Tom Keane (“Swearing off bans,” Op-ed, June 24) is right in observing that the nanny state goes over the top when Middleborough bans curse words. However, it should come as no surprise that a municipality makes the assumption that it has the legal power and moral authority to dictate what its citizens may not say.
Since the mid-1980s our institutions of so-called higher learning have been instituting ever-stricter speech codes that make it a punishable act for one student to offend another by uttering anything deemed by the listener to be demeaning.
Indeed, Harvard went a shocking step further this past year when Thomas Dingman, dean of freshmen, sought to get all first-year students to sign a “kindness pledge.” The pledge, which was to hang in every freshman dormitory entrance prominently identifying the students willing to succumb to the dean’s pressure, included the dean’s axiom that “the exercise of kindness holds a place on a par with intellectual attainment” on the Harvard campus.
Enough internal and outside pressure developed in response to this absurd (for a college) proposition so that Dingman withdrew his request for signatures, but the pledge hung in the dorm entrances nonetheless. Dingman announced an intention to try again next year.
It’s a close question whether it’s more repressive to live in Middleborough or to study at Harvard.