I just came across a random post on a random news blog saying that several words were banned from New York's standardized tests. This included common words, such as Christmas, dinosaurs, birthdays.

I really disbelieved of this so I made a quick search hoping to end up in nothing, but came across several non reliable sources with the same info, and this post from The Washington Post:

You might expect a standardized test to avoid using profane words but, it turns out, other words are banned too and they may surprise you: dinosaur and Halloween, rock ‘n roll and rap music, just to name a few. (...)

I still have a rough time believing in this.

Is this true?

  • That doesn't look like The Washington Post, but rather a Washington Post blog, linking to another random-looking page ("silive.com"). Mar 30, 2012 at 7:38
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    I've removed the second question because nobody is claiming beneficial effects
    – Sklivvz
    Mar 30, 2012 at 7:52
  • I once heard of "gun" being removed from a list of words to spell. Can't remember where or when though.
    – Golden Cuy
    Mar 30, 2012 at 8:02
  • @Sklivvz, my bad. The original sources I found claimed that this was done in order to prevent "traumatizing children", but this new sources do not claim so.
    – Alpha
    Mar 30, 2012 at 14:00
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    Without being able to provide any references I would suggest that questions that revolve around cultural ideas and rituals (like "Christmas") would represent a possible source of bias against immigrants and people from minority cultural traditions, making them problematic from the point of view of getting a good measurement of achievement. Mar 30, 2012 at 16:00

1 Answer 1


Yes, it is a real list of guidelines sent to test-makers by the New York Department of Education - a practice in common with other US states, but differing in its extent.

It was covered by CBS in New York. While the video attached to this page includes a lot of speculation, it includes a door-stop interview with an official, Schools' Chancellor Dennis Walcott, that confirms the nature of the list.

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