Posted by: JDM..... | December 9, 2015

The “PC” Plague…

and daring to color outside of the lines.….

One of the recurring topics finding its way into my blogs for the past few years has been the obsession with PC, “Political Correctness“, and a couple of its subheadings like the “Apology Epidemic”.

People are afraid to offend someone, especially if they happen to be from any one of a dozen or so federally recognized “special interest groups” that seems to warrant special consideration. Some don’t really need it anymore, but it’s an old franchise that has grown roots, so I invite you to step up to the line and take it away from them.

The outcome is the paranoia about “offending”. You can drop an “F” bomb just about anywhere except church these days without a ripple, but woe unto he who steps in anything more than little toe deep that smells of discrimination.

The apology thing, like the “I’m offended” thing, may sometimes be no more than someone capitalizing on an opportunity for a sound byte or mention in print. I’m sick of it, and I don’t think I’m alone.

***

The latest installment of PC mania seems to have happened at Yale University , an erstwhile bastion of free-thinking and creativity, where an instructor resigned because of the stink raised about an e-mail she sent out encouraging students to be creative and not to worry about being offensive with their Halloween costumes.

Fist pumpers, the requisite helping of the “outraged and offended”, and Angry Guardians of the Public Soul united to clog up a few streets and make some night noise.

Oddly, at the same time the protesters were marching and fist pumping about this, that, and the other thing, they were practicing the very freedom of expression they were trying to shut down.

For whatever reasons, the instructor declined to teach in the coming spring as a response. Too bad. She sounds like some of my own favorites from the sixties. I always have learned more from people who color outside of the lines as a matter of principle.

TANGENTIAL TRUE STORY

Midway though college, I decided to transfer to a different university and change my major from Beer to Psychology. It was a small school, near the beaches, and it was led by a very conservative and devout President. They even had a dress code! Students had to wear shoes and socks on campus and a few other such things, perhaps to avoid the predictable invasion of half dressed, sand encrusted students just making it back from the beach in time for class. But, it was a great school and once settled in I was offered a partial scholarship to edit the campus newspaper.

I started with a summer semester and took some electives to offset some credits that didn’t transfer, and to boost my GPA a bit. One class I signed up for was a History of Western Civilization course, and it was to be taught by a visiting professor who was the department head at another university in the state.

On the first day of class, we appropriately dressed students were stunned to see our esteemed professor standing in front of the class wearing cut off jeans, a garish Hawaiian shirt, and sandals. He was holding a very large paper cup like one might get at a fast food restaurant today, and the rumor never did die down that it held Scotch. He stayed in the dormitory during the week and headed home for the weekends. He told us to not bother buying the required textbook and to forget everything we had learned in public school because it was bull.

We spent the semester hearing lectures, discussing, and doing independent library research. I had always hated history in school because all we did was memorize names and dates and polish off old myths about GW and the cherry tree and so forth.

I loved that class. In fact, I have enjoyed history ever since, and that was fifty years ago.

During one Friday class towards the end of the semester, a student messenger came in mid-lecture (the professor hated that) and gave him a note. He read it out loud to the class, just because he could, I suppose, and probably because the poor messenger looked anxious to escape. It was a note instructing the professor to have all of his graduate students grades in before he left for home for the weekend. He nodded, and said to the messenger “Fine. No problem. Tell the Dean they’ll all get Cs. I leave at four.

He colored outside of the lines and gave the finger at the same time.

I tend to like that in a person.

End of tangential true story.

***

Even with the strict campus rules of two generations ago, that little school encouraged creative thinking and exploring the new, unusual, and the controversial. The recent assassination of President Kennedy, the Cuban crisis, and the escalating involvement in Vietnam notwithstanding, colleges and universities tolerated off the wall ideas, and there were plenty of them to go around. Young people were trying their wings and pushing limits, as does just about every generation. It wasn’t perfect. That was the age of Kent State and some other unpleasantries. It just seems that the push was outward back then, while today it seem to be constricting with colleges and universities caught up in the PC, prescribed thought, Orwellian crap that has been infecting America, and that concerns me.

***

Some two hundred and thirty four years ago, my favorite historical figure was already a revered practitioner of Coloring Outside of the Lines. While residing overseas as Ambassador to France, Benjamin Franklin was invited to submit some scientific papers to the Royal Academy of Brussels.

He had a low tolerance for stuffiness, which such circles had in abundance, so instead he wrote them a letter with a suggestion. It was never mailed to them, sad to say, but survives to this day as a wonderful little book. I have a copy on my shelf.

The letter began:

I have perused your late mathematical Prize Question, proposed in lieu of one in Natural Philosophy, for the ensuing year…Permit me then humbly to propose one of that sort for your consideration, and through you, if you approve it, for the serious Enquiry of learned Physicians, Chemists, &c. of this enlightened Age. It is universally well known, that in digesting our common food, there is created or produced in the bowels of human creatures, a great quantity of wind. That the permitting this air to escape and mix with the atmosphere, is usually offensive to the company, from the fetid smell that accompanies it. That all well-bred people therefore, to avoid giving such offence, forcibly restrain the efforts of nature to discharge that wind.

The essay, and the book, of course, had several titles but in modern times it has been titled Fart Proudly.

***

I sincerely hope that Erika Christakis, psychology lecturer and associate master of Silliman College, Yale University returns to her teaching opportunities soon. She’s a rare bird these days.

Wouldn’t it be fun if Ben Franklin could take her place for the spring semester?

 

~-~* * *~-~

 

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Responses

  1. As always, your acerbic wit never fails to entertain and edify. On another note, I have always followed Franklin’s advice, even doing so in my blog betimes. Perhaps that’s what blogging is partly about.

    • Thanx, Frank………btw, do you mean you fart proudly

  2. Wow! Love it. I hope she continues to teach, too.


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