If you want the contract to write tests for New York City schools, you need to know ahead of time that you can’t mention a good portion of human existence in your questions. For at least the fifth year, the NYC schools have produced a list of 50 words or phrases that are banned on tests.
Some of them are vaguely reasonable, I suppose, but many veer in the direction of pure insanity.
You can’t mention birthdays or birthday celebrations, presumably because a tiny number of people don’t celebrate birthdays for religious reasons. You can’t mention dinosaurs, although that one is a mystery. (The CBS story above speculates that it’s because that might offend creationists, but creationists believe dinosaurs existed.) It’s verboten to mention home computers, although it’s perfectly fine to mention them in a school or library setting. I assume they think that kids aren’t aware that many people have computers at home these days.
Religion and religious holidays aren’t supposed to exist, for the most part. They’re also not supposed to talk about junk food, for some reason. Maybe they think kids are unaware of that, too. It’s hard to say. Don’t dare mention divorce or houses that have swimming pools, either.
NYC school chancellor Dennis Walcott seems surprised by the uproar and says the system is merely providing guidance to test-makers for grades 3 through 8.
“So we’re not an outlier in being politically correct,” Walcott said. “This is just making sure that test makers are sensitive in the development of their tests.”
Walcott says that other systems nationwide have their lists as well, but NYC’s list is longer because the students of the district are so diverse.
Take a look at the list of banned words, phrases and subjects and see for yourself whether they’re being reasonable or politically correct:
Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological)
Alcohol (beer and liquor), tobacco, or drugs
Birthday celebrations (and birthdays)
Cancer (and other diseases)
Catastrophes/disasters (tsunamis and hurricanes)
Children dealing with serious issues
Cigarettes (and other smoking paraphernalia)
Computers in the home (acceptable in a school or library setting)
Death and disease
Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes
Gambling involving money
Homes with swimming pools
In-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge
Loss of employment
Occult topics (i.e. fortune-telling)
Religious holidays and festivals (including but not limited to Christmas, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan)
Television and video games (excessive use)
Traumatic material (including material that may be particularly upsetting such as animal shelters)
Vermin (rats and roaches)
War and bloodshed
Weapons (guns, knives, etc.)
Witchcraft, sorcery, etc.