The Mav

Students and faculty participate in the Spread the Word To End the Word Campaign

Wednesday welcomes the annual Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign at MHS

Band+teacher%2C+Mr.+Kirkwood%2C+wears+the+new+Spread+the+Word+to+End+the+Word+t-+shirts+during+Unified+Game
Band teacher, Mr. Kirkwood, wears the new Spread the Word to End the Word t- shirts during Unified Game

Band teacher, Mr. Kirkwood, wears the new Spread the Word to End the Word t- shirts during Unified Game

Aiden Owen

Aiden Owen

Band teacher, Mr. Kirkwood, wears the new Spread the Word to End the Word t- shirts during Unified Game

Blake LaVanchy, Reporter

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Students from Mead High School will be participating in a campaign called Spread the Word to End the Word on Wednesday, March 7. This will be Mead High school’s 3rd year participating in this event, which occurs nationally with “around 4,500 schools in 45 states across the country that support Spread the Word to End the Word efforts through running pledge stations or holding student rallies to promote inclusion” according to their website.

Ms. Vanzant, a special education teacher, and one of the many forces behind the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign described why the campaign was important to her.

“I’ve been doing this for 18 years, so I’ve seen a large progression from where we were 18 years ago to where we are today, and I just know that I’ve grown to love people with disabilities and to be able to see what impact they can bring to my life. So I want to share that with others, I want other people to see how important everybody is and how everybody can make a difference in your life in some ways” she said.

“Also, on the other side of things I think people with disabilities do get a bad rap sometimes and they do get stereotyped and I think that it’s important that we make people more aware of the differences that people have and how that doesn’t define them” she added.

One of the best ways that this campaign spreads their message is through the always inventive and meaningful Spread the Word t-shirts that many staff members and students wear every year. This year’s theme is “see the able not the label”, which highlights the potential of kids with special needs over the more obvious disabilities they may have.

According to Ms. Vanzant, students can get involved with the campaign by “sign[ing] the pledge to promise not to use the word anymore, but then just in daily life when you hear people using that word in a derogatory way, say ‘hey, that’s not a great word to use can you use something different’……just show respect”.

On October 5, 2010, former President Barack Obama signed into law a bill which removed the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from federal health, education and labor policy. It replaced it with people first language such as “individual with an intellectual disability”.

People first language places value on the individual rather than the disorder they have.

This type of language is important because “when we describe people by their labels of medical diagnoses, we devalue and disrespect them as individuals”, according to R-word.org (the website for the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign). This language places an emphasis on the person and doesn’t define the person by their disorder or disability.

That being said, Jonathan Chait adamantly argued against what he perceived as the danger of P.C. culture in his 2015 essay “Not a Very P.C. Thing to Say”. He claims that P.C. culture is a threat to democracy and civil discourse, saying “Everyone is so scared to speak right now”.

But in 2015, NPR reported on a study published by Cornell University in 2014, which found that By imposing a PC environment, they had made it easier for men and women to speak their minds in mixed company”. By using politically correct language we actually encourage dialogue between different groups and we also grant those with disabilities the respect they deserve.

Originally, the term “mental retardation” was a medical term used to describe a specific group of people with severe intellectual impairment. But eventually the slang word “retard” became synonymous with stupid or dumb, forging the association between a huge and diverse group of people. How could it be possible to define 6.5 million people in the US by a word which colloquially means stupid or dumb? The organization Spread the Word to End the Word “asks people to pledge to stop saying the R-word as a starting point toward creating more accepting attitudes and communities for all people” according to their website.

But creating communities of people is hard. One of the ways is the Unified Sports program. Their mission statement is to “promot[e] social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences”. This organization unites people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. Through this, they hope to promote friendship and understanding.

One member of MHS Unified team., Emma Maldoff said that the campaign makes her feel like “she has more friends.” One of the partners C.J. Shellenberger said that “it means respect to me. The kids in the special needs population, they’re people just like us too and they deserve to be treated with respect…”. Another partner, Peyton Fox, said that the campaign meant “to not use the r-word and to respect people with special need and everyone in general.”

But they all agreed when asked the question “Do you think the words we use affect our actions and our lives?”, that yes– our language matters. That is really the importance of Spread the Word to End the Word. It is a recognition that our language matters. Shellenberger probably put it the best: “[words] have the ability to build people up or break them down, so I think we should use words that can build other people up…”

And it’s really as simple as that.

4 Comments

4 Responses to “Students and faculty participate in the Spread the Word To End the Word Campaign”

  1. Mrs. Ayers on March 7th, 2018 7:43 pm

    Great article! I like the positive message this sends.

  2. Natalie Hansis on March 9th, 2018 10:19 am

    You put so much information in this article.

  3. Lisa Loughran on March 9th, 2018 10:24 am

    Yes! – Let’s all build each other up! Inspiring article!

  4. Michelle Morgan on March 9th, 2018 10:25 am

    This article brings light to a very important issue— it’s inspiring and informational.

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Students and faculty participate in the Spread the Word To End the Word Campaign