Much has been written about the ludicrous banning of words at various government agencies.words like “climate change” and “fetus” and “diversity” are on the outs in government documents, while Nazi rallies and chants are okay, at least among Trump’s alt-right fan base. Alan Singer has a clever idea:

“To help teachers address the official and unofficial word bans in their classes, I propose a “High School Homework Challenge.” Students should write a coherent paragraph using all ten words and phrases officially and unofficially banned by the Trump Administration. For extra-credit, text your paragraph to Donald Trump at @realDonaldTrump.”

For me, there is a certain sense of deja vu about this latest burst of word censorship.

Nearly twenty years ago, I was on the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), which oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). President Clinton suggested the creation of voluntary national tests. At first, he thought that the Department of Education could do the job, but under criticism, turned it over to NAEP, which had been developing and administering tests since the early 1970s.

A consortium of major publishers won a contract for $50 Million to create the new tests. NAGB got lost in a debate about what would be voluntary about the new national tests and who could say “no, thank you.” States? Districts? Schools? Parents? Students?

we met with the publishers who were going to write the tests, and in the course of the briefing, each of us get a 30-page “bias and sensitivity” guidelines, a list of words, phrases, and images that could not appear on the tests. They were banned because they offended some group. They were the pet peeves of feminists, ethnic groups, rightwing groups, lobbyists for the elderly, and for every imaginable aggrieved minority.

I was appalled. Tests could not mention Halloween, witches, death, cancer, mice, roaches, nuclear war, pumpkins, yachts, ten-speed bicycles, swimming pools, on and on.

Puzzled, I contacted friends in the education publishing industry and learned that every company had similarly guides, some of which were even more extensive. I collected as many of these guides as I could get my hands on. There was considerable overlap, but there were important additions, such as images and stereotypes that were banned from textbooks. For example, the word “evolution” is almost universally banned, as are depictions of anatomically correct cows, rainbows, owls, a man with his hands in his pockets, poverty, women performing domestic chores, and older people sitting in a rocker or using a walker or cane. In the ideal world, children are never disobedient, women are construction workers, men bake cookies, and old people are never infirm.

I even discovered books that gave lists of hundreds of banned words, like “Achilles’ heel” or “Tom, Dick, and Harry.”

I published a book in 2003 about this widespread but unknown censorship, imposed by left and right. It was called The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn.” It contained a list of nearly 1,000 banned words, phrases, and images.

This is magical thinking at its silliest. Some people think that if we don’t say certain words, we can make the underlying behavior or activity disappear.

The climate will change even if no one says those two words.

The hard questions are papered over by the Language Police. What do we do about hate speech? How should we respond to incitements to violence? What about the person who shouts “fire” in a crowded theater? Yes, there are lines to be drawn. There is a real difference between hurt feelings and mob violence that threatens lives.