Opinion: Profane professors unprofessional in the classroom

Now I’m no commie. I believe in free speech (and apple pie) as much as the next red-blooded American. So when I say college professors shouldn’t cuss, I’m not proposing a ban of obscenities. Professors should have every right to be vulgar; however, they should choose not to.

Potty-mouthed professors are setting a precedent that foul language is okay, which leaves students unprepared for the workplace. If you want a career washing dishes or mowing lawns, then by all means, cuss. But profanity doesn’t fly at a good job. You won’t find many business executives saying, “our profits this quarter hella increased,” or doctors saying, “well shit, you have cancer.”

Some might say college isn’t for learning to become employees. On the contrary, one of the main purposes of college is to prepare students to become successful employees. Roles are taken to teach responsibility, deadlines are given to teach timeliness and group projects are assigned to teach collaboration, just as clean language should be used to teach professionalism.

Some might also say when professors curse, it captures their class’s attention. It does. But not for long. While cursing grabs the attention of students at first, the shock factor soon wears off, and after a few profanity-laden lectures, students become as uninterested as they’ve always been.

Four letter words aren’t some “as seen on TV” solution to boring professors and their boring lectures, as proponents of professor profanity would have you believe. To capture the attention of students for the long term (and not just in an instant of expletives), teachers must make their lectures interesting, engaging and relevant.

Besides, if the only thing keeping a student’s attention is the professor dropping a payload of f-bombs every lecture, then the student isn’t paying attention to what’s important—the lesson.

It is no great challenge to abstain from being profane, but some professors may simply refuse.
In times of great stress or when emphasis is needed and professors find themselves unable to express their thoughts with clean language, they should at least choose less profane words. This is illustrated by one of the most prestigious archaeology professors of all time—Indiana Jones.

In the midst of bloodthirsty cult members, Indy expresses his anguish with a mildly profane “shit.” If he can restrain himself in that situation then surely college professors can keep it clean in the midst of a markedly less bloodthirsty group—college students.