Blacklisting the “R-Word” — March 31st!

March 24, 2009 at 1:25 pm 2 comments

 PrintSome of our more astute readers might have noticed an addition to our right hand sidebar yesterday.  The OneSeventeen team wants to show our support of the Special Olympics and their fantastic campaign to end the derogatory use of the word “retarded.” (From here on out, known as the “r-word.”)  Using respectful, considerate language is a key piece in respecting others and acknowledging the dignity of all people.  This is an incredible opportunity to dialogue with our young people about the power of the words they use and a prime example of a movement we’d liked to engage in with our PlumbBrain youth community. 

There’s a great video on the Special Olympics site where Soeren Palumbo, who’s sister is mentally challenged, shares why the r-word isn’t ok.  

My mother has been on a campaign against the r-word her entire life, and several of my friends can attest to her stopping the car in heavy traffic to inform one of my middle school friends that she “would not use the word retarded as a derogatory remark” in my mother’s presence and she could “considering blacklisting it from her vocabulary, because throwing “retarded” as an insult only makes you look ignorant.”   I think many kids don’t realize the insulting insinuations that come from using words like “retarded” and “gay” as synonyms for “stupid, dumb, ignorant, and foolish” and many others.   The chorus I repeated in my own classroom upon hearing the r-word was, “there are people who are retarded by no choice of their own and you will not make fun of them or insult them in this classroom.”  Several times during the semester we’d end up in longer conversations about the r-word, but my one liner typically shut students down pretty quickly and conveyed my point.  After a few weeks, I’d delight in hearing my students call one another out on using the r-word. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 is National Day of Awareness about the use of the r-word in this country.  Visit the r-word’s site and sign the pledge to be part of changing the conversation about the r-word!  

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Entry filed under: Attitude, Communication, Doing Good, Education, Kids, Learning, OneSeventeen Media, Online Tools, Opportunities, PlumbBrain, Youth. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Amy Looper  |  March 25, 2009 at 9:12 am

    Great post and rock on Amy’s mom! Having volunteered with the Special Olympics I’ve seen first hand how hurtful name calling can be. I believe the best way to teach a child (and many adults for that matter) about understanding and acceptance of differences and diversity is to get them involved in volunteering directly with groups that support these kinds of efforts just like the Special Olympics. Some of the greatest learning moments for my own personal growth have come from participating in these kinds of volunteer efforts.

  • 2. Beth Carls  |  March 25, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Thinking about the R-Word, reminds me of a diversity expert we recently met. Francie Kendall ( has spent her life teaching teachers about diversity in the classroom and all of us about racism.

    Some of her comments regarding the role of teachers in childrens’ lives can apply to all of us regardless of whether we have children of our own or are teachers, our actions are being constantly observed by the children around us.

    – Teachers are models for children: as models, they should show respect and concern for all people.
    – Teachers provide experiences through which children can begin to develop their own values.
    – Teachers encourage children to explore, to initiate, to question, to grapple with tough questions, and to be active rather than passive learners.
    – Teachers are active participants in children’s learning.


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