Service of Replacing Words: Deep-Six Mom and Dad

March 15th, 2021

Categories: Political Correctness, School, Words

Photo: schoolsweek.co.uk

At risk of sounding like a broken record, having recently written “Service of What’s Next in Whitewashing the Past?” I couldn’t let this story go by without piping up.

A NYC private school for children in junior kindergarten through 12th grade–Grace Church School–published in September a language guide/glossary of acceptable words. News only recently spilled beyond the school community.

Here are some of the guide’s recommendations:

  • Rather than mom and dad use grown-ups, folks, family or guardians and caregiver, not nanny/babysitter.
  • Say people, folks or friends instead of boys and girls or ladies and gentlemen.
  • Replace “What are you? Where are you from?” with “What is your cultural/ethnic background? Where are your ancestors/is your family from?”
  • Don’t ask a classmate where they’ve been on vacation because they may not have gone anywhere and don’t say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays.
  • Use physically disabled, not handicapped.

Photo: artfulparent.com

 

I read several sources and I post quotes and the word suggestions above from all. So as not to weigh down the copy with each attribution, I here credit nbcnews.com, cbslocal.com, foxnews.com, dailymail.co.uk and nypost.com for the compilation. The NY Post published a longer list of preferred words from the 12-page “Grace Inclusive Language Guide,” developed to reflect the school’s mission. (Tuition at the school is $57,330 a year.)

According to the guide, “families are formed and structured in many ways. At Grace Church School, we use inclusive language that reflects this diversity. It’s important to refrain from making assumptions about who kids live with, who cares for them, whether they sleep in the same place every night, whether they see their parents, etc.

Photo: verywellmind.com

“While we recognize hateful language that promotes racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination are already addressed in our school handbooks, we also recognize that we can do more than ban hateful language; we can use language to create welcoming and inclusive spaces.”

School head George P. Davison wrote: “We understand the power of language both to include and to cause alienation. We also know that it is our job to give community members resources to allow them to make informed and generous choices. If the boorish ‘cancel culture’ press wants to condemn us a newly dubbed ‘Woke Noho’ school of politeness, dignity and respect, then I embrace it, and I hope you will too.”

And he said: “We’re not telling people not to call their parents mom and dad. That’s the silliest thing anybody ever came up with. And its not even a word police. It is rather a guide to inclusive language, if you want to use it.”

Which of the recommendations do you agree with? Have you changed your word choices to be more sensitive to others? Should other schools publish similar guidelines? Is specificity lost with these word change suggestions?

Photo: health.wyo.gov

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14 Responses to “Service of Replacing Words: Deep-Six Mom and Dad”

  1. David reich Said:

    While we all need to be more aware, I think these guidelines are ridiculous.

  2. TC Said:

    Read the same article in the Wall Street Journal. Appalling!! Maybe backlash by parents will amount to something. Also–ridiculously high tuitions for private schools leave themselves wide open to criticism.

  3. Eileen Dover Said:

    As a child, I wasn’t allowed to call an adult, family friend by their first name, it was Mr/Mrs or Aunt/Uncle…smh!

    I’ve always hated where are you from? I was switched at birth, so who knows where I came from! Hate the father “babysitting” his own kids especially as a single mom! So those suggestions are a good thing!

    And for $57K/year, I want my child served lunch on china…steak with sautéed broccolini and roasted potatoes not just a handbook!

    In a Manhattan preschool the kids went on vacation to their countries; the Spanish kid went to Spain, the Hawaiian kid went to Hawaii, and my daughter went to Riis Park and Long Beach! Never thought not to ask how they’re vacation was! These kids’ playrooms were the size of my whole apartment…who cared!

    My daughter’s friend (from a conservative family) went to a liberal arts college in Massachusetts…she learned to use more inclusive nouns, pronouns, etc. just the language they spoke there. And the bathrooms and dorm were unisex. She had a good experience and stayed in Massachusetts after graduation.

    I really like the line about…we’re not saying don’t call your parents mom and dad, that’s ridiculous! LOL

    My daughter likes Happy Holidays, while I like Merry Christmas. I celebrate Hanukah too!

    Are we teaching manners or just raising a bunch of marshmallows who can’t stand a bit of harshness thrown their way! You have to figure these kids all got trophies for participation, now they’re the parents.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    David,

    Given one semester of college basic psychology in the Dark Ages my credentials to back my response to you are zero. Having gone to private school in NYC and seeing what is happening there I suspect guilt is at the bottom of many of the “improvements,” “suggestions,” actions and responses to life in 2021.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:

    TC,

    Some parents responded in one of the articles I read and they were grateful for the guidance. If what we read about the impact of the pandemic on wealthy New Yorkers is true many of the kids at these private schools may be going to boarding school or schools in Connecticut, Westchester, the Hamptons or wherever the family summers, giving the diehard parents the opportunity to find a school that better fits their philosophy. Where before it was a challenge to get kids into these schools there might now be wiggle room.

    I don’t hear NYC residents calling anybody, much less parents, boys and girls or ladies and gentlemen “FOLKS,” not unless they just landed here from elsewhere.

    Also, if you live with mom and dad and I live with Aunt Matilda and yet another with two mothers or two fathers why can’t these people be referred to as your mom and dad or your moms or your dads or your aunt? Are we not implying that there is something wrong by masking the facts?

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Eileen,

    I agree with you re the “where are you from” question no matter the circumstances or how it is worded as too often the person isn’t the slightest bit interested–they want to see if you are part of their tribe. It’s discriminatory.

    I must have been wrapped in asbestos as nothing bothered me about the income differences between my family and that of my classmates. It was always fun visiting girls who lived in exquisite apartments flanked by paintings by master artists or in their glorious country homes. I always loved clothes but shrugged at those who wore their sister’s hand-me-down Givenchy’s. I did just fine at Orbach’s and other discount stores and enjoyed the hunt. Some went to Europe every summer and I to camp. So?

    I suspect that the lens through which we see things today distorts the genesis of many spoken words and that we are not fixing the cause by fiddling with them. For example, we were so nasty to some fellow students in the day. It wasn’t because of their race or religion or because their parents were wealthy or less so. It was because a bunch of girls of a certain age can be horrible if another student isn’t pretty or funny or friendly or has different interests–you name it. So address bullying for whatever reason. The rest will largely fall into place. It’s almost a cop-out to think that by publishing guidelines you have addressed and solved how we treat one another without compassion or kindness.

  7. Husssein Ahman-Uttah Said:

    I didn’t understand from what the principal said whether the parents were so ashamed by their kids at this school that they didn’t like them calling them mum and dad or was it the kids feeling that way about their parents? I sometimes feel that way about one of my offspring.

    But I do agree generally on use of words such as personhole cover.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Hussein,

    Good point re. the parent question! I got along with my parents much of the time but I went through a phase where the poor people embarrassed me simply by breathing. They could do no right. I suspect this may be the case in many parent-kid–OOPS I mean folk and person–relationships.

    What about chair for chairman? I use it but I think of a seat every time. Personhole cover–a new one.

  9. Lucrezia Said:

    English is a rich language, replete with endless meanings and understandings. Anyone determined to throw $57,000+ out the window, and/or deprive their child of a sound education, has found the right place.

  10. DW Said:

    This is astonishingly silly! Guess what the cover story is on the Atlantic? Pink cover with a golden school desk: Private Schools Are Indefensible!! I don’t know if you get The Atlantic on line or in magazine form, but this surely fits in exactly what you are talking about in terms of common sense. “Deep-Six mom and Dad!” indeed.

    If we are getting so sensitive to all the gender possibilities that we cannot open our mouths without putting our feet in them, I give up. A former student of mine got married to a girl who is non-binary. I asked a friend whose daughter attended the wedding why the bride would get married to a non-binary person? My friend looked at me in surprise that I would ask such a question. I still am rather confused. I respect people’s life choices in terms of partnerships, relationships, marriages, etc. It is just that the gender bathroom issues and mixed locker rooms is getting way too much attention in private schools.

    Who in the world could afford over fifty-seven thousand a year for a child’s education? And, what if you had more than one child enrolled? Somehow I don’t think it would be buy one, get one free!

  11. Jeanne Byington Said:

    DW,

    I mentioned in a previous comment that I think that guilt is part of the reason private schools are twisting in the wind trying to be PC on steroids. The outrageous cost to attend is part of it. Only the children of the 1 percent and full scholarship students can afford to go these days. This over-the-top correctness makes me sad as I went to private school for 12 years and I can hardly look as I see the board of trustees and administration follow the trend. Focus instead on acquiring the best teachers, computer programs and science paraphernalia–on inspiring the children to learn and take advantage of what one hopes is an outstanding opportunity.

  12. MarthaTakayama Said:

    I think the school sounds like a ludicrous, phony, misguided waste of money. The endless need to analyze all the possible negative connotations of commonly used and commonplace English language terminology sounds not just intellectually nonsensical, but almost a failure to understand the concept of language itself. Language is meant to communicate! These absurd caveats that are supposed to avoid any kind of possible offense to any kind of unforeseeable emotional, social, financial, political or genetic situations sound like jargon or gibberish. I would like to quote your last statement, “Focus instead on acquiring the best teachers, computer programs and science paraphernalia–on inspiring the children to learn and take advantage of what one hopes is an outstanding opportunity.”Also try to through a dash of common sense and humor into the admixture. If not we will end up with very costly non-speak for unreal living.

  13. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    As I read your response I thought of pencils. Why? Because some might think pencils should be outlawed. A child could swallow a broken one and choke or poke a friend so badly as to cause infection. Masticating words to death and second guessing how some might interpret each one, removing character and specificity, distorts what instructors and educators should work on. They should be learning how to better teach and inspire and explain.

  14. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    You captured the nub of the matter. Hoping their approach doesn’t become the template for other schools—- private or public.

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