Opinion

New York City’s language police alive and well

Over the last several decades, Americans have been forced to endure a litany of politically correct terms and phrases to avoid offending others. Back in the ’90s, the Atlanta Braves and Washington Redskins were targeted by Native American groups because their names were deemed to be “offensive.”

Anyone who follows the news knows that political correctness has become firmly rooted in our public school system, where busy-body bureaucrats, disguised as “educators,” make absurd rules that prevent students from behaving as kids always have, even to the point of outlawing hugging. As idiotic as such bans may sound, a recent proposal by the New York City Board of Education really takes the cake.

Late last month, the Big Apple’s Board of Education announced plans to remove some 50 words and phrases from standardized tests in the school district, because reading them might cause students from certain backgrounds or religious beliefs to become upset. Looking at the comprehensive list, one wonders how students would receive any education at all.

Parents send their children to school to learn about history and science, among other topics, but if the Board of Education’s proposal had been implemented, such innocuous words as “crime,” “religion” and “dinosaurs” would have suddenly become taboo (and, by implication, the topics themselves). Imagine not being able to use the word “slavery” in the context of the Civil War, or even “politics” when talking about the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution or current affairs.

What about the attacks on 9/11? Sorry, tests could not even use the word “terrorism,” nor could tests contain the word “war” (so much for the American War for Independence). World War II was apparently nothing more than a period of disagreement between Japan and Germany and the rest of the world. The Cold War and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki couldn’t be discussed since any reference to “nuclear weapons” would be verboten.

Sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The Board’s members have tried to defend the proposal, claiming they were simply “making sure that test makers are sensitive in the development of their tests.” Surprisingly — but thankfully — a sufficient number of parents and students concluded the proposal was too much, and forced the district to back down.

Even while the Board has pulled back from its initial proposal, the fact that a government agency even proposed such nonsense should be cause for severe concern. Moreover, the issue is not really dead — as noted by the city’s “chief academic officer,” Shael Polakow-Suransky, the language police “will continue advising publishers to be sensitive to student backgrounds and avoid unnecessary distraction.” Stay tuned. More to come.

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He provides regular commentary to Daily Caller readers.