But ideas? Ideas are pretty much what we send our kids to school for. And the New York City schools district has inadvertently set themselves up for a sort of “Only In America!” eyerolling session from professional CNN Terrible Person Piers Morgan by publishing a list of 50 words or concepts that are banned from being used in standardized tests, including “rap music,” “cancer,” and “Parapsychology.”
While the nature of the ban itself is asinine–the 1.1 million kids who attend our public schools are exposed to tough topics every day outside of school, and school isn’t a place to keep kids’ brains swaddled in an idealized setting–a cursory reading of the list makes it clear that these are topics that being avoided as scenarios in questions, not necessarily topics that are designed to be avoided entirely. Just because there isn’t going to be a question on a standardized test that avoids mentioning a kid running away (one of the verboten topics) doesn’t mean teachers won’t be able to teach Huckleberry Finn or discuss the subject with their students. I don’t love the notion of avoiding subjects, either, but it takes little reflection to understand why the school district would try to avoid subjects in standardized tests that might make students distracted or skew toward cultural biases that would diminish a student’s chance to succeed.
Except “dinosaurs.” A standardized test without dinosaurs is downright tragic.