My Kids are Learning Curse Words in School. From their Teachers.

boy with appleMy daughter came home from school the other day with a very important question: “Why would anyone call a vagina a p***y?”

“Where did you hear that word?” I wanted to know.

“Puberty Ed.”

The fifth graders at my kids’ uber-expensive private school have started what used to be called Sex Ed, but is now called Puberty Ed (evidently, it’s OK to teach the kids the word “p***y” but not to use the word Sex), and a big part of the curriculum, it seems, is telling the names of things.

“We learn the medical term, the slang term, and the vulgar term.”

Well, then.

“You know what else they call it, Mommy?  A c***! And did you know that the F-word means sex?”

That’s it! Too much for me!

I’m all for sex ed.  I wrote a post a while back about not telling my kids the facts of life because I didn’t think they were ready to hear them.  But when they were old enough,(for them, that was age 9), I did tell them. I’m not a prude, or squeamish about the subject. I want my kids – my daughter especially – to feel comfortable with their own sexuality.  I want them not to think of sex as dirty or shameful.  What I don’t want, is for them to be learning the words p**** and c*** in school.  From their teachers.

Here’s how it works: the teachers explain the “real” words for the reproductive and sexual organs, the sexual act and various and sundry other words having to do with puberty.  Then they ask the kids what words they know.  And it turns out, they know A LOT of words.

I know that I can’t protect my kids from foul language forever.  And maybe it is better for them to learn the words in a safe environment, where they can understand how they’re different from the “real” words, and why they shouldn’t be used.  But maybe not.  Maybe learning those words in school somehow validates the words themselves.  I think the theory is that letting the kids say the words in a controlled, monitored classroom environment takes away their clandestine thrill. But I’m wondering if all it does is teach them bad words.

I like that school has taught my ten year olds what’s about to happen to their bodies.  I like that the whole process of how babies are made has been de-mystified and de-giggle-fied for them.  But language is a powerful thing.  Words matter.  They don’t teach them bad grammar so they know what good grammar is. They don’t learn the N-word during Black History Month,  or the K-word during the unit on the Holocaust.  Teaching words like those – and like the ones my kids learned at school this week – only perpetuates their use.

It might be naïve to think that simply by not teaching kids bad, demeaning, prejudicial or offensive language that language will just go away.  But wouldn’t it be a nice goal? Wouldn’t it be nice to try?


  1. says

    What kind of A**hole wrote that curriculum? But seriously, I’m not so sure it’s a bad idea, and I’m not sure that you can equate the use of the word c*nt with n*gg*r. There’s a lot of public dialog about the N word, and how derogatory it is. Even f*g gets discussed in the mainstream media. But there’s not the same public dialog around p*ssy, and maybe hearing those words without really knowing what they mean can foster shame in kids — particularly who are less developed than their peers. But what do I know — I don’t have kids… or a p*ssy.

  2. says

    Maybe it’s a New York thing. You know – so you can accurately decipher the graffiti, or know what to scream at the crazy lady who cuts you in line at Fairway. When I was in 6th grade at my public school in Brooklyn my Spanish teacher wrote every single curse and slang word she could think of on the board in Spanish with the English translation. She told us, you live in New York you should know what people are calling you.
    Of course after 8 years of Spanish classes those are the words that I remember!

  3. says

    I wonder if my old Catholic grammar school is using this curriculum! Wow! 7th Grade is when we had the puberty talk where girls and boys were separated. I’m pretty sure the teachers didn’t use those words back them. What I’m not surprised is all the words the kids DO know…times have changed!

  4. says

    Wow – I don’t even know what to say. There is no way that kind of language would get through our school system. Kids get punished just for calling each other stupid. If the kids are learning those words in a school environment I’m willing to bet most of them will feel it is completely appropriate to use them in other settings as well.

    • says

      Yeah, it is kind of a bummer. My kids are coming home every day with some new and exciting (not) piece of information. I hope it takes the “scandal” out of it, to have heard it in school.
      But still.

  5. says

    I think you have some very valid and important points about the fact that they aren’t learning other negative words at other times. I think this is something that I’d find myself bringing to the school board. I’m slightly appalled at this one!

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