political correctness

Doni Wilson has penned a satirical piece for The Federalist, suggesting 9 “trigger warnings” for very sensitive students who are about to read Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

This week the British publication The Guardian reported that “Students in America have been asking for “trigger warnings” to be included on works of literature which deal with topics such as rape or war.”  Works that were of concern to students at the University of California at Santa Barbara included Things Fall ApartMrs. Dalloway, and The Great Gatsby, all of which I have taught.  This demand for fair warning so that those who have been traumatized can adequately prepare for the shock of what they read assumes that having something in a syllabus (which may or may not be read by students anyway) will insulate students from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that may come up in any given text…

So I was thinking, since I am teaching Hamlet to students in an intense two-week course called Fast Term, if I had known about this new demand for “trigger warnings,” how exactly would I accommodate this need for this particular play?

Read the full article here.

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It was political correctness in the ’80s, speech codes in the ’90s, and “empathetic correctness” among today’s college students demanding “trigger warnings.” So says an English professor who actually helped a student rape victim get counseling after she expressed feeling “traumatized” by a class discussion of a book’s rape plot.

Writing in The Atlantic, Liberty University professor Karen Swallow Prior says:

While political correctness seeks to cultivate sensitivity outwardly on behalf of those historically marginalized and oppressed groups, empathetic correctness focuses inwardly toward the protection of individual sensitivities. Now, instead of challenging the status quo by demanding texts that question the comfort of the Western canon, students are demanding the status quo by refusing to read texts that challenge their own personal comfort.

It’s the difference between George Orwell, who feared “an external form of control that becomes internalized,” and Aldous Huxley, who foresaw “an internal form of control that becomes externalized,” she says. This is how bad it’s become:

Astonishingly, some of the literary works advocates claim need warning labels for adult college students are often read by high school students, such as The Great Gatsby and The Merchant of Venice.

She sees a new danger in the squeamishness of “Millennials with hovering parents” expanding to the rest of the population. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne’s description of religious liberty as a “gift,” in response to the recent Supreme Court decision upholding sectarian prayers in town meetings, could mean that “challenging reading material in college” is optional too:

How can empathy even be cultivated apart from a willingness to have our preconceptions and our very comfort challenged? The sort of citizenry that demands warning labels on the best gifts of civilization is a citizenry ill-equipped to maintain such rights.

Read the full article here.

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A new word-discouragement campaign at Duke University has labeled phrases such as “Man Up,” “That’s So Gay,” and “Don’t Be a Pussy” offensive language that “delegitimizes” homosexuality and oppresses and insults people.

But as the campaign has gained national popularity, its detractors have bristled at the effort, calling it a politically correct war on words that will stifle free speech and suggesting its true aim is to redefine terms to control public opinion and – ultimately – public policy.

In fact, the “You Don’t Say” campaign creators have admitted as much.

“Language is a reflection of how we think about others and view the world,” Jay Sullivan, a student leader of the campaign, tells Duke Today. “My goal is to…. help facilitate discussion about how language affects many social issues, from race to gender and sexuality.”

The campaign consists of a series of black-and-white memes with students posing behind large pledges to avoid so-called offensive language.

“I don’t say ‘No Homo’ because it delegitimizes love and sexual identities,” says one.YouDontSayInside

“I don’t say ‘Man Up’ because the strongest people I know have cried in front of me, regardless of their age, gender or sex,” says another.

“I don’t say ‘Tranny’ because it’s insulting to transgender and genderqueer communities,” adds a third meme.

Other banned words include “bitch,” because it “insists feminism is inherently negative,” “‘fag,’ because it only serves to hurt and oppress homosexual men,” and “pussy,” as it “implies that having a certain feature is indicative of being a coward.”

The recently launched campaign has spread far and wide on social media and gained national attention in a variety of news reports. The effort is similar to the recent “Ban Bossy” campaign, and akin to other university student efforts that have banned the term “illegal immigrant” on campuses.

The campaign is a collaborative effort between a newly formed group at Duke University called Think Before You Talk and Blue Devils United, a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer student advocacy group.

The campaign has gained plenty of supporters, as well as detractors, whose reactions range from sarcastic to disgusted.

“I can’t say anything about an individual person, because it might be construed as offensive to a larger group… even if I had no intention of offending a larger group,” asks one Facebook post.

Others balk at the idea of being told how to choose their daily language.

“As a thinking individual, I don’t and didn’t need some children from Duke University admonishing me for ‘thinking any gender is inferior,’” says another. “Do you see what they did there? ‘Any gender.’ Not ‘either gender.’ It’s all about redefining terms, redefining life.”

Some commenters on Facebook hardly took the campaign seriously at all: “There is nothing wrong with being a HOMO. We’re all homos… homosapiens.”

In an interview with The College Fix, Dr. Mark Hendrickson, economics professor at Grove City College, expressed concern for the direction and potential implications of the campaign, such as the idea of a possible enforcement mechanism.

He also questioned the discouragement of statements such as “man up.”

“I’m a little concerned about censoring a phrase like ‘man up’… a world without manliness, like a world without femininity… would be a pretty dismal place,” Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson acknowledged the need for consideration of others when choosing one’s language, but he observed that proponents of the campaign appear to have a narrow agenda.

He noted, especially with the impending graduation season, that similar tolerance is often not afforded to conservative campus speakers.

“With anybody advocating the banning of a certain word or phrase… would they be willing to publicly say, ‘I promise in return to never hinder a speech by a political figure with whose political philosophy I disagree?” Hendrickson said.

College Fix contributor Claire E. Healey is a student at Grove City College.

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Yes, intelligence tests like the SAT and the IQ test really do measure something substantial and consequential, argue David Z. Hambrick and Christopher Chabris in a new article for Slate.

The SAT does predict success in college—not perfectly, but relatively well, especially given that it takes just a few hours to administer. And, unlike a “complex portrait” of a student’s life, it can be scored in an objective way. (In a recent New York Times op-ed, the University of New Hampshire psychologist John D. Mayer aptly described the SAT’s validity as an “astonishing achievement.”) In a study published in Psychological Science, University of Minnesota researchers Paul Sackett, Nathan Kuncel, and their colleagues investigated the relationship between SAT scores and college grades in a very large sample: nearly 150,000 students from 110 colleges and universities. SAT scores predicted first-year college GPA about as well as high school grades did, and the best prediction was achieved by considering both factors. Botstein, Boylan, and Kolbert are either unaware of this directly relevant, easily accessible, and widely disseminated empirical evidence, or they have decided to ignore it and base their claims on intuition and anecdote—or perhaps on their beliefs about the way the world should be rather than the way it is…

Read the full story.

What do you think? Are intelligence tests unfairly criticized for reasons of political correctness? Or are some of the common criticisms justified?


A college student in Canada recently apologized for forwarding an email that included a short, fake video of President Barack Obama angrily kicking open a door after a press conference.

The spoof, which first appeared several years ago on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and has since gone viral, was included as a .GIF image in a weekly email McGill University student Brian Farnan, vice president for internal affairs for the school’s students society, sent around to his peers in the fall.

According to Farnan, the .GIF image “was intended to bring a humorous tone to the email and use President Obama’s frustration with the press conference in question to mimic the frustration students feel when confronted with midterm examinations.”

But the joke caught the ire of the campus leaders, who launched an investigation, reports William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection.

“That got him in trouble with the thought police, who filed a complaint against him with SSMU’s Equity Committee, which enforces an expansive Equity Policy banning a broad range of supposedly ‘oppressive’ conduct,” Jacobson reports. “Although the SSMU process does not appear to be public, we do know the end result, Farnan issued a public apology for engaging in microaggression.”

“Despite the innocent intentions influencing my decision to use this particular image, I have come to recognize the negative implications of adding the .GIF image within this given context,” Farnan wrote in a Jan. 27 public mea culpa.

Jacobson argues the Equity Committee at McGill University, a public research institution in Montreal, is akin to “speech codes at many U.S. universities, where what matters is the subjective offense of the complainant.”

Watch the original Tonight Show spoof:

h/t: Legal Insurrection


What’s scarier than Obama’s vision of unlimited government power? How about a Halloween mask with his face on it?

Apparently, that’s the conclusion the Jennie Stuart medical center in Kentucky reached. After an employee came to an office costume party dressed up as the president, complete with a mask bearing the commander in chief’s likeness, the company apparently decided that this was–you guessed it–RACIST!!!

Fox News reports that they sent the entire company, all 750 employees, to diversity training!

Did you know that we have a president who is off-limits for even the mildest forms of mockery such as a Halloween costume might entail?

Excuse me, but I’m pretty sure people have been wearing masks of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush for decades. No one ever seemed concerned about this. I don’t think any company ever went into panic mode and ordered hundreds of employees into diversity training.

Now, because it’s Obama, wearing a Halloween mask depicting the president is racist?

Unless there’s some element to this story that I’m not getting, there’s nothing remotely racist about it. Instead, it seems we are witnessing yet another example of the stiffing political correctness that characterizes our present age.

Of course, this all has to do with the taboo on “blackface” performance. Prominent in the early twentieth century, in a typical “blackface” performance, white stage performers would paint their faces and mock blacks with unflattering skits and musical sketches, mocking their physical appearance or demeaning blacks’ intelligence. Something like that–we can agree it’s racist and worthy of scorn. But that’s a mile away from wearing a Halloween mask with the face of the president of the United States on it.

You see, when you agree to become the President of the United States of America, leader of the free world, etc, you are implicitly agreeing to become the target of a great deal of criticism, scorn, and–yes–mockery. I don’t know whether the guy who wore the mask at his company party loves or hates Obama, but either way–the idea that no one can wear a mask of the president to a costume party in this country without drawing out legions of racial grievance police is, in a word, ridiculous.

The president, whatever his skin color may be, is a public figure. In fact, he’s the most public of all public figures. As such, wearing a Halloween mask with his face on it ought to be a right of free speech. In this context, it also ought to be seen as evidence that he is being treated–for better or worse–just like white presidents have been treated. That’s the very definition of equality.

What could be more non-racist than that?

Nathan Harden is editor of The College Fix and author of the book SEX & GOD AT YALE: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad.

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