This year’s list of words that New York City Department of Education prohibit from being included in the city’s standardized tests has been severely criticized for including the word ‘dinosaur’. A spokesman said that the list was designed to avoid topics that ‘could evoke unpleasant emotions in students’ and that they wanted children to be able to complete tests without distraction.
In its request for proposal, 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.”
However many have questioned why ‘dinosaur’ was included when creationists accept the existence of dinosaurs in the past, merely rejecting the same timescale for this existence as proposed by evolutionists. Almost as bizarre is the inclusion of the word ‘television’. While one could stretch to imagine the word ‘birthday’ may upset some cultures that don’t celebrate birthdays, very few things are universal to all cultures and belief systems, so universality as a requirement for inclusion could make formulating the test impossible.
Sam Wineburg, a professor at Stanford University and director of the Stanford History Education group, was unenthused by the behavior of the New York City Education Department. He went beyond dismissing the arbitrary selection of the verboten words and attacked the very principle of making education too safe.
“The purpose of education is to create unpleasant experiences in us. … The Latin meaning if education is ‘to go out.’ Education is not about making us feel warm and fuzzy inside.”
Wineburg questioned the idea that the New York City Department of Education would want to “shield kids from these types of encounters.” He said the goal of education is to “prepare them,” adding “this is how we dumb down public schools.”