On NYC Schools and ‘loaded words’: Enough, Let’s Just Go Mute

See how calm my cat is? That’s because he doesn’t have to worry about watching his language.

Over ten years ago, my friend Manzino said, “I really think that animals already went through a talking phase and they figured out it doesn’t make any difference. It only adds to confusion. So they decided not to talk anymore. They figured they were better off. So they run around naked with their tongues hanging out all day. But if you look at their faces and into their eyes they have a real Old World look about them, like they’re very wise.”

I thought this was funny. In fact, it inspired my short story “How I Learned to Stop Complaining and Love the Bunny,” about a man in a troubled marriage who essentially figures out his best companion is an inanimate plastic light-up Easter Bunny lawn ornament.

Recently, I read the article “New York city schools want to ban ‘loaded words’ from tests,” by CNN’s Brian Vitagliano. http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/28/new-york-city-schools-ban-loaded-words-from-tests/?hpt=hp_c2 The word “dinosaur” is on this year’s list of banned words. Yes, you read correctly: “Dinosaur”; it might be offensive to creationists. Other words on the list include “birthday” because this might offend Jehovah’s Witnesses; “Halloween” because it implies paganism and “divorce” because it could spark emotional damage in children whose parents are in the middle of one.

If that’s not enough, there’s an “avoid” list as well. According to the article: “And not good news for Italians: the Department of Education also advised avoiding references to types of food, such as pepperoni, products they said ‘persons of some religions or cultures may not indulge in.’” Also on the “avoid” list: “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” although in the article it isn’t disclosed whom it might disturb (I bet it’s those damn Sticks ‘n’ Stones).

Seriously? At what point do we stop? At what point will we have only two words we can use without “hurting people?” I thought for awhile, and solved the problem: Perhaps the only word we’ll get around to using is “Yes.” Think about it: “No” could be hurtful to others. If we only had one word to use, it should be “yes.” We can “yes” each other all our lives. We can “yes” each other to death!

Then I realized my “yes” theory really won’t work. After all, to use the word “yes” and convey any emotion would require extensive training, and some inflections may become offensive over time as well.

This is when I remembered Manzino’s comment from all those years ago. It made total sense…one never hears about animals hurting each other’s feelings. I theorized about how it might have happened: After animals stopped talking, perhaps they went to sign language—for a little while, until virtually all of their gestures became offensive; then they had to bag that, too. Eventually, they became mute, and now they only express themselves with their eyes.

I encourage you to read the article and form your own opinion, but I’m with Manzino: Let’s just stop talking now and get it over with.

To purchase “How I Learned to Stop Complaining and Love the Bunny,” visit here:


A plastic Easter decoration similar to the one I had in mind when I wrote “How I Learned to Stop Complaining and Love the Bunny.”

About kristipetersenschoonover

A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies; her traditionally published books include a short story collection, THE SHADOWS BEHIND. She was the recipient of three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She serves as co-host of the DARK DISCUSSIONS podcast, as founding editor of the dark literary journal 34 ORCHARD, and is a member of the New England Horror Writers. Follow her adventures at kristipetersenschoonover.com.

Posted on March 29, 2012, in Deep Thoughts & Fun Stuff, News and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. We at Pure Sophistry agree that this list is ridiculous. We’ve started a discussion with an educational researcher from Berkley in our comments section, and bring up the wider question of how ‘offensive’ curriculum material should be dealt with. Hope the discussion can continue!


    • EXCELLENT! Thanks so much for sharing this link. I will go check it out…I’m just so disgusted by this whole thing. I hope the discussion on this never ends until we win, quite frankly.

      • Thanks! Feel free to jump in, I’m still astounded by the fact that education departments don’t have better ways to pass the time than make sure no religious holiday or Jurassic creature is mentioned in testing!

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