'Racist' children accused of bigotry after name-calling

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Fredd
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Christiesgal wrote:
I totally agree Corris.   The teachers are way over the top on this one IMHO.   Children of that age aren't capable of being racist or homophobic etc etc.   They don't the maturity to understand the negative connotations of the words they are slinging about as insults.  It's a shame some kids even know those words but unfortunately they do.   What they need is taking to one side and having it explained to them.

ursh x

Exactly!  young children pick up words and use them without any understanding.  To accuse them of bigotry is, usually, ridiculous.   

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Quote:
A DfE spokesman said:
‘It is down to schools themselves to exercise their own common sense and professional judgment about the best way of taking on bullies.’

I guess some teachers just have more common sense and professional judgement than others.

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The daily mail is stirring as per usual.

Look at it this way. There were 34000 such reports in one year. It initially sounds like a lot, but there are nearly 18000 primary schools and 4000 secondaries... 22000 schools sharing that figure and I haven't even counted the nurseries.

I've said this before, but that's what, one and a half incidents, per school, per year? Is it really so inconceivable that an average school could have say two incidents of racism or homophobia in a year? How many children in an average school? is it so inconceivable that two of them might say something they really oughtn't in any given year?

Ok, I'm sure there are some schools who are rather more zealous than others, I'm sure that some mistakes have been made, but seriously, teachers and TAs are NOT jumping on every single little 'gaylord' type comment that children make are they? It's MOSTLY only the rather more serious stuff that gets reported.

The figures speak for themselves IMO...

As you know, I also have personal experience. Alex said something unwise a couple of years back, and after careful consideration, his school decided NOT to put it on file. Teachers ARE sensitive to what is genuine racism and homophobia and what is youthful exuberance, in the main. Certainly the only children I know of who ended up being reported were persistent offenders and certainly meant to be offensive.

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But that's not right either.

Why should it be 'explained' to them that 'gay' USED to mean homosexual, so therefore they aren't now allowed to use it with it's accepted meaning of 'naff'.

 

The closest I can come is that when I worked in Social services we used the phrase nitty gritty once in a meeting and the entire meeting then became about the useage of that word - someone was even referred to as 'racist' for using it 'in ignorance'.

 

Now, apparently, once upon a time, it was a phrase used in relation to slave shipping, and referred to delousing or something similar.  Hence 'getting down to the nitty gritty' of something - stripping it back.  

 

That meaning is no longer there, and for me, no longer relevant.  And 'educating' people not to use is has no place.  It has moved on.  The person using the term wasn't ignorant, or racist.  They were using an accepted saying, in context, with an understanding of the meaning - but obviously with no understanding of the HISTORY of the word.

And that is, in our lifetime I suspect, what gay will be.  It's HISTORY will be that it also was used as an insult for homosexuals, then was claimed as a legitimate term.  However currently, and in the future because that's the way the evolving is going, it will mean 'naff'.  Not in relation to homosexuality, but just as a word independently standing by itself and adopted current useage will prevail.

 

I really despair of people wanting to use historical uses of words as a stick to beat people with.  If it was genuinely being used as an insult then absolutely pull people up.  But kids will bandy about words they hear, (and call each other names too!) - it's not homophobic to use that as a word, because the connotation behind it in the way they use it is 'naff' not 'homosexual'.

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So is there some point at which we accept that a word is acceptable despite its historical connotations, and if so when is that point?  When does it become acceptable to use the words gay, spastic etc. just as a word that means naff, idiot or whatever, without it having more offensive connotations? 

I'm not disagreeing with Corris (I don't think!), I'm just asking as a point of interest.

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Good point rocky.  Spastic is a word you rarely hear these days. So when kids refer to something as 'gay' to mean rubbish I wonder if at some point they could use that word in the same way.   It would be very odd.  I'm not disagreeing with Corris either, well not entirely. 

I don't know when/where the cut off point is either!

ursh x

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I know that when I was at school people used to call others a "spaz" to mean they were silly, idiots etc.  My brother has cerebral palsy and I used to take great offence (in a kind of child-like dramatic fashion!), but when I explained to people what the word spastic meant they had no idea.

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That's current though isn't it?  I don't know when the cut off point is, but for me it's in the intent.  Kids don't associate something 'being gay' with it being homosexual.  I'm not saying it's all fine and dandy I'm just saying if you were a linguist no, that's the wrong person - someone who studies the evolution of language - then it's the currently accepted speech patterns and meanings that are of import - not what they used to mean.

I don't know that spastic would ever be acceptable - it's only ever meant one thing as far as I'm aware, and it's not something that any of my kids, or their friends would use - consequently it doesn't fit what I'm trying to say as a comparable word.

Gay used to mean happy, then was 'adopted' to mean homosexual, now has been 'adopted' to mean 'naff'.

Jaqui was making EXACTLY my point (I think!) earlier when she said 'they could be saying 'happy'.  I think I'm agreeing with her - not that they are saying happy, they are saying naff - but that they COULD be using the 'happy' connotation as the root of their adjective just as easily as the homosexual connotation as the root of their adjective.

It's in the INTENT not in the word. 

Gay has been a number of words - it was used as an insult and then claimed by the gay community - and now it's being claimed by teenagers to mean naff.  Well, no one told homosexuals they couldn't use it to describe being homosexual because it meant happy.  I don't see how you can tell teenagers they can't use 'gay' to mean 'naff' because it has meant homosexual.

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I think the approach needs to change depending on the age of the children, and I get the feeling some of us are talking about primary, some secondary age.  With primary, generally, it would be sufficient just to say that "That actually isn't a very nice word so we don't use it".

With secondary, you are heading more into the context and considering how the word was meant.  If the word is meant in a non-offensive way, then fair enough, and the teachers should make an effort to keep up with current usages.  On the other hand, I find it hard to comprehend how a word that once meant homosexual suddenly began to mean naff instead.

On the subject of a cut-off - I think a word is unacceptable while there are people around who have been subjected to that word as an insult within folk-memory.  nitty-gritty is out of folk memory, but words like spastic, nigger, etc are still in that memory so not acceptable, even with other meanings.

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So children shouldn't use gay to mean because it in living memory meant something else, err when I was growing up it meant happy, so therefore the homosexual movement shouldn't have adopted it if we take that stand.
.

Larry Grayson used to say 'oh what a gay day' right up until he left the generation game in 1981 (along with shut that door)
 

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