Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Speaking your mind

There is a right way and a wrong way to speak one's mind. My daughter, The Princess, found this out yesterday.

When I was in 8th Grade, I had a teacher who didn't listen to what I was saying to her. We were preparing to take a test, "the Pimsleur test", which was a standardized test. We were instructed to sharpen two pencils before we left the classroom and then to get in line to go to the gym. I, being the good Catholic School girl I was, followed directions and did just that. But, on the way to the gym, where we were taking the test, someone bumped my hand and I dropped my pencils on the tile floor, breaking BOTH leads. I was annoyed, but no matter, I would just explain to the teacher when we got to the gym.

The problem was, that when we got to the gym and I explained the situation, my teacher didn't understand what I was telling her. She said, "I told you to take care of that before we came down."

Well, never one to let things rest, I responded with, "You saw me sharpen them, (I didn't say stupid, but I wanted to...) you weren't listening to what I said." She told me to sit down. I was not amused and not deterred. And we repeated the conversation. This pattern contiued for about three rounds until she sent me to the Principal's Office, where I informed the Principal that she needed a new teacher; mine was too stupid to listen when people spoke to her. That time I did say "stupid" and that got me in trouble.

She called my mother, but I was NOT suspended.

The Princess, on the other hand, has not learned the graceful art of righteous indignation. And there is an art. Most of it has to do with keeping your tongue in check. Not my strong suit, and evidently not hers, either.

So, yesterday, when she gave her friend a hug (which, BTW, in the Columbus Public Schools is strictly forbidden) and was called on the carpet. She informed them that she was leaving the school since they would not allow her to go back to class. When the Principal tried to stop her, she told him what she thought of this rule, in no uncertain terms. And when she believed that he was not listening to what she was saying to him, she was not polite at all. I am still not sure what she said, but I understand it was laced with obscenities.

They called her father, and they suspended her for 10 days. Not for telling off the Principal (which would have made more sense), but for hugging a friend who needed comforting. This cuts her out of her concert (where she had a solo) and the last day of school (so she's all done for the year).

What would have made this situation different for her? Speaking her mind without using foul language.

Foul Language has become so commonplace in our vocabulary that many people don't even realize they are swearing. The F-word has become like punctuation in the ghetto idiom. It's almost like a rhythm keeper for their cadence. But, it is not just the lower class. You hear these words everywhere. They offend, yet, they are in use by virtually everyone who has a mouth to speak with.

I am certainly not lily-white. Until high school I didn't swear or curse at all. In fact, I was horribly scandalized that the boys in the tuba section were so crass in front of me. But, in wanting to be "one of the guys", I eventually became de-sensitized to it and would join in. A very bad habit. And one that I still have yet to break. My husband will tell you that my tongue is black. I am sure that this is where The Princess gets the idea that she can use this language to speak about the injustices of the world, but she is wrong. I am wrong. And society is wrong for allowing this to happen. These words should not be a part of our everyday speech patterns.

Everytime we open our mouths to say something negative, a swear word does not have to come out. I don't know if any of my readers are as bad as I am, but I challenge you to keep a tally for one day. Keep a tally of how many times you use a swear word. Every word counts, not just the first one in a sentence.

Then think about this. What message are we sending to the world around us about what we think of what we say? Is what we have to say important enough to us to communicate it clearly, in a manner that will not offend our listeners, but convince them instead? Or do we just want to be angry and never have our thoughts adequately heard?

I think it's an important distinction and one that I hope I am not too late to teach my daughter.

1 comment:

  1. Katie, I have struggled with my tongue for years. For me, it is not JUST obscenities (though that is certainly part of it), it is also using my tongue like a knife. In my growing up, I was taught the fine art of slashing and burning using words. I'm pretty good at it, but I've come to see, especially since becoming Catholic, that this is so very much more hurtful than just punching the person would be.

    I pray. A lot. And God himself has helped me, mostly, I believe, through his mother.