Political Correctness Vs Free Speech

Political Correctness Vs Free Speech

A recent phenomenon on college campuses all over the country has led to people asking, “Is sensitivity turning into over-sensitivity?” What I’m referring to is the wave of non-tolerance by students to hearing anything they may deem offensive.

A recent phenomenon on college campuses all over the country has led to people asking, “Is sensitivity turning into over-sensitivity?”  What I’m referring to is the wave of non-tolerance by students to hearing anything they may deem offensive.  In the past, “offensive” ideas and remarks would open up the opportunity for a rich dialog among opposing factions.  This would lead to an understanding of where each other is coming from.  Ideas were encouraged and debate was the way outcomes were reached so that the seeds for new paradigms could be sown.   Nowadays, the door is slowly shutting on opinions that make people uncomfortable.  Have the youngest faction of the millennial generation become so overprotected that they can’t bear to experience anything that makes them uncomfortable?

To give you an idea of the scope of this trend, a pre-school in the UK banned the song with the words “baa baa black sheep” because they felt it was politically incorrect.  I’d like someone to explain why this is offensive and why the words needed to be changed to “baa baa rainbow sheep.”  I’m not kidding.

Who gets to decide what’s PC and what’s okay?  I’m not sure if saying “Merry Christmas” is considered offensive or not, but I do remember reading that Starbucks changed their cups last month from wishing a “Merry Christmas” to just a plain red cup.  Two sides of this issue are arguing that (1) Starbucks is anti-Jesus by removing the message, and (2) using the word “Christ”mas is offensive to non-believers.  Now you tell me if we haven’t gone too far.

So let’s get back to college campuses.  Comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock have stopped giving performances to college students because they become offended by many of their jokes.  The comics claim the students don’t get it that sometimes comedians use offensive language to show hypocrisy or to make a non-offensive point.

Bill Maher in his commencement address at UC Berkeley was greeted by a group of protesting students who took objection to his remarks on his TV show about radical Islamists. During his speech, Maher made mention that this year was the 50th anniversary of Berkeley’s free speech movement.  As a university that continues to encourage diverse opinion and differing ideas, Maher’s presence at graduation occurred at the insistence of the University president, who refused to succumb to student demands that the comedian be censored.  

As we have watched the pendulum swing from restricted campuses where the student body was predominantly white and male to the diverse population we now have on campus, we are also witness to changes in attitude.  We have always counted on students to challenge the status quo and raise the bar for inclusion.  Hopefully this new wave of political correctness will be met with resistance and not result in the censorship of opinions and ideas, or as an assault on free speech.  

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