Is there a difference between censorship and blocking the use of certain words to protect the feelings of some people? The New York City school system believes there is and has instructed companies that create testing materials to exclude dozens of words and terms from their submissions.
Some of the “offensive” words and topics:
Dinosaur – apparently people who don’t believe in evolution might be offended
Halloween – rumored to support Paganism and that bothers some
Birthday – Jehovah‘s Witnesses don’t celebrate birthdays, so nobody else should know about it… right?
Dancing - unless it is ballet dancing
Computers – if mentioned as being in homes… use in schools and libraries is ok
Those are just a few of the subjects considered to be taboo on tests. The city sent a memo to companies that create tests for the NYC schools, more than four dozen words were on a list to be excluded from testing materials. Topics like divorce and disease are to be avoided, because a student taking a test could be the child of a split marriage or might have a sick relative. Mentions of wealthy people could create jealousy. Poverty is also off limits, as poor or non-wealthy kids could be offended.
The New York Post reported on the story and tracked down a NY-DOE spokeswoman and got the following clarification on the exclusion guidelines:
“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 of Education spokeswoman, insisting it’s not censorship.
The Post article also mentioned that “slavery” is not to be mentioned and “terrorism” is too toxic for tests. This seems a tad ironic as NYC was the site of America’s deadliest terror attack.
The local ABC affiliate reported on the story and also spoke with parents about the removal of language from the tests.