Should schools ban pupils from using slang?
The Harris Academy, a secondary school in London, has banned the use of 'urban language' (citing examples such as 'cos', 'bare' and 'innit'). They have also banned beginning sentences with 'Basically' and ending them with 'yeah'. There has been something of a Twitter backlash, partly because this is seen as having class and race-related undertones. Others argue it is encouraging pupils to be more 'professional'. What do you think?
3 experts and 1 parent have answered
I almost choked on air when I read about this earlier. The thought of a group of suit-wearing, expressionless students all using received pronunciation filled my mind. I honestly see it as an attack on creative freedom and it genuinely reminds me of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Young people creating and using their own terminology is, and has probably been for many decades, a standard part of childhood development. I think banning such terminology can only have negative consequences and it tries to associate young people with the older, professional population by forcing them to use more 'acceptable' forms of English.
Forcing young people to conform, throughout all of history, has been the spark for many major events. Preventing them from being the naturally ideological and expressive beings they are leaves them with a gap in their life which can only later come out in a rather dire way (look at mass shootings and how many of the perpetrators were always quiet and 'plain').
You can teach children how to be professional without restricting their freedom. My school did so, and countless others have done it over the past 40 years, why are things suddenly changing now? I fear we are becoming too used to monitoring and restrictions on freedom. When is the line drawn? How many simply ridiculous rules are allowed before we say "no more"?
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I agree in essence with Cal when it comes to a childs need for their own identity and expressiveness outside of the control structures which surround them at home and in school.
However, more and more I am seeing young individuals who bring slang and "text speak" into a more formal setting, often without even realising it. Conversing or sending professional emails with slang and SMS style abbreviations reflects badly not just on the individual, but on those around them.
So, with all that said, I would suggest a balance between when correct usage is required in schools, such as within the classroom or when conversing with teachers; and when the students can express themselves as they deem fit with "slang", the school yard, when conversing amongst themselves.
It should be noted that words are vehicles for the conveyance or expression of thoughts and ideas, and many times throughout history words which once were slang are now considered proper English. The language we use is not static, but rather in a constant state of flux, these changes originate in slang, and should not be feared outright.
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I agree with both Cal and David. I also find it very interesting that in a society such as South Africa, adults resort to using slang more and more. I struggle with the poor language, slang, and mix of different languages portrayed in the media on a daily basis.
Malaysia offers "Oh My English!", "Speak good English" and "Learn English" campaigns in order to teach young people to speak a better English devoid of slang. I see South Africa is heading in this direction too, unless the country focus on solving poor language skills at adult level.
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It will continue to be a challenge with advertising taking advantage of slang, text speak and anything to get attention.
This year I have seen more lower case "i"s in student work than ever before, and this includes formal essay writing. It's horrible but I predict it will continue to exist where students are concerned.
However, just this week I've come across two adverts using lower case "i"s and this leaves me wondering if it is a sign of worse things to come grammatically wise.