“Good.” “Nice.” “Fun.” For years, these vague and overused words have been thorns in many an English teacher’s side. Now some schools are taking a stand against boring writing, according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal.
In a piece titled ‘Use More Expressive Words!’ Teachers Bark, Beseech, Implore, James R. Hagerty takes a look at the Mt. Lebanon school district, where several middle school teachers have banned words in an effort to liven up their students’ prose. As a spokeswoman for the district explains, “It is a lighthearted project where kids have to explore more expressive ways to say words such as ‘said,’ ‘good’ or ‘bad.’”
The project is a bit tongue-in-cheek. Students chant the dead words and may even hold mock funerals. Hagerty quotes Megan Riley, a Mt. Lebanon sixth-grader: “’I think it’s very sad they have passed,’ Megan deadpanned. ‘I grew up with them.’”
Though the countrywide movement doesn’t take itself too seriously, the goal is a noble one: to encourage thoughtful, creative writing in an age dominated by emojis and abbreviations. Some parents are on board. “Bonnie Dougherty, another Mt. Lebanon parent, endorses the exercise. ‘It has forced my kids to search harder for more descriptive words,’ she enthused.” Others aren’t so sure. Hagerty quotes Riley’s father, who declares words like “said” and “good” are “perfectly fine words, and they have their place.”
The article’s comment section has exploded with debate over the wisdom of summarily banning words that have been in constant use for centuries. While many agree that the exercise has value, they worry that it’s going too far. Hagerty finds one North Carolina teacher who has taken a particularly hard line, banning staples like “it” and “me” and docking students five points if those words appear in their work.
As for how students are expected to write freely while constantly policing their word choices—well, it beats me.