Friday, March 30, 2012

Banning Words = Bad

Today a friend posted an article on Facebook about a movement in the New York City Department of Education to eliminate “loaded” words from tests.  When I saw the title, I was of course interested because I was not really sure what a “loaded” word was.  Well apparently, it includes words like Halloween, Divorce, Dinosaurs, Birthday, Religion, Christmas, Television, and 43 more words.  It sounds like something out of a horrific science fiction pre-teen type book.

The Department is quoted as requesting a word be banned if "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." 

I can only echo the other articles I have read that ask how words like Dinosaur and Rock-n-Roll evoke negative emotions. (Yes, Rock-n-Roll is on the list too).  Okay, the Sleestak from the Land of the Lost scared the crap out of me when I was a child.  The newer generations have Barney.  Perhaps this explains the ban?

The Department would not officially comment on each word, and I have not yet found the entire list.  Many people are pointing fingers and saying this is the result of religious conservatives.  I can almost see their point, but this is a much bigger issue.

Like it or not, we live in a global world with real people and real issues.  People celebrate many different holidays as a result of many different religions. We do not live in silos from country to country.  People watch television – they even watch dinosaurs on television sometimes, and actually buy them – Dinos and/or TVs - as presents for birthdays, Christmas or other religious occasions!  They even dress up as dinosaurs for Halloween!  My son was a dinosaur/dragon-type-thing for his first Halloween and won best-dressed.  We obviously did not celebrate in NYC.

It is unfortunate that still, so many people in the US think this part of the world where I live is such a scary, repressed place.  I am just entering the world of education in Dubai with my son, and so far the only thing banned in schools here that I am aware of is soda.  A kid could not even bring a cola in his lunch to school if he tried.  Why?  To promote health.  Banning words promotes what?  Uninformed, young adults?  A generation that is sheltered from the realities of the world?...and so much more. 

This is another reason why I feel so lucky to live here.  I am so grateful to the UAE for creating an environment where people and their beliefs are respected.  I love that the schools here encourage, celebrate and respect all cultures and holidays of the children that go there.  It is an amazing experience. 

The scary Sleestak. I am sure my fear is understood now!
(Image from
P.S. For those of you living here, don’t tell the NY Department of Education that there is beef pepperoni.  That is one of the banned words – yes, pepperoni.  According to the Department it may be offensive because some "persons of some religions or cultures may not indulge in it." Let’s see how long it takes them to catch on.

... If only this were an early April Fool's joke, but I would seriously doubt it!


Sew Pretty Dresses said...

Well said. Although I think if this is some kind of attempt to appease the 'religious right' this has really resulted in ignorance of religion not a response to a conservative religious right or whoever that group is I keep hearing and reading about but do not observe! Makes me crazy! I am sure there are those out there that fit the bill, perhaps I know them and just don't realize it, but there are plenty more religious ones that aren't. In my faith we are a diversified group like any other united by basic tenets of the Bible. I could go deeper in the theology aspect of it but then it would be longer than your blog post! haha! But would happily do so if need be. So annoying this article was in the religion section! Can you tell this bugs me?? Put religion aside, and you cannot ever 'sanitize' the language enough to cover every sensitivity in every child. Nor should you! Thanks for the great post! Those Sleestak are creepy! Oh and long live Rock n' Roll!!! Haha!

Pam said...

Thanks Jenny.. I didn't find it a typical religious right response. Typically, they seem to only care about their god and what is in their own box, not that of others - at least that is how the media portrays them... I would not expect them to care about other religions, or offending someone with words that suggest pork products.