At Salon, Swarthmore College alum Arthur Chu writes a brilliantly funny and angry screed about those silly “p.c. culture” articles published as clickbait by The Atlantic last week, and says exactly what I’ve been thinking and meaning to write all week long–just go read and think about it. His thesis is pretty clearly announced in the headline “So college ‘p.c. culture’ stifles comedy? Ever hear a comedian sh*t on the American Dream at a Wal-Mart shareholders meeting?” In short, Chu exposes once again that the term “politically correct” is a meaningless bludgeon only used against some forms of speech and protest, and not against others.
Chu says it all much better than I can, but I’d just like to add two things: although I’ve been guilty of it on this blog on occasion, and only in the distant past I think, the recent jeremiads about “kids these days” published in The Atlantic just make the authors appear sclerotic and judgy, as the young people say. Please protest if I ever write something as carelessly and thoughtlessly dismissive as those silly articles! (Pro tip to those worried about “p.c.” today on college campuses: the best cure for bad, silly, or uninformed speech is more speech, not a huffy demand that an entire generation of students S.T.F.U.)
Finally, I’d just like to add that although I think that I can teach college students a thing or two that might come in handy some day, I also think that older people should pay attention and see what we can learn from our students too. They are the generation that made sodomy laws and constitutional amendments preventing same-sex marriage fall so quickly. It wasn’t my Generation X, which has mostly been just about us instead of serving others or working towards political action. Even on a politically complacent, historically white campus like Baa Ram U. during the 2004 election, in which gay marriage bans were on several state ballots, I had majorities of students ask me in honest disbelief why anyone would be against same-sex marriage or harbor prejudice against gay and lesbian people.
The current generation of college students includes many from undocumented families who are bravely challenging capricious and punitive U.S. immigration laws. It takes courage to go to college without any federal or state aid and without any guarantee that you’ll be able to work in the U.S. because your parents immigrated illegally when you were a child. It takes even more courage to be open about your status and to use it to urge change. Don’t talk to me about how emotionally fragile our college students are as a generation.
Complainers about the “p.c. police” are hypocrites. They demand a conflict-free work environment for themselves, while criticizing students for being conflict-averse and “afraid” of ideas they dislike. If our students talk back to comedians who deploy boring, old stereotypes in their humor, or if they question why they need to learn what we’re trying to teach them, don’t throw up your hands and scream “I can’t deal with your political correctness!!!” Engage them. Hear them out. If you truly disagree, explain your point of view and listen to theirs. Isn’t that what college is supposed to be all about? If the professors and teachers in the room can’t handle a few tough questions, that’s not a p.c. problem–that’s an insecurity problem, which is your problem, and not something you can blame on your students, you entitled, emotionally fragile whiners.