Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Should Female Teachers Be Called “Sir”?

It’s traditional for British schoolchildren to be taught to address female teachers as “miss” and male teachers as “sir.” But linguistics professor Jennifer Coates doesn’t like that, and so she is calling for a ban on the words “sir” and “miss” in schools. Professor Coates claims that “sir” and “miss” don’t match because “sir” is how you address a knight. She complains that this is “a depressing example of how women are given low status, and men, no matter how young or new on the job, are given high status.” She fears that using these terms in grade school causes young students to internalize sexism. She says it reinforces the message that “women are lesser beings.”

You might think this is a joke, and I’m just making this up. But several other professors agree with her and are speaking. A professor at the U.S. University of California – Berkeley agreed that “miss” simply doesn’t convey respect the way “sir” does. She whines that it’s hard to create linguistic equality between men and women because many people don’t see men and women as equal. Another British professor who specializes in “feminist linguistics” (whatever that is), has argued that the only way to fix this is for children to call their teachers by their first names. I think that would result in a great loss of respect, but perhaps it’s no worse than another suggestion made in England that both male and female teachers should be addressed as “sir.”

Professor Coates, who raised the original objection, is calling for school boards and local authorities in England to rule on the issue. It is ridiculous for the government to have to determine whether or not first graders should call their teachers “miss.” It’s really much ado about nothing, but with the various suggestions the professors are offering, I fear it’s only going to get worse and lead to less respect in the classrooms.

Listen to the radio commentary here:

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