An Inclusive Litany


From a set of guidelines provided by The Princeton Review to writers preparing practice versions of standardized tests:
Topics to Avoid in Passages, Items, and Art

  • Violence (including guns, other weapons, and graphic animal violence)
  • Natural disasters
  • National tragedies (terrorist attacks, death of a president, etc.)
  • War, dying, death, disease
  • Drugs (including prescription drugs)
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco and smoking
  • Individuals who may be associated with drug use or with advertising of substances such as cigarettes and alcohol
  • Name brands, trademarked names
  • Junk food
  • Fad diets
  • Abuse, poverty, running away
  • Divorce
  • Socioeconomic advantages (e.g., video games, swimming pools, computers in the home, expensive vacations)
  • Sex, including age-inappropriate stories about marriage, engagement, and having children
  • Belching/burping, farting, spitting, etc.
  • Religion
  • Slavery (We can include slavery in history/social-studies material if the state curriculum standards cover slavery. Avoid it in reading passages. The term "enslaved people" is preferable to "slaves.")
  • Rap music, rock concerts
  • Complex discussions of esoteric topics
  • Extrasensory perception, witchcraft
  • Fortune-telling, superstition
  • Dice and games involving dice (For math questions, use the term "number cubes" instead of "dice.")
  • Halloween, religious holidays
  • Aliens and UFOs
  • Anything disrespectful, demeaning, moralistic, chauvinistic
  • Anything depicting racial or cultural stereotypes (e.g., Native American in headdress and war paint)
  • Anything depicting sexual stereotypes (e.g., girls shopping, a mother cooking dinner for a working father, girls overly concerned with dating or what boys think of them, anything accepting of a boy's aggressive behavior)
  • Children coping with adult situations or decisions; young people challenging or questioning authority
  • Losing a job, being fired
  • Rats, roaches, lice, spiders
  • Dieting, other concerns with self-image
  • Evolution, prehistoric times, age of solar system, dinosaurs (We can include these topics in history and science materials if the state curriculum standards cover them. Avoid them in reading passages.)
  • Any topic that is likely to upset students and affect their performance on the rest of the test

Topics to Avoid Because of Overuse


  • Johnny Appleseed
  • James Smithson (Smithsonian Institution)
  • John Muir
  • John James Audubon
  • Phillis Wheatley
  • Roberto Clemente
  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • Helen Keller
  • Harriet Tubman
  • Louis Armstrong
  • Jane Goodall
  • Marie Curie
  • Jacques Cousteau
  • Amelia Earhart
Places and Things:
  • cardiovascular exercise
  • sports
  • fad or extreme diets
  • Galápagos Islands
  • Inca civilization, Machu Picchu
  • NASA
  • Child moves to new town
  • Child starts a new school
  • Child gets new pet
  • Child ends story by saying, "That wasn't so bad after all!"

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