-telling)
- Rap Music
- Religious holidays and festivals (including but not limited to Christmas, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan)
- Rock-and-Roll music
- Running away
- Television and video games (excessive use)
- Traumatic material (including material that may be particularly upsetting such as animal shelters)
- Vermin (rats and roaches)
- War and bloodshed
- Weapons (guns, knives, etc.)
- Witchcraft, sorcery, etc.