Political correctness has run amuck in New York City schools. In a move that can only be described as bizarre, educators in the Big Apple have decided to ban references to “dinosaurs,” “birthdays,” “Halloween” and dozens of other topics on city-issued tests.
That’s because they fear these words could conjure up “unpleasant emotions in the students.”
The mention of dinosaurs obviously make one think of evolution, which might upset fundamentalists; birthdays are not celebrated by Jehovah’s Witnesses; and Halloween could be thought of as paganism.
Even “dancing’’ is off limits, because some sects object, but there will be an exception made for ballet.
The new guidelines for political correctness on steroids were recently sent out to companies competing to revamp city English, math, science and social-studies tests given throughout the school year to gauge student progress.
“Some of these topics may be perfectly acceptable in other contexts but do not belong in a city- or state-wide assessment,” the request reads.
Poverty as well as any words that suggest wealth are excluded because they could make kids jealous.
Divorce and disease are also outlawed because kids taking the tests may have relatives who split from spouses or are ill.
Officials say such exclusions are normal procedure.
“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.
In fact, sensitivity guidelines recently published by a group of states creating new high-stakes exams also caution against mentioning luxuries, group dancing, junk food, homelessness or witches.
Although a comparison shows the New York City’s banned word list is nearly twice as long and has fewer exceptions.
The city asks test creating companies to exclude “creatures from outer space,” celebrities, excessive TV and video-game use, homes with swimming pools and computers, all of which are acceptable elsewhere.
City officials also require test makers to make sure to not include anything potentially “disrespectful to authority or authority figures,”.
Terrorism and slavery are also deemed to be too intimidating.
Officials said the ban list ins’t absolute and some words may be included on some exams on a case-by-case basis.
“The intent is to avoid giving offense or disadvantage any test takers by privileging prior knowledge,” said Robert Pondiscio, a spokesman for the Core Knowledge Foundation, an education group.
“But the irony is they’re eliminating some subjects, like junk food, holidays and popular music, that the broadest number of kids are likely to know quite a lot about.”
Columbia University Teachers College professor Deanna Kuhn said, “If the goal is to assess higher-order thinking skills, controversial topics, for example, ones that are the subject of political debate, are exactly what students should be reasoning about.”