Yesterday, students of Lott Middle school in Citronelle, Alabama organized an effort to make Valentine’s Day curse free for all students and residents in the county. The Mobile County Commission , acting on a request from students who have formed no-cursing clubs at Lott and Semmes Middle Schools declared a day long ban Monday on bad words.
Commissioners also gave the students a $ 5,000 grant to finance an assembly featuring McKay Hatch , a California teenager who founded a nationwide No-Cussing Club in 2007. Merceria Ludgood , a County Commission member saw cussing as a symptom of a larger problem. ““I know children who grow up in homes where profanity is as prevalent as English.The small issue is cussing,” Ms. Ludgood said. “The larger issue is civility. As a nation, we have gotten meaner.” Some administrators and parents even see a connection between cursing and bullying though I must say that ,to me, the link seems unclear.
Getting schoolchildren to stop using profanity has been tried before without much success. Administrators at a high school in Hartford tried slapping $103 fines on students who cursed, but that effort was quickly abandoned . In October, a Texas teenager who confronted another student with a profanity was hit with a $340 ticket.
It is not surprising that fines , particularly such large ones , do not work . The students have no way of paying them which means then they become the parent’ s responsibility , a most unfair situation which penalises them for the sins of their children. It’s one thing to make them liable for damages that their children have caused, but cussing … I don’t think so. As one expert remarked “There’s been swearing since the beginning of time. If one of these things worked, we wouldn’t swear.” “We need to teach people how to deal with anger, not say just don’t do it,” he continued, “That just deals with a symptom.”
In earlier times , people used to cuss when something went wrong . It was a way of venting their frustrations. A typical example occurs in the classic film ” Christmas Story ” , which airs all day , every December 25th , on TBS .The narrator of ” Christmas Story ” , a bespectacled nine year old who lives in a typical small town circa 1950.The action takes place around Christamas time and , one cold December morning , Ralphie’s father descends to the basement to deal with a balky furnace. Soon we hear loud but unintelligible growls and mutterings wafting up from the nether depths. Pop has let loose with a volley of curses and imprecations , so inspired and awful, that Ralphie imagines ” it is still hanging like a blue cloud somewhere over Lake Michigan “. Later in the movie , Ralphie , goaded beyond his endurance, pounces on the class bully and starts whaling away at him , all the time screaming unintelligibly every profanity that he has ever heard. And yet , except when they are under stress, none of the characters in the film cusses at all.
Yes , cussing has always been with us but it was the province of grown-ups , was employed for a reason and , usually , not where it would assault genteel ears . Kids might know the words but woe betide them if they used them themselves ; punishment was bound to be sure and swift.
That isn’t so today , and nor has it been the case for some time . Nowadays , the F-word is used mindlessly and often , almost as one of the parts of speech . And it is used by everyone , young and old , in all walks of life. Some years ago, there was a poll to measure how often it was used by people in different professions. The poll results concluded that construction workers swore most often ( once in every three words) and secretaries the least ( once in every fifteen ).
While agreeing that construction workers are prone to swear a lot , I found the frequency (1 in 3 words ) difficult to swallow. An incident a couple of years ago showed me that it was possible . My neighbor’s son, a high schooler , was pacing in his backyard , cell phone glued to his ear , engaged in a conversation with a pal. He was speaking loudly and I could clearly hear every word from where I was seated on my deck. ” ^%*%$, Tell the #@(*! %^$# to get the f*^&% off his ~!%@ ass and … ” he said , and I realized that, yes, it is indeed possible to swear that often .
Rap has done its share in popularizing the use of cuss words , projecting the idea that cussing is macho ,more masculine . As cussing becomes more common , we ‘ve become deadened to it , and are not shocked as much anymore . I was still shocked , however , to read that it was that much of a problem among middle schoolers. Indeed , 14 -year old Wayne Jenkins ,a middle-schooler at Lott, felt that the no-cussing efforts ( posters in the hallways , no-cursing wristbands , pledges not to swear) were not going to make a bit of difference because cursing was too ingrained . “I have a 4-year-old brother,” he said, “and he knows every cuss word there is.” Four year olds !!…
The war against cussing does seem a hopeless cause but we cannot afford to give up. Even if the chances of eliminating cussing are slim we can at least spread the notion that it is not the thing to do and that it reflects badly on the swearer. Otherwise we run the risk of becoming a meaner , more uncivil nation than we already are.
This is not the first attack on bad language the Lott club has made. In December, it held an assembly and handed out no-cursing wristbands. Students signed pledges. Promises were made.
But in the halls last week, the no-cursing posters elicited eye rolls, particularly among eighth-grade boys.
Wayne Jenkins, 14, said he took the pledge in December and would be at the assembly. But he is not convinced that it is going to make a bit of difference. Cursing, he figures, is just too ingrained.