I used the word "retard" in my classroom today.
Can you believe that students with disabilities actually use this word on each other? It is a widely used, widely misused, word.
It makes me incredibly mad.
I talked to my students today about bullying each other. It's something they do with each other, just like a lot of other teenagers. The teasing, the name calling, the picking on each other. There are several students who get really fired up and loud, they are the most fun to tease, since they can really put on a show.
I told the kids that the word r-word makes me madder than the f-word. That made a few eyes go wide.
I just don't get it. And I hear it a lot. Kids use it as a common adjective, synonymous with dumb or stupid. Only it has a little more bang to it, I guess.
I also hear plenty of adults using it. "That's retarded." "My mother-in-law is such a retard."
It is not okay to use that word. Just like you wouldn't use any other derogatory word about a group of people to perpetuate a stereotype. Well, some people do that too, but they shouldn't.
The students I teach are diagnosed with mental retardation, mental handicap, or cognitive disabilities, intellectual disabilities. Nebraska state law uses the term mental handicap (mild, moderate, or severe), but the other terms get used elsewhere. It's all the same thing, but it doesn't deserve to be used as a word for dumb.
My students can learn. They are differently abled. They bleed, they cry, they feel. They laugh, they love, they soar. They are people, deserving of respect for the challenges they face, deserving of being treated like...people.
I've been trying to articulate my feelings on this post since the controversy about the ridiculous
Ben Stiller movie (an actor that I usually enjoy) that used the word numerous times. There are several blogs I read that have talked about boycotting the movie, and believe me, I won't be watching that movie. Michelle at Big Blueberry Eyes knows plenty about it, as does LuvMyPeanut. Visit either one of these lovely ladies and you'll get the scoop.
I've also considered ending my reading of celeb news at Perez Hilton (total guilty pleasure, I do in secret on my google reader). He uses the term "celebutard" when describing celebrities' offspring. It's not funny.
So today I taught my students something else. The word retard is not allowed in my classroom. Several have known it before today, when I corrected their individual behavior. Now they all know. I went there and laid it all out for them.
I just really hope they were listening. That you are listening.
Retarded is not an appropriate adjective. Retard is not a funny word.
Please don't use it.
You can read more on the topic here. If you're interested.