I know I appear to be the only one, but I was genuinely astonished by the revelations of the way footballers speak to each other that came to light in the John Terry trial. I am now informed by more knowing friends that similar exchanges take place in rugby, cricket and in our local park at Sunday morning football matches.
All media commentators seem to agree that widespread as it is, it is wrong and suggest various remedies. So it is strange that a school attempting to tackle the problem of swearing has been heavily lambasted.
A secondary school in Barnsley issued a worksheet to many of its classes with a number of scenarios where a swear word might be used. The worksheet included the offending word with none of the usual asterisks.
“It is disgusting”, said parents, apparently, and complaints were duly made to the school and the local education authority, who issued a sensible statement: “As part of our social responsibility, we are educating our students to understand what kind of language is appropriate, at what times and in what contexts.” If you believe that swearing is widespread and that it is a bad thing, it is reasonable to want to work with children to change it. It is hard to think how to do it without explicitly referring to what it is you are discussing.
So we have a situation where a school sees a widely recognised problem and tries to deal with it directly rather than the fire fighting response that is more usual – the reprimand in some form when the school comes across children swearing. Maybe there are other direct interventions – I can certainly think of a few and haven’t chosen to issue such a work sheet – but what I find so incomprehensible and depressing is that the parental reaction, at least as reported, should be so judgementally damning.
Rather than start from the position that schools are trying all the time to do their best for children, it appears to be the norm to start from the position that there is some malevolent force driving schools that are in any case run by idiots and/or decadent mavericks.
This ready criticism of schools does huge amounts of harm not just to teachers and schools but to the whole way children are encouraged to view the challenges of modern living.
* Sarah Evans, Principal, King Edward VI High School for Girls