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Supporting the Ignorance Is Bliss theory: NYC Dept. of Education censors words on standardized tests

Updated on March 29, 2012

In a brilliant move in the war against critical thinking the New York City Department of Education has banned certain words and topics from city-issued tests given to students.

The complete list of banned words has been provided to a number of companies vying for a contract that is supposed to revamp the city-wide standard English and Math tests used to gauge the process of students throughout the year. Among the included proscribed words are: birthday, cancer, celebrities, dinosaur, dancing, disease, divorce, evolution, Halloween, homes with swimming pools, politics, religion, Rock-and-Roll music, sex, television, video games, violence, witchcraft and vermin (the entire list can be found here at this CBS news affiliate webpage) Although the list has met raised eyebrows among many, the administrative supporters stridently defend the ban by claiming the words, lingo, topics and proper names that made the list might, “evoke unpleasant emotions in the students."

Their supporting evidence comes by pointing to one example word -birthday- which can be construed as offensive to Jehovah’s Witnesses (because Jehovah's Witnesses don't celebrate birthdays). LIkewise, the word dinosaur is regarded as potentially offensive for creationists who are at odds with evolution theories. Another word on the list - Halloween – has the power, alleges the administration, to suggest paganism

Being a devout pagan I can attest that the NYC Dept. of Education just better thank their lucky stars my family doesn’t live there. I’ve never brought a lawsuit against anyone in my life, but if I were a resident of NY I'd be pretty dang outraged over the insinuation there is something innately wrong about my religion. Besides this, these educators are truly showing their ignorance because as much as they may want to believe otherwise, the word Halloween is a Christian word and is not part of any pagan belief system.

Once you put on the politically correct dunce cap the logic of the other inclusions are pretty easy to understand. They don’t want kids reading mention of, homes with swimming pools because that has the power to make a kid feel disadvantaged if their family happens to be swimming pool-deprived. Can’t read the mention of celebrities because celebrities are supposed to be amoral, greedy and shallow (and by golly only the teacher unions have the god-given prerogative on those things). References to vermin might remind a child of the mouse embryo dissected during biology class, so while taking a test children might be thinking of what they'd really like to do to the teacher who forced them to do that. Mention of religion inevitably leads one to consider the possibility that there is more than the religion taught at home, a situation that potentially leads to wanton tolerance. Reading the word sex can lead a kid to doubt the whole cabbage patch scenario, thereby leading to potential aversion to cabbage, thereby leading to potential aversion to vegetables in general, thereby leading to an interest in eating meat, and thereby setting back the great strides Michelle Obama and the Pink Slime industry have made in promoting veganism. References to dancing are, of course, just downright immoral as it leads to jiggling, gyrating and worst of all, the wearing of comfortable, non-designer sneakers The mention of roaches may prompt children to go on mad stomping rampages that could jeopardize the world's vulnerable herds of wild roaming beetle life. Reading about natural catastrophes could tempt children into praying to the gods of hoarfrost to bring on intemperate weather severe enough to cause mass inconvenience, disabling bus delays, disturbing schedule changes and worst of all a pandemic of snowball making. Mention of Rock-and-Roll might remind kids of what they’re missing out on during weekends spent at Gramps when the only music in the house is on AM radio or shows on PBS - and the last thing this nation needs is yet another killing spree caused by explicit exposure to Lawrence Welk reruns.


I don’t know who the responsible party for this ridiculous ban is, but whoever they are they should be ashamed of themselves. Cushioning children from any and all topics that may be construed by someone, somewhere as offensive makes them unprepared to face adulthood. I don't suggest that bullying should be ignored or encouraged and sensitivity is a laudable virtue, but once you start forcing sensitivity on someone you become a bully. As I said, I'm a pagan, but I am not scared of my children learning about other cultures or beliefs. I don't panic if they hear or read terms like Christmas, Hanukkah or Ramadan. I don't cringe at the prospect of them reading the words cancer or disease. I don’t worry about them being exposed to the topics of politics, roaches, rap music and vermin. Why? Because this is a big world, full of many, many things, thoughts, situations and ideas I may not like or agree with and I know part of being in this world is enduring things we don't like or agree with. Living in sheltered ignorance, however, makes a breeding ground for fear and in turn, hatred birthed from that very fear. It was so for the followers of Joseph McCarthy, it was so for the pleasure-rejecting Puritans, it was so for those living under the dictates of the Spanish Inquisition, it was so for the pagans of Rome who were suspicious of Christians.

It is not my argument that other parents have no right to have their child home schooled or otherwise educated if this is what they choose. But for a branch of a city government to attempt to force the children of the general populace to live in a state of institutionalized ignorance is wrong.

This issue reminds me a book my daughter was assigned to read in middle school: The Giver by Lois Lowry.

The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Giver by Lois Lowry

Considering that there is plenty of pervasive PC doctrine inserting itself into our own local school system, I was surprised when she brought this novel home. The premise is futuristic, about a society where the populace is sheltered, by law, from all pain and stress. To accomplish this the social architects have done away with anything that could possibly lead to pain in any form, there is no procreation by natural means, birthdays do not exist, anger is forbidden, personal ambition is unheard of. Subsequently, marriage is only functionary, the idea of family exists only so far as it is serves the interest of the society and infanticide is a common method for dealing with infants that create inconvenience to others, such as crying. Animals do not exist (lest their death cause grief) and no one knows what it means to have uncomfortable weather. To further prevent anxiety gender differences are suppressed and likewise the the citizens are forced into surgery that removes their ability to differentiate colors. At first this premise may sound exquisite, but the deeper you get into the story the more you realize how dehumanised this society has become. In being sheltered from events and situations that can possibly inflict pain they have lost all ability to appreciate joy or even know what love and compassion are.

The Giver is recommended reading by many school systems. The book's message is a strong one, one that makes the reader consider the repercussions of living life deprived of the experiences, both bad and joyous, that build character and help shape us into thinking, compassionate individuals. I tend to think the so-called educated NYC pro-censors have also read it. If I'm right they certainly haven’t taken away the message from this dystopian story. But their actions suggest they sure like the blueprint of that dystopia.

The only time ignorance is bliss is our time in the womb; after this, life without experience and knowledge is not really life at all.

©March 28, 2012 by Beth Perry

"Along with the sunshine there's gotta be a little rain sometime" ~ Rose Garden - Lynn Anderson


Submit a Comment

  • bethperry profile imageAUTHOR

    Beth Perry 

    6 years ago from Tennesee

    Greensleeves Hubs,

    I have heard how overbearing toward the arts the government is getting over in Britain. This is so very sad; if they'd always used this kind of censoring back in the days we wouldn't have "1984", the works of Shakespeare or a whole lot of other great and valuable literature.

    Thanks for reading and for the insightful comments!

  • bethperry profile imageAUTHOR

    Beth Perry 

    6 years ago from Tennesee

    thebiologyofleah wrote, "Like Nell Rose, while reading this, I too thought about what that leaves these tests to make up questions and essay topics about. Isn't the removal of all of these words leaving a large void in what the tests can be about?"

    I think it sure does, especially within the context of subjects like English, history and social studies.

    The Giver was written for the YA audience, but even at this it is a thought-provoking, articulate novel. I do hope you get the chance to read it. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

    Greensleeves Hubs 

    6 years ago from Essex, UK

    If this is really the case bethperry, then it is the latest shocking example of a trend in our western societies which is having the exact opposite effect to its intentions.

    In my country (the UK) when politicians discuss what is best about our society in the 21st century, they almost invariably bring up the phrase 'we are a tolerant society'.

    By which they mean we do nothing to offend sensitive minorities be they religious, racial, sexual, social or any other.

    What such a policy actually means however, is that we have become an incredibly INTOLERANT society, because nobody is allowed to say anything which somebody somewhere may choose to find offensive. Tolerance of minority views (a good thing), becomes intolerance of free speech and free exchange of views (a very bad thing).

    It is absolutely ridiculous if words such as 'birthday' or 'Halloween' are banned because someone may be offended. To ban words like 'dinosaur' or 'evolution' is to fly in the face of scientific knowledge and basic facts.

    It seems that the intention to cause no offence to anyone is slowly creating an Orwellian society in which people are being banned from stating facts or freely thought out opinions.

  • thebiologyofleah profile image

    Leah Kennedy-Jangraw 

    6 years ago from Massachusetts

    Great article, examples like this baffle me. Who comes up with this stuff? Like Nell Rose, while reading this, I too thought about what that leaves these tests to make up questions and essay topics about. Isn't the removal of all of these words leaving a large void in what the tests can be about? Only making them worse for students to focus and do well on.

    I have never read The Giver, but I enjoy books in the same thread- futuristic societies heavily controlled by the government. I will have to add it to my list.

    Great hub!

  • bethperry profile imageAUTHOR

    Beth Perry 

    6 years ago from Tennesee

    SouthernHoney wrote, "just as children who are not exposed to germs develop poor immune systems, children who are sheltered from discomfort and grief develop poor coping skills."

    That is an excellent comparison!

    Wow, I didn't know The Giver had been banned. But that sounds par with the course with our educational system, doesn't it?

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting :)

  • SouthernHoney profile image


    6 years ago from Woodinville, WA

    Too funny, I also thought of Demolition Man while reading this hub! Bethperry, thank you for calling our attention to this perfect example of the sugar-coating of American life. Just as children who are not exposed to germs develop poor immune systems, children who are sheltered from discomfort and grief develop poor coping skills.

    I read The Giver in grade school, by the way, and I remember it being very powerful even then. How sad that it is one of the most commonly banned books in our school system!

  • bethperry profile imageAUTHOR

    Beth Perry 

    6 years ago from Tennesee

    Nell, that would be Demolition Man - and yes it is exactly like that! Thanks for reading and commenting, hon.

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 

    6 years ago from England

    Hi, this is unbelievable! so let me get this right, if we take the above and make a sentence out of the words we can use it will end up something like 'mum ....tea...bed! well, nearly, but you get my point. It always reminds me of that film with Sly Stallone in, can't remember the name of it, but it was with Sandra Bullock. He gets frozen and comes back in the future, and nobody is allowed to do anything, they only sing childrens rhymes, they don't swear, they don't eat salt and so on, seems like we are getting that way now! that book looks interesting though, cheers nell


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