Over at Popehat, Ken has been on another roll, and his latest effort, as depressing and enraging as it is, is a real contribution to our understanding of the kind of entrenched foolishness, cowardice and incompetence in our nation’s public school administration that is gradually rendering the schools useless and our children uneducated.
Spurred by a New York Post story that seemed too horrible to be true, Ken set out to research the claim that the New York School system has compiled a long list of topics that are banned on student tests for a variety of reasons, prime among them that someone, somewhere, will be offended by them. After some digging on the New York City Department of Education’s websites, what he found was worse than how the Post had described it.
In an Appendix, he discovered a list of test question topics “that would probably cause a selection to be deemed unacceptable by the New York City Department of Education… In general, a topic might be unacceptable for any of the following reasons:
- The topic could evoke unpleasant emotions in the students that might hamper their ability to take the remainder of the test in the optimal frame of mind.
- The topic is controversial among the adult population and might not be acceptable in a state-mandated testing situation.
- The topic has been ―done to death in standardized tests or textbooks and is thus overly familiar and/or boring to students.
- The topic will appear biased against (or toward) some group of people.
Using those criteria, and undoubtedly using astounding numbers of hours and taxpayer dollars, the Department came up with the following jaw-dropping list of banned test subjects. I’ll flag with red the taboos that are especially outrageous or idiotic, though perhaps I should note the two or three that might be appropriate.
Alcohol (beer and liquor), tobacco, or drugs
Cancer (and other diseases)
Children dealing with serious issues
Computers in the home (acceptable in a school or public library setting)
Creatures from outer space
Dancing (except ballet )
Death and disease
Dinosaurs and prehistoric times
Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes
Homes with swimming pools
In-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge
Loss of employment
Vermin (rats and roaches)
War and bloodshed
Weapons (guns, knives, etc.)
Witchcraft, sorcery, etc.
Just imagine the important and essential subjects that are virtually unteachable with these limitations. The Civil War. The Revolutionary War. The Civil Rights Movement. Science. The Black Plague. Pompeii. The importance of presidential elections. How Congress works. Pop culture. American culture. The Great Depression. Hiroshima. Prohibition. Sir Walter Raleigh. Jackie Robinson. And on. And on.
But wait! There’s more!
Ken also discovered that the Department wasn’t satisfied with just topic taboos…it has banned whole ideas and concepts too, including:
- Anthropomorphism (attribution of human characteristics to inanimate objects, animals, or natural phenomena, except in the telling of fables)
- Bias towards or against any particular form or system of government
- Dangerous activities for children (alone at home, swimming without adult supervision, etc.)
- Demeaning to any group
- Disrespectful to authority or authority figures
- Highly controversial
- Middle-class amenities that may be unfamiliar to some children
- Smug, moralistic, preachy
- Stereotyping of any group
- Stridently feminist or chauvinistic
- Trade names
Well, there goes the Sixties! Also Roe v. Wade, “Oliver Twist,” patriotism, American values, democracy, and, of course, ethics.
In order to avoid fights, controversy, fanatic parents, political correctness, over-sensitive kids and occasional missteps, this school system has condemned education to being incomplete, misleading, without depth or context, confusing, useless, value-free, and boring.
Can that possibly be defended as responsible, or defended at all?