Skip to comments.Why 'Political Correctness' Cannot Be Correct
Posted on 07/10/2002 9:31:34 PM PDT by ATOMIC_PUNK
What is 'Political Correctness'? It is the inane but dangerous thought and speech code that threatens the free speech and intellectual curiosity of so many students and their teachers at colleges across the country -- closing rather than opening minds.
Who started 'Political Correctness'? Oddly enough, professors motivated by the credo that "all things are relative."
The original and current purveyors of 'Political Correctness' not only say there is no Truth (with a capital T). They go as far as saying there are no truths. There are, they argue, no "correct" answers, just different ones. They celebrate difference rather than individual pursuits of excellence.
We see this aspect of 'Political Correctness' in classrooms all over America -- from elementary school classes to seminars at the country's elite colleges. We see it when little Julia's teacher tells Julia's mother that she doesn't correct spelling because she doesn't want to "hurt her students' feelings" and because she is "celebrating all the different ways the children choose to spell." (It's not really choice, of course, but that's another important matter for another time.)
Students are increasingly taught that there is no correct answer to any question. They are taught, rather, that there are only different answers, and where difference is to be celebrated, any notion of correctness is to be avoided.
Now, this is the heart of 'Political Correctness' -- and of the educational movement of which it is part. It forbids students to assert the correctness of certain answers, or the greatness of certain poets. As Kurt Andersen recently observed in The New Yorker, in an article entitled "Kids Are Us," we are not teaching children to grow up. We are refusing to teach them to deal with the burden, consequences, and rewards of discernment, judgment, and competition. As Andersen writes, "What do we tell nice children about their ugly scribbles and cockamamie ideas and pointless stories? That they're all just great, no better or worse than any other child's -- which carried full-strength into the adult world, becomes an undiscriminating hyperempathy, where Maya Angelou is a great poet and Marianne Williamson a philosopher."
Anderson's observation is, unfortunately, accurate. Moreover, the people who administer the codes of 'Political Correctness' at schools across the country take the principal of 'hyperempathy' one step farther: to be 'hyperempathetic' in one respect requires being selectively unempathetic in others. It is fine to tell very young children that all their finger-paintings are great for their feeling and energy. But children do need to grow up, and telling children ten years later that one essay is as good as another is to consign them to a world in which, in the last analysis, nothing really matters because nothing really makes a difference.
On the one hand, the purveyors of 'Political Correctness' "celebrate differences"; on the other hand, they obliterate a whole host of important differences. As they see it, some people ought not to be judged for their skills because they will be harmed by competition. They outlaw the statement that Shakespeare is a better poet than Maya Angelou. The statement, they say, is "politically incorrect." It is 'unfair,' or 'irrelevant,' they say, to compare them. What they compare instead is social relevance. We have, they claim, been trained -- 'indoctrinated' and 'constructed' are their words -- to think that Shakespeare is better. To claim that Shakespeare is better than Maya Angelou, they conclude, is "politically incorrect." They go even further. Shakespeare's plays, they say, are not instances of great literary art. They are products of an oppressive culture, and therefore "politically incorrect."
There is a problem here, of course. You might think to call it a logical inconsistency, but it is actually a case of intellectual dishonesty. For how can the very people who assert that there are no facts and that no answer is correct, assert also that there is a code of opinions and answers that are, politically speaking, "correct"?
The purveyors of the code known as 'Political Correctness' try to have it both ways. Indeed, they try to have it every way.
Hypocrisy is built into the very notion of 'Political Correctness.' What the purveyors of 'Political Correctness' deem correct is correct. Anything that goes against their bias they deem "politically incorrect." Theirs is a childish response to the world. They are, as Andersen writes in "Kids are Us," teaching children to remain children in a world that will -- nevertheless -- be peopled by a large proportion of adults. Adults, furthermore, will go around trying to know things, and making judgments about quality -- whether it is a comparison of two automobiles or a comparison of two job applicants. Where job applicants are concerned, the first questions will be: "who knows more, and who is likely to learn more, and more quickly?"
The purveyors of 'Political Correctness' close their eyes to these facts. They are rampant relativists who hold that no one can know anything and that the only thing more foolish than believing that facts exist is making the effort to pursue them. At the most extreme level, they hold that reality does not exist; we have, rather, they say, only our subjective impressions of what exists, a collection of cultural and political preferences and biases. All systems of aesthetic judgment, like all systems of morality, they say, are merely different. And one can either prefer one (exhibiting bias) or celebrate differences (as in so-called 'multiculturalism').
When it comes to their political interests, the purveyors of 'Political Correctness' assert their ability to know what is "correct" and what is not. But they cannot really establish any criterion for correctness -- their allegiance to relativism will not allow it. All finger-paintings are, after all, equal -- except in the eyes of the beholder, who happens to be the child's mother. All they are doing, in the end, is asserting what, politically, they think -- what, politically, they will.
The question is: how do the keepers of 'Political Correctness' get away with such duplicity?
The answer is that they never assert or defend with reason the "correctness" of their claims. They only excoriate the "incorrectness" of others -- especially good-hearted people who strive to make accurate aesthetic judgments: that Shakespeare is a better poet than Maya Angelou, for example.
Shakespeare is, we must remember, the best of all poets ever to write in English. There is no shame in losing out to him. But the purveyors of 'Political Correctness' do not like to let him stand at the top of the hill. They call him just another dead, white, European male. (You've heard the phrase. And you've likely heard the acronym: DWEM). It is as if deadness is something the purveyors of 'Political Correctness' hold against him. Yet, in truth, his deadness reminds us of the dreary fact -- mortality -- that unites all humanity. We are all the same where death is concerned.
Of course, the purveyors of 'Political Correctness' are in the business of seeing differences only where they want to see them. And in pursuing their bias they make trouble in our lives. Pointing out differences, they create divisions between students who could otherwise get along, lining up students of different ethnic backgrounds and making them fight battles they did not wish to fight -- telling students that Shakespeare's poetry is oppressive, rather than encouraging students to enjoy and learn from it.
At schools where Shakespeare is still taught, the purveyors of 'Political Correctness' do what they can to denigrate his importance within the history of the English language and human thought. They see those who praise Shakespeare rather than bury him as "politically incorrect" monsters. In classes around the country, they call good-hearted students politically-charged names. And in a community dominated by a code of 'Political Correctness' these names mainly stick.
To say that Shakespeare is a better poet than T. S. Eliot is, of course, to render an aesthetic judgment, and an accurate one. Eliot himself would have to admit the truth. To answer differently would be ludicrous. The purveyors of 'Political Correctness," however, consider the judgment that Shakespeare is a better poet than Maya Angelou as a racist statement, rather than a realistic aesthetic judgment. Yet one may, of course, according to the dictates of 'Political Correctness' celebrate Maya Angelou and assert her superiority. One is permitted -- nay, encouraged -- to say that she is more worth reading today than Shakespeare.
Here the hypocrisy of PC takes its most extreme form. Purveyors of PC will, in the final analysis, not even allow others their judgments. When their justification of their right to judge is shown for the hypocrisy it is, they get mean. They celebrate "difference," but they will not allow people truly to be different -- to think differently, and to say what they think. They will not even allow those who celebrate Shakespeare to celebrate him in peace.
'Political Correctness' sees everything 'in terms of race, class, and gender.' And anyone who refuses to see the world through these subjective, and often hateful, lenses is branded with a hateful name. Shakespeare is a misogynist, they say. He does not render women with respect, they say -- ignoring the many examples of fine women from Rosalind to Cordelia. Because it suits their broader political purpose, they ignore the clear cases in which Shakespeare's female characters are morally and intellectually superior to their male counterparts.
The keepers of 'Political Correctness' demand that people see only certain things in certain ways. They are as dogmatic as religious zealots, often more fierce and less edifying.
'Political Correctness' is a powerful form of censorship, a pervasive form of anti-intellectual thought control, an ugly form of racism, an a hypocritical form of absolutism.
It's about time we all see 'Political Correctness' for what it is.
And it is about time we all see the harm it does -- and to whom. It hurts those very people -- children -- who are encouraged well past an appropriate age to encounter the world as if it were a kindergarten class in finger-painting, where everyone gets heaps of praise for whatever he or she does. It is not, of course. The world is a place in which some people do some things better than others, almost always because they work harder at it than anyone else. Michael Jordan is a great example here. He knows that innate talent is not enough. Desire, practice, daily effort, and only these, win the day.
'Political Correctness' is not a laughable fad that will soon disappear from America's classrooms. It is, for the moment, here to stay. Teachers with tenure and administrators with power are behind it. Although the general mood of the American public might suggest that it is, of late, something we are beginning to take lightly, PC is a powerful consequence of years of planning by its purveyors.
'Political Correctness' will be around for a good long while. So best to know it for what it is.
While celebrated by purveyors as a list of objectively offensive things one may not say, 'Political Correctness' is really a subjective list put together by the few to rule the many -- a list of things one must think, say, and do. It affronts the right of an individual student to establish his or her own beliefs. It enforces a dangerous way of looking at the world -- in black and white, say, rather than in liberal swathes of multifarious gray.
And the "Truth shall set you free".
In practice there is an absence of freedom where there is an absence of truth.
The purveyors of 'Political Correctness' close their eyes to these facts.
"One death is a tragedy, a million a statistic.." Joseph Stalin.
The PC movement is the next life of the Marxism present in "intellectual" circles before the fall of the Soviet Union.
If you can find it in your library, read Lukacs, "The Process of Democratization". It is very scary.
If there is no such thing as objective truth, then statements made by citizens are merely assertions of power, attempts to use and be used.
There's the heart of it. Remove the notion of truth, and suddenly there is no moral nor logical barrier to forcing one's views on another against his will. After all, by what standard would he protest? Without an objective, impersonal standard to defend, it's every man for himself, isn't it? And if he had the means, he'd do the same to you, wouldn't he?
But those of us who do believe in objective truth -- that the universe is now and forever indifferent to our opinions about it -- must also concede the possibility that whatever we believe might be wrong. This puts us at a fatal disadvantage in rhetorical combat with those for whom all that matters is prevailing, whatever the violence of one's voice.
Freedom, Wealth, and Peace,
Francis W. Porretto
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