Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The R Word

There's been a lot of press lately about ending the R word.  I don't get too involved.  An article that appeared in The Week magazine last week does a good job of expressing my view on the subject.  I had to sign in to show I was a paying subscriber to see it online, so I'm not sure it'll work for anyone to click on it, but there it is just in case.

But the gist of it was this; ending the R word is all well and good but another word will just end up taking its place.  "Retarded" is just the latest clinical term to be made into a slur, right along with "idiot" and "imbecile" and "moron".  And I think the more we pay attention to the word and people who use it, the more power it has.  I don't mean to imply that I tolerate it.  Anyone who uses the term "retarded" derogitorilly around me is going to be sorry and embarrassed by the time I'm through with them.  But I'm not going out of my way to work toward condoning and outlawing it for the masses, either.  It's just not a battle I can muster the will to fight; another word will just take its place, eventually.  Right now instead of referring to someone as "mentally retarded," we call them "developmentally delayed" or "cognitively impaired."  How long do you think it'll be before kids are calling each other "developmentally delayed" in the playground?

2 comments:

fragilemom said...

My thoughts EXACTLY! I was thinking about the word the other day and I'm not joking....the exact thought entered my mind. People can be cruel and will turn anything into a negative connotation if they choose. Why don't we just call them 'happy kids'?! Sounds good to me! I personally don't get offended at the "R" word unless it's being used to slander someone or just being mean. It has a definition in the dictionary, which is the same as the more complicated 'gentle' phrases being used. It won't be long until even those aren't so 'gentle' anymore. Okay, I've said my peace.

Sarah said...

I don't mind the R word in a clinical context. I say "my son has mental retardation" often, because that's a term people really get. When I say the more pc "my son has a developmental/intellectual disability", I am much more likely to get a "huh?" from folks. I do get upset though when it's used pejoratively, or when people who do not have mental retardation say "I'm so retarded [for doing X thing poorly]." One of my students said that the other day, and I just couldn't let it go - I had to correct her. So I guess I'm somewhat sensitive to the word's being used incorrectly, but I don't see the point in outlawing it.

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