I’m an Academic Mentor for English at a community secondary school, both my parents are teachers and my Dad has spent many years teaching in Harris Academies. He’s now working at a private school, and despite missing the variety of children who go to state schools, he sees this as a long-term move. Anyway, it was through my Dad that I found out about the idea of Harris banning certain words which are deemed to be slang. Firstly, this is obviously ridiculous. It’s like some weird social experiment. As an Academic Mentor, I understand that speaking correctly will help you write correctly (hello grammar police). So, why would I have a problem with it? Okay, so here’s why it’s ridiculous:
1. The words that are being banned don’t even distinguish between slang and colloquialism.
2. There’s only a small amount of banned words anyway. There’s a lot more where they came from.
3. It supports class division, as poet Anthony Anaxagorou stated in his article, most of this banned lexicon targets working-class kids. I’m trying to rack my brain for some “posh slang” but all I think of is someone from Made in Chelsea saying “awesome”.
4. It stiffles creativity; I remember reading something about how we are all the masters of our own language… I think it was A.A.Milne? Yes, we should be aware of the words we choose, but there is no reason to enforce a ban. I mean, look at the sign. This has to be a joke right?
I pointed out to my Dad that some teachers would find it hard. This could result in either embarrassment or provoke discussion. Is the teacher saying “you was…” going to be laughed at or laughed with? It depends on how serious this ban is and whether it is actually a light-hearted experiment for everyone at school. Slang has never suited me personally; someone once told me I was too middle-class to say “wicked” which upsets me because I actually like the word. I did cringe over hearing a friend use the word “bare” when we grew apart as friends at school (probably because I just wasn’t cool in any circle!) However, I’m a serial offender for ‘like’, ‘basically’ and ”cause’. I’m also partial to a bit of ‘defos’, ‘obvos’ and ‘ridic’… in an ironic way, obviously… I’m not that posh… Or, okay, yes, I am that posh. I’m the guy in Made in Chelsea saying ‘awesome’ (just kidding – like ‘bare’, ‘awesome’ is another of my pet hate words). I’ve corrected spellings here, because I think that’s the part that really highlights how the policy victimizes the more working-class students.
Anyway, despite my unashamed, self-confessed middle-class status, I am ultimately a lover of language, a poet, a writer, a master of my own words. I teach students to encourage them to love literature and to be as creative as possible when using language. To tell them they can’t use words they own is counter-productive. The only way it could possibly work is if it’s just for, like, a day… that way it’s a bit like that game when you can’t answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a series of questions. But, it’s not like that, is it?
And one more point in my ramble… slang and making up words is all part of being a kid. Sometimes we made up code words and things to communicate. It’s creative and fun and when you’re older, you can look back at all the silly things you said. From the “fruitbrunettes” to the “Lisa Mafia Crew” (I was “Soldier Mafia”) I will treasure those memories despite the time that has passed. If you think that banning words is a good idea… that’s just facety man… (or shabby).