“I would have never called him that if I knew. You don’t call retarded people retards. It’s bad taste. You call your friends retards when they’re acting retarded.”
Ah, the infamous quote of Michael Scott from the Office. Steve Carell’s character is noteworthy for never, ever, ever having any boundaries or limits of what is and is not inappropriate. Its funny in the Office, as it stands in satire of what a boss should never ever be like. It’s not so funny when someone like Ann Coulter decided to take it upon herself to tweet that President Obama is a retard. This received backlash–shocking!!– and she responded with this nauseating article (literally nauseating. I have never been so disgusted with someones backpedaling in my life.)
She, in a very Michael Scott esque style, says, “Look, no one would refer to a Down Syndrome child, someone with an actual mental handicap, by saying ‘retard.’ Where do you think the words ‘imbecile,’ ‘idiot,’ ‘moron,’ ‘cretin’ come from? These were all technical terms at one time. ‘Retard’ had been used colloquially to just mean ‘loser’ for 30 years,” Coulter insisted. “But no, no — these aggressive victims have to come out and tell you what words to use.”
…..Good one, Ann.
Luckily, her critics are more eloquent than she is, particularly this athlete who penned a response that kindly shuts her down in an educated and well articulated way. He has Downs, and highlights the triumphs that he has seen in his life and from people who also has downs. He asks if she was trying to send Obama a compliment, because of all the things that people with Downs can and have achieved. And then he ends it with this goosebumps giving statement:
“Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor.”
Beautiful. But the point of my post doesn’t just have to do with Coulters insensitivity. It poses for me a larger question: what do we do about the mini Coulters in our classroom, the bullies who still want to use ‘retard’ as a derogatory statement? This, and calling someone ‘gay’, happen so many times a day. How do we use classroom management as teachers to stop this behaviour? We can’t stop their parents from saying it, them from hearing it in the media, or older ‘wiser’ adults from saying it. But we can make it absolutely unacceptable in our classrooms.
Does anyone have any ideas over how to do this? For me, my gameplan is this:
I want to have students, in the first week of class, establish rules for the classroom. I think if they have a stake in them, then they will be less likely to act out. One of my rules will be words that we are not allowed to use in a derogatory fashion, and then hopefully some brilliant little kiddo will shout out ‘gay!’ and ‘retard!’.
That’s phase one. Phase two will come at them Love and Logic style… If I ever hear a kid using one of those words I plan to say something along the lines of (pair this with a death stare) “In my classroom, I do not tolerate those words being used in a derogatory way. Prove to me that you know the real meaning of those words by never using them again, and I won’t make you scrub the dirt off all of the desks after class. From here on out, how you use that word is your choice but the consequences are not. Choose wisely.”
Anyone else thought about this or had any tactics they’d try?