Tuesday, April 03, 2012

"Loaded Words"

From the "Oh, For Crying Out Loud Department" - today, via the CNN Belief Blog - comes this amazing story: New York City Schools Want to Ban Loaded Words from Tests.


It seems that in an attempt to be politically correct and not give any offense to anyone, the New York City school system is trying to purge its standardized tests of any words which might offend the sensibilities of various groups. Among the words to be purged are:

Dinosaur - which might upset some religious fundamentalists who don't believe in evolution;

Birthday - which could offend Jehovah's Witnesses, who don't celebrate birthdays;

Halloween - which irritates religious conservatives by invoking thoughts of paganism;

Divorce - which could cause mental anguish for children whose parents are going through the Big Split.

Pepperoni (!) - which, along with various other food or product words, might refer to items either specific to or offensive to particular ethnic or cultural groups; and,

Rock and Roll (!!) - who can explain that one?

The article, by Brian Vitagliano, points out that it isn't just New York that looks to keep "loaded words" out of its tests or textbooks. For instance, the word weed is not allowed in California (where, presumably, one would also refer to "the cooking vessel calling the kettle black"), and Florida tries to avoid use of the words hurricane and wildfire, both of which can evoke considerable angst in that state.

The article goes on to explain the backstory this way ...

"... the NYC Department of Education explained it wanted to avoid certain words if the "the topic is controversial among the adult population and might not be acceptable in a state-mandated testing situation; the topic has been overused in standardized tests or textbooks and is thus overly familiar and/or boring to students; the topic appears biased against (or toward) some group of people ... This is standard language that has been used by test publishers for many years and allows our students to complete practice exams without distraction."

Stanford University professor Sam Weinberg, an education expert and director of the Stanford History Education Group, was quoted as saying, "This is how we dumb down public schools."

The purging of certain potentially offensive words from school textbooks or tests is not a new issue ... the controversy over eliminating the dreaded "N-word" from copies of Mark Twain's classic story Huckleberry Finn comes to mind. But I don't think that we do our children (or ourselves) a service by trying to purge their environments of everything that might possibly make them uncomfortable, or that some particular group might find offensive. They're going to hear these terms eventually, and it's probably better if they have been prepared for it in advance.

The deliberate use of offensive or insulting language should never be tolerated by decent people ... but the idea that dinosaur, birthday, and rock-and-roll fall into that category is just plain silly. If we're going to go that far, let's eliminate loaded words that offend me ... fighting words like Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative, Congress, and Super PAC.

But what do I know?

Have a good day. Choose your words carefully. More thoughts tomorrow.


P.S. - In his blog post today Mike is featuring mug shots, so I thought I'd get in one of my own:

You're welcome.



eViL pOp TaRt said...

Bilbo, your post today is very much to the point. I'm utterly amazed that those words are considered troublesome. Well, maybe a case can be made for dinosaur as a slang expression for someone who has been in a job for a long time and doesn't adapt well to change -- but the others are odd!

Pepperoni? Does andouille alkso make the list? Or proscuitto?

Duckbutt said...

Fantastically stupid. After these clowns get done, we'll have a small dictionary left.

Gilahi said...

"...California (where, presumably, one would also refer to "the cooking vessel calling the kettle black")"

Are you kidding me? One should never use the word "black".

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...


But I do love your mug shot.
actually better than the 72 Mike is showing us. :-)

Big Sky Heidi said...

The word "gsy" is a no-no in Tennessee.

Mike said...

Hey it's the dinosaurs' birthday on Halloween. Lets get some pepperoni pizza and rock and roll all night.

Amanda said...

'Political correctness' is an endless source of crazy things like this.

allenwoodhaven said...

This has got to be an April Fool's joke. If not, then anyone who supports this nonsense is a fool not matter what month it is!

Is it okay to use the word "fool"? I wouldn't want to offend the idiots. Oops, I did it again. I'd better quit while I'm behind...