Friday, April 15, 2011
Would You Kiss Your Mother With That Mouth?
Years of doing yard duty on an elementary school playground has given me a certain perspective on language. I have become more sensitive to certain words, often described by children as "the S-word" or "the B-word." When I am dealing with other people's children at an elementary school, cursing is a non-negotiable. There is no way that I, as a molder of young minds, would feel comfortable allowing any of "that kind of talk" to take place on my watch. Sometimes it is a younger kid, in kindergarten or first grade, who is spouting something that they heard an older sibling or a parent say. That's when I have to ask them: "What would happen if you used that word in front of your mother?" It's a bit of a double-edged sword, since I know that many of our mothers use a fairly liberal sprinkling of cuss words, but the kids are also pretty clear about what would happen to them if they were caught repeating them. Most of them respond the same way: "I'd get a whuppin'." With the older kids, it's a little different. By fifth grade they have heard enough to know that it is only the filter they use at school and in certain social situations that keeps their mouths from sounding like the movies, songs, video games and neighborhood from whence they came. It is precisely this kind of restraint that needs to be taught to kids before they find their way out into a world that really will look at them sideways if they toss around the S or B words. I don't expect that I will keep them from cursing. I expect that they will know that if they let fly with an expletive or offensive slur in public, they will have to suffer the consequences. Like if they were on national television and shouted a homophobic term across a basketball court at an official who had just made a call that they didn't agree with. Kobe Bryant did that on Tuesday night. He had just been given a technical foul. He had just punched a chair. He was screaming at official Bennie Adams. He was misbehaving. Then he dropped "the F bomb." Not the one that my first graders are shocked by, but the one that my fifth graders like to try out on their peers to degrade them. Every bit as offensive and inciting as its cousin, the N word. I confess that I've never been much of a Kobe fan. Sure he's got talent. But he skipped college to make that talent pay off quicker. It has created, in the minds of many a basketball fan, an arrogance that has only increased over the years. He's a star, and he's won championships. He's untouchable. Or maybe not. This one may stick. The National Basketball Association has fined him one hundred thousand dollars, a little more than a parking ticket for someone who makes more than twenty-thousand dollars per game. Still, this is one that hopefully won't go away, the way the sexual assault allegation from 2003 did. At the very least, I know that he wouldn't be allowed to play on my court. He'd be sitting on the bench and I would be sure to call his mother before the end of the day.