Banning

So I know I haven’t blogged in a while, despite my attempt to pick it back up earlier this year.  I’ll try and do an update post later.  But Kris just saw this article, and it got my blood boiling

NYC schools are moving to ban 50 words from standardized testing for their students because they’re too “loaded” and can cause distress, etc.

I pulled the complete list of words from here, but I’ll list them again with my reactions:

  • Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological) – This is counterproductive.  This is just going to make abuse victims think it’s something to be ashamed of, and make getting them to come forward even harder.  
  • Alcohol (beer and liquor), tobacco, or drugs – Good luck mentioning the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.  Or Prohibition.
  • Birthday celebrations (and birthdays) – This one is just silly.  Birthdays happen.  While some religions (Jehovah’s Witness comes to mind immediately) don’t celebrate them, it doesn’t mean that they’re offensive.
  • Bodily functions – Hope they don’t plan on asking any biology or anatomy questions on standardized tests.  I can see it now: “Please name the part of your body that allows you to see: A. eyes   B. nose   C. ears   D. throat”  NYC schools – NO, THAT QUESTION IS OFFENSIVE!
  • Cancer (and other diseases) – Cancer sucks.  It’s probably affected someone in almost everyone’s life.  My grandpa died from cancer, both grandmas had cancer and multiple other people in my life have had cancer.  It’s a fact of life.  It’s not going to go away just because it’s not on the NYC approved word list.  Same with other diseases.
  • Catastrophes/disasters (tsunamis and hurricanes) – Good luck testing on current events, history, or literature.  Kris and I made it through Katrina, and I don’t have a conniption if natural disasters are mentioned.  
  • Celebrities – In general, I kind of agree with this one.  There’s not usually a reason to discuss celebrities on a standardized test.  I’m sure there are exceptions.  But I also don’t really see the issue with having mention of them.  If people can’t handle that other are more famous or richer than they are, they need to grow up.
  • Children dealing with serious issues – This cuts out a large amount of classic literature which EVERYONE in the country reads.  Secret Garden, Number the Stars, and other books like them were written specifically to show children/young adults that you can live THROUGH traumatic situations.  By cutting mention of these out of standardized testing your HARMING their emotional and social development.
  • Cigarettes (and other smoking paraphernalia) – Again, literature is rife with references to smoking.  I can’t believe that there isn’t a kid left out there that hasn’t gotten the message that smoking is bad for you.  Guess what, people do things that are bad for them.  WE CAN’T and SHOULDN’T mandate that they stop.  So talking about it isn’t going to make a difference.
  • Computers in the home (acceptable in a school or library setting) – Kids know that life isn’t fair – especially those who can’t afford luxuries.  Being patronizing by implying that they can’t handle the mention that other people are well-off is just, well, patronizing.  And rude.  And counterproductive.
  • Crime – REALLY?!  REALLY?!  Are you kidding?  Does anyone really believe that kids in NYC don’t know that crime exists, and have their own coping mechanisms.  Do we really want to be teaching them that denial is a POSITIVE coping mechanism?  I THINK NOT.
  • Death and disease – See cancer, crime, et al
  • Divorce – See above.  Do not treat children/young adults as if they’re fragile.  They’re not, and it’s rude and patronizing to do so.
  • Evolution – Seeing as every public school is required to teach evolution as science, this is a dumb idea.  There is nothing else to even say to this one.
  • Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes – See my response to the computer item.
  • Gambling involving money – I’m not sure I even understand this one.  How does talking about gambling involving money harm anyone?  And it’s going to seriously put a damper on literature and history as well.
  • Halloween – Seeing as the current celebration has NOTHING to do with religion anymore, this is silly.  It’s a commercialized candy grab.  Now, I love me some candy, so I’m not knocking Halloween, but the argument that it celebrates paganism is tossed about so much that most people don’t actually even know what the roots of the holiday are.  So unless those opposed don’t participate in ANY form of the holiday, including All Saint’s Day at their local church, they need to shut up.
  • Homelessness – Counter-productive.  Not talking about social issues does not make them go away – just like cancer.
  • Homes with swimming pools – See computers, et al
  • Hunting – People eat animals.  Meat may be murder, but it’s tasty tasty murder.  It’s how we made it to the top of the food-chain.
  • Junk food – It’s yummy – see cigarettes.
  • In-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge – DUMB.  I have rarely ever seen a in-depth discussion of any sport on a standardized test – much less one that requires prior knowledge (unless that knowledge is that the sport exists).  “Regarding the trajectory of a baseball traveling from 1st to 2nd base.  If the length of the baseline is 30 ft, and it takes 7.2 seconds to travel that distance, how fast is the ball traveling.”  THIS IS NOT BASEBALL TALK.  IT’S MATH!  
  • Loss of employment – Yes, being unemployed sucks.  But again, like homelessness and cancer, it won’t go away if you ignore it.
  • Nuclear weapons – Uh oh, sorry WWII, you didn’t actually end in the Pacific Theater, because we CAN’T TALK ABOUT NUCLEAR WEAPONS.  Oh, invasion of Iraq over WMDs?  NOPE, can’t talk about you either.  COLD WAR – BWAH HAHAHAHHAHA, get out of here.
  • Occult topics (i.e. fortune-telling) – Bye-bye literature, exposure to other cultures, and general open-mindedness.  Hello McCarthy.  (Oh wait, can we talk about him?  NOPE POLITICS)
  • Parapsychology – Does this REALLY come up often on standardized tests?  REALLY?
  • Politics – Well…so…history…stuff happened…because of…well…stuff.  And then…oh wait, nope, can’t mention that either…
  • Pornography – Well, there goes certain discussions of history and laws.  Oh wait, politics already killed history.  Why not take the icing too?
  • Poverty – See homelessness et al
  • Rap Music – Again, I can’t imagine how often this is really an issue.
  • Religion – Bye-bye what’s left of history.  Religion and politics are going to go hang themselves in a corner now.
  • Religious holidays and festivals (including but not limited to Christmas, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan) – As long as the test isn’t promoting that one holiday is better/more important/shinier/whatever, it’s not that big of a deal.  Why are we trying to shelter kids from things that they are going to experience in the real world.  THIS IS NOT HELPING CHILDREN!
  • Rock-and-Roll music – Wait, did we just time travel to Footloose?  I know they just remade it…but wow…
  • Running away – In general, I think running away can be a good thing.  Especially if there’s a jaguar chasing you.  And I’m sorry Maniac Magee, but you are no longer classic literature.
  • Sex – If there was anything left of history after removing politics and religion, it’s gone now.  Sex, please join the other two in the corner.
  • Slavery – “Please list the main motivating factor for the Civil War   A. Slavery   B. States Rights  C. Abraham Lincoln’s Hat   D.  White Supremacy.  Well, I guess the answer is C, since the others all WERE LEFT OFF AS OPTIONS”
  • Terrorism – I’m almost positive that terrorism is something that children everywhere in the country (but especially in NYC) know that terrorism exists.  Pretending that it doesn’t by not mentioning it is patronizing, rude, and utterly pointless.
  • Television and video games (excessive use) – See cancer, gambling, et al
  • Traumatic material (including material that may be particularly upsetting such as animal shelters) – This is so vague and broad that my extreme fear of spiders could be traumatic.  So I would theoretically be in my rights to boycott my Regent’s Exam because there was a spider question?  NO.  FAIL.  
  • Vermin (rats and roaches) – While Indiana Jones had issues with vermin, they have been major players in history.  Black Plague ring a bell for anyone?  Oh wait, that’s a disease, and history – so it’s already out of the running.
  • Violence – Sorry history, apparently you REALLY pissed off some councilmen.  Maybe they needed a better history teacher.
  • War and bloodshed – See violence.  Also, that Civil War question.  Now it’s reads like a Jeopardy question: “What is Abraham Lincoln’s Hat?”
  • Weapons (guns, knives, etc.) – See Alcohol, cigarettes, and well, pretty much everything.
  • Witchcraft, sorcery, etc. – Bye bye literature again.  
In conclusion, NYC Department of Education, you are misnamed.  You are aiming to remove all the things we are trying to teach our youngsters.  Sheltering children from real world issues is not a good thing.  It’s why people enter the real world and can’t handle it.  We need to stop treating our youth like they’re stupid and fragile, and instead give them the tools to deal with issues when they arise.  The Department of Education would better spend their time ensuring that every child has access to a physically safe environment and to teacher’s who have the tools to do their jobs, instead of pushing for asinine rules which are detrimental to their students.
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