New York City school officials have decided to ban 50 topics from standardized tests, including dinosaurs, aliens and birthdays. Why? Well, because apparently even birthdays are controversial, and could make kids upset. Apparently, for example, dinosaurs could remind them of evolution, and the topic of birthdays is banned because Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate them.
The banned topics were recently listed in a request for proposals to completely revamp the city’s English, math, science and social-studies tests the schools use for annual assessment.
In the request for proposals, school officials explained that the banned topics, “could evoke unpleasant emotions in the students.” This list is the longest by any state, and some people have called it outrageous, and a form of censorship.
A Department of Education spokeswomen, insisting that the list is not censorship, stated that, “This is standard language that has been used by test publishers for many years and allows our students to complete practice exams without distraction.”
Robert Pondiscio, a spokesman for the Core Knowledge Foundation, an education group, stated that:
” The intent is to avoid giving offense or disadvantage any test takers by privileging prior knowledge…but the irony is they’re eliminating some subjects, like junk food, holidays and popular music, that the broadest number of kids are likely to know quite a lot about.”
Deanna Kuhn, a professor with the Columbia University Teachers College disagrees with the ban, saying:
“If the goal is to assess higher-order thinking skills, controversial topics, for example, ones that are the subject of political debate, are exactly what students should be reasoning about.”
Also included on the list are topics like dancing (except ballet), celebrities, animals or inanimate objects with human characteristics, and references to excessive TV-watching or video-came-playing.