There are no official lists of profanities in the English language.
But Leesville wouldn’t have a hard time creating one.
Google’s accidentally-released vulgarity-checking program, which lasted less than 24 hours in April 2011, may be the only sure-fire index ever created. The line between controversial and outright offensive is extremely gray, and no major dictionary has ever developed the nerve to clearly define it.
However, a mere minute or two spent in one of our school’s congregatory areas will supply a more-than-sufficient collection of remarks capable of offending Eminem.
Thoroughly spanning the alphabet, words from ‘A’ to ‘F’ to ‘S’ can be heard out of the student body’s collective chatter at an alarmingly high rate. Such phrases need not be quoted, but anyone who has spent even a single day at Leesville is well-versed (pardon the pun) with them.
We’re facing an epidemic of profanities.
One anonymous Leesville student isn’t concerned about his own contributions. “Cussing is how I express myself [at school]. When you’re away from your parents, it’s fun to say things you can’t say anywhere else,” he says.
He’s not the only one with that attitude. Out of a small poll of 38 Leesville students, over half indicated that they cursed at least 10 times a day.
More than a third curse upwards of 25 times a day; almost 60% don’t intend to reduce their cursing in the future.
Daniel Nance, sophomore, has grown accustomed to the profanity. “I hear other students cuss all the time,” he says. “I don’t really notice it a lot because of how common it is…[but] it can be distracting during school.”
How have curse words infested our conversations so easily? Many schools and school systems, including Leesville and Wake County, no longer seriously punish students for using them.
Leesville’s student handbook makes one mention of cursing — the “use of profanity to a staff member” may result in three days of ISS — but, out of 32 full pages of rules, the handbook fails to include a single word about punishment for student-to-student exchanges.
Therefore, teachers are unable to issue any more than a warning, and students have seemingly discovered that weakness. They curse, teachers scold, and, five minutes later, they curse again. The cycle continues; the problem remains unregulated and unsolved.
But we’re not the only ones stuck in that pattern.
In August, New York City schools announced that, starting this year, students will not be suspended for the use of profanities. Despite polls showing great public discontent over the policy change, the vulgarities spewing out of New York’s 1.1 million public school students has apparently become too prevalent to control.
Dan Horwich, an Illinois high school teacher, also expressed concern about the system in a 2005 interview with the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss. “”As soon as the kid gets suspended [for cursing]…you have the parent come running down to the school, yelling and screaming and swearing, saying they are going to fight it and saying they are going to call their lawyer, and the school administrators back down,” he says.
Now, the dilemma may be escalating beyond controllable range. “I don’t know if there should be a punishment, because that…would be way too hard to enforce with how much people cuss at our age,” says Nance.
Should Leesville buck this trend? Should Leesville at least try out a new curse-discouraging policy? Should Leesville actually make an effort to restore sensibility to our language?
But so far, we haven’t.