Swearing is a big deal at school. Mum and Dad might not swear at home. They might restrain themselves in front of the children and only swear when they are out. But it is hard to imagine someone not swearing at all. I don’t even think it would be an achievement. I live in Spain where there is a higher tolerance of swearing generally than in England and the most common terms- terms that your grandmother would use talking to the bank manager- are difficult to translate into English because they sound so splendidly, well, vulgar.
England is infamously uptight. Unfortunately that Anglo-Saxon prudishness has made its way into education in a big way. Just as we seem to think it is a good idea to feed children a load of nonsense about morals, even wrapping it up in some religious nonsense about knowing the difference between Good and Evil, we insist on loading them up with hypocritical double standards when it comes to language.
I was an English teacher and was genuinely stunned by the combination of prudishness and innocence of examination boards in their choices of texts. They set things that are “safe” without seeming to be aware of the real texts. What does it matter if a text does not have swear-words in, if it deals with subjects that would rate an 18 at the cinema?
Here is Neill in Jonathan Croall’s book Permanent Rebel telling us that swearing is not a problem, explaining what the words mean and showing sensibility to the feelings for outsiders who might not understand the culture at Summerhill.
I think the world has moved on since those days and people are less likely to be offended by swearing now, but it remains the case that “swearing downtown” is banned for Summerhillians. They can fine me. I don’t care. I think the world should grow up and worry about real issues, such as violence and abuse, without twisting kids’ brains into knots with moral bans on language.
Anyway, here is Cartman at school giving us a light-hearted look at the subject of swearing. Hope you enjoy: