Thursday, September 14, 2006

Domestic Pedagogy

Even though this is not a homeschoolers’ blog, as you may have noticed we post an occasional pitch for the Carnival of Homeschooling.

One reason is that Dymphna and I used to be homeschoolers ourselves: the future Baron spent his first seven years of school under the tutelage of his old man (and yes, sympathy for him is warranted).

Another reason is that one of the most prominent homeschooling blogs sends its children — and other readers — over to us frequently. So fair is fair.

We’ve had some presumptuous comments here recently about the PG-13 language policy at Gates of Vienna. There are some people who don’t see the point to it — what’s wrong with letting fly with the f-bomb once in a while, after all, or calling the occasional troll an [epithet deleted]? After all, the bad language is everywhere, anyway, and everybody is used to it, right?

Well, no, not everybody. And there are some of us who are tired of being used to it, and would like a respite from it.

And, yes, there are some kids who come by here. I’m not sure of their ages — maybe mid-teens? — but, if they’re like my boy was at that age, they can understand perfectly well what’s being said here, and they’d rather not read it laced with bad language, thank you very much.

So… Let me introduce you to The Common Room, an excellent blog by a homeschooling family. It’s not just homeschool material — go over and see for yourself.

Miss MannersMost of the family blogs there. The Headmistress, Zookeeper is in charge, along with the Headmaster. And you’ll also see posts there by Pipsqueak, Equuschick, TheHeadGirl, and JennyAnyDots. There are school assignments, poetry, devotional material, family archives, political commentary, and much else.

As for the boss — the Headmistress — I think I’ve found a picture of her. At least that’s the way I picture her: keeping an enormous bunch of potentially rowdy urchins in line, teaching them to chew with their mouths closed and how to conjugate of Latin verbs, all at the same time.

So there’s a good reason why we practice PG-13 here. If we don’t, Miss Manners will come by and wash our digital mouths out with virtual soap.

The illustration was scanned from an original 1900 edition of Goops — And How To Be Them by Gelett Burgess. I believe there are still copies in print; check with Amazon. It’s one of the Headmistress’ favorite books.


Unknown said...

Off topic

Have you heard about the brouhaha on Benedict XVI's address at University of Regensburg yesterday?

Baron Bodissey said...

Indeed I have -- I was reading about it just now at Posse Incitatus, among other places.

I assume that there's a big stock of Vatican flags in warehouses in Peshawar, Jeddah, Damascus, etc. Very flammable material, too, I'll bet...

Dymphna said...

Mr. Supercop:

Why are you banging on this particular drum so hard and so repeatedly? What you infer to be fear of scatological language is actually, for many of us, a mixed reaction: first, pity for the person whose vocabulary/IQ is so limited that he or she is reduced to larding his or her sentences with expletives and rudeness to make a point; and second, distaste for what the late Senator Moynihan lamented as a deviancy defined downward in the general culture, so that language becomes not only coarsened, but less meaningful. Anthony Burgess made the same point in "A Clockwork Orange."

If one is going to rage, it ought be done with some thought, elegance, and wit. Any old rectum can swear, for heaven's sake. It takes neither thought nor wit to call someone an orifice or refer to others as the effluvium emanating therefrom.

As Peter Drucker said, communication is the act of the recipient, not of the speaker. So if one is impelled to punctuate one's conversation with the kinds of words you seem to be touting, be aware that you lose half your audience...

...But perhaps that is your intention, hmm?

If your intention is *not* to have people scroll past your comments, you might ask for a Thesaurus for Christmas.

Zonka said...

I for one is glad that GoV doesn't condone bad language, not that I'm a prude or takes offense at four-letter words and foul language, but because the use of such language does tend to lower the credibility of the person using it. I guess many of us uses such language in private in the heat of emotion, but there is very little (if anything) gained by bringing it into the public sphere, quite the contrary it makes you look immature and unrational. And don't you want to have your opinion known, rather than just your vocabulary of four-letter words - content and reason matters much more than raw emotion.

Wally Ballou said...

I don't understand Supercop's point at all (probably not worth trying). He doesn't seem to understand that being tired of bad language, or wanting to limit it, is not necessarily the same as being "afraid of" it, and as far as having "issues" - well, look in a mirror, bub. I personally patronize web sites which choose or do not choose to regulate their language, and neither choice offends me - it's clearly the free choice of the site owner. To actually be offended by someone else's self-restraint seems extraordinarily perverse. As they say on radio, "if you don't like it, change the station" - you have all the choices in the world.

This blog is doing fine under the editorial direction of the B&D (whoops).

Dymphna said...


Language, like behavior, needs taboos, if only to be able to break them in times of extremity. The problem is when they become so commonplce that they lose the power of intensives and simply become place-markers in speech.

Taboo words exist for the same reason that we save the good silver to use for holidays. Some things lose their specialness by being used all the time.

Dymphna said...

Also, I think that's why swearing in any language that is not your native tongue does not produce the same visceral response.

For example, I can hear a Frenchman say "merde!" in great anger and it doesn't convey the same sense for me that it would for someone whose native tongue is French. And for him, hearing an Anglo-Saxon swear word is not going to have the same effect, either.

That would be an interesting study: comparing the physical response (pulse rate, vagus nerve, etc.) of control groups when they hear --or see -- verboten words in their own tongue, vs. the response to foreign taboo words...

Dymphna said...


I'm not understanding this. If you don't permit your commenters to use a nic, how come you use one here? If you real name is, say, Anne Smith, you could always use Anne Mary Smith as your nic. If you look at the top of the comments, Dave Schuler uses his real name as his nic.

Or perhaps I'm mistaken and your last name is "Fusebox"? If so, my apologies (not to mention my sympathies).

As for me, I shall continue with my nic. It conveys one obvious aspect of my character, as I'm sure Mr. Supercop's nic does, or Cato's disguise conveys for him.

Dymphna said...


Opinions are like navels. Everyone has at least one, and you're entitled to yours. If you want to think I'm being elitist, go for it.

BTW, is that the new baddest category of behavior or speech, that one is "elitist"? Sounds like Orwelllian p.c. to me, fella.

If I'm elitist when it comes to language...well, I'll find some way to live with it. As you will have to adjust to the elitist rules on GoV if you want to comment here.

Yup, I like rules, too. And boundaries; And limits. These are all things I've given a great deal of thought to, as I'm sure you have also. As it turns out, however, we reached different conclusions.

C'est la vie, old bean.

Zonka said...


Nobody is telling you to stop swearing or use any kind of words you would like to use, only that you refrain from doing so while visiting GoV, it's the house rules here, and if you don't like them you're free to go visit somebody else who will accept that kind of speak.

There is a reason that I don't read comments on say LGF all that often, they are filled with people who can't say two words without inserting three swearwords - So it's a relief to come here, and find that its actually possible to carry on a conversation or a debate without resorting to use swearwords.

And after all as Cato said, this blog is run by the Baron and Dymphna, so they get to state the rules that aply here, if you don'tlike it there are numerous of other places where you can use those words as much as you like!

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

I think people who are afraid of "common courtesy" have some kind of issues. It's just self-control and respect for others, and expecting very basic level of restraint doesn't even necessarily target or inconvenience anyone. Coarse pointless vulgarity as a matter of course gives me a headache, and when used to sprinkle conversation they have all the motional punch and meaning as 'like, ummm, and err,' but less innocence. Miss Manners (and Michael Medved) actually have written about this coarsening of public space, but I don't think you'd be able to read it.

Asking people to refrain from cheap, coarse, and vulgar language is simply a matter of respectful self-control. There's nothing grown up about that sort of language.
Some people think those who object to such vulgarity 'have issues' and are 'afraid' of bad words (they don't really think so, actually, they just say that to be insulting and to draw attention away from their own defenseless viewpoint).
Well and good. I think those who chafe under such a simple exercise in self-control are still children in their thinking, and certainly in their level of self-discipline. I have a brother, in fact, who refuses to exercise such basic consideration for others. He ridicules it as 'self-censorship,' which is, after all, just other word for self-control.

"...anyone older than that should be able to handle swearing (at least in text form) without going into cardiac arrest...."
I think it's very telling that this poster is unable to make his point, or any point, without gross hyperbole and strawman arguments that grotesquely misrepresent those with whom he disagrees. Cardiac arrest? 'Afraid?' Oh, please. Grow up already. Distaste, dislike, disapproval, whatever- these are not the same as cardiac arrest and fear. What are *you* afraid of that you cannot make your point by dealing with disagreement honestly?

"Swear words have their own function, they don't exist for no reason. But they're just words."

Then it won't hurt you to use other words, will it? The exercise in self-discipline might do you good.

Zonka said...

The headmistress, zookeeper wrote:
Then it won't hurt you to use other words, will it? The exercise in self-discipline might do you good.

Definitely, and it might even expand your vocabulary and creativity in the search for better ways of conveying your points ;-)

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

Actually, using your own words worked perfectly, because there's obviously no reason I couldn't watch the program you mentioned, either. I'm not afraid, I don't get the vapors, have a heart attack, faint, or start shaking uncontrollably in the presence of coarse discourse. I don't like it, and when given a choice, I choose otherwise. For the most part I feel the same way about it as I do about people eating with their mouths open, flossing in public, scratching their bums, and picking their noses. It's an unseemly display of discourtesy and I see no reason why I should choose to spend my time on it.

It was not intellectual honesty that prompted you to say that you doubted the Baron could watch it. You couldn't possibly have really meant that. You meant something much more like, "you wouldn't like it and it wouldn't change your mind," but that more honest phrasing wasn't satisfactory to you. I wonder why?
It's rhetorically weaker, certainly, but that's because your entire point is rhetorically weak, so you have to shore it up with intellectual dishonesty, logical fallacies, and gross hyperbole.

We're running out the door in an hour for the rest of the day and we expect to be busy the rest of the weekend, too, so I don't have as much time as I would really like to have to discuss this further (and I do mean I would really like to discuss this further, I hope you're having as much fun as I am).

I was also going to point out that avoiding swearing is understood by most grown ups as a common courtesy the same way not chewing with your mouth open, saying please, thank-you, and excuse me, and putting the salad fork on the left side of the plate are common courtesies. Perhaps you don't do those things, either, but that doesn't alter the fact that these things are, in this culture, a sign of good manners. Here we smile when we apologize or say excuse me because it shows that we mean well and are kindly intentioned. In Japan I was told this smile indicated a lack of sincerity and a courteous apology would be accompanied by a more serious look- arguing that there was no reason or sense behind either custom is pointless- they are the custom, and the stuff that common courtesy is made of. I associate not swearing as common courtesy because that's what it is.

I have more to say about your confusion about children, maturity and grown ups, but it will have to keep. I'm sure that exercise in self control will do me good.

Meanwhile, our 16 year old (just today) poked her head in at GoV a bit ago and emailed me this response:

"So, if I was visiting a house where the rule was to take off my shoes at the doorway, and I decided I didn't want to, that wouldn't be a lack of common courtesy?
Or if there were a rule about throwing a ball in the kitchen, and I decided throwing a ball was just the thing I needed to do right then and there. Wouldn't that be a lack of common courtesy? Not respecting the rules of a house, or a website, is a lack of common courtesy. GoV has a rule about swearing, and disregarding it is a lack of common courtesy."

I would add that boorishly arguing about why somebody else's rule is a stupid rule while you are in their space is also discourteous. I understand the urge. I've done it myself, but it was rude and self-centered of me. Pobody's nerfect, after all.

Zonka said...

JCS: How do you justify the claim that using swear words magically reduces my vocalbulary or prevents me from learning new words? Is this based on science?

Are you deliberately trying to goad me into asking: "How the [expletive|dickens] did you come up with that conclusion?", I didn't say anything about reducing or preventing, quite the opposite, that you might learn new words and stimulate your creativity by finding new ways of saying what's on your mind without breaking the house-rules here at GoV!

Zonka said...


Why are you trying to drive everything said to extremes and building strawmen arguments? It is not an honest way to carry on an argument!

Have you ever actually stepped outside your ultra-conservative world of excessive politeness? People swear all the time, everywhere.

ROFL, you know, I'm one of those Euro-weenies, that are DOOMED because we don't even know what an ultra-conservative is or what one would look like. ;-)

Zonka said...

JCS: What strawmen are you referring to, and don't you think it's extreme that people who swear are supposedly illiterate, nefarious idiots?

The strawmen are when you take what I write and blow them out of proportions and makes it into something I didn't say and didn't even hint at, because it wasn't what I meant. Thus aiming for me to deny the "counter-charges" and seemingly vindicate your view. And no I don't consider people who swear "illeterate, nefarious idiots", as I stated myself in the beginning I do so myself! However, I do consider people who do it in places where they are guests and asked not to, to be rude and in general I tend to think that when people use profanity that they are driven more by emotions than reason, and would personally prefer if they catch their breath and think a bit before answering, particularly in written form, makes the reading much more enjoyable for me. And one of the reasons that I like this place!

I can see where you might think that politeness is the precursor to PC, but I do believe that you're wrong! Political Correctness, is not about being polite, it's about thought control, about removing the ability of being offensive by removing words from the vocabulary and replacing them with non-offensive placebos, in the best 1984-style newspeak. Being polite does nothing of that sort, it only asks you to refrain from using expletives that either carries no real meaning (being filler words) or is used for emphasis that can be gotten quite easily or better not using expletives. Whereas the P.C. movement would make you change functional words. It is the difference between syntax and semantics - where politeness is about how you state things, P.C. is about what you can state. Let's illustrate with an example:

Non-polite: OBL is a m*****f***ing terrorist, cave-dwelling, piece of s***!
Polite: OBL is a abhorent terrorist, who is reduced to dwell in caves!
P.C.: OBL(pbuh) is an insurgent, who have been forced to seek protection in caves!

Zonka said...

JCS: Ah. Once again, swearing supposedly correlates with intelligence and writing ability.

Only to the extent that if you absolutely cannot do without swearing then I guess there is a correlation between swearing, intelligence and writing ability. Otherwise, it's a choice of how to behave in different contexts.

Phanarath: I dont think it is polite to censur what other people can say. Not even if politeness and good manners are used as an argument for it.

If you're in my house, you'd better follow my rules! You might get a warning for minor offenses, for greater ones or repeated offenses you'll get the jackboot! Pure and simple. And in the larger context isn't that what we're all preaching that when the muslim or any other immigrant are in our countries that they follow the rules of our respective countries, and if not they'll get the boot! And when I'm in somebody elses house, I will try my best to follow the rules there, and if I don't like them, I will leave not to come back again, unless the rules change. This has very little to do with censorship, but a question of authority. In my house I and the other co-habitants gets to make the rules, not the guests. Same is true of countries. When in Rome do as the Romans do, or go back to your home. If you don't uphold this authority, you'll get exactly the problems that are facing our countries today, that a large group of strangers with strange customs come to your country and start demand that your country starts follow their strange customs or else they make trouble for you!

Pipsqueak said...

Supercop said:
Do you see me swearing? If you don't, how have I violated and disrespected the rules of this place? Is it disrespectful to question things? I guess it must be.

What the 16 y.o. was responding to was your question of "how is swearing a lack of common courtesy," or something along those lines. It's a lack of common courtesy to swear here, because those are the house rules. You wanted to know why it was a lack of common courtesy, or at least she assumed that since you asked the question, you wanted an answer. She gave you hers. Or rather, her mom did.
It's also a lack of common courtesy to complain about house rules. If you don't like it, leave, and yes that is a valid argument. It's reasonable to expect someone to go somewhere else if they don't like the rules of the place they're at.