NYC Dept. of Education pushes to ban 50 “forbidden” words from standardized tests

Dennis M. Walcott is Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education.

Dennis Walcott is Chancellor of the New York City Dept. of Education. When you ask him a question he doesn’t just listen, he feels it.

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:

  1. Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological)
  2. Alcohol (beer and liquor), tobacco, or drugs
  3. Birthday celebrations (and birthdays)
  4. Bodily functions
  5. Cancer (and other diseases)
  6. Catastrophes/disasters (tsunamis and hurricanes)
  7. Celebrities
  8. Children dealing with serious issues
  9. Cigarettes (and other smoking paraphernalia)
  10. Computers in the home (acceptable in a school or library setting)
  11. Crime
  12. Death and disease
  13. Divorce
  14. Evolution
  15. Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes
  16. Gambling involving money
  17. Halloween
  18. Homelessness
  19. Homes with swimming pools
  20. Hunting
  21. Junk food
  22. In-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge
  23. Loss of employment
  24. Nuclear weapons
  25. Occult topics (i.e. fortune-telling)
  26. Parapsychology
  27. Politics
  28. Pornography
  29. Poverty
  30. Rap Music
  31. Religion
  32. Religious holidays and festivals (including but not limited to Christmas, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan)
  33. Rock-and-Roll music
  34. Running away
  35. Sex
  36. Slavery
  37. Terrorism
  38. Television and video games (excessive use)
  39. Traumatic material (including material that may be particularly upsetting such as animal shelters)
  40. Vermin (rats and roaches)
  41. Violence
  42. War and bloodshed
  43. Weapons (guns, knives, etc.)
  44. Witchcraft, sorcery, etc.



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