The "R" Word

"It's not nice, but it's no different than the "n" word."   

" I grew up using the "r" word, so it's a habit." 

"OK, the word retarded could be used in a playful manner, such as if your friend does something stupid or funny, you might joke around and say, "you moron" or "you retard" but if you use it in a hurtful manner, then it's wrong." 

"My feelings of that word are "I don't care."  That word doesn't matter to me since I hear more words that are worse every day." 

"I will admit that I used to use that word without thinking about it.  Now I think it is very offensive to the person you say it to and those who actually have that disability." 

" I never use it anymore because of my grandmother working with special needs and because of Square."  ( Note: Square is the blog author's nickname.) 

What an endeavor we took on to organize student statements about the "R" word into some kind of meaningful study.  As one can see from a sample collection, the users have varied opinions.  As these statistics show, we are somewhat accomplished as a society in changing the way people think about our special needs population.  However, the word still creeps into movies, television and dialogue.  

If our sample is untainted, and a sample like this can never be 100% unbiased because kids talk about teachers and what they learn all the time, then our population is indeed changing with respect to the use of "retard".  

Here are the results of the question I posed to my 8th grade students, " What are your feelings about the use of the R word?  The sample included 105 responders.

1.  60% responded that they never use the word. 

2.  23% responded that they use the word, but not to hurt a person who is special or disabled.

3.  11% felt it was acceptable to use the word without exception.

4.  2% said whereas they used to use the word, they no longer use it under any circumstances. 

Some answers could not be categorized.  For example, one young lady spoke highly of special children but didn't fit into any survey group when she said,

"Because I have special children in my family I do not hate the use of that word because special children are very smart in other ways (normal) children their age are not."

This student seemed to capture the common belief shared by the students, that the word, not as a substitute for stupid, but as an extreme insult, was the intent of habitual users.

"I feel that when most people use it, they are taking it to an extreme and are usually using it in place of another word like stupid in some situations." 

Of particular interest to me, personally, in our diverse population, was that students equated the use of "retard" with the use of the "n" word showing the higher level thinking skill of evaluation. Getting students to this level of learning is the goal of all educators (common core aside for the moment.)

"I think that it is just as bad as the "N" word used in an offensive way."   

This next opinion is that of a young lady that I can work with during our Flowers for Algernon unit.

"It really depends on who is saying it, who it's said to and why it's being said." 

As the parent of a young adult with autism, my need to change the world is more personal.  I want my son's friends and my son, all dealing with day to day challenges that are unimaginable, not to have to deal with verbal insults as well. 

After reading the email that I received last week, I realize that we are, at the very least, encouraging our students to think about what they say before saying it. In this email, an English teacher said she overheard a student self correct after using the word, "dumb". What a huge success in education if we can effect change in making our students nicer.  If only everyone developed the life skill of filtering the harsh words before speaking.

Give me a few more weeks and I'll hope to read more like this answer:

"I think it is rude and disrespectful." 

And, from a student who thought about it, trying to inject some humor into his response, 

"I feel like the "R" word is disrespectful.  You might use it to someone and they could be the "R" word!"

Ay dios mio!   Art Linkletter said it best, "Kids say the darnedest things."


(Note: These opinions are my own and are not meant to reflect the position of my school.)







 A special smile

A special smile

Greg is treated like royalty at the local tree farm. 

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Puzzle passion

No more "R" word!  Everybody has special skills!