Volume 93, Issue 89

Friday, March 17, 2000


Editorial Board 1999-2000

New PC or old BS?

Editorial cartoon

New PC or old BS?

You should never overestimate the power of words.

We may live in a world of motifs, graphical interface and signs (see the McDonald's arches or the :) on your last email if you disagree), but good old fashion speech hasn't taken a backseat. Some argue language has achieved its most prominent societal standing yet, gallantly riding on the back of political correctness.

Professor Heinz Klatt of Western's psychology department hopes to question this paradigm with a new course exploring the origins and mechanics of political correctness, hoping to challenge the dogma it has created.

Many eyes may roll and gasps escape at the thought of such a positive societal contraption being dissected by the pretentious hands of academia. It is hard to justify the questioning of something many consider the harbinger of comfort, respect and progressive thinking. Underneath its pretty packaging, however, political correctness hides many detrimental qualities which may serve to stifle our society more than advance it.

By its nature, political correctness takes power away from ideas and places it in the words themselves. This shift may seem harmless since it is achieved in the name of social respect, but ultimately it can leave latent meaning glossed under comfortable terms. We cannot encode racism, sexism or any other kind of intolerance in sociably acceptable dialogue and expect it to disappear – social change, comes from social discourse. We need to see alternative views, even those we would rather ignore, before we can rightfully determine our own.

Politically correct terminology stands as an attempt to create instantaneous equity in areas where stigmas and stereotypes realistically take generations to dispel. It gives us band–aid solutions to abysmally deep societal problems, ones which do not go away at the mere feat of grammatical slight of hand.

In many instances, politically correct words stand on their merits – for example, turning the word "chairman" into "chairperson" to include women into the business realm. However, there are just as many cases where they are extraneous, downright silly, or dangerous – for example, turning the word "manhole" into "drainage cover" or turning "shell shock" into "post-traumatic stress disorder." The list goes on forever.

The "isms" of this world will not magically disappear when their names are changed to make them sound more appealing. What could disappear is the motivation to examine the underlying problems. What is more troubling – dangers that are out in the open for all to inspect and critique, or dangers that lurk behind the guise of flowery language and ornate euphemisms?

After all, knowing the enemy is half the battle.

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