Social-emotional learning, or social and emotional learning, often shorthanded as SEL, refers to the learning of concepts like stress management, impulse control, problem-solving, and clear communication, to help understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. The concept of SEL has become part of larger controversies around what can or should be taught in schools, with critics arguing SEL is being used to “indoctrinate” students to progressive cultural values. This has led to initiatives in at least two dozen states attempting to restrict SEL. Helpful context would describe the potential effects of these proposed restrictions and how the concept of social-emotional learning has in some instances become divorced from the term itself as a buzzword stoking political divides. It may also be useful to ground coverage in the specific practices and activities being taught in the learning environment you’re reporting on, so the audience can base their understanding on the concrete experiences of students and teachers.
Climate grief refers to the grief stemming from loss or anticipated losses of ecosystems, species, and landscapes across the globe, due to the effects of environmental destruction and climate change. Anyone can experience climate grief, though some experts say Indigenous peoples may experience it more acutely. When reporting on climate change, accurately identifying even small signs of progress can ensure that your coverage does not unnecessarily stoke climate anxiety or grief.
The term “fatphobia” in practice means entrenched cultural prejudices and stigma directed at those who are considered overweight or obese according to a white American aesthetic that some cultural historians describe as originating in reaction to the enslaved female African body. Some fat acceptance activists dislike the veneer of mental health terminology involved in using the “phobia” suffix, arguing that terms like sizeism, anti-fat bias, or anti-fatness are more accurate. If necessary and relevant to coverage to use “fatphobia” or a related term, some explanation of the chosen term can be helpful for clarity. Careful coverage will also consider systemic factors such as race, gender, and socioeconomic status that can affect both someone’s weight and the degree of stigma they may face for their weight. It’s also important to understand and acknowledge that anti-fat bias, and coverage that furthers those attitudes, can have negative health consequences.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines obesity as “a common, serious, and costly chronic disease of adults and children” characterized by the presence of excess weight, as defined by the body mass index standard and the presence of excess fat. The BMI dates to nearly 200-year-old investigations into the height and weight of “average” European men, and groups of scientists have sought in recent years to revise its cut-points for health risks to account for racial and sex variations. Some researchers have suggested moving away from using BMI as a measurement altogether. People who carry extra weight experience pervasive stigmatization and discrimination, and negative bias toward obese people has only increased as their numbers have. The blame and shame directed at those with obesity acts to undermine their health care and workforce opportunities, and further compounds the negative health effects of the weight itself. If necessary to discuss body size or weight in coverage, it’s important to be clear about how obesity is being defined, and to recognize the differing societal expectations and implications of body size based on factors like race, gender, and socioeconomic status.
The term “woke” originated as a slang term among Black American communities to describe the idea of waking up to systemic injustices and prejudices, and staying alert to how they manifest in everyday life. Use of the term dates back to as early as the 1930s, but the term by many accounts became popularized via Erykah Badu’s 2008 song “Master Teacher” and then spread into wider awareness via the #staywoke Twitter hashtag in the mid-2010s following the police killings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. If using the term “woke,” it’s important to keep in mind both its origins in African American vernacular and its current popular use largely on the political right as a pejorative catch-all term pushing back against movements for racial justice and other civil rights efforts, as well as “cancel culture.
Dropout refers to an individual who leaves school without having completed their course of study. The term “dropout” may stigmatize the individual and ignore systemic factors that contribute to someone not completing their education; less individual-blaming language would be phrasing like “X individual did not finish school.”
White working class refers to non-Hispanic white workers or laborers, particularly associated with manual labor jobs or occupations. The term was heavily associated with the 2016 US presidential election and in some contexts now connotes a particular political stance that may not in fact be accurate.
At-risk youth is a term used to describe children in vulnerable situations that threaten their transition into adulthood. Because the term “at risk” has no single definition and involves so many societal factors, being specific about how the term is being used (X is considered at risk of academic failure) is more informative to audiences. Avoiding phrasing that can be read as blaming or stigmatizing the individual with language like “delinquent” or “dropout” also takes those societal factors into account. For example: “The lack of tutoring options in X’s school due to underfunding has contributed to them being at risk of academic failure.”
Sex work is an umbrella term for any work in which goods and money are exchanged for consensual erotic performances and/or sexual services. A sex worker is a person who engages in sex work. Steering clear of stigmatizing language and coded terms like “massage parlor” helps avoid reinforcing assumptions or generalizations about sex workers’ identities; all kinds of people engage in sex work.
An incarcerated person is someone confined to a prison, mental hospital, or similar institution. In general, person-first language, or phrasing such as “X individual, who was convicted of a felony,” puts the focus on the individual rather than one aspect of their circumstances, especially contrasted with terms such as ex-con, felon, convict, and criminal, which risk defining someone solely by their experience with the criminal legal system. In headlines or in shorthand, the term “prisoner” may be more straightforward and humanizing than a term like “felon” or “convict,” since not all individuals housed in jails and prisons are convicted of crimes, and such terms often imply a sense of guilt to the general public. The terms jail and prison are not interchangeable: Generally, jail is for those who have just been arrested or are awaiting trial or sentencing, though some serving shorter sentences will do so in jail. Prison is generally for those serving longer sentences.
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