The First Amendment. There is hardly an American who can’t at least paraphrase it.
“Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.”
One of the things that makes this country what it is, is our ability to openly express our opinions, beliefs and ourselves. For some, this may require the use of vulgar language. While it is true that this can be offensive and difficult for some, in order to maintain the values in the above-stated document, even this form of speech can’t be regulated.
As a journalist, the First Amendment is essential for my job. Without it, journalism would be, at best, at danger of filtering by whomever or whatever the controlling power was. The First Amendment assures that ideas and opinions can flow freely.
I clearly recall a day where I was sitting in the Connection Café around friends who were using various forms of colorful language. Suddenly, a woman walked up to them and asked them to quit cursing, saying that it was offensive. One of the students, after the woman had walked away, replied sarcastically.
“Well, s***,” he said.
At the time, I felt a strong bias towards my friends who were cursing. Though I don’t condone cursing personally, I also don’t condone censoring any kind of speech. In retrospect, however, I realized no one in this scenario was wrong. My friends were exercising their rights and so was the woman asking them to stop.
Without the first amendment, it is possible that either one of those parties may not have been able to speak as they pleased. There are more than just curse words at stake in this argument.
The Library of Congress created an exhibit of “Books that Shaped America.” From the list, several books were challenged and/or banned. Two of these books, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, were banned or challenged partially because of language.
This may seem like a red herring, but try walking into this theoretical world. Every year, Pierce College libraries, along with other libraries, librarians, booksellers and more, hold different kinds of events, put up signs or other things in commemoration of books that have been and are being banned or challenged all over America.
Certain times at Pierce College, librarians will have “Banned Book Readings,” where they will read books that have been banned or challenged. Many of these books are on this list because of language.
Should we stop these readings or censor them just to appease listeners that may be offended? No more than we should do such things because a racist, religious zealot, atheist or fascist in the audience may be offended. Simply this, we have no right to. What we have is a right to speak as we please.
Imagine, if you would, that Aristotle, a Greek philosopher in 384 B.C. has been transported through time from days of old to our modern day of 2015. The location is at Pierce College.
Wearing flowing robes and perhaps a garland in his hair, he walks down the halls and observes the “new and improved” scholars of our institution of learning. Expecting to overhear a philosophical debate on the state of our world or a pressing social issue, he instead hears something quite different.
“What the $%@* are you talking about, bro? Meghan Trainor is the greatest singer I’ve ever heard!”
“No way, man! You’re full of #$^@! Ariana Grande rocks like no one else.”
Aristotle caught a whiff of the f-bomb once it exploded in the air. Immediately after, a destructive aftershock occurred – a modern day word that translates to ‘feces’.
After listening to both warblers on some high-tech gadget called an “Ipod,” the great thinker comes to several conclusions.
First, neither of these ear-numbing artists can sing their way out of a paper bag. Second, the language these students used to express their arguments is unacceptable for a place of higher learning.
Cursing on any college campus is the antithesis of the goal for higher learning. We pay our tuition in the attempt to elevate our minds and enter a world of professionalism. Speaking thoughtfully and expressing ourselves succinctly should be our greatest goal. We want to make strong impressions, or at least I’d certainly hope so, and inappropriate language debases this ideal and brings us to the lowest possible level.
It’s a matter of common courtesy to hold a proper tongue in front of any person who’s present at the college.
All too often, I breeze through various parts of Pierce College and my ears are verbally abused by vile language. I hear all sorts of arrangements of phrases and am fairly interested as to why one would choose to speak these words over beautiful other ones. There are approximately 1,025,109 English words existing, estimated by the Global Language Monitor on Jan. 1, 2014.
Let us consider the remedies: we should all choose to take a vow of silence, which is what Trainor and Grande should do. We could also ride back in a time machine alongside Aristotle to a time when language was held in such regard. Finally, we could make a conscious effort not to swear in a sacred place such as college and cease to annoy anyone within earshot. The choice is ours, Pierce College. What will it be?
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost
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