Students question classroom cursing
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 19:04
Sophomore Seth Waldman said he thinks students are inarticulate today because they largely communicate over the Internet. As a result, they use curse words to express their points, he said.
“The less emphasis that goes into complete thoughts in our society, the less you need vocabulary, and the less you expect to speak formally, the less you will speak formally,” Waldman said. “Now, it’s just get to the point. I don’t care how you say it.”
Theatre professor Allan Carlsen said he has also noticed that student speech has become more informal, which he attributes to the larger role technology plays in their lives.
He said when he was younger, people spoke better because they were talking. Today, communication takes place through texting and email, so students now have fewer opportunities to practice speaking, according to Carlsen.
“[Speaking is] like anything else. You practice at it and get better,” Carlsen said.
According to both students and professors, however, cursing in the classroom is still viewed as largely inappropriate with contextual variations of acceptability.
However, Timothy Jay, expert in cursing and professor at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, stated in an email message that he does not think there is an uptick in the amount of college students cursing today as opposed to previous generations, but there is no data available for comparison. He said on average, college students use around 70 to 80 curse words per day, but he thinks most professors do not view cursing as acceptable in the classroom.
“Maybe older professors are more concerned than younger ones,” Jay said. “The classroom has always been viewed with a sense of order— raise your hand, wait to speak, don’t be disrespectful.”
According to linguistics professor Louis Arena, the most significant change to today’s student speech is slang, which is largely made up of curse words.
Arena said slang is an age-variable change that has occurred throughout history. He said the words used today differ from the words that were popular during his generation, including curses. He said his generation would never use the F-word whereas today students do not attach the same negative value to the word.
“The value the F-word has today is attention-getting and that attention can be positive or negative,” Arena said. “It certainly is an intensifier. People certainly don’t use it as the etymology means.”
Linguistics professor Jeffrey Heinz also attributed cursing in the classroom to a generational divide. He said he thinks that professors who are closer in age to this generation are more likely to curse in front of their students than other professors.
Heinz said he thinks cursing in the classroom is a social issue for both students and professors. He said taboo words can sometimes break the ice between the two roles.
“I certainly don’t care if students curse because I’m not offended by that,” Heinz said. “It’s one thing to insult another. It’s another to use [curses] to talk about [linguistic points].”
Arena, on the other hand, said while the occasional curse is understandable, he does not find cursing acceptable. He said although today’s age group may view cursing as impressive amongst peers, he is not impressed by cursing.