Saturday, May 05, 2007

"Use another word, please"

Ever hear the phrase, "That's so gay!"...or how about, "He's such a retard!"? I could go on with racial terms as well, but I think you get the point. Every once in a while I hear phrases like that being tossed around casually. Though it's not usually adults who I hear saying it, I don't often hear adults stopping it either.

I don't believe people really think about...and maybe don't care...that those phrases are offensive to people of those groups. When I hear someone say something like that, I often ask them what they really mean. All too often, the derogatory term is often used synonymously with words like "stupid."

Though it's one thing to correct our own behavior (and something we don't always do), it takes even more courage to gently correct others. However, a group in Springfield, Oregon has figured out a way to do this...inspired and initiated by a student who simply turned to another fellow student one day and said, "Use another word, please."

After coming up with the idea to do a school-wide campaign, the racially diverse group of freshmen, sophomores, and juniors took time to do preliminary research seeking to discover how widespread the problem was. After creating tally sheets and monitoring disrespectful language for two weeks, they noted 80-90 racist comments, 30-40 sexist comments, 30-40 able-ist comments, and 50-60 homophobic comments.

Recognizing there was a need to address the issue, they launched their campaign by creating buttons and posters and designed a pledge that had to be signed before receiving a button.

Since the campaign started, one teacher noted a decrease in the number of fights at school. District data supports his observation: suspensions went from 318 during 2004-05 to 142 in 2005-06. Suspensions for fighting dropped from 86 to 38, and suspensions for defiance from 176 to 11.

It's amazing what consideration for each other can do. So next time you hear a disrespectful comment, how about kindly saying, "Use another word, please!"
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