Curbing Bad LanguageTHOMAS LICKONA & MATTHEW DAVIDSON
How can we teach students to be more reflective and respectful in their use of language?
Seven Promising Practices
Teachers who build rapport with students can use that relationship to elicit
respectful behavior. A high school biology teacher said he had a boy who used
the "f-word" during group work. The teacher spoke to him after class: "Mike, I
can't let you use that language in here. It's just not respectful. Could you try
to work on that for me?" Mike made a sincere effort, and by the end of the quarter
his language was no longer a problem.
In his book, Powerful Words, Positive Results, former high school history teacher Hal Urban says he ould write the following questions on the board and use them as a springboard for a class discussion of language:
Would you think differently of me if I constantly used swear words? Why are some persons offended by swear words? Are people who use foul language in public polite or rude? What do you reveal about yourself when you swear a lot?
"What really helped them
were their own answers to that last question," Urban says. "People who swear a
lot, they realize, may come across as angry, uneducated, rude, inconsiderate,
having a limited vocabulary, or trying to be cool. Even kids who admitted to swearing
a lot said this exercise got them to think about what they were conveying by their
When one class developed its "social contract"
specifying how they would treat each other (with respect), the teacher asked,
"What aout bad language; does it show respect?" They agreed that it did not show
respect since some people might be offended by such language, and it should be
prohibited in their class. They also agreed on a consequence: If you used bad
language, you had to come up with two respectful replacement words.
One teacher, as a homework assignment, had her students
watch a sit-com and keep a running tally of insults vs. positive comments in the
show. The next day, the teacher asked: "What did you find?" "What would happen
in real life if people insulted each other this often?" Students concluded that
in real life, such remarks would damage or even destroy relationships.
Thomas Lickona & Matthew Davidson. "Curbing Bad Language." excerpted from Smart & Good High Schools: Developing Excellence and Ethics for Success in School, Work, and Beyond.
For a free copy of Smart & Good High Schools: Developing Excellence and Ethics for Success in School, Work, and Beyond, go to http://web.cortland.edu/templton.
Reprinted with permission of Thomas Lickona and Matthew Davidson.
Matthew L. Davidson, Ph.D. is Research Director for the Templeton Grant Award Project at the Center for the 4th & 5th Rs (Respect and Responsibility) in the School of Education at SUNY Cortland. A frequent national presenter, Dr. Davidson is a Site Visitor for the National Schools of Character Awards Program and co-author of Evaluation Toolkit, published by the Character Education Partnership as well as Character Quotations; Activities That Build Character and Community co-authored with Thomas Lickona.
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