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New York City school officials announced Tuesday that they had abandoned plans to ask standardized-test writers to avoid words like birthday, dinosaur, and pepperoni because they might stir "unpleasant emotions" in test-takers.
"After reconsidering our message to test publishers and the reaction from parents, we will revise our guidance and eliminate the list of words to avoid on tests,” an education department official said in a statement (via CNN).
The plan, uncovered last week by the New York Post, inspired eye rolls and pockets of outrage from bloggers, who protested that banning the words went too far in an attempt not to offend the city’s diverse student body.
Though the department declined to specify why certain words made its list, there was wide speculation that sensitives over religion, family, and socioeconomic status were behind the effort. Other words the city had asked test-makers to avoid included: divorce, television, swimming pool and Halloween.
For its part, the department said its intention was never to "ban" the words, simply to discourage them in tests, and vowed to "continue to advise companies to be sensitive to student backgrounds and avoid unnecessary distractions."
Some experts argued that politically sensitive issues were actually ideal to get students to engage, while other observers shrugged off the furor altogether. "With so many real issues to debate and discuss in education—teacher quality, class sizes, competitive testing, college readiness, to name just a few—it’s difficult to take this seriously," a local New York Times blogger wrote.