EDITORIAL: Is political correctness running amok?
“In peace and war a democracy needs citizens with skill in listening, reading, thinking, and the precise, forceful expression of their ideas.”
So reads the first sentence from the preface of a 1950s high school English textbook. Back in the day, English teachers insisted upon words and a writing style that were simple and direct. Using concrete words that had a single meaning were essential for students who wanted an “A” in composition. Good writing depended upon being sensitive to the meaning of individual words and putting them together in a manner that would inform and never confuse the reader.
Enter the new millennium and the age of “Political Correctness,” boiled down now to “PC.” The term originated as something of a joke, but as many have learned, it has become a serious matter. Using a term deemed “politically incorrect” can cause a firestorm.
It’s interesting to take a historical look at this subject. Many people may think that PC began in the 1960s with the hippie and peace movement. Some claim, however, that PC is rooted in the basic tenets of classic Marxism that developed in the early 1900s. The case can be made for this assertion because the root of Marxism is the theory that individualism should be ignored and that society can be transformed by changing speech and thought patterns. One way of doing this is by convincing individuals that using certain words is disrespectful to others.
The goals of a group seldom coincide with those of every individual member. Thus, proper and descriptive words used by individuals are subject to condemnation by special-interest groups ready to pounce on anyone opposed to their views.
Politicians are very adept at switching from words or phrases that come under attack. As some began to scold the political class about government “spending,” the term became “investing”. Another example is “global warming,” which has now become “climate change.” This switch followed revelations in 2011 that prominent climate scientists were engaging in political activism instead of scientific studies.
Instead of dealing with “abortion” or “anti-abortion,” the terms “pro-choice” and “pro-life” were introduced. Only those who have paid attention to political rhetoric would know to associate these terms with the debate about whether terminating the lives of babies before birth should be sanctioned and paid for by the public.
Unfortunately, we haven’t seen outrage from the most pure among the PC crowd over profane or obscene language that’s becoming commonly used, even by some top politicians.
The PC movement is bordering on insanity. In a chilling crackdown, the New York City Department of Education has taken PC to a new level. It has named 50 words or terms that will no longer be used on tests administered to students in the school system. “Dinosaur” is being banned because it may upset those who don’t believe in evolution. Other terms on the list include “terrorism,” “divorce” and any reference to diseases.
One of the more disturbing aspects of political correctness is that impressionable children are being taught they should be afraid to use certain words because someone, somewhere may take personal offense. The stifling of free thought — and with it, the elimination of “precise and forceful expression” of ideas in constructive dialogue — is astonishing in a country which, as part of its foundation, included freedom of speech in the First Amendment of its Constitution.