#*@*! Profanity in our Schools

Dr. Peri-Anne Chobot

Dr. Peri-Anne Chobot

It’s time to introduce another Habit of Mind, developed by Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick. The 16 Habits of Mind are “characteristics that are employed by successful people when they are confronted with problems.” The one that I will address in this blog is thinking and communicating with clarity and precision.

I have specifically selected this habit to explore as it relates to language refinement. Language refinement, or language sophistication and vocabulary strength, play a critical role in a person’s ability to process information and think. Enriching the complexity of language through vocabulary development positively impacts thinking and the ability to communicate effectively.

Due to the fact that many of our students at Kingsbury have language-based disabilities, and all have processing weaknesses, thinking and communicating with clarity and precision is often compromised. Our students will often demonstrate word retrieval issues, by pausing and stating “uh or um” in between words. Students will also often demonstrate further frustration with fluency by using general words such as “whatever,” “things,” “ you know” or “never mind.” As students begin to develop fluency, they may at times substitute incorrect words in their attempts to use newly-learned vocabulary.

When we consider how complex language development is and that compromised language is a demonstration of compromised thinking, we must work diligently to help our students use precise language, expand their academic vocabulary and avoid overgeneralizations and deletions in their written and oral communication. Compounding the development of this habit is vernacular. Academic vocabulary is significantly different from colloquial speech, the common vernacular that is a part of our everyday lives.

When we consider our students’ learning differences and their compromised processing speeds and language deficits, we begin to understand how difficult it can be for them to develop this habit with a language-based learning difference. Students who have limited vocabularies, impulse control and language processing issues may, from time to time, become frustrated and rely on imprecise and/or inappropriate language. A student’s frustration, coupled with impulse control and language processing deficits, will oftentimes emerge and result in profanity. In some cases – not all – the use of profanity is simply related to adolescence and the risk-taking mentality that “everyone else is doing it.”

To that end, we consistently address the public use of profanity by the students in our community. We stress the impact that public profanity has on the way others view young people and their immediate perceptions when they hear a student resorting to foul language. Even our youngest students, who may not know the meaning of a particular word, certainly understand the impact that the word has when they say it in the presence of adults. We live in a time where we can be confronted in our daily lives with profanity, from the streets, to television shows and movies, to social media and other online venues, and sometimes, in our homes. We must work together to address this issue.

It is with this in mind that I encourage you to specifically model for your child/ren how to think and communicate with precision and clarity. Remind them about your expectations for them when they are in your home, your neighborhood and your place of worship, and remind them also that, here at Kingsbury, we expect the same restraint and demonstration of appropriate language.

When we consider the development of this habit, please know that at Kingsbury we do not allow foul or profane language, and we address each observed expression of foul language with an immediate correction and review of the expectation for appropriate language. We try to follow-up with parents to alert them if we notice a pattern of foul language developing. In some cases, we may remove a student from the academic setting and provide them with their instruction in an isolated space in response to this issue.

In the spirit of this habit of mind, thinking and communicating with clarity and precision, I challenge each of you to help your child by reminding them of the impact that profanity can have on the way that others view and interact with them, and reinforce your expectations for appropriate language as we work collaboratively to mold the next generation of global citizens.

Image Credit: Bill Barber

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