I came across a scary story recently.
But I’ll save the scariest part for last.
The New York City Department of Education prepared a request for proposals to companies competing to rewrite some of the school system’s tests. These tests are given several times a year to measure student progress in several subjects.
On Page 19 of the report is a list titled “Topics to Avoid.” The school system apparently feels that certain topics “could evoke unpleasant emotions in the students.”
Here are the topics. Try not to let your jaw drop too far:
Abuse; alcohol, tobacco or drugs; birthdays; bodily functions; cancer (and other diseases); catastrophes/disasters (tsunamis and hurricanes); children dealing with serious issues; computers in the home; creatures from outer space; dancing (ballet is acceptable); death and disease; dinosaurs and prehistoric times; divorce; evolution; expensive gifts, vacations and prizes; gambling; geological history; Halloween; holidays; homes with swimming pools; in-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge; junk food; loss of employment; movies; nuclear weapons; parapsychology; politics; pornography; poverty; rap music; religion; religious holidays; rock ’n’ roll music; running away; sex; slavery; terrorism; vermin (rats and roaches); violence; war and bloodshed; weapons (guns, knives, etc.); witchcraft, sorcery, etc.
OK, A FEW OF these topics I understand. I don’t immediately see the probative value of pornography or witchcraft on a school test.
And birthdays? Well, Jehovah’s Witnesses aren’t allowed to celebrate birthdays, so school officials felt any mention of birthdays might offend however many Witnesses would be taking the tests.
Dinosaurs? Might offend fundamentalists. Halloween? Ditto.
Homes with swimming pools? Might make kids without swimming pools feel sad.
Creatures from outer space? Presumably they don’t want to offend Martian exchange students.
So what’s left? Cats? Can we still talk about cats? Or would that offend students with pet allergies?
And can someone tell me how you’re going to test a kid meaningfully on aspects of history if you have to steer clear of war and politics?
NEW YORK CITY has got to have,
arguably, the most culturally diverse school system in the United States. Why on Earth would they want to protect students from even the tiniest speck of diversity in thought?
If you want to cultivate students’ critical thinking skills, maybe controversial topics are precisely what they should be sharpening their wits on. Instead, New York schools apparently want to scrub kids’ brains with the bleach of political correctness.
I told you I’d save the scariest part for last.
See, in cyberspace, nothing ever really goes away. When you think something might be gone, it can drift back into view.
This whole story about banned topics out of New York City? The story actually broke two years ago. And ever since, the story has popped back up on blogs, message boards and Facebook feeds as if it were brand-new. I came across it just last week.
And that’s what makes it the scariest part. People apparently are still talking about it, but no one seems to be doing anything to steer the tests back toward common sense.