In an extreme case of political correctness, New York City has recently created a list of words that will be banned from New York State tests. You might be thinking that perhaps the words might be slanderous or even elude to atrocities, like slavery, and while words pertaining to slavery have indeed made the list, words such as ‘birthday’ and ‘dinosaur’ have also been banned.
The reasoning behind the word ban is that educators believe that the identified words “could evoke unpleasant emotions in the students.” My Fox New York reports the correlation between the words and why some might object to their use:
Dinosaurs, for example, call to mind evolution, which might upset fundamentalists; birthdays are not celebrated by Jehovah’s Witnesses; and Halloween suggests paganism. Even “dancing” is taboo, because some sects object.
The forbidden topics were recently spelled out in a request for proposals provided to companies competing to revamp New York City’s English, math, science and social-studies tests. In a request for proposals to companies that are currently competing for the job to rewrite the city’s state tests, the requirement that specific words be purposely left out has been very clearly outlined, “Some of these topics may be perfectly acceptable in other contexts but do not belong in a city- or state-wide assessment,” says the proposal.
Other banned words include any that elude to wealth (which might make kids jealous) as well as poverty, divorce, and disease.
The Department of Education maintains that this is not censorship, “This is standard language that has been used by test publishers for many years and allows our students to complete practice exams without distraction,” said a department spokesperson. It’s been pointed out that New York is not the only state to do this and “sensitivity guidelines published recently by a group of states creating new high-stakes exams also caution against mentioning luxuries, group dancing, junk food, homelessness or witches,” but New York has well over 50 banned topics which is twice more than most other cities.
Have we, the city where “if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere”, become the city where you might make it as long as you’re not offending anyone and don’t get your feelings hurt?
Ugh, where to begin….?
Of course, tests should be as mainstream as possible when administered to children with various different backgrounds and experiences so every child has a fighting chance to excel. But, is it really necessary to ban topics like birthdays and dinosaurs because they might offend someone who doesn’t believe in them? If the Department of Education (or anyone for that matter) starts to ban words that might offend a certain group, then we might as well just stop talking and writing. We can’t go to extremes to please everyone. Furthermore, it is impossible. Certainly, if a test question says “Johnny had 5 friends over for his birthday” or “10 kids went trick-or-treating”, it shouldn’t be an issue.
It is not possible to know what affects every person psychologically. One child might be afraid of ‘thunder’, should that be allowed? What about ‘apples’ for a kid who is allergic or ‘puppies’ for the child whose dog has just died?
Kids are not dumb, and they know that different cultures have different practices and beliefs. Not everyone is rich. Some of us struggle financially. Many of us ourselves grew up in poverty. Our kids know it. The whole point of education is to help children become knowledgeable about the world they live in. It’s the reason why current events are stressed from the early grade school years. Will that be the next thing banned?
In a time when our children have the most access to more smut, violence, and atrocities through the internet, cable TV and just the basic substandard programming for kids and teens out there, when Jersey Shore cast and the Kardashians are paraded around every where you turn around, when Chris Brown beats his girlfriend and gets awarded and applauded for it, when toddlers (yes, toddlers) are wearing make-up and heels to win a crown, when 7-year-olds are marketed to wear push-up bras, when 8-year-olds learn burlesque, and when hugging is banned at school but hitting is OK, it seems at times that we all lost our sensibilities in what is truly acceptable, or even normal.
Our kids don’t live in a bubble. Why are we trying to put them in one?
What do you think? What topics, if any, should be banned from state tests in you opinion? Would you object to dinosaur being used in a test question? How about a reference to potato chips?
And the big question, are we raising a generation of people who are being trained to not be able to cope with difficulties, or even differences in life?
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