In an over-the-top attempt to be politically correct, The New York City Department of Education (DOE) is seeking to have 50 or so words they deem upsetting removed from city-issued standardized tests.
One of those words is “dinosaur,” apparently because it might bring to mind other no-no words, like “evolution” (also on the proposed list of forbidden words), which could offend test-takers who might not necessarily believe in evolution. (Yes, you read that right!)
Words That Might Make A Child “Feel Unpleasant” During Test-Taking
According to CBS New York, the fear is that certain words and topics could make students “feel unpleasant” while they’re taking city-issued tests. Perhaps the DOE doesn’t realize that the mere act of taking a standardized test makes numerous students feel unpleasant?
Regardless, other ban-list words include: “Halloween” (suggests paganism), “birthday” (insensitive to Jehovah’s Witnesses, who don’t celebrate birthdays), “dancing” (but not “ballet,” which the city has evidently made an exception for), “video games” and “rap music.”
You can check out the complete list of words that could soon become forbidden on NYC tests here.
What on earth is the logic here? By not mentioning “divorce” and “disease,” are children supposed to believe marriages never break up and people don’t get sick? Is it offensive to mention birthdays because one religious group doesn’t celebrate them?
How Are New Yorkers Reacting?
From CBS New York:
Julie Lewis’ family celebrates Christmas and Kwanzaa, but she told CBS 2′s Emily Smith she wants her children to appreciate and learn about other holidays and celebrations.
“They’re going to meet people from all walks of life and they’re going to have to learn to adjust,” Lewis said.
Words that suggest wealth are excluded because they could make kids jealous. “Poverty” is also on the forbidden list. That’s something Sy Fliegal with the Center for Educational Innovation calls ridiculous.
“The Petersons take a vacation for five days in their 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!’” Fliegal said.
I happen to think that standardized tests are a bad idea, and especially when they are high-stakes. But since they do exist, let’s just say that The New York DOE has got it all wrong. Not only is their logic in banning certain words, and by inference certain lifestyles, incorrect, but they have missed an opportunity to address a much more serious issue.
Just Look At Students’ Zip Codes To Predict What Their Scores Will Be
Research has shown again and again that we only need to look at the zip codes of the students to predict what their scores on standardized tests will be. Numerous studies have demonstrated that children of affluence score higher on standardized tests than children of poverty. It’s not hard to see why. When families suffer from economic woes, that suffering is reflected in students’ school performance.
Another reason is that standardized tests measure what’s learned in school, but they also measure what’s learned outside of school. Many experts on educational testing, mostly notably James Popham, have pointed out that numerous items on standardized tests measure skills or knowledge flowing from the kinds of experiences that are more common to children with higher levels of socioeconomic status (SES) than those from lower SES levels. And that’s wrong.
New York’s DOE Has Missed An Opportunity
The New York DOE ought to be rewriting its tests to make them fair for all, instead of banning a few arbitrary words. But of course that would take a lot more time and money.
Photo Credit: Hamed Esmail