Swearing in class: institutional morality in dispute

Article


Doherty, Catherine, Berwick, Adon and McGregor, Rowena. 2018. "Swearing in class: institutional morality in dispute." Linguistics and Education. 48, pp. 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.linged.2018.09.003
Article Title

Swearing in class: institutional morality in dispute

ERA Journal ID8945
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsDoherty, Catherine (Author), Berwick, Adon (Author) and McGregor, Rowena (Author)
Journal TitleLinguistics and Education
Journal Citation48, pp. 1-9
Number of Pages9
Year2018
Place of PublicationAmsterdam, Netherlands
ISSN0898-5898
1873-1864
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.linged.2018.09.003
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.

Keywordsswearing, classroom discourse, morality, purity, sociolinguistics
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390308. Technical, further and workplace education
390306. Secondary education
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Byline AffiliationsUniversity of Glasgow, United Kingdom
Queensland University of Technology
Library Services
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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