Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Swearing in the classroom

Well, I don't know about your classroom, but there's always lots of swearing in mine. Indeed, my old desk-buddies frequently fell about laughing as students and I engaged in serious academic discussion of the role of different morphological derivations of the f-word in their coursework data.

But this week the issue is getting the Daily Mail a bit hot under the collar. It's an outrage! What are teachers coming to? Standards are falling! The end of the world is nigh! Why? Because one school, clearly vexed to breaking point with a couple of "challenging" classes, has made a new rule. The f-word is to be allowed in the classroom, but only five times per lesson amongst the whole class.

Well, thank goodness I don't teach there, because I suspect that faced with such vexations, I'd be the first person to be expelled for using the f-word more than 5 times an hour. And that was all I thought when I read this article. I'd decided it was such a classic Daily Mail rant-fest that I wouldn't even bother posting it here. But the story has suddenly become much more interesting because the Scotsman has picked up on the story north of the border, where the Scottish Parent Teacher Council is saying that swearing in the classroom is okay. In an interesting take on the subject, they claim classroom behaviour is made worse by over-reactions to what has become a feature of everyday language.

So, now we have a real fight on our hands and material here of interest for language change (is the f-word now a non-taboo feature of everyday language?), language and occupation (should teachers control their own and others' langauge use in this way?), and language debates (check out the opposing points of view). Read it and then come back and vote in the poll on this.

You can use the f-word in class (but only five times)

Let pupils swear in school, argues parents' group


At 7:29 pm, Blogger Tim B. said...

Aren't we in a bit of a dilemma here? If the purpose of a taboo word is to shock/offend, then don't we negate its purpose by accepting its use in what might be considered an inappropriate context? I'm happy to swear with the rest of them in the right place - but get very irritated by, e.g., people who flaunt taboo language on clothing in public where people who are more sensitive than I am, or parents of young children, etc., might be made to feel uncomfortable. What about concern for others' feelings? OK, they may not be rational - but taboo language isn't a rational phenomenon, is it?

At 2:18 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might argue that one of the key purposes of education is to rob taboos of their strength (part of the drive to critical thinking). Therefore, perhaps plentiful use should be made of the f-word on numerous occasions in the classroom.

I think the "five strikes" rule really doesn't tackle the problem except in a broad awareness raising way, since it still draws a line against swearing, with no better rationale than banning it altogether.


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