Weekend Reads: Nanny State Ban on Words Is Lazy Educating By New York State By ELIE MYSTAL
I mentioned this yesterday, but I think it deserves further discussion. In a move that can only be characterized as bizarre, the New York State Department of Education has decided to ban words — lots of words — from standardized tests that cause children to feel bad, confused, or bring up “controversial” topics. Yep, the NY Regents was apparently just too controversial for some parents.
And we’re talking about some very common words here. Words like dinosaur. Dinosaur is deemed “controversial” because it brings up evolution, according to a report in the New York Post. Words like “birthday” are banned because Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate birthdays.
I didn’t know Jehovah’s Witnesses didn’t celebrate birthdays. Maybe instead of banning the word “birthday,” they should ask a question like: “Which of the following groups don’t celebrate birthdays?” That way, our children might learn something about other cultures instead of being protected from ever having their precious points of view challenged because of f***ing PC helicopter parenting idiots who are trying ruin America one stupid goddamn rule at a time. It’s not that I don’t care about the views of Jehovah’s Witnesses or Creationists or poor little children who don’t know what a Mercedes is (“Mercedes” is another banned word). It’s that banning words IN NO WAY ADDRESSES THE PROBLEM and is freaking stupid.
In a multicultural society, words are our friends….
Look, I’m not the guy who usually defends standardized tests. I think they’re all culturally biased, for exactly some of the reasons the NY DOE decided to ban these words. “If Johnny’s Mercedes goes 50 mph hour, how long will it take for Johnny to get to his birthday party at the Natural History Museum if the museum is 10 miles away?” I can see how that question would be a little bit confusing to an impoverished Jehovah’s Witness whose family thinks museums are the work of the devil.
But the way to deal with that isn’t to ban half of the words in the question. It’s to invest in better test makers who don’t turn every math question into a reading comprehension question. It’s to make sure the poor Jehovah’s Witnesses kids and the wealthy kids who have birthday parties at museums have similar access to test prep services. And a host of other measures. Fundamentally, it also wouldn’t hurt to move away from the very concept of a “standardized” test that can accurately rate a child’s skills and intelligence across cultural and socioeconomic boundaries.
Instead of putting in more time and money on those goals, New York is banning words. That’s just lazy. That’s New York State saying it can’t be bothered to actually construct a fair test, so it’s going to do what it has been doing with an aggressive use of the find-and-replace function in MSWord.
Ten divided by fifty has a standardized answer, but how long it takes for Johnny to get to his destination depends entirely on the amount of traffic New York throws at him.