Spread the Word, to End the Word


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by Helena Whitlow

When is it ok to use the word “retarded”? Well, I can tell you right now, it’s never. The word itself is so demeaning and derogatory, that it’s often spread around to describe something, or someone, who is beingdumb, absurd, illogical, childish etc. If you’re a Bostonian like I am, you hear that word being used A LOT. I was out to dinner with my younger brother and his friends, who are all in high school, andstill trying to navigate throughout the world. We were all having casual conversations, and one of my brother’s friends blurts out “THAT’S SO RETARDED!”Working in the field of autism, I got really upset and instantly replied back saying “that’s not a term to be thrown around you know?” He looked at me puzzled, confused, and thought I was being a “witch,” for lack of a better term. Using that word can really affect someone’s attitudes and actions, and cause pain to those around us. Unfortunately, we live in a world where the r-word is not just a clinical term, but a phrase. So, how can we spread the word, to end the word?

The word “retarded” is defined as “slow or limited intellectual or emotional development or academic progress” (“Retarded”, 2015). This term has been used for years in clinical practice in diagnosing an individual as “mentally retarded”, but as years go on, that phrase ensues a negative label. How did this word go from being a clinical term to slang? There’s an organization called “Spread the Word, to End the Word,” where people across the world can pledge their support to eliminating this derogatory term. The website uses the aspects of community psychology to help solve the problem, setting the standard that we as a geosystem, need to create more acceptance and better attitudes towards everyone with or without a disability. The organization utilizes foundational principles, and community and social change to address this issue, helping to create person-first language.

By referring to the competency of “Ethical, Reflective Practice,” community psychologists and “Spread the Word, to End the Word” organization strives for the continual ethical improvement for all. The effects of the r-word on people with disabilities is hurtful, and we want to show that everyone is capable of pursuing anything. People are coming together to improve the quality of life for people, utilizing the “Community Organizing and Community Advocacy” competency. The campaign focuses on spreading awareness on how language can affect someone’s overall wellbeing, in which as a community, we need to create more accepting attitudes (Scott & Wolfe, 2015, p. 44).

Let’s think of it this way, if somebody told you that you’re so stupid because you got a bad grade on your math homework, how would it make you feel? It would probably make you inflict negative feelings towards math, and you degrade yourself for even trying. Now, think of how the r-word feels to someone with a disability? We all want to feel accepting, and it should be like that for everyone, regardless of ability. So, what can you do to help spread the word, to end the word? Go to http://www.r-word.org/ ,pledge your support to eliminate the use of the word, and be part of the change that can affect the lives to those around us.

#commpsych #spreadthewordtoendtheword #equalityforall

Helena Whitlow is a graduate student in Autism Studies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.


Retarded. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2015, from http://www.merriam-    webster.com/dictionary/retarded

Scott, V., Wolfe,S. (2015). Community Psychology: Foundations for practice. California:         Sage Publications Inc.




Are Same-sex Classrooms Effective?

By Mariah Bourne

There has been an ongoing dispute over the benefits and drawbacks of having single-sex classrooms in public schools. Those in favor of this practice argue that same-sex classes get rid of inhibitions and stereotypes that girls and boys face in coed classes. Proponents also argue that kids should be separated by sex because boys and girls are motivated differently and they are allowed to reach their full potential in academics without distraction (http://www.thedailybeast.com). On the other hand, those who disapprove assert that single-sex classrooms do nothing but force students into stereotyped behavior while limiting interaction between males and females (http://www.everydaylife.globalpost.com). Although it has been proved that separating the sexes in education is ineffective (http://www.thedailybeast.com), same-sex classrooms could be very beneficial if used in a practical way.

Instead of having same-sex classrooms as the only option in schools, it would be more plausible to use single-sex classrooms to teach certain classes such as health, where sex actually makes a difference. Separating girls and boys for some classes but not others would reduce the lack of interaction between sexes that is argued by opponents as well as empower students. Community psychology competencies such as mentoring and empowerment should be used by teachers in order to assist boys and girls in finding their own voices and personal strengths without being discouraged by the presence of the other sex.

Although classes like these would be extremely beneficial to both sexes, I think they are a necessity for young women. Women are highly underrepresented in every aspect of the government and continue to be paid 79% of what men are paid (http://www.aauw.org/). This is a huge issue that has been overlooked for centuries and will continue to be ignored if women are not taught at a young age where they really stand in this country and steps that can be taken to change this lopsidedness. Same-sex classes could aid in increasing the amount of female leaders in the country by educating young women about topics that are important because of the sole fact that they are women living in a sexist society.

Some essential topics that could be covered are feminism, negotiating salaries, society and beauty (body image, self-esteem), and sexual education (teen pregnancy). These topics are for the most part female-centered so it makes sense that they would be taught in an all female class. Same-sex classes would be helpful for effectively teaching these topics and getting through to young women because there would be no distractions from young men who would most likely not be very interested in the topics listed. In addition, these classes would also promote strong ties among young females which is useful in the goal to have women join together and fight for, rather than against each other.

Same-sex classes would be equally as beneficial for young men. Having a class that focuses on topics centered toward each sex would allow for kids to express their true feelings and opinions on topics that directly effect them because of their sex.

#commpsych   #reformedu

Mariah Bourne is a graduate student in Community Social Psychology Deaprtment at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.


Scott, V.C. & Wolfe, S.M. (2015). Community Psychology: Foundations for Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.