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