Acceptable language conduct in school settings: Practice juxtaposed between school and institutional policy.

Year: 2019

Author: Downes, Lynn

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Taboo language and swearing use in society is ever-changing – adjusting to changes in social taboos, discourse, and acceptability standards. This change is also reflected in school settings; however, schools are sites constructed as places for moral work where socially acceptable standards are instilled in future citizens. Boundaries are therefore set in educational institutions in regard to acceptable parameters for moral behaviours which may include the use of taboo language or swearing. Teachers and school leaders are responsible and accountable for the management of these boundaries which are articulated in policies. In Queensland, Australia student language conduct is consigned to behaviour management policy. The state education department structures policy with opportunities for individual government schools to define their own boundaries within this overarching state policy, while non-government schools construct their own behaviour management policies. This presentation explores how teacher practice dovetails with policy requirements and enactment in relation to student verbal conduct at secondary schools in the south east Queensland region, whilst managing the societal language changes. Using snowball sampling, 19 school leaders and teachers from 14 different schools were interviewed. Foucault’s notion of discourse linked with the institution, truth effects and power, specifically relating to control and delimitation of discourse underpin the study while Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is employed as an analytic tool. Key findings reveal teacher and school leader uncertainty in relation to institutional language definitions in policy, resulting in personal parameters being used to monitor and respond to swearing and taboo language infringements. These data suggest clearer boundaries are required not only in educational policies but also in institutional definitions of acceptable linguistic behaviour.