The reach of the crazy creationists always seemed like a southern thing. Mississippi and Alabama are backwards states with bad education where they invest more in football than science education. Tennessee is trying to relive the Scopes Monkey Trial. Oklahoma and Louisiana are trying to have their students deny all kinds of science from evolution to climate change.
But we have always assumed that the northern progressive parts of the USA were resistant to these science denialists. Unfortunately, the stupidity has reached north into the New York City Department of Education, by far, the largest public school district in the United States with over 1.1 million students. They have decided to ban the following words for testing, because it might offend some of their students:
Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological)
Alcohol (beer and liquor), tobacco, or drugs
Birthday celebrations (and birthdays)
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 library setting)
Death and disease
Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes
Gambling involving money
Homes with swimming pools
In-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge
Loss of employment
Occult topics (i.e. fortune-telling)
Religious holidays and festivals (including but not limited to Christmas, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan)
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.
In some ways, this is worse than what happens down south, because they aren’t this blatant. Most of the legislation in the South, as disgusting as it is, don’t stop the teachers from teaching or mentioning evolution, they just want it to be considered a disputed “theory”. In New York City, they don’t even want you to hear about evolution. So what happens? A New York City high school grad wants to go into medicine, takes her first pre-med course at NYU, probably a biology course, and she has to learn about evolution for the first time? Yes, we are being ridiculous, since any young man or woman who’s interested in going into medicine is going to learn about evolution with or without the NYC school system.
But it’s more than that. They can’t discuss slavery? How can you possibly understand why the Southern United States is a backwards, right-wing part of the country without understanding the love of slavery by Southerners, which lead to the Civil War, Reconstruction and Republicans. This is part of the foundation of understanding our country.
Even as an avowed atheist, teaching religion (from a sociological standpoint, not pushing a theology) is critical to understanding the history of the world and today’s society. How can you not discuss alcohol and drugs? Why not at least try to teach about the harm of those substances?
There is a massive odor of “political correctness” here. Unless there’s a story out there that eludes us, let’s assume that this appalling list of words wasn’t developed because someone hates evolution. It’s probably the result of someone not wanting to offend the handful of Christian fundamentalists in NYC.
The uproar about this list comes from both the left and right, probably for different terms that are banned. We’re sure the FoxNews types are whining that religion is being banned, but probably have no problem with evolution being off the books. Maybe there’s a couple of words that have no business in a public school education (pornography for one, but it would be ridiculous to assume that public school kids are not already exposed). Otherwise, let’s hope that NYC gets its act straightened out, and throw this list into the dustbin of bad educational ideas.