There are a lot of things going wrong in New York Public schools — there is overcrowding and a lack of funding, teachers that get shipped off to rubber rooms and too many children that find a lack of reason to pay attention in class. Now on top of all that, teachers have to be careful how they write their tests because they now have to avoid using certain words that are deemed to be unpleasant to students.

What does it mean to be an unpleasant word? It’s a word that could possibly trigger a less than pleasant emotional reaction from a student. It doesn’t matter if the word would not offend the majority of people in any way — if even a small part of a small group of students might be offended, the word is considered to be unpleasant. The word peperoni, for example, would not be offensive to most students. There are many Muslim students who would not be bothered by the word but there may be a handful who would be upset by it and so for those few, the word is deemed to be unpleasant.

This is patently absurd and I cannot stress enough how much of a failure it is to ban so many words just because any given word might offend someone on any level.  Here’s the full list of banned words:

Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological)
Alcohol (beer and liquor), tobacco, or drugs
Bodily functions
Cancer (and other diseases)
Catastrophes/disasters (tsunamis and hurricanes)
Children dealing with serious issues
Cigarettes (and other smoking paraphernalia)
Computers in the home (acceptable in a school or public library setting)
Creatures from outer space
Dancing (ballet is acceptable)
Death and disease
Dinosaurs and prehistoric times
Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes
Gambling involving money
Geological history
Homes with swimming pools
In-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge
Junk food
Loss of employment
Nuclear weapons
Occult topics (i.e. fortune-telling)
Rap music
Religious holidays and festivals (including but not limited to Christmas, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan)
Rock-and-Roll music
Running away
Television and video games (excessive use)
Traumatic material (including material that may be particularly upsetting such as animal shelters)
Vermin (rats and roaches)
War and bloodshed
Weapons (guns, knives, etc.)
Witchcraft, sorcery, etc.

Source: NYC Department of Education Request for Proposals

I was always under the impression that part of the idea of children going to school is to begin the process of getting them ready to enter the so-called real world. How are children going to be able to face any kind of real world if they enter it with a huge bubble of protection from anything remotely unpleasant which will be immediately popped the moment they open their eyes.

In fact, the bubble is burst the first time they step outside the classroom and see an empty pizza box in the trash with the word PEPPERONI written on it. If you look at the list of words that are considered unpleasant, they are almost all words that pretty much everyone encounters multiple times per day so long as they are living outside of a protective bubble. Homelessness is unpleasant? How are these children getting home or even living in New York without encountering it on a regular basis?

It is time for the people who came up with this silly notion to knock it down because it is completely useless.


  1. This is shocking and outrageous, Gordon! Talk about banning books and burning books — this is a pre-emptive strike against basic thought and learning… by burning words!

      1. I want a list of words they decided NOT to put on the banned list like “murder” and “pedophile” and “oral sex” in fact — I’d love to write a whole exam based on words that were not banned, but should have been!

          1. Welp, I’d start with George Carlin’s “Dirty 7” and work down from there. SMILE! Any sort of bad word and every double-entendre you can think of…

            “Sticky” and “matricide” and “glory hole” and “prepubescent” and “labial folds” and “pussy” and “doggy” and “bikini” and “oriental” and “rimming” and “prostate” and so on and so on and so on… the list of forbidden words will quickly become every single word in the book.

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