Web, Writing and Editing. December 17, 2015. Wingspan Online.
This is the third of my Common Sense blog posts. The focus of the post is on how free speech is under threat from political correctness, particularly on college and high school campuses.
A true liberal believes in free speech.
A true liberal will defend the right of Donald Trump and also defend the right of the person who decries him a racist, ableist, xenophobic, divisionist or just plain stupid. A true liberal would never stop someone critical of Islam, feminism, gay marriage or abortion from speaking. A true liberal ﹘ and, yes, even a true conservative ﹘ would never censor anyone.
But we have a world full of politically correct imposters in our midst who are afraid to ever be unsafe or insulted, ever, in any circumstance. This political correctness is the biggest threat to free and open speech that our country faces today.
No where is the deceit more pronounced than in our schools. Across the country and in our community, we hear of the censors cracking the whip on students. Recently at nearby school Lake Lure Academy, students requested the creation of a gay-straight alliance to which the school board responded by shutting down all clubs at Lake Lure Academy because of the possibility of inflaming certain evangelical Christian members of the community (they have since reversed the decision after realizing the protracted First Amendment legal battle would destroy them). On the campuses of America’s colleges, the PC virus is even more infectious. Many universities impose Orwellian speech codes on students which can lead them to be ostracized, suspended, expelled or even charged with a crime for using seemingly innocent words like “crazy,” “thug,” “lame,” “stupid” or “trash.” The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee even went so far as to say “politically correct” is a “microaggression” and therefore is not allowed to be said on their campus. And UWM is not alone. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), one of the staunchest defenders of free speech on college campuses, compiles a list each year of the colleges that violate free-speech the most heavily. On 2014’s list was the University of Iowa student leaders and administrators condemned and censored a piece of anti-racist artwork because a portion of it resembled a Ku Klux Klan hood. California State University also made the list for condemning and punishing members of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority for having committed “disorderly, lewd, indecent or obscene conduct,” for having a Taco Tuesday event where members of the sorority dressed in sombreros. Members of the sorority were then ordered to “coordinate a mandatory workshop on cultural competencies and diversity.” And even though it isn’t a college or university, the U.S. Department of Education made the list for imposing a new regulation that would withhold Title IX funding from any university which refuses to adopt a measure banning “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including “verbal conduct.” Translation ﹘ if you ask a girl out on a date and she doesn’t want to go on a date with you, she can report you to school officials, who can kick you out of college. Asking someone out is scary enough without the threat of losing your educational opportunity and career prospects.
Are Black people really so offended by an anti-racist statue? Are Mexicans really so offended by Taco Tuesday? Are women so offended by a man who is attracted to them that they would get him kicked out of school? If so, why?
Why do we have to be so offended by inconsequential things, when real issues of sexism, racism and classism are plaguing our society? Are we so caught up in the meaningless Buzzfeed trifle that we forget substantive issues and free and open debate? Isn’t school, and society in general, a place where we should all be challenged by views that offend us, and grow and mature from them? Censoring things that offend us won’t make those things go away. They will only grow the PC virus until it kills all the true liberals and becomes George Orwell’s worst nightmare. America’s free speech won’t be strong until we learn to accept the things that offend us.
By Ari Sen
Photo illustration by Ari Sen