Censoring teachers’ speech

The Web of Language, Dennis Baron’s excellent blog, reports:

“The Arizona State Senate is considering a proposal to fire teachers who swear. SB 1467 bans their use of any words that would violate FCC regulations against obscenity, indecency, and profanity on broadcast radio and television. A teacher would be suspended without pay after the first offence, fired after the third. Employers would also have the option of dismissing an instructor after the first curse.”

What do you think of that?  I wonder what would happen if a teacher read aloud an excerpt from a television show, movie, poem, or novel which contained profanity.

Would the forbidden language include such words as “damn,” which some people consider profane, or would it also be words referring to gender, ethnicity, or race which other people consider profane, or would it be only words referring to sex?  Who gets to draw up the list? Teachers, of course, are in a different position from television personalities in that they know their audience, and the context in which the words are being received. They should be given more slack than the FCC gives television programs.

I am reminded of a moment many years ago when I said, “Damn it!” after burning part of dinner.  My son had just come back from the afternoon babysitter’s, and was distraught, “Don’t say that mommy!  Mrs. Taylor says you’ll go to hell if you say ‘damn’!” I found another babysitter, but I can’t change my students.

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