Finding Common Ground on Cursing

Opinion

At Berkeley High School (BHS), it is not uncommon for teachers to curse. While some teachers would never dream of using profanity in front of a classroom of students, others punctuate their lectures with expletives. So-called “bad language” is a complex thing; it can encompass everything from a slur to a mild expression of frustration. Curse words can also change the impact of a sentence: swears can exaggerate, display sarcasm, or create surprise. 

Cursing is taboo in American society. Swears are connected to immorality, especially within Christian world views. Certain parents, consequently, feel that cursing has no place within a high school classroom. It is reasonable for parents to complain about the language of teachers because they are often in the best position to advocate for students. 

Parents who believe that curse words are harmful to the upbringing of their children should by all means speak up. Administrators and school boards, on the other hand, should exercise their discretion when considering feedback; it is important for a teacher to know that a parent is uncomfortable with the way the material is presented, but a teacher does not need to place the judgment of a parent before their own. If a teacher is able to improve their lecture with the use of profanity, then that profanity is in the best interest of the student.

What makes the question of whether or not swearing is appropriate in the classroom more complex is the line where language crosses from expressive to harmful. In certain contexts this is obvious; it might make sense to throw an expletive in a sentence for emphasis, but it is clearly not acceptable to curse out a student. 

What is more complicated is language that can be in itself problematic. A curse word can be used in a hurtful way, but certain words are harmful in any context. To add another difficult layer to this puzzle, language is always evolving, and what carries a harmless meaning today may develop harmful connotations in the future. Because the line between innocuous and problematic language is so fine, it is important to maintain an open channel between parents and teachers. 

Teachers and parents have a similar goal. Parents want what is best for the future of their children, and teachers want to educate students in the best way they can. Because no one group can represent the needs and interests of everyone, teachers, parents, administrators, and students must work together to find common ground on appropriate language while teaching.