ellyn_seelye — 2016-08-22T13:17:33-04:00 — #1
Well, well, well. Once more the "wisdom" of the campus extends to scrubbing our language of the use of the word "man". And instructing us that "land of opportunity" is a "micro-aggression".... Oh, yes, and the word "American" is "problematic":
Princeton University Tells Staff To Avoid The Word ‘Man’ At All Costs
bill_coley — 2016-08-22T19:54:36-04:00 — #2
When I preached about this topic in my senior seminary year chapel worship back in April 1985, we called it "inclusive language." To me and to most everyone who heard my sermon, "humanity" was not only more sensitive to the female half of the species than was "man" or "mankind," it was also more accurate. "Man" leaves open the possibility that you're referring only to males; "humanity" doesn't. "Foreman" sounds like it could refer to a male supervisor; "foreperson" doesn't (our courts have figured that one out, praise God). Why wouldn't you want to use the most accurate words possible to communicate your message, we asked.
Now the term is "microaggressions." New word - a sharper, more pointed word - but the same basic truth: Words matter, to hearers as well as speakers. When you have the option to use more accurate and inclusive word, take it.
And as for the scary heading of this thread, about universities' "tryannies over language," think of it this way: When you were a kid, your parents probably told you there were words you could and could not use as a member of your household. Through their linguistic "tyranny" they imposed upon you the values of the household, which was their right.
Colleges and universities adopt specific style guides - to the exclusion of others - for submitted academic papers, guides that they expect their students to follow regardless of those students' past experience or personal preferences. Such guidelines are well within the schools' rights.
There are schools whose official documents impose dress codes that specify shirt, skirt, and hair length, among many other "micro-controls." Such is their right.
I contend that the same kind of authority that gives parents the right to control speech in their households and schools the right to impose paper and style regulations on their students, gives schools the right to impose the values of inclusion, sensitivity, and accuracy in the speech of their students and employees. Students who want to employ exclusive and less accurate speech are welcome to do so... at another school or after they graduate.
lu1 — 2016-08-23T06:28:19-04:00 — #3
Wow, what to make of this?... @_@
dave_l — 2016-08-23T06:46:53-04:00 — #4
My Grammar Checker for several years now will highlight sexist writing, and offer replacements. I can see the benefit in communicating to the world in ways not offensive to them, unless necessary. So I always try to be gender neutral where gender doesn't matter.
ellyn_seelye — 2016-08-23T07:15:51-04:00 — #5
Lu, I don't quite know. This is so extreme, so far beyond the desired societal niceties of tact, civility and good manners, which we all should practise as a matter of course. The censorship and intellectual bullying on campuses seems to rise to new heights of absurdity with each fresh story of imposed speech codes and retaliations against those who challenge them. I think part of the problem is the insularity of many college campuses-- people in the wider world, those with a sense of proportion and of good sense, are often completely unaware of the extremes that are practiced and enforced in some academic precincts.
At least there seem to be attempts now to shine more light on attempts to limit freedom of thought and expression. This is especially important for Christians and other groups concerned with the protections of religious freedoms, of course. I've noticed a few comprehensive resources, one of which is the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education:
Other groups have tried to prod students and others concerned into examination of the current state of affairs. The "Newseum" in Washington, D.C. has tried to stimulate self examination by sponsoring a film competition on the state of free speech at colleges. Their message couldn't be more clear, as expressed by Jeffrey Herbst:
“Colleges and universities should be places in our society where free expression and free speech are celebrated,” said Herbst. “However, many fear that the very institutions that depend on vigorous debate are becoming the areas of our country where free expression is most challenged.
“The Newseum and the Knight Foundation are determined to champion free expression and to identify how colleges and universities can have difficult discussions that welcome all viewpoints.”
He is a former president of Colgate University, and I think he's representing the sensible and Constitutional side of the debate...
lu1 — 2016-08-23T08:09:06-04:00 — #6
Crazy, I picked several schools I either went to or family member/friends went too. Alarming !!!!!!1
bill_coley — 2016-08-23T12:19:27-04:00 — #7
I had not heard of grammar checkers that highlight possibly sexist or exclusive language, Dave. Glad to hear it. In my experience, however, the counsel offered by such instruments will be useful only to those who value inclusion or, as in the case of schools that impose word choice expectations on their academic communities, to those compelled to value it,
Your formula - communicate inoffensively unless necessary, and employ gender neutrality when gender doesn't matter - sounds practical and possible... for those who value inclusion or, as in the case of schools that impose word choice expectations....
eric_seelye — 2016-08-23T12:26:50-04:00 — #8
Before the confusion of feminism and the bastardization of the English language, this wasn't a problem. Used to be that elementary school would teach such things. Now the educational establishment is all about churning out confused minds. Too bad.
bill_coley — 2016-08-23T12:48:28-04:00 — #9
Eric, you seem to contend here that before "the confusion of feminism and the bastardization of the English language," elementary schools taught students, as an example, that when they heard or read the word "mankind," they should interpret it to mean humanity. Seems much simpler and less confusing to me to teach students to use the word "humanity" in the first place.
Consider this hypothetical: What if currently accepted usage referred to humanity as "womankind." In such a case, would you consider to be "confused" and "bastardized" efforts to compel society's change to a more inclusive term? Even if you personally would not object to be referenced as part of "womankind," wouldn't you understand the protests of those who did?
ellyn_seelye — 2016-08-23T14:52:07-04:00 — #10
The free speech outrages come so thick and fast that it is impossible to do justice to the breadth and depth of them on campuses, plus I simply don't have enough time to highlight even a fraction here. So I really recommend the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education link given above, which DOES have the time to compile them.
Their "Speech Code of the Month" recently highlighted Colby College, whose protocol is described here:
"Colby’s Bias Incident Prevention and Response protocol encourages students to report on one another to the administration for a wide range of speech and expression. Not only that, but the college recently placed its previously-public “bias incident log” under password protection. When a college or university takes measures to hide information from the public, it usually means the school is doing something privately that it knows would not stand up to the glare of public scrutiny."
Students reporting on one another to the administration for so called violations of speech code? One example from Colby involved a student who, while making a point, used the phrase "on the one hand". This was then "reported" to the school authorities because it was an example of "ability bias". Presumably those of us who have limited or less than perfect use of our hands would be offended by such an expression......
This kind of extreme censorship and insitutionalized "tattling" is what the foundation is shedding light on, and what even a national institution like the "Newseum" has become so concerned about. I'm hoping efforts like theirs and others will produce the cleansing sunlight that this sort of nonsense deserves.
The absurdities produced by this kind of hard-to-believe, intellectual bullying, might be very good for satirists and comedians, but not so good for those who cherish hard-won freedoms of thought and expression!
dave_l — 2016-08-23T14:52:59-04:00 — #11
I believe it is a matter of being polite and not forcing unnecessary bias on people we are hoping to present Christ to. If we were missionaries in a foreign land we would surely try to be sensitive to the culture. But, we are Missionaries for the Kingdom of God in our own communities, wherever we might be.
ellyn_seelye — 2016-08-23T14:55:12-04:00 — #12
I agree, Dave L. Perhaps you haven't encountered yet some of the Orwellian instances described above. Few people outside of the academic world have, thank goodness.
bill_coley — 2016-08-23T15:58:23-04:00 — #13
In the spirit of "Ad Fontes," I encourage forum participants to visit the Colby College website's pages devoted to the college's "Bias Incident Prevention and Response team" rather than to rely solely on partisan characterizations of the program. When you do, I believe you'll discover that the team is not an authoritarian secret police - e.g. it has no disciplinary authority - but rather it is the college's first responders to allegations of on-campus bias, and, more importantly, the college's principal advocate for the institution's pursuit of what it calls "a fully inclusive campus community, enriched by persons of different races, gender identities, ethnicities, nationalities, economic backgrounds, ages, abilities, sexual orientations, political beliefs, and spiritual values."
And the word "allegations" matters. Notice that the reference to an issue raised over someone's use of the phrase "on the one hand" quoted in an earlier post mentions ONLY the allegation; it says nothing about the resolution of the complaint. In fact, the incident log, which mistakenly was made public, contains only simple summaries of allegations, and makes no mention of complaint resolutions. How a list of proffered allegations absent data regarding their final resolution tells us anything about the college itself is not clear to me.
And why would the college want to keep the incident log under password protection? Perhaps to protect it from dissemination to people and causes unfamiliar with the college, its values, and its bias prevention program, people and causes which might misapprehend the meaning and significance of allegations. And to protect from undue public scrutiny and commentary issues the college believes are best handled in-house.
ellyn_seelye — 2016-08-23T16:34:51-04:00 — #14
I'm delighted that those interested can be directed to sources of free speech and free expression outrages-- the more people learn what certain administrations are doing to bully and silence others, the better. I think most will be shocked at the facts that have been able to be disclosed.
In the cases where public scrutiny is made impossible by the very same administrations that would demand transparency from other institutions, that in itself is highly revealing of the motives of those who try to cloak their actions in secrecy.
Stay tuned to both the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, for compilations of free expression violations, and to the national Newseum in Washington to follow up on their project. It's increasing transparency that has already ended, or at least discouraged, some of the worst abuses.The institutional encouragement of "tattling" on peers is especially egregious and shouldn't stand up to cleansing sunlight.
bill_coley — 2016-08-24T14:17:49-04:00 — #15
Thanks for the comment, Dave.
I agree with you that this is - at least in part - a matter of politeness. In fact, I assert that what many people dismissively call "political correctness" is actually basic human respect, decency, and politeness, as well as a concern for accuracy. Those are values every parent in the U.S. claims to teach their young children. Yet somehow, when colleges and universities expect their students to use words that express the values their parents claim to have taught them years ago, it's a politically correct constitutional violation.
I believe colleges and universities have the right to create the cultures and communities of their choosing. If they want to ban students from using the "n" word, they have the right to do so, even though the action will infringe on students' free speech rights. The same is true for a host of other word choices, such as "humanity" rather than "mankind," and pluralized references when gender is unknown.
Students who want their word choices to reflect other values, or other definitions of their schools' values, may do so on their own time - in settings not connected to their life as a student - or at a school more receptive to their values.
ellyn_seelye — 2016-08-25T12:45:52-04:00 — #16
Wow, there's just so much material out there on these abuses that my prediction that I'd never be able to get to even a fraction of it is accurate.
I like this editorial by "USA Today", which usually takes a liberal stance on most issues of this sort. They are focusing in their expose on a fairly narrow aspect of campus censorship, and not necessarily spotlighting the intellectual bullying aspect as much. But still, given their proclivities, it's a courageous and principled stand:
Nice to know the University of Chicago has begun to recognize the wrong-headedness of "thought-policing". But as USA Today acknowledges, the nature of the insular, extreme environment at some schools will make change a difficult challenge:
"It won't be easy, given the lengths to which university leaders and students have gone to clamp down on ideas they find offensive or hurtful. Among the most ludicrous concepts is "trigger warnings," where professors are expected to advise students in advance that a book or lesson might trigger a traumatic reaction. Targeted classics have included The Great Gatsby, in which a Rutgers student found “abusive and misogynist violence.” At law schools, student organizations have asked criminal law teachers to warn classes that a lesson on rape law might trigger traumatic memories, and some students want questions on rape law excised from tests, for fear it will upset them.
Supporters of such restrictions argue that they are somehow differentiating hate speech or disturbing speech from protected speech. But one of the great things about democracy is that it protects the right to speak even when the words spoken offend or hurt.
Practically speaking, this war on free speech does students a disservice by shielding them from the real world, where they won't be able to silence co-workers and bosses whose speech they dislike. If students aren't smart enough or mature enough to understand the values of free speech, it's up to institutions in the business of education to teach them." -- USA Today
bill_coley — 2016-08-25T13:35:40-04:00 — #17
The USA Today editorial is about exposure to ideas. I heartily endorse the paper's stand (though openness to expressions of sensitivity to those who might be affected by ideas or topics doesn't sound like a bad thing - after all, television news programs do it all the time when they advise viewers that "some may find portions of the following video disturbing").
This thread began with a focus on what its title calls "tyrannies over language," a concern with which I took strong issue in my previous posts. Tyranny over ideas, however - especially over exposure to ideas - is in my view a VERY different matter.
ellyn_seelye — 2016-08-25T16:06:51-04:00 — #18
More interesting data that suggests that raising public scrutiny of abusive policies which encourage tattling, intellectual bullying or "trolling" free speech, may have the effect of administrations' scrapping or re-working these policies. Such was the case in Iowa when a light was shone on a potentially punitive protocol:
The free speech advocacy group FIRE and others, drew some public attention to the policy, via the press and other means:
"FIRE’s Executive Director Robert Shibley told the Press Citizen at the time there was “reason to be wary” of a system that would have given UI “the ability to record every instance of unpopular speech in a giant database.”
“A campus culture that encourages students to report to the authorities about officially disfavored speech, rather than instances of real harassment or threats, is gravely at odds with the idea of a university as a place for the unfettered exchange of ideas,” Robert said."
At least in the public at large, there still seems to be an instinctive recoil at the prospect of people scurrying to report conversations and speech of other people, to a dubiously "higher" authority with the power to retaliate and punish.
lu1 — 2016-08-25T20:14:07-04:00 — #19
the root of this is not learning to deal with the word no in their youth... being knocked down and getting back up... not learning to deal with adversity...
ellyn_seelye — 2016-08-26T07:13:49-04:00 — #20
Yes, I think you've got something, Lu. That has to be a big part of it. When you couple that with the increasing arrogance of institutions which try to act as thought police, you have a free speech disaster in the making. I'm somewhat encouraged though, when even entities like USA Today, the national Newseum, and more active free speech groups like FIRE, act as whistle-blowers. It's harder for the harassment and bullying to flourish, when case after case is brought to light...
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