Friday, May 6, 2011

Dangerous Words

Question: How should one deal with “dangerous words,” ethnic slurs, etc.?

Answer: A research project in which students explore the origins, history, connotations of “dangerous words.”

Quote: “If one of our goals as teachers is to prepare young people to take their place in the world, it is paramount to recognize that, for most of them, that world contains vulgarity as well as poetry. How many of my female students will at some point be told, ‘Hey, don’t be a bitch’ or hear from a date, ‘I’ll tell everyone you’re a slut’? How many young men will be faced with ethnic slurs or have their masculinity questioned? My hope is that this assignment helps some students move from an adrenal to an intellectual response when derogatory language is hurled at them, perhaps allowing them to make more responsible life decisions as they face a world of poorly behaved peers. And if the language of the public sphere continues to trade in divisive innuendo and insults then it may be that only students who have thought historically, culturally, and linguistically about derogatory language will be equipped to take their place as citizen-rhetors.” P. 60.

Comment: Obviously, this assignment has certain dangers attached to it. You truly need to read the entire article to find out how the teacher dealt with these dangers. RayS.

Title: “Dangerous Words: Recognizing the Power of Language by Researching Derogatory Terms.” Karen A. Keely. English Journal (March 2011), 55-60.

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