If you want to know what generation a person is from, just ask them what "PC" stands for.
The young pups will promptly answer, "Personal Computer." For those a little longer in the tooth, the abbreviation will always resonate as "Politically Correct."
During the late eighties and early nineties, the nation was so paralyzed with the fear of offending sensibilities, or of being seen as crude or 'wrong', that many people kept opinions to themselves, or offered banal musings instead of strong thoughts on issues.
There is nothing wrong with being sensitive to others–in fact, empathy is a crucial skill that many students develop during their college years–but there is something wrong with closing your eyes and ears to the world around you.
In a potentially disturbing development, the PC trend is now invading college classrooms.
An Arizona bill is waiting to pass that would allow students to demand alternative coursework if a professor assigns a text or assignment that the student finds "personally offensive." As you can imagine, professors hate the idea of their credibility being questioned. But it's more important to ask: what harm could this do to students?
Inside Higher Ed provides a thought-provoking
article:The Arizona bill goes beyond the measures that have been pushed in other states – in fact it goes so far that David Horowitz, the '60s radical turned conservative activist who has pushed the Academic Bill of Rights, opposes the measure. "It doesn't respect the authority of the professor in the classroom," he said. "This authority does not include the right to indoctrinate students or deny them access to texts with points of view that differ from the professor's. But it does include the right to assign texts that make students feel uncomfortable."
[One professor] said that he respects the right of students to decide which courses to take, but that students can't dictate books to be taught. "This is totally unworkable in the classroom," he said. "If you have students demanding alternative books, and one student is reading one book, and one another, and one another – it doesn't make any sense in terms of how you teach."
And he said that the experience has reinforced for him the value of teaching. "This all was a little difficult at first, with a flurry of e-mails attacking the college and my integrity," he said. "But the more I've learned about academic freedom, the more sure I am that what I'm doing is right and that it matters – to teach students to think critically, to help students come a little bit out of their comfort zones."
As always, issues of this magnitude leave us with more questions than answers.
Which is more dangerous: the possibility of feeling offended, or the possibility of closing yourself off to other views on the world, possibly never changing or growing as a result?
Is college the right place to remain in a bubble? Should students force themselves to consider other ways of life, no matter how unpleasant, or do they have the right to refuse this knowledge? If this legislation passes, what does it hold in store for the future of your higher education years?
Please share your ideas and opinions with us in the Comments section.
(Photo Source: NCSU)