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Should Teachers Be Banned from Cursing in School?

Piper Weiss
Shine from Yahoo! Canada
February 21, 2012
(ThinkStock Photos)
(ThinkStock Photos)

If you can't say that on television, than you shouldn't say it in class. That's the gist of a new bill proposed by a conservative Arizona lawmaker, Lori Klein. If she gets her way, teachers will be penalized for cursing in front of students.

A slip-up could result in suspension, docked pay, and, even job loss.

While most school officials wouldn't advocate cursing in front of kids, it happens. And the definition and use of an offending word isn't always clear-cut.

"Arizona's clean-speech-for-teachers act is not likely to survive a constitutional test if it is enacted," Dennis Baron, a Linguistics and English professor at the University of Illinois, writes on his personal blog. "But even without the statute, the state's teachers still won't be able to explore with their students the implications of Caliban's provocative claim about language and cursing."

From The Tempest to Huck Finn, bad words surface throughout the cannon of English literature. How will teachers work through complicated texts under the looming threat of job loss? Another sticky issue comes up in biology class. The blogger behind From Hip to Housewife recalled her daughter's schooling on slang during frank sex education lessons.

"The teachers explain the "real" words for the reproductive and sexual organs, the sexual act and various and sundry other words having to do with puberty," she explains. "Then they ask the kids what words they know. And it turns out, they know A LOT of words."

Could an FCC style ban in the classroom hamper the education process and freedom of speech in general?

"That is really problematic," David Hudson of the First Amendment Center, told MSNBC. "There are serious First Amendment problems with it, serious academic freedom violations."

Education aside, teachers are also human, and at times, four letter words slip from their mouths as nature intended. Is it really such a big deal?

"I definitely don't think that teachers should be cursing all willy nilly, but if something sudden happens and it slips, I'm going to give them a pass," writes one parent on the forum CafeMom .

Some parents aren't as forgiving. "Learning those words in school somehow validates the words themselves," writes another CafeMom member. "School is for education. Let's set examples and teach them that cursing is not good behavior even if it's acceptable in videos and movies."

New York City's department of education might agree with that statement. In 2010, a Manhattan teacher was suspended and docked $15,000 in pay after cursing in Spanish during one of his classes. Ironically, when the teacher took the school to task in court, the judge was far more lenient, cutting his fine down to just $1000.

But if Klein's bill passes, Arizona judges may not be as understanding.

"Frankly school boards are the ones who should be making these decisions," David Schapira, an Arizona lawmaker who opposes the bill, told the Associated Press, adding, "I don't remember this being a big problem when I taught high school."

What do you think: Should teachers be criminalized for cursing in the classroom?

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