Cursing in the classroom

Swearing is often used to express and evoke emotion – should it be used in class?

by Max McGlaun

Curse words: they can be used to express anger, pain, humor, shock, excitement or any other human emotion.

Among peers, it is normal for many people to curse freely without second thought. Throughout high school, students couldn’t walk down the hall without hearing profanity, and even now in college this hasn’t changed.

“It’s something that you have to get used to if you’re on campus because it [cursing] happens a lot,” freshman Josiah Beal says.

It’s not hard for many people to accidentally let a curse word slip out, as they are part of most everyone’s vocabulary.

“I don’t really notice cussing because its kinda just second nature,” freshman Weston Hasty says.

If it is heard and used so often by people everywhere, especially students, then should professors feel obligated to remove it from their classroom? Would allowing curse words in the classroom allow for a better connection to be made by student and teacher, or would it distract from learning?

“I probably cuss more than I really should, but I mean it doesn’t really bother me,” freshman Gabe Cole says.

Professor Grayson Barnes has been employed at Butler Community College since 1997, teaching art appreciation and humanities.

“To think that a lot of people don’t curse is sort of in denial in the extensiveness of language and the extensiveness of emotion. To me it’s important to recall that in presenting information, because it’s a way of connecting,” Barnes says.

“I think that not swearing sort of hangs in there with things like not drinking, it’s a commitment. It’s okay if that works for somebody. I know that personally it doesn’t work for me because to me it’s not real for who I am.”

Barnes believes that when used correctly, curse words can make a lecture more natural and true to reality.

“If I’m responding to something that shocks me or freaks me out, or I think would freak someone out and I’m trying to give what I might be a realistic reaction or an expression of puzzlement, that’s when I tend to swear,” Barnes says. “I think we all think those things, and in my courses there are images that we see and we look at and we go [gasp]. It’s not just a little puzzlement, it’s a lot of puzzlement.”

Though, Barnes does believe it can derail a student off their train of thought and block them from absorbing knowledge.

“It can be used effectively to keep the students engaged, it can be used ineffectively to turn students off,” Barnes says. “I wouldn’t give an entire lecture in curse words.”

Students have differing opinions when it comes to their professors cursing in the classroom.

“Most of the time it’s in a joking manner and I know they’re not serious about it if they do,” Beal says. “I think it’s somewhat unprofessional of them to [curse in class].” Some believe, regardless of its usage in everyday life, it does not belong in a learning environment.

“You’re a teacher; you’re a professional, you should be teaching the class without using profound language,” Hasty says.

Some students, however, are not bothered by it.

“I don’t really care if they cuss, but when they do it’s kind of funny because you don’t expect it,” Cole says. With varying opinions across the campus, professors should proceed with caution.

“In real life it’s what you would say. That’s when I try to use it; it’s mostly to make a point,” Barnes says. “But I don’t tend to do it until I’ve gauged the classroom pretty well.”

So, do you care?

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graphic by Allanah Taylor
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