Is political correctness a useful concept, or does it stifle honest discussion?
There are such things as loaded questions. And this may be a perfect example! I have lived long enough to see the popularity of “PC” come into being. Actually, I have seen “PC” carry a double meaning in my lifetime: personal computer and political correctness. There are the sayings that political correctness is tyranny with a smile and the such. There are important questions raised by the issue. Does “PC” hamper free speech? Or does “PC” help make people aware of their prejudices and insensitivities?
What follows are just a couple of quick thoughts on the matter. I feel this subject deserves a more thought-out and focused response; alas, I don’t have the time this morning. But, I did want to contribute something to the dialogue. Any feedback would be, as always, most appreciated!
I am a bit torn on this issue. On one hand, I believe some standard of decency in speech is important. Certainly, curtailing racist and sexist language is a good thing in my opinion. These things have been brought to the forefront and I think more people are aware and conscious of these issues.
On the other hand, as with most things, the pendulum can swing too far in the opposite direction. Censorship can be an ugly thing. I advocate personal responsibility. As a Christian, I believe we should speak (and write) those things that reflect the nature and teachings of Christ.
In fact, the apostle Paul instructs us, Whatever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father by him. (Col. 3.17)
If believers would follow this instruction, political correctness would not be necessary, at least for the Christ community.
I suppose I am Libertarian enough to feel a bit creepy about some third-party identity policing speech. This is where many complain about the “thought police”.
There are things that need to be said. Sometimes things need to be said in a way that is not always comfortable. Truth can be brash at times. There are times when all points of view cannot be accommodated. If someone is espousing a dangerous or ignorant (i.e. a lack of knowledge or information) view, then this should be pointed out and refuted; not simply allowed to continue, so as not to hurt the person’s feelings. I remember many a math teacher who would not allow me to continue on thinking 4+4 equaled anything except 8, no matter how close I may have come to the correct answer. According to their red pens, 7.9 just wasn’t close enough!
Of course, at times we all speak from ignorance. What makes this especially dangerous is when we think our ignorance is learned. But, this is where honest communication comes into play. Bouncing ideas and thoughts off of others is a good way to learn and grow intellectually. It is a good way to be opened up to new viewpoints and perspectives.
In my post-graduate studies, I took a seminar class. It was a small class and we would share opinion pieces and even a thesis paper with the class. There were response papers to our papers, where we could interact with one another. These response papers would point out strengths and weaknesses in our papers and thought processes. It was not always the most comfortable thing to experience, but it was highly useful.
It may be some things are lumped under the guise of “PC” that really don’t belong there. I know some people who rant and rail against “PC” any time the term is mentioned. There are others too who embrace any and all things deemed “PC” by whomever deems such things.
I suppose I would close by saying that truth can be presented in a tactful, civil way. It does not have to be applied like a four-by-four to the skull. Even those more uncomfortable settings can be lightened with an irenic approach. Yes, there are times when truth must be spoken plain and strong. But, there are many times when truth can wear the clothing of humility and accomplish just as much.
Oh, I mentioned the red pens of my math teachers earlier. When I was teaching as an adjunct professor, I remember someone suggesting the professors no longer use red pens when grading papers and tests. The thought was, I think perhaps with the backing of some study, that the color red, when used for correcting on tests and papers, was harmful to the students self-esteem. Now, I am a pretty laid back type of guy. I don’t rock the boat just for the sake of causing waves. But, I had to balk at this. To me, this is “PC” (if it can be labeled as such) run amuck. I think this is the problem many people have with “PC”. It makes us too sensitive and timid. Again, the pendulum has swung, in my opinion, too far in the opposite direction.
“The old restriction meant that only the orthodox were allowed to discuss religion. Modern liberty means that nobody is allowed to discuss it. Good taste, the last and vilest of human superstitions, has succeeded in silencing us where all the rest have failed.” (G.K. Chesterton , Heretics)