Right outcome, wrong reasons.

A few days ago, I wrote on the multiculturalism of language, and the absolute futility of excluding words from standardized tests because they aren’t “neutral enough.” Well, it looks as though New York’s DOE abandoned the (doomed to fail) effort:

One week after New York’s Department of Education drew controversy with a request to ban 50 words and references from the city’s standardized tests – including “dinosaur,” “birthday” and “religion” – the department announced Tuesday that it is abandoning the plan.

I disagree with those who think it is simply political correctness gone too far. That dismisses the larger issue as a problem with “some bureaucrats somewhere” trying too hard to “be nice.” The truth is, because of the inherent multiculturalism of life events and the words used to describe those events, someone will always be impacted when asked to reflect on those words. That’s just common sense!

When we acknowledge the reality of the diverse and divergent experiences of our students, we’ll move toward teaching/assessing that inquires into and critiques language, rather than continuing teaching/assessing that encourages memorization or avoidance of language altogether.

Here’s the update on the NY DOE.

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2 thoughts on “Right outcome, wrong reasons.

  1. I love this line: “When we acknowledge the reality of the diverse and divergent experiences of our students, we’ll move toward teaching/ assessing that inquires into and critiques language, rather than continuing teaching/assessing that encourages memorization or avoidance of it.” Very good job, Dr. Collier.

    I think people, when they talk about political correctness, miss that the idea was never about censure or making language “nice” or “safe.” It was a struggle to find language that matched the internal AND external reflections of the populations we referenced and circumscribed. It was a rebuff to the dude/boss/co-worker who felt it was okay to address a woman as a “broad” without any reflection of how that word matched (and likely didn’t match) a woman’s experience of the word or herself. (Hell, it didn’t match his experience, likely, of HIS own mother/sister/wife.) The same was true for many other words, like the transition from “disabled” to “physically challenged” or “minorities” to “people of color.”

    Sparing (possible) offense at the cost of critical inquiry is not education. It’s dumb. Long live dinosaurs, and I can’t stand the idea of those things. 😉

  2. Thanks Samuel. Critical inquiry is so crucial. The only way we can learn more about (and begin to understand) that which is outside of our immediate experience, is by _inquiring_ into it.

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