F—ing strange

To desensitize students to frequent f— word use in Catcher in the Rye, a Virginia teacher assigned unusual homework.

“My teacher decided that it would be best to have the students go home and say in private the phrase ‘F-U,’ 10,000 times in different dialogues and different ways and tones and stuff, so that we’d become desensitized to it and wouldn’t have to worry about it,” said Chantilly High School student Jeff Daybell.

. . . The school system issued a statement that read: “The teacher didn’t want the students to be alarmed by what they read. There may have been better ways to handle this.”

Cam Edwards has a suggestion:

How about making the teacher wear a sign for the rest of the school year that says “I’m an f***ing idiot.”

I think the teacher was joking. He had to be joking. Right? And the official who said students were “alarmed” by reading a profanity. That must have been a joke too. Surely they were getting giggly over it and the teacher wanted them to shut the f— up.

About Joanne


  1. Since it is now stock usage am ong teenagers, I doin’t expect they would even have noticed. Holden talks like they do.

    In any case, I think anyone complaining should have been made to write “f— you” on the blackboard 10 000 times. Not that they don’t do that in some schools anyway.

  2. Richard Brandshaft says:

    Maybe the teacher was disturbed by teen language and hit on what might be an effective way of cleaning it up. If you TELL them to say “F—“…

  3. Walter E. Wallis says:

    My criticism of censorship is that, without censorship “Catcher” would have sold about 50 copies.

  4. Jack Tanner says:

    The teacher needs to go to the end of the ‘f’ing’ unemployment line.

  5. Wacky Hermit says:

    I had some neighbors once that, if I could have given them an award, it would have been for the Most Creative Use Of The F-Word In An Angry Dialogue. They had about a ten-word vocabulary, and half of the words were various part-of-speech versions of the F-word. Some of the more memorable excerpts:

    “F— you!”
    “Well, F— you too!”
    “F— your f—ing f—!”

    I guess this sort of thing now passes for high culture in our society, since students are now learning it in English class.

  6. All the odder since Holden never actually uses the f-word, nor is it used anywhere in the book, if I’m remembering my freshman English class correctly. He even goes on a long rant about it, without ever naming it. There’s plenty of swearing, for sure, but not the f-word.

  7. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

    The word “fuck” is used, but used just once.

    Toward the end of the book, Holden is wondering what will be written on his grave stone. He thinks it will have his name and under that, somebody will write “Fuck you.”

    For more information on Salinger, go to http://www.morrill.org.

  8. Alex Bensky says:

    The problem could be avoided entirely by assigning a book that actually had substantial literary merit. The last thing today’s teenagers need is novel that tells them that it’s commendable to be self-aborbed and that they maintain a sort of adolescent purity in contrast to the corrupt and insensitive adult world.

  9. Robert,
    Shouldn’t “Wrong, wrong, wrong.” have just been “wrong” or “F***ing wrong”? Three wrongs for one factual error seems a bit of overkill even for a Wright.

  10. Robert,
    Point taken. Sorry, I haven’t read it in three years, and paid as little attention to it as I could. But still, I think the point holds. Why say it 10,000 times at home if it’s only used once in the book?

  11. Maybe it was the teacher that had a problem with the language, not the students. One of my high school English teachers was a man who had started training for the ministry but switched to teaching for some reason. I think if he had to teach something with the F-word, he would have passed out from embarrasment. Since teachers in that school had some autonomy, we learned Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter,/i>) while the rest of the class of ’71 was reading Catcher in the Rye. That was a good choice, even if he made it for the wrong reasons…

  12. Yes, The Catcher in the Rye isn’t a good book for teenagers.

    They need to learn, in time, that there are mighty good reasons for adult corruption and insensitivity.

    Good literature will stress the importance of obedience, conformity, money and appearances.

  13. PJ/Maryland says:

    Good literature will stress the importance of obedience, conformity, money and appearances.

    Thereby giving them something sensible to rebel against.

  14. I remember reading it when I was a teen. I really enjoyed the first few pages.

  15. This is all a comedy routine, right?