Po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness in higher ed

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION -

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 First 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, non­po­lit­i­cal “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. Jerry Shenk is a Le­banon County-based colum­nist whose work is fea­tured at www. pa­town­hall.com. You can email him at jshenk2010@gmail.com

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