“Dinosaur” One of a Number of Words Restricted by New York City Dept. of Education

Companies preparing to submit assessment tests used in New York city’s public schools have been issued with guidelines from the Department of Education suggesting that they stay clear of dinosaurs when compiling their papers.  The word dinosaur is just one of a number of words and topics that the department have advised organisations preparing the assessment papers to avoid – other terms and subject areas that the compilers have been asked to steer away from include birthdays, aliens, vermin, terrorism and junk food.

“Dinosaurs” out of New York’s Assessment Papers

Dinosaurs off the agenda in New York City

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/xhc

Under these new guidelines, writing the assessment papers may prove to be as tricky at actually taking them.  These tests are used to assess the progress students are making in a number of subject areas including science, but in a move that seems to take political correctness to the extreme, a number of topic areas have been deemed off limits.

Whilst creating the test questions, companies are being advised to steer clear from certain subject areas, words and topics as they “could evoke unpleasant emotions in students that might hamper their ability to take the remainder of the test in the optimal frame of mind.”

Other reasons stated by the Department of Education for wanting to avoid such words as “dinosaur” include a desire to prevent bias against or towards certain parts of the population, or because “the topic has been done to death” – in textbooks and previous tests thus becoming over familiar and even boring to the students.

The word Halloween is not recommended because it could be linked with pagan rites, dinosaurs are on the extinction list for terms with the department, presumably as any reference to these prehistoric animals could upset those parts of the population who don’t believe or except the principles of evolution.  Firms have until the third week of April to submit their assessment plans and proposals.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education commented that the list suggests topics that ought to be avoided and this was not an outright ban and such language and guidance had been included in proposal requests for some time.

Spokeswoman Deidrea Miller said in a statement:

“This is standard language that has been used by test publishers for many years and is meant to ensure that tests contain no possible bias or distractions for students.”

With the American Museum of Natural History in the city and with its amazing display of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animal fossils, we at Everything Dinosaur would have thought that this museum would have provided tremendous support for the city’s students, teachers and educationalists.

A spokesperson for Everything Dinosaur commented:

“It is important that this news story is put into the proper context.  Whilst we can accept the difficult path that the Department has to follow at times, advising the removal of dinosaurs from the assessment papers does sound a little excessive.”

He went onto add:

“With such a fantastic and wonderful educational resource [the American Museum of Natural History] in New York, it seems such a shame that educational companies are being recommended not to use dinosaur related test questions.  After all, if you want to inspire the next generation of scientists, motivate children to learn more about the world around them or to give young people an insight into how the world is changing, dinosaurs would be a tremendously helpful subject area to explore.”

Commentating on the use of a restricted list in the city, New York University education professor Diane Ravitch said that such policies are not confined to America’s largest city.

She stated:

“This is something that testing companies have been doing for a long time”.

Professor Ravitch said the list of subjects to avoid comes from topics someone somewhere around the country, not necessarily in New York, may have objected to.

She added:

“Nobody in New York City is likely to object to any of these things.”

The guidelines issued by the Department of Education also covers other areas related to the testing of students such as how long test passages should be and what tenses should be used.  The guidelines also suggest that the subject material should be “familiar and common to the lives of New York city students.”

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