To the Editor:
The Haddonfield School District has made some dubious choices recently about their response to apparently dual-use hand gestures that most students or adults would not know. After an incident in which a photo was printed with a student using a gesture that has also been appropriated by a hate group, there was a flurry of activity to replace yearbooks. I apologize for missing the bonfire; I am sure it was spectacular.
The high school plans, after three months of virtual school, to use educational time to teach offensive hand gestures. While some may think this qualifies for practical-arts credits, the true goal is to eliminate offensiveness. Even if achievable, this would be the wrong goal.
On the contrary, we should want our students to be taught that some ideas might be deemed offensive today or tomorrow, but still should be heard and still should be said, with respect. We should want our students to learn to parse their writing and speech carefully for grammar, clarity, and logic, not for ideas, words, and idioms that are potentially offending now or in the future. We should want to produce mature adults that are slow to take offense, but not slowed in their pursuits by fear of unwittingly offending.
If all our energy goes into not offending, what is the cost in expressing ourselves and dealing with important issues that society must address? Can we really distill our language down to use only that which is un-offensive to everyone? What is then left?