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NYC Bans Mention of Dinosaurs, Dancing, Birthdays On Student Tests 470

New submitter SchroedingersCat writes "New York educators banned references to 'dinosaurs,' 'birthdays,' 'Halloween' and dozens of other topics on city-issued tests. That is because they fear such topics 'could evoke unpleasant emotions in the students.' Dinosaurs, for example, call to mind evolution, which might upset fundamentalists; birthdays are not celebrated by Jehovah's Witnesses; and Halloween suggests paganism. Homes with swimming pools and home computers are also unmentionables — because of economic sensitivities. The city asks test companies to exclude 'creatures from outer space' as well — for unspecified reasons."
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NYC Bans Mention of Dinosaurs, Dancing, Birthdays On Student Tests

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  • Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lightknight ( 213164 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @07:03PM (#39502495) Homepage

    And there was a time when people would strive to find things that challenged them, if only to learn more about themselves.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @07:05PM (#39502521)

    I now feel the need to write a single test question that involves every item on this list.

  • Great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cosgrach ( 1737088 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @07:05PM (#39502535)

    This is about the stupidest thing that I have read all day. These people need to grow up.

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @07:06PM (#39502555)

    "Test", because it evokes unpleasant emotions.
    "New York", because it could be associated with stupidity.
    "Student", because that could be mistaken for somebody that wants to learn and has an open mind.

    Seriously, there is a limit. Modern human beings should have a reasonable level of tolerance for ideas that are not their own, and only reject them after they have looked at them carefully. (Yes, that includes actually looking at creationism and concluding for yourself that it is stupid.) They absolutely must have an open mind for all things scientific.

  • by malraid ( 592373 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @07:09PM (#39502595)
    I hope they get rid of those two. Because I just lost all my faith in humanity. “I Don't Want to Live on this Planet Anymore”
  • by Cazekiel ( 1417893 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @07:11PM (#39502609)

    Dinosaurs, for example, call to mind evolution, which might upset fundamentalists; birthdays are not celebrated by Jehovah's Witnesses; and Halloween suggests paganism.

    Once again, religious sensitivities prevail over having an eclectic set of experiences in the world around us. And mentioning swimming pools equates to classism? We're asking our kids to not acknowledge things in existence. What next? Closing down art museums because holy-hell, some features paintings with naked people? For real, can we get a grip already? Dinosaurs. They're worried about mentioning. Fucking. Dinosaurs.

  • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @07:15PM (#39502663)

    RTamerica has more about WHY they did this. The reasons ALMOT make sense..... if you want children to grow-up with no ability to deal with stressful words/ideas.

    "Dinosaurs were thrown out, for example, as they call to mind evolution, which might upset fundamentalists. Birthdays shouldnâ(TM)t be mentioned because they arenâ(TM)t celebrated by Jehovahâ(TM)s Witnesses. Halloween appeared on the black list as it suggests paganism. Dancing is taboo, because some sects object..... Terrorism was considered too scary. Poverty is on the forbidden list as well as words that suggest wealth because they could make kids jealous. Divorces, as well as diseases, are also set to be forbidden in order to not traumatize kids having relatives who split from spouses or are ill.

    "Officials say they are simply trying to avoid topics that "could evoke unpleasant emotions in the students.' " - []

  • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jamstar7 ( 694492 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @07:31PM (#39502817)
    I'd love to know how they can call this 'No Child Left Behind' if they're never picked up in the first place. Seriously, they expect their kids to compete in the Real World when they can't teach natural history, history, science, and math?

    Oh, well, it was an interesting civilization while it lasted. Time for my Mandarin lesson...
  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @07:33PM (#39502845)

    Government schools are not appropriate unless the culture is homogeneous. In in a heterogeneous mix of cultures, government schools inevitably tax a person to pay for compulsory lessons that are counter to his culture's beliefs. This is unjust.

  • Re:Years ago .. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cazekiel ( 1417893 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @07:38PM (#39502873)

    A small part of me says "dude, that's kind of an abuse of power, not sure I agree with that on an ethical level."

    A large part of me says "FUCK ethics, give that teach a raise."

  • Re:April fools (Score:5, Insightful)

    by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @07:41PM (#39502903) Journal
    How old is Maggie Simpson, or Mickey Mouse? I'm not saying that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, but if a God did create something to look 14 billion years old, then that's how old it would look despite our best testing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @07:42PM (#39502915)
    My guess is you can't mention that 2 + 2 = 4 either because there might be some offended dilholes that believe 2 + 2 = 5. Honestly, we have all kinds of people out there. Some of them believe some pretty outrageous stuff. While you can try to be polite to people of all beliefs, you really can't try to tailor reality to them. If some religious dude doesn't want to hear about dinosaurs, have him go to a religious school or be home schooled. The rest of us can't pretend there weren't any such things. We would be creating a society of people who lacked basic science information and couldn't compete with people from places where education teaches you reality. If some other person's family doesn't believe in celebrating holidays, that's fine - the family has the responsibility to teach the child why they don't agree with having birthday parties and why it "seems" to the kid like they are the only "mean" family on the block. If someone is upset that they don't have a pool (hell, I don't have one), teach them about the value of hard work combined with a smidgeon of luck.

    Reality folks - that's where we live. Believe what you want. My beliefs shouldn't affect you, your beliefs shouldn't affect me. And I sure as hell don't mind having my kids see yachts on a test even though we can't afford one. They can show churches on a test too - even though I don't go to one.
  • Halloween... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aryden ( 1872756 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @07:43PM (#39502925)

    and Halloween suggests paganism.

    You mean the religions that most of the christian holidays are based on in the first place?

  • by Artifakt ( 700173 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @07:56PM (#39503045)

    That's a problem with everything. The position as you state it is a conservative claim, and an extension of similar claims about such things as the National Endowment for the Arts, which inevitably picks some artists viewpoints (and 'art as a form of speech') to favor over others. it sounds pretty logical to many libertarian types.

    BUT, it applies to everything! (which is what the people who came up with this argument can't stand to see addressed): The Amish don't want their tax dollars spent on grading high speed curves by the Dept of Transportation. The people who seriously believe the Moon landings were fake don't want a NASA budget just to 'do more fake moonshots'. The Pacifists oppose spending anything at all for the Dept of Defense. The anti-vaccine persons oppose the Center for Disease Control, at least as it stands today. Just ask the nation's 50 million Pot smokers if they want a single dime of their taxes to go to the DEA, or even the BATF, FBI, and others. Many people would claim to oppose a tax on moral grounds if it got them a bigger refund (or whatever) regardless of whether they had an actual moral opinion. If every person has a right to not pay taxes if they run counter to his or her beliefs or alleged beliefs, then there will be next to no taxes at all, and government itself becomes unaffordable. Ultimately, you are demanding absolute Anarchy..

    That's fine if you are really an Anarchist. The problem is, are you? Most of the people advancing your argument want it to apply to the parts of government they don't see a need for, and not the rest. Are you willing to apply your argument to Police, Courts, National Defense and such, or just to the things you want "justice tested"
    Do you want all taxes to be voluntary, or do you want some of yourrs to be avoidable while mine continue to be manditory?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @08:07PM (#39503185)

    "would be creating a society of people who lacked basic science information"

    By the sounds of things, this is exactly your (America's) goal.

    I don't disagree with your post at all otherwise though. Fucking reality sucks guys, it's time to toughen up and smarten up. My kids are going to learn about real math, real dinosaurs, and how to fucking avoid the goddam churchies.

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @08:18PM (#39503295) Homepage Journal

    They banned mention of Halloween becZause it suggests paganism. How do they suppose that makes the Pagan kids feel? They have just been told (indirectly) by the state that the mere mention of their religion is offensive.

  • Re:Great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @08:47PM (#39503597)

    These people need to grow up.

    Poor choice of words. Adults are far more bitchy when it comes to hurt feelings than kids. Kids cry it out when their feelings get hurt, 5 mins later, they've forgotten about it. Grownups make idiotic, shortsighted changes in the laws when they get their feelings hurt.

  • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @08:50PM (#39503625)
    I'd propose a ban on religion. I'd be willing to settle out of the legislature if religious people would agree to also stop trying to push their legislative agendas on the rest of us.
  • Re:Great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @10:25PM (#39504347)
    This isn't about bitchiness, it's just another stupid sensationalist headline amplified by slashdot, as usual lately.

    None of these things are banned from curriculum, nor are they banned from being spoken of our taught.

    The purpose of avoiding emotionally-laden terms on standardized tests is prevent biasing the test against any students. It is amply proven that emotional influences interfere with what the test is supposed to be measuring - knowledge and ability. Since this impact would be different on kids with different cultural backgrounds, those questions would be biased one way or another. This is simply a matter of good test design by eliminating unwanted variables.

    But whatever. Everybody go back to your ignorant whinging. No need to know anything about what you're commenting on when you've got "common sense" on your side.

  • by awilden ( 110846 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @10:32PM (#39504391)
    While I acknowledge the apparent insanity of the political correctness that seems to be the cause of this case, these sorts of exclusions are there for a reason. Tests should evaluate the topics they're designed to evaluate, not grade people on how "normal" their family background is. As an example, my mom was a nurse for a head start preschool and when she was going through records she noticed one kid had been labeled as having a low IQ. She could see he clearly wasn't dumb, so she looked into where the label came from. One of the main causes was that during an IQ test the kid was shown a picture of a birthday cake and he didn't recognize it and said it was a candle pie. A little research showed that he was a member of a religious group that didn't believe in celebrating birthdays, so he literally had never seen a birthday cake before.
    PCness can certainly get out of control, and it sounds like it has in this case, but this is a serious topic. There are consequences for low scores on tests. This kid had been labeled dumb because he had never seen a birthday cake. When low scores are based on some sort of cultural gap, that's punishing kids who come from social groups that are out of the mainstream. Kids from _all_ social groups should be required to learn the same material, and as an example, I strongly object to parents keeping their kids from being taught evolution because of their religious beliefs. At the same time I think it's wrong to test kids on topics related to evolution (including dinosaurs) before the school has taught you about them.
  • Re:Years ago .. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BitwiseX ( 300405 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @11:15PM (#39504669)

    A large part of me says "FUCK ethics, give that teach a raise."

    We're marking that insightful now? Listen, I was one of those kids. I took shit about my beliefs from teachers and students alike, and when it comes from teachers it will fuck you up majorly. Having someone you are supposed to be able to trust ridicule you for your beliefs or for your family's beliefs. THAT is cruel.
    It is hard to be a JW and go to public schools. It shouldn't be. I thought this was America.

    Christians attacking other Christians..... *sigh*

  • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @11:16PM (#39504671)

    More important, why are we letting the mouth breathers and knuckle draggers dictate what our children will experience?

    Slow down. City-mandated standardized progress tests should not be the only thing that your children experience. You get to dictate what they experience at home. The "professional educators" get to dictate what they experience at school.

    That latter statement is why "we" are letting TMB and KD dictate, because we've turned the education of the children over to professionals that get paid to keep studying what the best way to educate children is. "Common sense" would mean an end to almost all education degrees and grants for education research.

    I lived through the change from "old math" to "new math". I saw the math that kids were being taught a few years ago and it bore no resemblance to math as far as I could tell. I no longer wonder why high school graduates can't figure out your change when they sell you a burger.

    Now, for the people who are insulting the yokels upstate and blaming them for this, if you read the fine article, you'd note that it is New York City officials calling for this, not New York State or Syracuse or Albany or Buffalo or Rochester.

    Are we in fact trying to homogenize our young into a consistent state of profound stupidity? Is that now the goal of public education?

    We are trying to equalize outcomes because equal outcomes is a measurement proxy for equal opportunity. If all the kids get the same score on tests, then they all obviously had equal opportunity to learn. (If there are 5% of male students playing school-organized softball then "equal opportunity" means that there will be 5% of female students playing school-organized softball. Even if only 1% of the female students want to play softball. This IS how schools are evaluated in Oregon.)

    Equalizing outcomes means slowing down the faster learners, thus bringing the average down, further lowering the "average standards", slowing the faster learners down even more. We're seeing the unanticipated consequences of valuing self-esteem over knowledge.

  • Re:Leaked question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @11:24PM (#39504729)

    Question: A man walks into his house and flips the switch to his 60-watt lightbulb for 8 hours. How many kWh does the lightbulb use?

    Answer: you cannot answer the question because the lightbulb is a modern CFL that is rated at 60W for light output but uses much less energy. The amount of energy depends on the specific brand and how modern the bulb is. Oops, the correct answer is "close to zero" because the CFL just burned out, but the electronics in the base still draw current anyway. (For "lightbulbs" that last so long, I seem to be replacing them on a regular basis.)

  • Re:April fools (Score:1, Insightful)

    by zubiaur ( 1207636 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @11:37PM (#39504801)

    Don't know if serious or really extrapolating things too far. I am no bible expert but I'm fairly sure that the galatians passage was about the old law of Moses. Things like feast, food laws, offerings and sacrifices. The James passage talks about religious persecution. Same thing with Luke. I see nothing wrong philipians either.

    You have to take in consideration that texts like Romans, Galatians and Philippians were letters, addressed to specific communities which might have been unde persecution at the time. Its not nice to cherry pick passages and bend their meaning to appeal hive mentallity, that stuff I expect from fox news or /r/circlejerk, not a slashdot commen (I .am new here). While not all christians seem to think so, faith has nothing to do with the practice of science and its discoveries, after all, doesn't science seek truth?

    Now lets focus on the topic and discuss this stupid ban

  • Re:April fools (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @02:07AM (#39505501) Journal

    It's called omphalism, and the minute you invoke it to explain away inconvenient time spans, you open the door to concepts like Last Thursdayism. If God can make a 6,000 year old universe look 13.8 billion years old, then why not a six second old universe look 13.8 billion years old? At the end of the day, it's just another form of epistemological nihilism

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.