Friday, March 30, 2012

Banning Words From The Children

The New York Dept of Edumacation yearly list of proposed words to remove from standardized tests was released. Whether willingly or unintentionally, it’s raising questions. Mostly why. Are we really that much of a sensitive society that we can’t use words such as “dinosaurs” on a test?

This isn’t a new thing. Schools have been doing this for decades. You have the obvious swear words and racial slurs (removing the N word from Hucklberry Finn at it's most extreme case).  But I bet you didn’t know that “magic” and “sorcery” were banned in some school districts. My old high school and middle school (public schools mind you) have forbidden Harry Potter from the campuses and library because they teach witchcraft. Seriously. That’s what the article says. I saved it because it was just that silly. And it apparently goes against the teachings of God. So you can have the Old and New Testament in the school library, but not Harry Potter, a book series that got a lot of kids into reading. So much for separation of church and state.

As the CNN article points out, California tests try to keep “weed” even the normal non-medicinal kind out of tests. Florida doesn’t like to use “hurricane” or “wildfire”. The reason for dinosaur being on the NY list? They want to avoid certain words that are controversial topics amongst adults, the topic is overused and deemed boring by students, or the topic is biased against a group of people.”

So somehow dinosaurs are boring. Since when? When I was a kid I was all about the dinosaurs. I remember when I was 11 and visiting family in Virginia we went to DC, as we always do, and to the natural history museum. It was a really quiet day, and this was back before people were freaked out about flying and terrorists. We were the only ones in the dino wing and we saw some of the staff moving things around and prepping to put up a new piece. One of the tour guides asked if we wanted to watch and could go into the back where they clean and scan new bones, so of course we did. I got to touch a dinosaur bone. How many kids, let alone people, get to do that in their lifetime? And we spent half the day just watching them erect one of the dinosaurs. Totally boring, I know. -_- Though I’m sure it offends the creationists.

Amongst the other words are “birthday,” “Halloween,” and “rock n’roll.” Because clearly, they are affecting the youth of New York with corruption.

There is a tie-in to this with video games. I promise.

What’s to stop the government from imposing these limits onto video games and educational games?

They’re already working on potentially slapping a warning label on every game, much like with music CD’s and cigarettes. The ESRB has been fighting against them to keep their system and not have the government become the regulator of video games. If you ever wonder why movies are as repetitive as they are, a lot of it is due to the MPAA and the govt. And the rest is because people like the same old boring stuff. We get that enough with video games (Call of Duty anyone?), we don’t need for it to get worse.

But imagine being unable to play a game that didn’t use the word birthday. You character stops into a pizza shop but there is no pepperoni available because it’s a banned word. And all of those vampires, witches, goblins, and ghouls? Well no Halloween so we can’t use those things ever again.

I realize that is borderline absurd, but the essence of these rules has been happening since the birth of the MPAA. I keep referencing the Hayes Code in my blog posts, but it’s a big chunk of Hollywood history and helped shaped the current rules. And yes, there are some things that cannot be shown in a film. The rules are much better then what they use to be, but the sensitive nature of people can be…overkill. Take for example the bullying movie that Justin Bieber has been lobbying to have mass released. It had an R rating because it showed children being mean to one another. Sure it’s shocking, but it’s not someone getting their head cut off. Those action/fantasy movies might get a PG-13 rating. The movie is being allowed to release with an unrated label, but because of the content, no matter how drummed down it is in comparison to big budget action movies, it’s “too real” for the MPAA.

It could happen to video games. When you slap an M rating on Katamari Damacy (yes it did happen when it was first imported into the US. It has since dropped to T, but I have a copy of its original M rating) for “violently using a large object to roll up living creatures” with no blood and in a very humorous way, we know there’s a problem with our society.

How have we become so hypersensitive? It’s not the end of the world if your 10 year old child hears damn, hell, and maybe the f word. I’m not encouraging them to say it, but is it really that bad? As bad as saying “Happy Birthday” or “Pepperoni Pizza?”

I realize that I am rambling at this point, but it’s something to think about. At what point does our right to free speech and common sense becomes repressed by the fears of society?


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