by Samantha Della Fera
Last year in Biology, I spent three weeks dissecting a fetal pig’s body. As a freshman in Global Perspectives, I heard grisly details of the brutal punishments criminals in the 15th century were forced to endure. In Italian, I read stories of immigrants beaten and neglected for trying to find a better life. Yet when my sophomore English class read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, the characters’ open profanity was met by shuffling feet and blushing cheeks. Swearing in school has an overarching taboo that censors our supposed open forum and creates a constant culture of oversight.
Cursing in school should still have its restrictions. No one should be giving a presentation on North American biomes and be dropping f-bombs every other line. But when these notorious four-letter words arise in our classic novels, our favorite poetry and our political discussions, they should not be ignored. We should be able to debate our own president-elect’s words without brushing over his vulgarity. The shock of his rhetoric is lost when we trail off in class, debating back and forth about “grabbing her by the...you know.”
This is not by fault of the teachers or the students; it’s the climate we grow up in. From kindergarten up, just sticking your tongue out at a classmate got you a raised eyebrow and an accusatory finger. While jarring language and gestures should never be used for the intent of harm, at an early age we are taught that they have no place within school walls. The expansion of our knowledge is trumped by the desire for proper language.
Biology taught me every detail of how bodily systems function. Global Perspectives allowed me to understand the importance of reform in law and order. Stories of discrimination against Italian immigrants showed me how far we’ve come, and how far we still need to go. Kurt Vonnegut, an American author, once wrote: “Profanity and obscenity entitle people who don’t want unpleasant information to close their ears and eyes to you.” By not facing what we find to be repugnant, there will be no way for us to learn from it, progress from it and, ultimately, to understand it.