Swearing in class: institutional morality in dispute

Doherty, Catherine and Berwick, Adon and McGregor, Rowena (2018) Swearing in class: institutional morality in dispute. Linguistics and Education, 48. pp. 1-9. ISSN 0898-5898

Abstract

This paper explores how swearing in classrooms is variably construed and managed as a moral problem, and how classroom settings can demand higher standards than broader society. We review sociolinguistic understandings of Anglophone settings regarding what constitutes ‘bad’ language, the pragmatics of swearing across society, and trends over time, to trace a growing tolerance in public settings and media, particularly in Australia. We then review literature regarding swearing in schools. Using Douglas’ (1966) theory of purity, hygiene, taboos and moral boundaries, we conceptualise schools as strongly demarcated ‘purified’ sites that undertake the moral work of imbuing social standards in the future citizen. Students’ choices to swear in class despite teachers’ repeated corrections can thus be understood as more than inappropriate lexis. The paper then draws from an ethnographic study of prevocational classes catering for 16 to 17 year olds created under Australia's ‘earning or learning till 17’ policy. Illustrative episodes where students swear in class are analysed to exemplify differently pitched responses. The conclusion reflects on the tension between an increasingly secular society more tolerant of swearing, and teachers’ work to purify the moral climate in schools, to consider what the practice of swearing in class and its regulation achieves.


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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Permanent restricted access to published version, in accordance to the copyright policy of the publisher.
Faculty / Department / School: Current - Division of Academic Services - Library
Date Deposited: 22 Jan 2019 06:05
Last Modified: 24 Jan 2019 05:11
Uncontrolled Keywords: swearing, classroom discourse, morality, purity, sociolinguistics
Fields of Research : 13 Education > 1301 Education Systems > 130108 Technical, Further and Workplace Education
13 Education > 1301 Education Systems > 130106 Secondary Education
Socio-Economic Objective: C Society > 93 Education and Training > 9302 Teaching and Instruction > 930202 Teacher and Instructor Development
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1016/j.linged.2018.09.003
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/35095

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