50 Words You Can’t Say On Standardized Tests

It sounds like a George Carlin riff, but no one with any sense is laughing. That is, so long as we all agree to disqualify the rueful laugh, the mournful chuckle, or the stomach’s sad-and-knowing rumble.

You know, the laugh that keeps you from screaming.

Click here for the article that caused my jaw to drop:

The New York City Department of Education is waging a war on words of sorts, and is seeking to have words they deem upsetting removed from standardized tests.

Fearing that certain words and topics can make students feel unpleasant, officials are requesting 50 or so words be removed from city-issued tests.

Ludicrous, misguided, dumb. I won’t keep you in suspense.

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The complete list of words that could be banned:

Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological)

Alcohol (beer and liquor), tobacco, or drugs

Birthday celebrations (and birthdays)

Bodily functions

Cancer (and other diseases)

Catastrophes/disasters (tsunamis and hurricanes)

Celebrities

Children dealing with serious issues

Cigarettes (and other smoking paraphernalia)

Computers in the home (acceptable in a school or library setting)

Crime

Death and disease

Divorce

Evolution

Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes

Gambling involving money

Halloween

Homelessness

Homes with swimming pools

Hunting

Junk food

In-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge

Loss of employment

Nuclear weapons

Occult topics (i.e. fortune-telling)

Parapsychology

Politics

Pornography

Poverty

Rap Music

Religion

Religious holidays and festivals (including but not limited to Christmas, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan)

Rock-and-Roll music

Running away

Sex

Slavery

Terrorism

Television and video games (excessive use)

Traumatic material (including material that may be particularly upsetting such as animal shelters)

Vermin (rats and roaches)

Violence

War and bloodshed

Weapons (guns, knives, etc.)

Witchcraft, sorcery, etc.

Of course, we’re not really talking about words, are we? We are talking about realities and ideas — those shadowy, sometimes unpleasant things that words are meant to represent.

Can you imagine the discomfort that’s been caused? The dis-ease? So many poor test-takers, fidgeting unhappily in their hard seats. Shivering over thoughts of Vermin and Parapsychology.
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Out, damned ideas. Out!
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Let’s sweep ‘em under the rug.
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Poverty? Oh, yuck. Gross.
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Dinosaurs? Evolution? Heaven forfend.
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A big N-O to Violence, Terrorism, Politics and Cigarettes!
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Don’t even get us started on Rap Music.
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And let’s not forget the yin and yang of HomelessnessHomes With Swimming Pools. Ban ‘em both!
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Let’s face it, life itself is pretty uncomfortable. And economic extremes so very messy.
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But there will be a test on it.
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Well, more or less.
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Okay, definitely less.
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But I wonder. Is it too late to add the word Hoodies? Because I feel nauseous just thinking about it.
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4 comments

  1. Liz S says:

    I wish I could laugh, but I’m screaming.

  2. Donalyn Miller says:

    Will there still be READING on these tests? After all, one of the greatest factors influencing students’ performance on such tests is their access to books. Perhaps, we should just limit books to school and libraries and leave out books in the home, too. Ridiculous.

  3. Jimmy says:

    Donalyn, I’ve decided to follow these guidelines for the next book I’m writing.

    It’s about a lamp.

  4. BillW says:

    So we are accommodating:

    1. Religious freaks and other magical thinking american psychopaths who prefer to believe in talking snakes over scientific inquiry

    2. An establishment that would prefer that we ignored the vast inequities of the American economic system

    It’s just business as usual in America!

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