On Political Correctness In Our Colleges - One Man's Opinion - With A Follow-Up Commentary


Harvard Law Professor, Alan Dershowitz, gave a radio interview on the subject of political correctness and all that it entails - specifically as relates to what is happening on our children's/grandchildren's college campuses.

Mr. Dershowitz, for those not familiar with him, is a highly regarded attorney and law professor. His expertise earlier in his career was featured in the excellent book and movie of the same title, 'Reversal of Fortune'. The book is an excellent read and the movie is an excellent watch.

While I, personally, agree with everything he said, the interview did not take the direction upon which I have a commentary. I feel what I will share below the audio should be considered.

Listen to an excerpt of the interview's audio and, then, continue reading.

My Commentary:

Before continuing I would like to point out what I feel is the real issue in all of this.

Being polite is laudable and worthwhile in any setting. Calling someone names, ostracizing them, or the like, because someone disagrees with your view of the world is not. And, that is where political correctness (PC) and common decency part ways. We, as a society, seem to have lost the distinction.

Mr. Dershowitz was very clear on what he believes colleges/universities should and should not do relative to political correctness and the ideas of students. From my perspective, much of what he offered, while dead on accurate, begs the issue of whether colleges will do the 'shoulds' or won't do the 'should nots' as he suggested.

The concept of PC had its beginnings in the mid-to-later 20th century.

The term PC first appeared in 1793 in a U.S. Supreme Court judgment of a political-lawsuit. But, was not used in today's context until this past century.

In fact, the earlier use of the term was used by socialists to denigrate communists. Since then PC has evolved and increased in meaning and usage at an almost exponential rate.

As an aside, this offering may well offer an introduction to earlier postings of mine on the same subject. I will refer to them later; they will be referenced as A and B.

It seems curious to me that the continual absurdity of PC is found most often in our liberal arts institutions of higher learning. There appears to be a dearth of PC in our engineering/technical colleges and universities. One sees very little, if any, PC manifestations at MIT, CalTech, Georgia Tech, or Virginia Tech, as examples only. PC seems almost rabid at places such as Harvard, Columbia, UCLA, and the like. For examples of what I mean, Click Here and Click Here

I draw from my own experience in this. Having attended an engineering school, almost all of our time was expended just in studying. Who had the time to explore our or others' feelings? If someone offered a statement or opinion that offended us we just did not associate with that person again - unless, of course, the offender turned out to be correct. The "truth" was critical - even if it was not what we may have liked it to be.

Even in the social studies courses, using history as an example, we were focused on the facts. The context of the period was of importance in understanding what the facts meant; not history as viewed from the mores of today - especially from a view of what we had wished history to have been.

With this mind set, I sought earlier to learn more about Abraham Lincoln. What I found was illuminating. It did not fit into what I had been taught in "regular" schools. Viewed from today's mores, ole Abe seemed a different sort.

There may be a more fundamental reason that the engineering and liberal arts institutions diverge so much in not only what they offer but how they offer education. The reason may be found in those who teach.

We've all heard the old saying, 'birds of a feather flock together'. Well, it may not be just birds. It is human nature to be comfortable around those who are like we are. One can see this across the spectrum of societies everywhere - from corporate board rooms to radical Islamic terrorists, from private schools to public education facilities, and from the various ethic population centers in our major cities who tend to cluster in their own cultural areas.

Look at the wealthiest people who desire and even demand that the poorest among us be given better housing and conveniences. How may of these wealthy persons want the poor living in their neighborhoods? Click Here for a related though not direct example. It is not a case of not caring, it is just human nature - good or bad.

If one believes that PC will change human nature, they are sadly mistaken. It is what it is.

Let's move the discussion to the corporate world. The senior management of the vast majority of major corporations kind of look alike. They are men, they are caucasian, they have similar backgrounds, and they have similar experiences. And, here is something that many don't realize.

Up to 50% (and even more) of their annual compensation has to do with measured performance - not diversity. So, in seeking to hire or promote someone into a senior position, how likely is that hiring manager to take a risk on someone just to satisfy diversity? The hiring manager is going to seek out someone more nearly like themselves. Because, if the new person fails, the hiring manager will be viewed as the one whose decisions "drove down the stock price". Not a good thing, let me assure you.

Now, at the college/university level, not much changes - the reasons perhaps, but not the end result.

Liberal arts schools tend to deal with things a bit differently than do engineering schools. It is very much less fact based or algorithm based. Liberal schools offered learning in a much more subjective manner. Let's view things from all sides, as it were.

This is neither good nor bad as far as that goes. But, as time went by the human nature aspect kicked in - people of like minds tended to seek out others with similar though processes. Let time pass for a good bit. One winds up with people actually being ostracised, or worse, for thoughts not consistent with the main stream. In my above referenced A, this is discussed in some detail.

Again, over time, this attitude is passed on to students who grow up and pass them on to others, etc., etc., etc. The student goes on to varying fields of endeavor spreading PC where they travel. This results in what has been referred to as 'Cultural Authoritarians' becoming pervasive across society. See my above referenced B.

They very lifeblood of healthy discourse is being bled from our children. Not only is freedom of speech being impuned, but freedom of ideas as well. How will they cope in the real world when they have learned only to run and hide, file a lawsuit, threaten to file a lawsuit, or scream discrimination at every little thing that does not go their way?

We all would be better served if our schools, including those of higher learning, would teach our children:

If someone says something we don't like and it happens to be true, deal with it.

If someone says something that is not true whether we like it or not, point out where the error is and move on. Everybody wins.

When you hear someone play the "PC Card" it is almost always because they have no argument of merit, logic, nor facts to support their position.

There's never a need to be hostile, nasty, condescending, or dismissive.