In a move that should bring down a storm of condemnation from pretty much the entire political spectrum, the New York City Department of Education has provided a list of taboo words to the companies that develop standardized testing. Among them are words like “evolution” and “Christmas.” This is taking political correctness to an absurd degree.
Here’s the video:
“Sensitive?” How about we try for “relevant?” Shielding children from the real world is not helping them. Do they need to know the details of cancer? No, but if they’ve reached their tenth birthday without knowing a single person that has it, then they are truly fortunate. For everyone else, it’s just everyday life.
There’s nothing wrong with avoiding ethnic or racially specific words on a test meant for everyone. While I certainly know what “gefilte fish” (a Jewish delicacy) is, most of you do not. I just realized my spell checker didn’t even know what it is. So, too, would a Northerner not necessarily know what grits (yum) or collard greens (yuck) are. Those are words that most people would agree should be kept out of standardized testing if only to not penalize some while giving an unfair advantage to others. But that’s not the case with many of these words. Let’s take a look at them, shall we?
Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological) OK, I get this one. Not really appropriate unless the topic is being covered in class.
Alcohol (beer and liquor), tobacco, or drugs This one, too.
Birthday celebrations (and birthdays) But not this one. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate birthdays? That’s interesting but irrelevant.
Bodily functions Heaven forbid a 10 year old be exposed to the word “burp” or “fart!” This is literally the height of pre-adolescent humor but we should protect them from it?
Cancer (and other diseases) I don’t see why this would be on a standardized test anyway but it’s still a fact of life.
Catastrophes/disasters (tsunamis and hurricanes) You mean those regularly occurring weather events that nobody can avoid forever and is all over the news when they happen? I think that horse has left the barn already.
Celebrities “If Justin Beiber” wins twenty Grammys, how doomed are we as a civilization?” is a perfectly valid question all children should be able to answer.
Children dealing with serious issues Because children are all idiots, obviously. Please God I don’t believe in, don’t let me treat my own children like this when they get older…
Cigarettes (and other smoking paraphernalia) I lump this in with alcohol.
Computers in the home (acceptable in a school or library setting) Why? What possible reason could they have for banning this? Because some kids don’t have one and it will make them feel bad? Ridiculous.
Crime Yeah. Because it doesn’t exist and nothing bad ever happens to children so they shouldn’t even know the word.
Death and disease Still a part of every single human being’s life.
Divorce OK, this is a possible trigger. Lord knows I was a mess in public school during a particularly nasty divorce. Still, with the divorce rate as high as it is, everyone is going to know someone that’s divorced.
Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes People really need to get over this idea that poor people live in perpetual jealously. Seriously.
Gambling involving money OK. I’ll go with this one too. There’s a reason you have to be 18 to gamble.
Halloween Holy Jumping Jack Skellington! Who the hell still thinks of this as a pagan holiday other than actual pagans? Halloween has been so commercialized and stripped of all of its original meaning, you might as well complain about Valentine’s Day as well and that ain’t on this list!
Homelessness Again, let’s all pretend it doesn’t exist so we don’t have to burden future conservatives with thoughts of compassion.
Homes with swimming pools Oh boohoo! Some people have, others don’t. Some people don’t know how to swim, should we not mention beaches, too? Let go of the “class resentment” meme. We don’t resent the wealthy for their wealth, we resent the way they use their wealth to abuse the system at our expense. Huge difference.
Hunting I’m pro-gun restrictions and I have no problem with hunting for food. For sport? Meh. I could do without but I certainly wouldn’t ban it.
Junk food OK, the school doesn’t need to use potato chips in a question when apples and oranges have worked for centuries.
In-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge This falls in to the same category as ethnic foods. Not everyone knows what a touchdown is just like not everyone knows what jai-alai is.
Loss of employment Because that might make children think about how the banks took mommy and daddy’s jobs away. Can’t have Occu-toddlers, now can we?
Nuclear weapons We’re a little past the days of “Duck and Cover” so I guess this isn’t necessary.
Occult topics (i.e. fortune-telling) Should we ban Magic 8-Balls from schools as well? As long as it’s not being presented as proven fact, who cares?
Parapsychology And we should ban all children from watching Ghostbusters and Scooby Doo because that makes just as much sense.
Politics God forbid they learn about how their government functions before they’re allowed to vote. Although I could easily see this being abused by a Republican. “Little Timmy wants to take 25% of your cookies away to give to other children who didn’t earn them like you did. How many cookies are you unjustly deprived of?”
Pornography Someone got paid to come up with this list?
Poverty is a very real issue that 1 in 4 children are living with. Maybe we shouldn’t brush it under the rug, yes?
Rap Music “Y’all gon’ make me act a FOOL up in HERE, up in here. Y’all gon’ make me lose my cool up in here, up in here.” - DMX
Religion Sigh…if it’s not promoting it, then it’s just another aspect of most people’s lives. WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME DEFEND RELIGION?!
Religious holidays and festivals (including but not limited to Christmas, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan) This is New York City we’re talking about! The single most diverse city in the history of the world. Diversity breeds tolerance. Why do you think the GOP tries to stay as white, male, heterosexual and Christian as possible?
Rock-and-Roll music “Elvis! Elvis! Let me be. Keep that pelvis far from me!” – Betty Rizzo
Running away What kind of question would include this anyway? “Jimmy runs away from home for two weeks. How many times is he chased by pimps?” Again, someone got paid to come up with this list?
Sex Trust me, by the time this would be appropriate on a test, they know more about sex than you’re comfortable thinking about.
Slavery Not necessary to use in a test (they tried this and it didn’t go well) but mandatory to be taught in schools contrary to what the GOP would like.
Terrorism I’m surprised they don’t teach this in first grade already. A frightened population is an easily controlled one, after all. Bush proved that.
Television and video games (excessive use) Are kids really expected to see a question and think, “DAMN! I am just not watching enough TV!”?
Traumatic material (including material that may be particularly upsetting such as animal shelters) Errrrr…what?
Vermin (rats and roaches) In NEW YORK?! You might as well pretend pigeons don’t exist either…
Violence, War and bloodshed, Weapons (guns, knives, etc.) OK, not really necessary (unless it’s in the context of hunting).
Witchcraft, sorcery, etc. Yes, let’s pretend one the most successful franchises of ALL time does not exist. Lord Voldemort commands it! All of Disney is also off limits, of course.
As you can see, this list is mostly ridiculous and, in some cases, borderline unconstitutional. The definition of compromise is a solution that pleases no one but this is just a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Children aren’t as delicate as they are portrayed and sheltering them will only stunt their development.
This reminds me of the time my wife and I visited family in Arizona. My wife’s 12-year-old niece asked me if I was going to church with them on Sunday and I replied that I don’t go to church. She asked why and I told her it was because I was Jewish (it was really because I’m an atheist but I wasn’t up for that discussion). She said, “OK” took a bite of her burger, looked at me and said, “What’s Jewish?” I almost choked on my food.
That Christmas, I sent her a kid’s book of Judaism. The next year, she sent me a set of dreidels. I laughed until tears were streaming and my sides ached. Diversity and education breed tolerance. Sheltering children breeds ignorance.