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Jerry Shenk


How Political Correctness Will Kill Higher Ed

by Jerry Shenk
 

In a perfect world, everyone would always be courteous, respectful and meticulously avoid giving offense. But, although most try not to, sometimes even decent people inadvertently make minor social errors. Similarly-decent witnesses excuse them without comment or take exception while avoiding unnecessary drama.

But out-of-control, militant political correctness has become an offense against decency, and, as a result, civil discourse and, especially, higher education have suffered.

American universities, the worst practitioners of political correctness, are leading a broader left-wing movement to eradicate liberal notions of political and social heresy, eliminate dissenting viewpoints and rewrite history to conform to modern progressive biases. Much like its Spanish predecessor, the American left is waging an Inquisition on personal freedoms and truth, but (so far) without the public executions.

What should be well-mannered left-wing expressions of disagreement, civil argument and respectful public advocacy have become boorish bullying, humiliation, social ostracizing and attempts to impose economic, political and even legal punishment for often-imaginary offenses and simple differences of opinion.

Such behavior is revealing: If confident liberals had persuasive arguments, they'd relish rather than prohibit civil debates.

Encouraged by a destructive grievance culture which conflates victimhood and power, fragile, attention-seeking campus "cry-bullies" demand "safe spaces" from unwelcome ideas, "trigger warnings" before potentially "uncomfortable" reading assignments or instruction and emotional therapy when "threatened." They protest "controversial" speakers and label opinions they don't like as "microaggressions" and "hate speech."

Pro-life speakers are unwelcome, and conservatives are demonized, even banned from campuses for believing that ideas written into America's Constitution have meaning in modern America. Farewell 1st Amendment and the remainder of the Bill of Rights.

Rather than preparing their infantile charges for lives as adults, weak, often-complicit administrators indulge undergraduates' ridiculously petty demands.

Astonishingly, institutions defend free speech infringements. Brown University President Christina Paxton conceded that "freedom of expression is an essential component of academic freedom." But then Paxton wandered into an intellectual thicket by comparing "safe spaces" to non-academic, non-political "clubs and organizations [for] those who share similar backgrounds and interests," before declaring, "As scholars and students, our responsibility is to subject old truths to scrutiny and put forward new ideas to improve them."

"Old truths" are weasel words crafted as cover for academic sophistry. While Paxton and Brown's undergraduate bubble-dwellers are attempting to refashion "truth," in the real world, truths remain true. For example, human nature is truth. People disagree. Grow up, kids -- deal with it.

Jason Richwine wrote: "If you feel [a] need to 'balance' your belief in free speech with your desire to avoid hearing opinions you don't like, then you do not believe in free speech… [T]he whole purpose of free speech…is to protect…speech that some consider wrong or unwanted. We don't need free speech protections to say things that everyone already agrees with."

Even while maligning and banning commonly-held public viewpoints, many of America's most politically-correct institutions receive taxpayer funding, and all solicit alumni donations. They'll lose. In the end, money talks, PC walks.



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