Texan Teen Lands $550 Fine For Saying 'F*ck'
June 8, 2001 7:38 AM   Subscribe

Texan Teen Lands $550 Fine For Saying 'F*ck' The US school system certainly seems to over-react to small issues (drawing guns on paper, etc). Will this keep American from turning into violent thugs, or not? Recently, in the UK, a man got let off for saying 'f*ck off' to a policeman, since the judge said it was 'the language of his generation'.
posted by wackybrit (29 comments total)
This country becomes more and more censored and totalitarian by the day. I can't wait until people are being run over by tanks in Washington, DC.
posted by dogmatic at 7:46 AM on June 8, 2001

thats f****** stupid
posted by monkeyJuice at 7:50 AM on June 8, 2001

The US school system certainly seems to over-react

The problem is, there isn't a "US school system". Public schools in this country are run by the cities and towns. When you let the locals run the show, you get such fabulous ideas as zero tolerance policies and Creationism in the classroom.
posted by jpoulos at 7:58 AM on June 8, 2001

Damn locals, Uncle Sam knows better.

Now shut up and cosy up to his teats!
posted by Mick at 8:08 AM on June 8, 2001

I trust Uncle Sam more than I trust Cousin Bubba. And I don't necessarily advocate a national school system, but more power should lie with the states. The Constitution doesn't talk much about Village Rights to self-governance.
posted by jpoulos at 8:13 AM on June 8, 2001

The U.S. is an enormous country with approximately 250 million citizens. On any given day, countless numbers of heinous crimes, disasters, foolish decisions by local governments, etc. are likely to happen. Based upon how you choose to view and interpret the news, you can come to any number of conclusions about "what this country is coming to." For every person who decides that censorship is on the rise after reading about this incident in Texas, someone else is reading about another incident which convinces them that the opposite is true. I'm not saying that anyone's opinion here is invalid, just that perspective is more important than ever as the amount of information increases. Information overload can have the unfortunate effect of creating apathy in people. Why try to make a difference when so many horrible things keep happening and there is so much injustice? The key is to maintain perspective and to make the small contribution that we each can.
posted by gimli at 8:16 AM on June 8, 2001

Well, the thing is -- because of the nature of censorship, if you let one incidence slip through the cracks then the deluge will flow through later.

My view on education is here, decidedly more Sam than Bubba.
posted by owillis at 8:31 AM on June 8, 2001

Wow: lucky Mr. Kinnaird. It's my own experience that when one tells a cop to fuck off, one is summarily arrested and hauled down to the jail...

But the case of this kid in Texas is just really ridiculous. It sounds like someone overheard some naughty language in a private conversation, got offended, and overreacted.

It seems to me this is another case of kids having very few of the basic rights to which American adults are accustomed. I cannot imagine one adult overhearing another adult's private, profanity-peppered conversation and then reacting by calling the cops.

When I was dealing with my cop-cussing court case, I asked my lawyer what would happen if a civilian citizen brought suit against another civilian for being told to fuck off. My lawyer said it would in most cases be thrown out. What would happen to a "I heard my neighbor say 'fuck' to her husband" case? In a sane world, it'd be laughed out of court.

There was of course the case of the man convicted for violating a 19th-century Michigan law against cursing in front of children (and, although the linked story doesn't mention it, women--- cause we're so frail and stuff) but as ridiculous as I think *that* case was, it's at least more plausible than taking legal action against someone because you don't like the words they use in a conversation that doesn't even involve you.

I get all wound up about this stuff. I'll quit now ;>
posted by Sapphireblue at 8:41 AM on June 8, 2001

the schools have replaced 'common sense' with 'zero tolerance'

it is simply easier for them to have zero tolerance then common sense. but I think most people think its a wrong move.

lets face it. Zero tolerance is fixing anything. school shooting happen just as offten and there is just as many "bad students".
posted by Qambient at 8:54 AM on June 8, 2001

But, if you give control of education to Sam, then a cadre of ignorant but vocal Bubbas gets to influence what Sam does. There's a reason I don't live in Alabama, and I don't want them to have any say whatsoever in my school district.
posted by whuppy at 8:57 AM on June 8, 2001

That is crazy! Words are words. I really wish people would get over the notion of there being 'bad' language. There is no such thing. Language is expressive, it causes nobody any harm (it may hurt your feelings but remember the old saying - sticks and stones.....)

I think the judge in England was just right in his judgement - language evolves, many words that are considered fine now where outrageous a number of years ago.
posted by twistedonion at 9:00 AM on June 8, 2001

The difference between "Uncle Sam bubbas" and "local bubbas" is that any consensus is likely to be broader, more stable, and more open to public scrutiny (all imho and modulo whatever paranoid fantasies people have about the CIA etc etc) - surely good things for schools?

The drawback is that people start to feel alienated...
posted by andrew cooke at 9:28 AM on June 8, 2001

[The] erroneous assumption is to the effect that the aim of public education is to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence, and so make them fit to discharge the duties of citizenship in an enlightened and independent manner. Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever the pretensions of politicians, pedagogues and other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else.
-- H. L. Menken
posted by sigsegv at 9:52 AM on June 8, 2001

well said, gimli.
posted by kv at 9:54 AM on June 8, 2001

When I was in (a Texas) high school, oh so long ago, I was told there was a pop quiz in American History and breathed out a sighing "shit." Coach Lawrence, who was moonlighting as the history teacher, overheard me and sent me to the office. I got three licks. I've been scarred for life. *smirk* It wasn't the licks that bothered me but the utter hypocrisy and injustice that had occurred. There were these gorgeous babes who sat all around me in that class and all semester they cussed like sailors right in front of the Coach. He just laughed at them and shrugged it off. I slipped once, and got slammed for it. I'm surprised I didn't go postal. I was powerless to defend against the ignorance of it.

It is utterly impossible to impartially enforce censorship, since it is ultimately a subjective opinion. There should be no word in the english language that is censored. Tolerance is the only fair and impartial choice to make. Unfortunately, I am a Texan surrounded by people who have much more conservative beliefs and agendas.

This heinous act on a Texan student is yet another blemish on the reputation of all Texans, and an insult to the rest of the planet.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:19 AM on June 8, 2001

Just before I read this story, I saw this picture over on Kottke and wondered what happens when English-speaking families with young but literate children come into that restaurant....

"Honest, I wasn't swearing! I was just telling Timmy about this cool restaurant we went to in Antwerp."
posted by idiolect at 10:21 AM on June 8, 2001

It's my own experience that when one tells a cop to fuck off, one is summarily arrested and hauled down to the jail...

I've often wondered, sapphireblue, what's the charge in an instance like that?
posted by jpoulos at 10:38 AM on June 8, 2001

I like Mencken, and I identify with him as a disillusioned idealist turned cynic, but my experience with public education just doesn't jibe. I had too many great, caring teachers who fostered curiosity and emphasized the finding of one's own path to believe that they were involved in a conspiracy to keep me in my place. The system is far from perfect (as it was in Mencken's time), but positive change will only come through the involvement of people who want to make it better, not through cynical pronouncements.

Zach, I feel your pain. I live in Pat Robertson's back yard. With the Christian Coalition and CBN headquartered here, part of the research that goes into every city council or school board vote I make involves digging to find out who is behind the candidate. It can be surprisingly hard, and I have almost voted for one of Pat's stealth candidates a couple of times.
posted by gimli at 10:42 AM on June 8, 2001

Honestly, I think the US schools "over-react to small issues" to distract the public from the fact that they're not teaching a damn thing.

(Except, perhaps, not to cuss in public nor express your more violent emotions through art.)
posted by elfgirl at 10:48 AM on June 8, 2001

jpoulos: as far as I know, it usually falls under disorderly conduct, depending on the laws where you live. In my case, the disorderly conduct section of the Georgia code specifically addresses "fighting words".

Of course, perhaps I ought simply to thank my lucky stars that the officer in question didn't opt to pound my ass instead of arresting me: there is a fighting words exception in Georgia law to the general prohibition on simple assault or battery.
posted by Sapphireblue at 11:55 AM on June 8, 2001

sapphireblue: there is a "fighting words" exception to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, at least as interpreted by the Supreme Court. That's generally taken to mean using racial epithets and curse words used in a deliberately provocative (not as in fashionably provocative or cool provocative, but "trying to get the audience or person hostile.") How the fighting words doctrine is enforced, however, depends on the way in which the words are used, community standards and the like. It's an extremely complex -- OK, vague -- area of the law.
posted by raysmj at 12:09 PM on June 8, 2001

More on the fighting words question can be found here.
posted by raysmj at 12:11 PM on June 8, 2001

I don't necessarily advocate a national school system, but more power should lie with the states [than municipality-level school boards]

Isn't that up to the states to seize that power?
posted by daveadams at 1:13 PM on June 8, 2001

"I got three licks."

You know... 'round these parts, "lick" means "lick." As in tongue.

I've always found that phrase amusing...
posted by CrayDrygu at 1:18 PM on June 8, 2001

You know... 'round these parts, "lick" means "lick."

I just had the most disturbing flash of visual to go with the phrase "'round these parts."
posted by kindall at 1:21 PM on June 8, 2001

There's a reason I don't live in Alabama.

Gee. I was in Alabama (Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Brewton) for two weeks and loved it. Great people. Great state. Just give em a chance, dang it ;-)
posted by wackybrit at 3:14 PM on June 8, 2001

This isn't the first time for that to happen here in Texas. A 70 year old man was ticked for cursing last year after he walked into a cactus. Cursing isn't covered by freedom of speech.
posted by ellis at 4:12 PM on June 8, 2001

i'm not sure if anyone has heard about this or this*scroll down to 'fuck'[heh.]

maybe one could argue they're practing translating their latin.
posted by modularette at 4:12 PM on June 8, 2001

i posted this link in a similar discussion recently....
This guy was arrested for wearing a marilyn manson t-shirt with the phrase "I am the god of fuck" on the back of it... also in Texas, New Braunfels (between austin and san antonio).

Guess I should move or watch my mouth, eh?
posted by Espoo2 at 12:10 AM on June 11, 2001

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