NYC Wants To Ban ‘Dinosaur,’ ‘Divorce,’ Other Words From School Tests

The New York City Department Of Education wants to ban certain words from school:

The New York City Department of Education is waging a war on words of sorts, and is seeking to have words they deem upsetting removed from standardized tests.

Fearing that certain words and topics can make students feel unpleasant, officials are requesting 50 or so words be removed from city-issued tests.

The word “dinosaur” made the hit list because dinosaurs suggest evolution which creationists might not like, WCBS 880-s Marla Diamond reported. “Halloween” is targeted because it suggests paganism; a “birthday” might not be happy to all because it isn’t celebrated by Jehovah’s Witnesses.


Words that suggest wealth are excluded because they could make kids jealous. “Poverty” is also on the forbidden list. That’s something Sy Fliegal with the Center for Educational Innovation calls ridiculous.

“The Petersons take a vacation for five days in their Mercedes … so what? You think our kids are going to be offended because they don’t have a Mercedes? You think our kids are going to say ‘I’m offended; how could they ask me a question about a Mercedes? I don’t have a Mercedes!'” Fliegal said.

In a throwback to “Footloose,” the word “dancing” is also taboo. However, there is good news for kids that like “ballet”: The city made an exception for this form of dance.

Also banned are references to “divorce” and “disease,” because kids taking the tests may have relatives who split from spouses or are ill.

There’s a full list of the proposed banned words at the link. Hopefully, they’ll keep ‘stupid’ around, though, because that’s really the only way to describe something like this.

Update: I just noticed that this story is from March 2012, although for some reason it was making the rounds on my Twitter feed this morning. Here’s a link to a post at Popehat about the story when it first went public.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. CSK says:

    So the word “war” will be banned on standardized history tests? How is one to phrase–or indeed answer–a question about the, uh, events occurring between 1939-1945? Or between 1861-1865? Will the former be referred to as World Altercation II? The latter as The Civil Dispute? The Contention Between the States?

  2. michael reynolds says:

    It’s funny because of course kid’s literature is getting darker and more disturbing. I just wrote a scene where a 12 year-old sociopath gets shot in the neck by an adult sociopath. The bullet removes much of his neck, with predictable (though lovingly-described) results. BUt “dinosaur,” yeah, that’s some disturbing stuff right there.

  3. Andre Kenji says:

    Standardized tests are a much bigger problem than words that are banned from them.

  4. Tyrell says:

    @Andre Kenji: Yes, the over test program that now passes for education is probably something the Russians somehow snuck over here to ruin education.
    They might as well remove reference to colors (negative connotations and memories) and animals
    (frightening). This stuff is always New York or California. NYC has enough problems with soft drink bans, food controls, and freedom controls.

  5. Neil Hudelson says:


    As compared to Texas where they just rewrite history to better comport to how they wished it was.

    (For the record: I oppose both measures. )

  6. JT says:

    These guidelines are taken out of context. The guidelines are only for the writing of passages for reading comprehension tests. The topics are not “banned” on all tests as was widely reported, and they have nothing to do with the subjects being taught or on other kinds of test questions.

  7. Anderson says:

    Life imitates the Onion.