How Can a School That Bans Words Teach Kids?

testsWith some of the outdated references I've seen on the papers that show up in my kid's backpack (seriously, my first grader didn't know what a chalkboard was!), I wasn't surprised to hear there are plans to update tests in the New York City schools. But I was surprised to hear the directions the schools' politically correct planners gave the testmakers.

No dinosaurs. No birthdays. No Halloween. No terrorism. No slavery. No divorce. And none of dozens more words on assessment tests for English, math, social studies, and science.

Funny. I thought they were trying to educate kids? And they can't talk about dinosaurs? Or terrorism? Or slavery? I learned all of those words in school ... how about you?


The whackadoodle "off-limits" list of 50 taboo terms is said to have been put together by the city’s Department of Education "for fear the words could 'appear biased' or 'evoke unpleasant emotions' in students." After the troubling case of a Georgia teacher using examples of slaves being beaten and picking cotton on children's math homework, I understand setting down limits.

But they still need to educate kids here. And I'm not sure how you assess a child's knowledge of American history without the words "slavery" or "terrorism." Or talk about Henry VIII without the word "divorce." Or actually help kids grow into adults by skirting around words that might (or might not) make them uncomfortable.

This seems less about education than it does about feeding into this generation of parents' helicopter mentality. Like the parents who have sucked all the fun out of Easter egg hunts in their over-aggressive attempts to make sure their kid doesn't feel the disappointment of not finding an egg, these "educators" are sanitizing the education system to prevent kids from having to deal with any discomfort in life.

But life is uncomfortable. Terrorism. Slavery. Divorce. All that stuff sucks. But it's still real. We can't pretend it away. And I'm not sure why we'd want to. There's that old quote about the people who can't learn from the past ... they are doomed to repeat it.

If kids can't handle the reality of facts, like the fact that there are people who get divorced, and terrorism does happen, at 9 or 12, when are we going to break it to them? WHEN? And if you're too afraid of hurting kids' feelings, how can you possible teach them?

What do you think of these rules? Are they necessary?


Image via DaveBleasdale/Flickr

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