Uncommon Sense

December 6, 2022

An Easy Task?

Filed under: Culture,Education — Steve Ruis @ 9:34 am
Tags: , , ,

The teacher, an evangelical Christian, was requested by the student and the student’s parents to use they/them pronouns instead of he/him. This isn’t a difficult request, and basically amounts to asking the teacher to show basic respect to the student by using a different word to address them.” (Kaylin Hamilton on Quora).

The kerfuffle, in Britain, was over a teacher refusing to use a student’s “preferred pronouns.” My reaction is to the characterization of the request as being “. . . not a difficult request.” But “they/them” are plurals and the child was singular, so you are asking the teacher to experience cognitive dissonance. (Also, as a teacher myself, I know that seeing student’s misspellings over and over led to my struggling spelling those words. Teaching goes both ways.)

Consider this: I remember a semester in which I had over 100 students. I struggled mightily learning their names, and then they were gone as the course was one semester in length and those students were replaced by another crop.

Before this was a thing, no one asked for their own set of pronouns that I knew of. But now it is all the rage. Why? Who cares? My priorities were in learning student’s names and correctly pronouncing their names. I remember reading a roll the first day of class and came up against a Vietnamese name I had learned to pronounce correctly. I read his name and he responded with raising his hand. I followed up with “Did I pronounce that right?” and he said “yes.” Then, for some reason I asked “Do many of your teachers get that right? And he said “You are the first.” I offered my best wishes that people learned and learned quickly how to pronounce names that they hadn’t seen before. (This was shortly after the end of the Viet Nam War and we had a large number of Vietnamese families coming to the west coast whereas before they were very few.)

So, learn their names and learn the correct pronunciations. Check. If just one person wanted special pronouns, I might have been able to pull that off, or even two or three. (And, boy if it were just a few, trust me, they would have been tagging themselves as being “special,” or “precious,” or “stupid.”) But if all of the students had a list of pronouns they wanted used, I would have failed at that task. I guess I would just have to refer to them by name, over and over and over.

Pronouns are supposed to be general, so they can be used as shortcuts to communication. For example, consider this sentence: “When James spoke, I wasn’t sure that he was speaking or he was mumbling.” And without the pronouns, “When James spoke, I wasn’t sure that James was speaking or James was mumbling.” It works, not too bad. But what if his name were Subrahmanyan or her name Rhoshandiatellyneshiaunneveshenk? (And, yes, those are real names.)

Why are pronouns so important now? Is it part of our general trend to feeling self important? I have lived long enough that way back when, people insisted on being addressed with their title, e.g. Doctor So-and-so. This was a matter of respect, according to them. Of course that got carried too far. In Germany, I remember wives being called things like Frau Herr Doktor Schmidt or whatever, that is Mrs. Important Doctor Man.

I wonder who is training these young people in these new practices? OMG, could the bullshit claims of “grooming camps” be real? Quick call Fox News!



  1. Yeah, I’ve got to admit this stuff makes me feel like an old fart. Well, I actually am an old fart but that’s beside the point. I mean, I get it. For me it’s the plural vs the singular thing that’s the most difficult. Maybe a whole new word(s) would be better? I don’t know. I truly don’t know.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by ziggyseamstress — December 6, 2022 @ 12:35 pm | Reply

  2. …and just to clarify. I have no problem whatsoever with anyone who feels the pronouns he/him and she/her don’t describe them. Zero problem with that. I’m not in their shoes and I don’t know what that feels like. All I’m saying is that I wish we could come up with a new pronoun for it. Words are invented every day. Why not come up with a new word?


    Comment by ziggyseamstress — December 6, 2022 @ 1:06 pm | Reply

  3. Here comes that urge again. The urge to bang my head against the wall…

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by grouchyfarmer — December 6, 2022 @ 4:38 pm | Reply

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