2012-04-05 / View From the Middle

View From The Middle

Educators Banning Silly Ban On “Bad” Words
By Charles Rogers

You take a deep breath…and then you say to yourself, “Oh, my God, not again! They’ve gone and done it again!” What “they” had done (again) was to begin another journey in dumbing down our kids. This time, they — our esteemed Department of Education (DOE) — were proposing to ban 50 words from standardized tests. Not 50 bad words — they were 50 NOT bad words!

Turns out — at the last minute — most of the administrators rescinded the ultimatum, finally marking it as “unreasonable.” Here’s why:

If the request for proposal (RFP) had been approved, the youngsters taking tests would not have been seeing such offensive words as “birthday” therein. Heavens no! They feared that if there was one child in a class of test-takers who had not been given — or even attended — a birthday party, or had even SEEN one, he or she might have been offended and, well, be sent into an irreversible blue funk.

C’mon! There were a few more absurd words — 49 more to be exact — that might have sent a child into a tizzy. How about “dinosaur” or “junk food”? Far be it from teachers to bring up the idea of reading such novels as “Jurassic Park”. And, of course, we may as well do away with the tomes of H.G. Wells, while we’re at it. And, oh, yeah — forget about Edgar Allen Poe (too dark) and Edgar Rice Boroughs, because Tarzan is running around in a “Loin”cloth! Victor Hugo would be a no, no, of course. After all, can you imagine what they would have made of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”? I have always respected the education establishment. There are not, to my mind, many greater callings than to impart knowledge to young, open minds. Unfortunately, there have to be political implications in every profession and, with the proposed absurd dictum of banning such words as vermin, disease, war, turbulence and poverty just for the sake of political purism makes a laughing stock of that profession. How can we not laugh at such foolishness? Are we going back to our earliest times as we censor such words as “Halloween” and, of course, “witchcraft”?

Thankfully, the City Department Blandness woke up at the last moment and took a look at their own foolhardiness, gave it a final laugh, listened to the public outcry and decided against the rule.

In California, however, they still want to put a crimp in the use of good sense and they’ve banned the word “weed” from tests (silly, again). And in Florida, they can’t use the word “hurricane” (who are you going to offend, the weatherman?).

An RFP is usually the first petition by a government agency for either money or at least permission to pursue a specific course that might be beneficial to constituents. For instance, if, say, a community center wanted to expand its programs and hire a person to teach yoga to senior citizens, officials of the center would write an RFP with details of cost, time spent, personnel, etc. This is sent to whomever would be responsible for advancing the proposal.

In the case of printing standardized tests without certain words, the DOE originally sent RFPs to test publishers around the country to see what those publishers would come up with in the test forms without this plethora of censored words. If the topic in the test question was controversial, the DOE didn’t want it used.

An article in Tuesday’s New York Post — the paper that broke the story originally — quoted a DOE official this week who said, “After reconsidering our message to test publishers and the reactions from parents, we will...eliminate the lists.”

I must admit, I hadn’t had a good laugh in a long time — and, if it had gone through, this shenanigan was going to do the trick.

Oops! I’m sorry — I don’t think I should have used the word “shenanigan” — uh, no, maybe I shouldn’t have said “sorry”….Oh, now I’m really in “trouble”.

Oh my “God”. I’ve done it again!

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