often starts, stops at home
By John W. Kennedy
to blame the media for the increasing foul language and rudeness
present in American society, but experts say parental guidance
and personal responsibility are key to stemming the tide of
The Federal Communications
Commission has imposed record fines this year for indecency
on radio and television shows. Partially in response, TV networks
now routinely delay awards shows to ensure that obscene words
are bleeped. Likewise, reality programs sometimes are filled
with conversation that has been censored.
But such suppression
of vulgar verbiage hasn’t stopped the pattern heard in
everyday speech. Nowadays obscene words are emblazoned on everything
from greeting cards to T-shirts.
is a form of rudeness,” says author and speaker C. Leslie
Charles of East Lansing, Mich. “Common courtesy is on
the endangered species list.”
Rap music, motion
pictures and premium cable TV shows have expanded the purview
of what passes for normal conversation in public, according
to Charles, 61. She is concerned that many children have become
deadened emotionally. She notes that television and film scenes
she finds revolting often elicit chuckles from her teenage grandchildren.
lost our shock value,” says Charles, author of Why
Is Everyone So Cranky? “We’ve become inured.” Charles believes once a person
shows a lack of respect toward others it has a fallout effect.
Such people are quick to complain about their spouses, jobs
Those no longer too
concerned about watching what they say occasionally cross the
line into more aggressive behavior. Verbal arguments about being
passed while driving, a neighbor’s barking dog or cutting
into line at the supermarket have occasionally escalated to
violence and even murder.
In the brave new
ill-mannered world, cussing is no longer a private activity.
Many people make no effort to curb their coarse speech on the
street, at school or at a sporting event.
At a growing number
of college basketball arenas, groups of fans scream obscenities
at opposing teams with impunity. University officials usually
wring their hands, claiming they can’t restrict free speech.
“Kids are using
vulgarity more at school, and they’re using it at a younger
age,” says Timothy Jay, professor at Massachusetts College
of Liberal Arts. Jay has written five books on profanity that
teach respect and responsibility, including What to Do When
Your Kids Talk Dirty and What to Do When Your Students Talk
Despite peer pressure,
Jay, 54, says each individual has a choice of whether to participate
in coarse conversation. Many young people use different standards
for their language depending on whether they are with their
parents or with their friends, he says.
why kids swear more in schools now is because they are less
likely to get punished for it,” Jay says. “When
schools are fighting drugs, sex, gangs and vandalism, language
is low on the list.”
Not so at Jerome
Elementary School in Saginaw, Mich. At an assembly every school
morning, officials reinforce good behavior that emphasizes peacemaking
trend toward rudeness in society oozes into school, but it starts
at home,” says Hilda Rodriguez, 47, principal of the 300-student
school. “If the home has values, the children will model
what’s before them.”
Even if a child is
allowed to misbehave at home, rules must be followed at this
grade school. Pupils aren’t allowed to make threats, hurl
insults or intimidate anyone. Why? Such behaviors can have a
spiraling effect, says Rodriguez, who attends Harvest Assembly
of God in Saginaw.
Ken Kuschel, a licensed
professional counselor in Aurora, Mo., says Christian adults
who use indecent speech are a poor influence on more than just
overhear the language it detracts from our witness,” says
Kuschel, 51. “The world expects Christians to be perfect
in their words and manner.”
Kuschel tries to
manage anger in the often-heated exchanges he hears at Lifecare
Family Services. “Anger doesn’t resolve anything,
and once words have been screamed they can’t be taken
back.” Kuschel, who counsels many troubled teens, says
although children usually copy the speech they hear at home,
at some point they must determine whether they will fall into
the same pattern.
out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks,” he
says. “Our words are able to portray much of what our
thoughts are, and in essence who we are.”
Words hold the power
to hurt for years, according to Charles. “We need to take
what we think and say much more seriously,” she says.